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Blogs: Can’t live with ‘em, without ‘em

Freelance
SIMPSON COLUMN

Who’s afraid of the big, bad blogs? Kevin Allison of the Financial Times’ online operation asks that rhetorical question in a studied and polished essay about “the periodic rants and raves of . . . armchair pundits . . . who opine on everything from politics to pornography to the latest computer gadgets and everything in between.”

That includes college football.

If I live to be 100 (I’m told there are one or two local bloggers out there who believe I already have), I will never understand this phenomenon.

What possible pleasure do people get out of hiding behind a wall of anonymity and throwing grenades at other people?

Moreover, why would the anger and gall of these underachievers be of any interest to normal people?

Well, for one thing, their conversational style of writing is usually pretty good. And for another, their nihilistic raving is fascinating. Sort of like screeching tires on the street outside your house, instinctively you look to see what’s going on.

UA football coach Mike Stoops has endured the wrath of many bloggers this season, but more poison darts have been thrown at his predecessor, John Mackovic, than at anybody else in Tucson’s corner of cyberspace. And the former Arizona Wildcats coach says bloggers are worse than ever.

A brilliant young assistant coach under Jim Young at Arizona in 1973-76, Mackovic returned here after head coaching assignments at Wake Forest (his alma mater), the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL and the universities of Illinois and Texas.

He wasn’t successful as the head Wildcat and was replaced in the middle of his final season here, 2003.

The media were tough on Mackovic, and the bloggers were merciless.

When Mackovic was an ESPN football analyst in 1998, he visited the UA campus.

“I was talking with (head coach) Dick Tomey and his assistants when I asked if any of them knew much about Internet chats and all the garbage that bloggers were writing,” he said. “They looked at me like I was talking about a foreign government.

“Well, now it’s 2007, and the bloggers are bigger and worse than ever.”

Coaches expect criticism, but, as Mackovic said, “nobody likes to be a punching bag.”

During his TV career John told ESPN executives that he wouldn’t participate in “coach-slamming.”

A southern California resident now, Mackovic has written on football for the Palm Springs newspaper.

“Even when I really do not like someone, I try my best to write with a sense of purpose to address the bigger picture,” he said.

Gloom-and-doomers rule the blogosphere this season. Not only here, where the Arizona Wildcats have struggled, but also at Notre Dame and Nebraska and anywhere there’s a vulnerable college football team.

You will learn from bloggers that the coach “is on his way out and he knows it”. . . that the program is doomed unless the athletic director hires a proven winner. . . and that the AD is on his way out, too, if he doesn’t.

All sorts of secret inside information is passed along as quickly as it can be invented by the radical, over-the-edge blogger (as opposed to the rational one).

In the fantasy land of the nut-case blogger, big-time boosters are always getting together and demanding this or that, and it’s only a matter of time till the spit hits the fans.

The writing is always on the wall, even when it’s visible only to these anonymous experts. Their job is to spread the news as fast as they can make it up.

To them, nothing is more fun than kicking a coach while he’s down. It’s much like the two-minutes-of-hate ritual in George Orwell’s “1984.” And because the writers of this stuff are anonymous, there’s no accountability.

Newspaper and magazine online readership has mushroomed in recent years and for good reason.

Dissemination of legitimate news is not only as quick as a lightning bolt – and essential – but it also reaches an immense audience of readers on their personal computers.

But there are invisible trolls on the Internet highway.

Many of the bloggers are temperate and sensible. But there are others who deal in the kind of literature that once defaced the walls of public restrooms.

Blogging is not bad, but bloggers often are.

Earlier this year, the technology researcher Gartner Inc. reported that there are 200 million bloggers out there, but many may give it up because they’re bored and perhaps fed up with the muck merchants.

“A lot of people have been in and out of this thing,” an Associated Press article said, quoting Gartner fellow Daryl Plummer.

Could blogging be near the peak of its popularity? the AP asked.

A college football tradition is the radio postgame show, where unhappy – and sometimes irate – fans call in, demanding pretty much the same as radical bloggers, but in a more civil tone.

When things go bad, fire the coach. That’s the blogger invocation.

It’s hard to ignore them, though. That’s the problem.

Corky Simpson, who retired from the Citizen last year, writes a weekly column every Saturday.

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