Friday, September 02, 2005

Accepting Mediocrity

And I'm not even talking about the Steelers' first-team offense and their preseason-long inability to actually score a touchdown, either. Instead, I'm talking about the guys who write about the guys who suddenly can't seem to score points. Yesterday, almost as an afterthought, I pointed out the drivel Joe Bendel of the Tribune-Review was trying to pass off as newsworthy. In the process of actually not reporting anything, he somehow managed to misspell two words and miscalculate Roethlisberger's average yard per pass attempt during the Redskins game.

After my diatribe Eric pointed out that Mark Madden had his chubby fingerprints all over getting Jim Wexell, probably the best beat reporter in Pittsburgh by a long shot, fired from his radio gig, because he had the balls to actually call out Madden for allegedly making some homophobic comments. (This is actually a really interesting story. It's kinda like "The OC" but with a fatter cast -- scroll down a bit to get the story.) Of course this just sent me over the edge. Can someone explain to me why it's OK to let guys like Madden, and to a lesser extent, reporters like Bendel and Bouchette, do a half-assed job? I know Madden's shtick gets ratings, but so did throwing people to the lions to give Nero a good laugh.

I lived in Pittsburgh when the whole Wexell - Madden stuff went down, but for some reason I only have a vague recollection of it. Whatever. Now that I've had a chance to refresh my memory, I like Jim Wexell even more. Madden is an insufferable prick who has created a niche for himself much in the same way that Skip Bayless took inane ranting to a whole other level. I know radio producers and station managers are primarily concerned with one thing -- ratings. But at some point you'd think that someone would have a moral objection to Madden calling his listeners "jackasses," or their mothers "sluts," or even calling a colleague (Wexell in this case) a "jerkoff."

And this has nothing to do with Madden trying to be funny. For starters, he's not. In fact, he's very defensive and whenever he's backed into a corner (OK, I admit that because Madden's pushing four bills, it has to be a really big room for him to not already be in a corner, but you get my drift), his first reaction is to attack. And that usually includes some name-calling, followed by hanging up on the caller, and then once the line is clear, more name-calling. And if you're Jim Wexell, it ends in Madden allegedly getting you fired for insubordination even though you're supposedly, uh, his colleague. It's a tried and true formula that works for him primarily because he's running the show.

And because Wexell refused to have Madden slap him around on the air, he got canned. That sounds about right -- the whole "no good deed goes unpunished" thing, I guess.

The Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette isn't malicious, but he's not afraid to mail it in three or four times a week with the stuff he tries to pass off as Steelers coverage. Look, I understand that a lot of times, especially during the preseason, there may not be much new stuff to talk about. Fine. No problem. But here's what you do instead of just speculating on who you think might make the team, or which player could win a starting job: ask someone. And I don't mean the guy sitting next to you at the bar in Latrobe while you're killing time until the next training camp practice. I mean someone actually affiliated with the team (and preferably a player). I think it's both sad and funny that the best Steelers coverage comes from the Beaver County Times and the Herald Standard -- two papers that don't have a fraction of the circulation of either the Tribune-Review or the Post-Gazette. But that's where we're at. And it certainly doesn't look like things are going to change. Well, they're going to change a little, because I'm going to do my part to document all the inanities from this point forward.

And in fact, I'm so tired of the lackadaisical approach to reporting from the two major Pittsburgh papers, I've decided to create a "Captain Pantload Watch." It's kinda like the "Bellhorn Watch" but instead of following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of Mark Bellhorn's 2005 season, I'll instead be pointing out all the inane stories that are sure to come from the Pittsburgh media as the 2005 Steelers season unfolds. And please don't misunderstand, CPW isn't about calling out writers who are critical of the Steelers -- that's fine -- especially if the Steelers are playing like crap. I'm more concerned with pointing out the particularly asinine observation, or the exceptionally dim-witted commentary on some outstandingly banal issue.

And if anyone comes across something that is CPW-worthy, please let me know and I'll make sure the responsible party is duly recognized. I suspect I will be very busy these next few months. This should be fun.