Examining the age old debate

Why are we the way we are?

I’m not talking about the human species. I’m talking about sports writers.

Someone commenting under the name "Truth harvestor" in my blog post about the 10 biggest trades made by area teams this decade had this to say:

"There must be something in (the) air at sports writer’s cubicles where they breathe and exhale cynical pessimism."

So, is it true? And if so, how did it happen?

I think the air up at The Forum is much like what I breathe outside, but I can’t prove it. In fact, the air at most newsrooms I’ve been in – not The Forum, but others – is only filled with a still-lingering smell of cigarette smoke from the days when it was kosher to light one up from inside the office. Apparently, that wasn’t as long ago as I would imagine.

It seems like the classic "chicken and the egg" conundrum. If we are cynical, do cynics naturally find jobs at newspapers, or do newspaper make unassuming folks into cynics.

I’ve been surrounded by my fair share of cynics since coming to The Forum as a 21-year-old part-time sports clerk. I’ll never forget something that former colleague Mike McFeely once said to me not long after I got a full-time job in 2004. He warned me that while at the time I may look at the world through rose-colored glasses, as time wore on I would end up just like him. He said I was a lot like he was when he started there.

There’s a fine line separating skepticism and pessimism. Skepticism is a quality that’s required among journalists. We’re not supposed to take anything at face value. That’s our jobs.

And when it comes to the pro sports teams – just the pros – there’s definitely a lot pessimism, too. It’s different for someone like myself at The Forum, because we don’t cover – as in, have someone day-to-day writing stories from the Twins, Vikings, etc. – these teams.

As for Pat Reusse and Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune, I think what you’ll find a lot of times is they write what they write to build heat. They know many of their readers are die-hard, "cookies and sunshine" rubes, and if they knock a team or player down a few pegs, it gets people fired up. But on the other side of it, in the last week I saw one of those two – can’t remember which one – wrote a column on the top-ranked Minneapolis Community College men’s basketball team, which is folding after this season due to the school’s decision.

So when Terrell Brandon had a bad game, Souhan and Reusse were there. But when a team like the one at MCTC needed a voice, they were there too.

There’s no doubt that the way I look at my favorite team growing up – the Twins – is different than the way I looked at it as a youth.

I bring this up at work a lot: Take Greg Gagne, for example. When I was a kid, my two favorite players (we’re talking pre-Griffey here) were Gagne and Kirby Puckett. How could I not like and appreciate Gagne?

But if Gagne were on the Twins today, I’m sure I wouldn’t look at him the same. I would point out his less-than-stellar OPS number, or find that maybe his Ultimate Zone Rating isn’t as great as people think. Part of it is being older, and part of it there’s just so much more information available to judge players and teams with.

Just remember that people at work often look at me as the second-biggest Twins rube in the department. Imagine what everyone else is like!

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