This evening Bob Costas hosted a special “Live Town Hall Edition” 90-minute version of his HBO roundtable Costas NOW, where he and panelists discussed the changing nature of sports and media. One of the topics, inevitably, was sports blogging. Costas chose to speak with Will Leitch (editor of Deadspin), Buzz Bissinger (author of Friday Night Lights), and Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Anyone expecting a calm discussion was sadly mistaken — Bissinger came ready to engage in a shouting match, even if no one was shouting back.

In his post before the filming, Leitch said “we have a sneaking suspicion that we are going to be there as The Spokesperson For The Internet.” He nailed that one. The segment began with a produced introduction featuring interviews with Leitch and Michael Schur (FireJoeMorgan). Both men came off as rational and intelligent — a nice tribute to two of the most responsible representatives of this developing medium. (Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that I was the first person to ever tell Leitch that FJM leader Ken Tremendous was actually Schur?)

But once the segment began, that decency was out the window. Bissinger, who held a folder spilling over with documents he seemed to have printed five minutes before airing, started shouting the second a camera hit him. Leitch, as he predicted, was treated as Mr. Internets and thrown up against the wall, berated by Bissinger and Costas from beginning to end. At one point, both men held pages that they had printed off of Deadspin that featured words written by people who weren’t Leitch, and demanded that he defend their comments.

They seemed to lack even the most basic understanding of how this new medium functions. Deadspin is written by a number of people, and is famous for its multitude of commenters. If you’ve ever spent more than 10 minutes here on the ‘Net, you understand that comments are made by strangers. What makes it so great — and so frightening to traditional journalists — is that people can react immediately to what you write. Blogs are a community experience. People strive to be a part of the community, and if there is some unsavory content (like all those random, out-of-context quotes with which Bissinger and Costas seemed to berate Leitch), the intelligent members of a blog community can take it with a sense of humor.

At the age of 32, Leitch has published three books. He has written columns for The New York Times, New York Magazine and Slate. His little site, which Bissinger seems to disregard as a passing fad by some punk kids, has been favorably featured in the Times, Sports Illustrated, and on ESPN numerous times. Bissinger is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter. Shouldn’t he have done his homework before coming on this show and making himself look incredibly condescending and ignorant?

Bissinger could have approached the show tonight with the curiosity of a journalist and the even-headedness of a rational human. But from the moment he began his tirade against the evil kids taking his job, he looked like an out-of-touch, angry old man. Angry might not even be enough to describe it. He was unrepentant, obnoxiously screaming over Leitch’s soft, calm voice every time Leitch tried responding to one of his absurd claims. He insulted Leitch, who was nothing but complementary to him, swearing at him and calling him names.

Leitch was a liberal on Fox News; he was a panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Any time he wished to voice his view, he was chased back into a corner by people who favored accusation over conversation. Men who would rather hear themselves repeat their uninformed opinion than engage in intelligent debate.

Surely, anyone watching tonight sided with Leitch. The web community gets blogs. And increasingly, that community is transitioning from a secluded few to the majority. As Leitch said tonight, blogs have no interest in destroying sports writers. Without professional writers, blogs would have nothing to talk about. The media complement each other. Let the reporters do the reporting — blogs provide fans with an outlet to discuss that writing, as well as police the reporters. When I recently spoke with sports cartoonist Mike Scott, he mentioned that a lot of the writers he knows are afraid of the blogs because they hound sports journalists when it comes to accuracy in their stories. Blogs serve traditional media; the two are not mutually exclusive.

Leitch had his back against the wall, but he handled himself like an adult. The same can’t be said for the angry, immature Bissinger.

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