By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)
There’s a lot of noise in this time of 24-hour news and even the most insignificant sports tidbit gets at least five minutes of airtime before fading into memory.
Most of these news bits really aren’t deserving of such over-analysis and can be easily distilled into two categories: trash or not trash. It’s difficult for a regular person to find the time to distill, but have no fear, I’ve taken it upon myself to do it for you. Here’s the latest edition of “Trash or Not Trash.”
NOT TRASH — The Bryce Harper/Manny Machado Sweepstakes
If I allowed myself to be my typical, synical self this would veer slightly into the “trash” pile only because it’s giving me that dangerous feeling of which Red Redding warned Andy Dufresne: hope. Since 2012, the Chicago White Sox have been largely irrelevant in the MLB landscape, that was the last year they tasted first place in the AL Central any time past the month of May.
The South Siders have lost 200-plus games the last two seasons and despite a slew of prized prospects making their debuts during that time, one such prized pitching prospect, Michael Kopech, will be out the entirety of the next season to rehab from Tommy John surgery.
After the Kopech news, I thought the White Sox rebuild would need another year. Then, the news filtered down from on high: Rick Hahn and the White Sox were opening the coffers. Initially, news was the Sox would not be bidding for the services of free-agent sluggers Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. However, the potential list of buyers grew shorter each day, and the Winter Meetings closed without a new contract for either player, with Harper’s agent Scott Boras showing desperation for the first time in years.
Suddenly, the White Sox were in the mix to get Harper, and all those crazy Twitter fantasies the faithful threw out didn’t seem as far-fetched.
Harper is not the only possible target, as Machado and his girlfriend came to Chicago this week to hear Hahn’s pitch.
As a White Sox fan, the prospect of getting either Harper or Machado is unthinkable to me. Getting both, as former Tribune writer Phil Rogers said was possible in a piece for Forbes magazine, would probably cause me to self-immolate or convert back to Catholicism. That’s not hyperbole, those are real facts. I want to say it’s fun to dream, but it’s a lot easier for me to dream the impossible when it really seems impossible, you know what I mean?
The Philadelphia Phillies are considered the front-runners according to Vegas odds this week, with the Sox slipping down the ladder, so it’s likely that window has closed. Still, you or I might say the words “White Sox right fielder Bryce Harper and third baseman Manny Machado” next year without it being the lead for an alternate reality fictional story. How cool is that?
TRASH — The Grammys
I say the same thing every year: the Grammys don’t matter. If they snub hip-hop, R&B, jazz or another primarily Black genre of music, it doesn’t matter. If they realize the anger of the masses and react the next year by nominating three or four rap albums for album of the year, it doesn’t matter. Do you see what I’m saying?
It’s really cool that Cardi B is nominated for Best Rap Album and Album of the Year. It really is. She’s come from the bottom with skill and intelligence, and she doesn’t look like a novelty act. Like she said on her record, “My little fifteen minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” However, it doesn’t mean the Recording Academy has accepted formerly disregarded categories as worthy of their time. That’s fine.
The breadth of music produced in the world in one month is nearly impossible to comprehend, it would be folly to try and say which releases are objectively the best. To try and do that for one year is a disservice to everyone except the artists themselves, and let’s be honest: there are so many categories for the Grammys that anyone can win one.
Ever heard of Best Spoken Word Album? Yes, there’s a category for the best reading of an audio book. I mean, shout out to Carrie Fisher, Barack O’Drama and Stephen Colbert, but just because it’s a recording, does it require an award?
There are a bunch of technical ways to evaluate music in terms of notes, pitch, rhythm, tempo, lyrics and more. However, no one’s using perfect counterpoint to write popular music, and the art form is beautiful because people always find new ways to create music that don’t follow the old rules. How can you properly evaluate that?
There will be bad music and good music and great music, but while society says what’s the most popular, they can’t say what was the best. Neither can the Recording Academy, so don’t worry if Cardi doesn’t win Album of the Year. It ultimately doesn’t matter.
TRASH — Sports Media
That’s right, I’m coming at my own occupation here. Sports media has always been a hotbed for unverified opinions, loose facts and hyperbole.
Most of that adds to the entertainment of sports itself, and it’s what makes guys like Mike Francesa, Stephen A. Smith or even Dan Bernstein recognizable faces and voices in their own right. However, personalities like these receive credit for being knowledgeable and well-researched, even if they made their ultimate reputations on trumpeting already-reported facts or snidely dismissing those in their path who would dare point them to be wrong or wrong-headed.
There are plenty of other talking heads on ESPN (Pablo Torre, Bomani Jones, Rachel Nichols, Jemele Hill and Michael Smith when they worked together in particular) who made their way to vaunted places in the media atmosphere powered by hard work and quality writing.
However, we’ve allowed over some point of time any old voice with a computer and an opinion to shape our sports views, and just like in the past era of yellow journalism, today is about the wilder the opinion, the greater the number of clicks. But it shouldn’t matter that the industry is predicated on “unique views” and rotating ad revenue. We, the audience, need to put good writing and skillful reporting on a pedestal.
I understand that the extended narrative sports recaps and “take-out” features of the 20th century aren’t as feasible a venture now. Attention span is shorter. Everyone’s more concerned about statistics, the latest news and sometimes a personal feature or two. The average story is told in a different way pretty much because the audience demands it.
Writing whatever quick opinion comes into our head for the sole purpose of triggering an emotional response in said audience, though, is cheap trickery. (I’m looking at you, SBNation. I’m always looking at you.)
Chris Pennant covers professional basketball for WARR Media