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October 16, 2007

Getting Ready for Prime Time

Now that the New York Times has gotten rid of its pay-per-view service TimesSelect, readers are free to check out the musings of the Gray Lady's opinion writers. It should be great for them; after two years of being blocked from the majority of their potential readership, columnists like Maureen Dowd are once again at the top of the Times's most emailed list. There's one unintended effect, though: Writers who were able to skate by when they had limited readership now have their drivel exposed to the masses.

Take Selena Roberts, a Times sports columnist whom Gelf hadn't read much since her work was walled off in 2005. In many of her most recent articles, she seems to have completely forgotten that she needs to back up her rants with clear points, if not facts.

First there was a misguided column where she tried to claim that hatred of the Yankees is fake and referred to the organization as "child-friendly." Then she wrote an incomprehensible piece about A-Rod during the ALDS, and in doing so changed her mind about the effectiveness of his "new formula" for dealing with media coverage at least five times before ending with this gem: "Did Game 1 mark a return of the new misadventures of the old Alex?"

But her most recent column is impressive for its inanity. She takes the reasonable, obvious stance that football is overtaking baseball as the national pastime. But she starts off by comparing college football to pro baseball, a dubious contrast to make in the first place. Then she claims that baseball games last too long, but fails to mention that NCAA football games last, on average, more than half an hour longer than Major League Baseball games (3h26m to 2h47m).

Then she proceeds to say that fewer people are playing baseball today—which may very well be true—but gives racial statistics that have no bearing on the overall popularity whatsoever. All she shows is that the overall pie of baseball players contains fewer blacks and whites, but she doesn’t say whether the size of the pie has shrunk at all.

Perhaps Roberts simply became complacent in her hermitage as a TimesSelecter. Now that her work is on public display, she should consider writing in a style besides stream of consciousness.

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