Why We Write: Introductory Notes

While I’ve never met Will Leitch in person — and have certainly never posed with him like in those disgusting, poorly Photoshop-ed pictures of us floating around the internet — there’s a debt of gratitude I’ll always owe him for his performance on a certain, now pretty famous, episode of Costas Now.

It’s not the way his presence there turned Buzz Bissinger into a rabid, frothing mess — although I certainly have no problem with that. Rather, it’s the way he (i.e. Leitch) was able to articulate, more or less on the fly, the merits of sportswriting in the electronic age.

For it’s during that discussion that Leitch says:

One of the nice things about the web is [that] it’s a meritocracy. Sure, anyone can start a blog, but to get a readership you have to be serious, you have to be consistent — it’s hard goddamn work doing a blog.

As an unabashed classist, democracy is something about which I’m inherently skeptical. When left to their own devices, the teeming masses rarely seem to make good decisions. (I mean, seriously, the Toronto Raptors?)

The thing is, it works on the internet — or, at least with baseballing analysis it seems to. Craig Calcaterra, Dave Cameron, Rob Neyer: these guys are, by and large, products of the internet. Without the benefit of electronic print, there’s a good chance that we, as readers, are never introduced to their voices. Even Joe Posnanski, though he wrote for the Kansas City Star — well, he wrote for a paper in Kansas City.

I invoke that Leitch thing here, because, a couple days ago, I was corresponding via something called “G-Chat” with MC Jonah Keri. After performing the secret handsake of the Mutual Admiration Society (yes, you can do it over the internet), we somehow got to wondering: What is it that motivates the sporting blogger? Fame? Cash money? All the Cristal a man can drink?

Mind you, it’s not just the big guns we’re talking about, either. The “we” in the title of this post refers to anyone who says to him- or herself, “I’mma write me some words.”

The question is: Why do it? If, as Leitch suggests, it’s hard work, why do it? If, as I can tell you personally, it provides very little in the way of fame and/or cash money, why do it?

Well, you shouldn’t expect to find the answer here, today. But it’s my intention, over the course of some posts that’ll be coming out over the next couple days, week, whatever, to harass some smart guys — some guys who’re articulate enough to express their feelings on the topic — and approach some answers.

Before I bring the current post to a conclusion, it’s only right to share some of Jonah’s own thoughts. Here they are, however incomplete, in their original G-Chatty form:

10:11 AM me: Do you have any one-line answers as to why you, in fact, write?
10:11 AM Jonah: I can tell you why (and you can note it publicly, or not, up to you) but it’d be slightly longer than one line)
10:12 AM I write because I have no other discernable skills
I write because I like creating
I write because I’m a social animal and producing something tangible and public engages others to come talk to me about it
10:13 AM I write because as a kid, I thought Ring Lardner and W.P. Kinsella and Bill James and the Sports Illustrated crew were really cool.
10:14 AM I write because I love sports, and realized by age 12 I’d never be good enough to play in the NBA
I write because the Expos roped me in, and I became so attached to them that I had to tell people

Tomorrow: why Bryan Smith writes.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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13 years ago

Sounds about right. I became enthralled with the Marlins, and having loved reading SI as a kid (when I could get my hands on one, as the Sanborns in Mexico where I lived did not have them), I loved reading what they wrote, and thought at some point that I’d try doing it too.

I don’t have anywhere as much success, but I blame that on lack of publicity (and lack of non-old Cuban interest in the Marlins).