Revenge of the Nerds: Jason Whitlock and the Pursuit of Ignorance

Every so often a national writer publishes an article so annoying and ignorant that it lights a fire inside of me.  Before, that fire usually burned hot for a couple of days but without a way to douse the flames out with water they'd just burn themselves out.

Finally, a chance to cool this down by getting to write a rebuttal at last!

I'm not here to insult Jason Whitlock, the FOX Sports "writer" who wrote this article about sabermetrics, statistics, and fantasy sports and how they are ruining the game.  It's people like him that have effectively ruined the national sports media for people like myself.

Wait.  Hell, maybe it is a dis - an intended one - on you and writers like you.

Do you want to know why Whitlock wrote this article and why his belief system is what it is?  Because he doesn't understand the changes to how the game is perceived by some and he refuses to understand them.  He even starts the article off by writing "I won't be going to see "Moneyball."

HE TELLS YOU RIGHT IN THE BEGINNING HE WON'T SEE THAT WHICH HE IS ABOUT TO INSULT.

He also admits to you, "It's difficult to interpret baseball these days." 

Whitlock doesn't understand the numbers and he'll confess it to you.  I've got a confession as well: I also don't understand all of the numbers.  Math was my absolute worst subject in school and still is.  I like numbers, but we were never really on the same page.  Sort of like me and women.  (Remember, I'm representing the nerds in this article and I must abide by the rules of what nerds are: single virgins that live in our mom's basement and don't you forget it!)

Just because I don't understand the numbers doesn't mean I don't have faith in their absolution.  I don't fully understand the theory of relativity, but when Albert Einstein tells you that E = MC² you should probably just take his word for it. 

He believes that sabermetrics and fans who believe in sabermetrics are ruining baseball.  He doesn't blame rising ticket prices for a sport that is seeing the world around it go by faster than it can keep up.  He doesn't blame steroids.  He doesn't blame nine-figure contracts.  He doesn't blame a waning interesting in little league baseball for kids who would rather play football or soccer.  The fact of the matter is that fantasy baseball and sabermetrics aren't ruining baseball; they're trying to save it.

Fantasy football ruining football?  Sometimes I really wonder if people like Jason Whitlock even exist or if they are fabricated by Rupert Murdoch to simply anger fans and bring more attention to FOX while I'd rather spend more of my time in the growing blogosphere. 

Again, Whitlock sees himself getting passed by and without the comprehension or willingness to catch up.  That scares him because of his reportedly high salary.  That scares him because he'll lose national relevancy to "nerds" and people who embrace the change.

Seriously, fantasy football is ruining football?  How much will out-of-market ratings go up for the Jacksonville and Carolina game this week because of Cam Newton owners?  How immediately popular is NFL Red Zone?  Why are NFL stadiums themselves putting up fantasy stats on the big board?

And sabermetrics is saving baseball in every city not named New York, Boston, or Los Angeles.  The Tampa Bay Rays are again on the brink of doing the impossible for the third time in four years if they can reach the playoffs.  They will have done it in no small part because of sabermetrics and putting an emphasis on player value over "Oh wow, ball go far, me so happy!" of the ignorant fans. 

If it wasn't for sabermetrics would the small-market Rays ever be in the playoffs?  Literally... ever?  How can he defend that baseball was doing just fine when a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates can go below .500 for 20 years?  Since 2002 the NFL has seen all but three teams make the playoffs and they have all managed to go 2-0 this season.  Last time I checked the NFL was heads and tails above all other major sports in America.  Last time I checked the NFL was also the most popular fantasy sport in America and has fully embraced and attracted that other half of the American population: women.  In no small part because of fantasy football and an enjoyment to watch the games because of "their teams."

Jason Whitlock believes that numbers are boring.  He associates numbers with school and school with nerds and all he knows is that in high school he was an "athlete" (note: technically if you are on the football team you are an athlete.  Technically you can also be on the football team because you are massively larger than everybody else.)  Whitlock was an offensive tackle at Ball State where he majored in journalism.  Because he couldn't make the NFL that meant he actually had to do something he probably never hoped he would have to do: pursue his actual major.

Because of that, we all became screwed. 

Does he serve a purpose?  Sure.  He is the "Two and a Half Men" of journalism.  The ratings-getter and because of his outlandish and often-ignorant articles that cause controversy he gets the one thing that FOX cares about: page views.  It's not about how smart you are, it's not about understanding numbers, and its obviously not about researching the truth.  It's about saying things that cause people to talk about you.  And that's just what he's done.

So good for you Mr. Whitlock.  I'll sit over here on my blog that gets a fraction of the hits that you get and I'll do my best to hopefully be the "Community" of sports journalism.  But what I'll also have is an understanding of the game, the ways in which it is changing, and an impassioned pursuit of knowledge and truth. 

Good luck with your journey of ignorant bliss.  We won't miss you down here in the basement. 

My Twitter @Casetines

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