I thought the All-Star Game "This Time It Counts," brought to you by a one minutes Taco Bell commercial, "they're all about the Roosevelts," would be an appropriate moment to throw out a word or two on the death of argumentation in the US, the highest form of which was once the drunken bar debate. Seriously. Only a scant few years ago, if you wanted to say that Hank Aaron was the greatest player ever, you had better back that up with facts, man.
Now, however, the line of argument runs something like this:
1) Hank Aaron is the greatest baseball player ever.
2) People who do not agree with #1 are filthy ignoramuses.
3) The author of CCC is a filthy ignoramus.
I know, that's ridiculous, but that basic formulation seems to be the bedrock of most political discourse in the country and it has infected everything from Congressional hearings to ESPN. Opinions are passed off as facts and ideological labels are used to bludgeon dialogue into neat little boxes from which no real thought can escape.
People talk past each other and no one listens. There is no argument because no one is trying to prove anything. Debatable issues are presented as non-negotiable facts, adjectives standing in for entire arguments. The attitude is that if you are on the opposite side of the aisle from me you have nothing to contribute to the conversation because my logic, as outlined above, is fairly airtight. Instead of teasing out different issues and trying to get to the bottom of things, answering questions like "By what standard is Aaron best player ever?," anyone who questions #1 is automatically thrust into the category of undesirables.
I think the reason a lot of sportswriters feel threatened by the blogosphere is that they have been blogging, in print, for quite some time, just spouting half-baked opinions without backing them up. Their only claim to authority is that they are in print and blogs aren't. Note that you don't hear people who cover politics carping in a similar fashion. They all just started blogging. The comments sections on those things are full of idiots spewing venom at each other that they'd never have the cajones to say around their mother, much less to the faces of the people they are throwing it at.
Which brings me back to bar arguments. When I was younger I used to genuinely like throwing back a few beers and hammering at different political issues with folks I knew. These days that's all preempted by the tripartite argument above. No one argues openly and honestly with anyone else because anyone who disagrees with them is the ignorant spawn of Satan.
And means we'll never hammer out who's the best baseball player ever, much less the more important issues of the day.