Wanna know a little secret? Sometimes I write after I’ve had an adult beverage or two; heck, sometimes I’ll sip a beer to remove whatever creative barrier might be standing in my way at that particular moment. There is a point, however, at which too much indulgence removes those safeguards that protect my authorial and journalistic decisions.
Despite the fact that some may think that happens to me quite often, those instances are pretty few and far between. But as I was doing a little editing last night and searching for a featured image for this morning’s Rundown, I came across what looked like exactly the error in judgment I seek to avoid.
I typically look to the Chicago Tribune for images; it’s a throwback to my ChicagoNow days, but, more than that, Jose Osorio and Brian Cassella are absolutely fantastic photographers and their work is consistently impeccable. However, with no shots from the Triple Threat Homerpalooza available from them, I had to go slumming.
At the risk of picking up and throwing one of the landscaping stones surrounding my own glass house, I must admit that I treat a visit to the Sun-Times site like a wrong turn into the bad part of town. I lock my computer’s doors and keep an eye out for shady characters, though the CST has gotten better at disguising them. But alas, there I was, searching for a more up to date pic from Tuesday’s game. Needless to say, I didn’t find one.
What I did find was a headline co-opted from a Righteous Brothers song and an accompanying screen-grab from the infamous bar karaoke scene in Top Gun. After shaking my fist in “get off my lawn” indignance (pop culture is my bag, baby!), I realized that not even I would come up with an idea like this that was even nuttier than the crooning Scientologist in the picture.
I knew instantly who would though. Then again, perhaps I should give everyone’s favorite beat writer a break; after all, Rick Telander explained in his exhaustive reply to John Arguello’s Cubs Den post that took the seasoned columnist to task that the writers don’t choose the headlines or pics (I had a bit of a sad when my excoriating open letter didn’t get a similar response). That’s the editor’s job, he said, allowing someone else to step in front of the bus for him. So maybe Mr. Wittenmyer wasn’t really to blame for the absurdity of his column’s presentation.
Then I read the first two lines:
The Cubs had fun for a while Tuesday, showing off their powerful hopes for the future with a flurry of fourth-inning home runs.
But the reality of the moment is that seven games into the spring, they’re still without manager Joe Maddon’s first Cub victory.
It’s entirely possible that the rest of the article completely filled in the non-sequiturial hole dug by the lede, though I admit I didn’t read far enough to find out. I suppose the third sentence did hint at the possibility that exhibition records don’t matter, but twisted that in a way to indicate that they should where the Cubs are concerned.
And as meaningless as spring training might seem, Maddon believes in trying to win in March for the ethic and habits it promotes. He may not be sweating it yet, but he’d like to at least have a few leads to play with so he can make some game moves.
But now I’m getting into a full-on attack, which, I swear, wasn’t the purpose of writing this. My point is that we’re talking about the Cubs’ performance right now through very imperfect lenses. Even those closest to the team may choose, or be forced, to cover angles that have more beauty than depth. Or that appear blurry because there simply isn’t enough of a sample size to accurately focus on the facts.
This is exactly what I wrote about earlier when I exhorted Cubs fans to take it easy (see, Mr. Wittenmyer, clever use of classic songs is MY game!) in terms of the ups and downs that are inevitable with a young and resurgent team. But the journalists know that using emotional leverage is the way to get more views, more clicks, more conversations, and so they remain myopic in terms of how they cover the team at this point.
Imagine Mike Olt as a writer, except without much home run power any longer. I know it’s not easy in times like these for everyone to take a step back and maintain a more panoramic view of the team and the season, but that’s exactly what we need to be doing. Joe Maddon isn’t going to be doing any serious in-game management at this point in the season; that will come later.
If we’re pushing into April and starters are throwing 6+ innings in front of a trimmed roster and things are still looking ugly, then perhaps you can come to me with talk about all the errors. Early spring is a time to work on little things that may not manifest themselves visibly in what often amounts to a playing window of a few innings. Just remember that when you’re reading or breaking down the games and individual performances right now.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t get excited when you see three of the team’s young stars blasting homers all in a row, but rather that we can’t make conclusions about the season based on just a handful of games, let alone a single contest. But I’ve typed enought and there’s no tenderness like before in my fingertips, so I’m going to sign off now.