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Beyond Dumb: AP Writer Booted From Poll

Is it any wonder that sports fans don't bother with the local newspaper for sports news and analysis anymore? ESPN is reporting that an Associated Press college football voter - Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) - has been booted from the AP Poll for voting Oklahoma down nine spots in his most recent ballot. Why, you ask, did Jimmy vote the Sooners down?

Because he thought they lost.

And why did he think they lost? Let's let Jimmy explain:

Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans said he tried to find the score of the Oklahoma game, but was unable to do so.

He said he was in the press box at the Alabama-LSU game "and I was asking about different teams, thinking about the poll the next day. ... I thought somebody told me that Oklahoma was losing to Texas Tech at some point. And I asked after the LSU game was over, 'Did Oklahoma win?' Somebody said Oklahoma lost," Kleinpeter said...

"It was my fault. I probably had other avenues I could have gone to get the score, but I usually rely on the morning paper here in Baton Rouge. And for some reason, they didn't have the score. I looked all through it," he said.


He looked all through the morning newspaper, couldn't find a score, and just thought, "Yeah, pretty sure they lost. No need to check further."

Couldn't go to Phone a friend? Ask the audience?

This would be dumbfounding, if it weren't so unremarkable. Most of us don't bother reading the local newspapers anymore for lots of reasons - chief among them being that the beat writers and local columnists seem so far removed from the sports fan experience of most of us these days. This incident only makes Bill Simmons' most recent column all the more relevant. Writes Simmons:

Now it's 2006 and I'm wondering if a press pass does any good. Unlike the old days, basketball reporters rarely get extra access anymore -- it's just the same herd of writers hovering around the same people, day after day, writing down the same boring quotes from the same group of bored people who just want them to go away. Unlike the old days, we can watch every minute of every game on TV. We can watch the postgame press conferences. We can watch highlights and sound bites on ESPN. We can argue about the team with other fans on message boards and blogs. By the time most newspaper stories are published, the news always feels a little dated. I'm telling you from experience -- it's possible to follow a professional basketball team without reading the local beat writers now. I do it every day.

It's just a different world. For instance, reading the Boston papers as they sorted through the wreckage of a shocking Patriots loss, the Herald reporters (John Tomase and Michael Felger, both of whom do a good job) played up the relative discontent in the locker room, with a couple of veterans openly declaring that they had been outplayed and outcoached. And that's exactly how the Herald guys should have played it; it was the best newspaper angle to take. On the other hand, they had been outplayed and outcoached -- anyone who watched the game already knew that. So why was this a big deal? Isn't that like interviewing Britney and having her say, "In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have married K-Fed"? Thinking over the past 10 months of Boston sports, I can't remember a single time when somebody with "inside access" helped elucidate something about the Red Sox, Patriots or Celtics that I couldn't have figured out myself.

And Simmons isn't clowning around; he's being quite serious, and he's absolutely right. I'm not lying when I say that I haven't read more than 10% of Suzanne Haliburton (the Austin American-Statesman's Longhorn beat writer) stories this year. Not 10%. And why is that? It's not because I have something against Suzanne; it's that Suzanne is reporting news and notes that have been on this site for hours already, if not days. Not a week has gone by this season without a BON commenter saying, "Hey, is such and such newspaper writer reading BON?! Look at the similarity of these notes!"

They're probably not reading BON, it's just that I'm blogging about the Longhorns live, as it happens. When the Bomar story broke, we had a story and a thread of 100+ comments here on the site within 20 minutes. By the time the morning newspapers hit the doorsteps, the news was practically stale.

This isn't to say that bloggers are better than sports journalists, or that sports journalism is dead. It just means that sports fans have new, better ways to follow their teams these days, and many newspapers and their journalists are way too far behind. If I were a sports editor, I'd be damn sure that each and every one of my beat writers and columnists had a blog on the site that they updated at least once a day. It's the only way to stay relevant, what with psychos like myself glued to the computer every day, all day.

If nothing else, it would probably help poor souls like Jim Kleinpeter figure out who won the games each week.