Sunday, February 21, 2010

White Noise

There’s a strict definition of “white noise”, if you are a sound engineer, stop reading now because I’m going to use the generally accepted colloquial (although inaccurate) definition of white noise for my own purposes today.

White noise is considered to be sound masking, it drowns out every other sound. Here’s a good analogy I found:

"Imagine a dark room where someone is turning a flashlight on and off. The light is very obvious and distracting. Now imagine that the room lights are turned on. The flashlight is still being turned on and off, but is no longer noticeable because it has been 'masked'. "

Here’s my baseball analogy for white noise: imagine the dark room is Ranger fans, the flashlight is real information researched and reported by the likes of, ESPN Dallas, The Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News. The room lights are sports talk radio, forums, fan run websites and yes, blogs like this. The real information, the flashlight, is no longer noticeable because it is being masked by the room lights of self-appointed pontificators on the air and on the web.

I bring this up because I read a comment from one of the real media today that mentioned a fan based forum as the reason he reported a specific piece of information. Since when did a website fan forum become more important than what the general public wants to know? I’ve long suspected that responding to white noise is becoming more important than reporting concrete information - today once again confirmed my suspicions.

What is a baseball fan supposed to believe?

Please understand that not all blogs and fan run websites are white noise. There are excellent sites that add to the “flashlight” of discussion – people like Grant Schiller, Jamey Newberg and the boys at Baseball Time In Arlington work hard to bring thoughtful analysis as well as other features (like Grant’s many interviews) to the ‘net. The one thing all these sites have in common is that they keep the incendiary commentary to a minimum, if at all. Unfortunately, they too are often drowned out by the other Ranger fan “white noise”.

When I first discovered Ranger cyber-fandom back in the late 1990’s I actively participated in several forums – it was great fun, the give and take was thought provoking – in some cases I was persuaded to change my mind. But much like the political tone of the last few years, nearly all of the online Ranger forums have devolved into standoff’s, shouting matches – a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. As for sports talk radio – that is the original white noise and the loudest. Do any of those stations do any real investigative reporting? Moreover, do any of their show hosts actually attend the sporting events they discuss so flippantly? It seems that the only contribution of sports talk radio has made is to turn their own non-fact- based-speculation into something resembling news, and of course, adding to the volume of the white noise by fanning the flame of “hot sports” opinions as gospel.

Which brings me to this blog. I’ve been worried for quite a while now that I am just helping turn up the meter on the white noise to 11. Maybe I am, no let me change that to: I am pretty sure I’m doing that. I don’t think fans should be silenced, for many of us the visceral experience of baseball is a welcome relief from the pressures of daily living. But It seems there are so many voices talking and so few listening that there are times – most notably last season – that I thought about giving up this blog.

I am not a reporter, I don’t have access to the “inside story” (I have never figured out why some people think because I know Jamey Newberg that I do – trust me I don’t – I’m just another fan in the stands reading his reports like everyone else). Lord knows I’ll never have the analytical skills that Jamey and Grant have.

So after all of this navel gazing, what conclusion have I reached? Well, as Jeff Goldblum said in the Big Chill - “I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations”. (If you don’t remember the rest of quote – rent the movie)

Here’s my juicy rationalization: One of the friends who encouraged me to start this blog told me to write what I see and what I think – I have tried to do that. I have a passion for the game of baseball, and especially for this Texas Rangers team. More importantly, I love writing. I was a communications major in college, I thought I was going have some kind of career writing – I was wrong. For a long time I put that part of me in a box under the bed and pretended that I didn’t care – until the combination of modern technology, long buried aptitude and my love of baseball intersected one afternoon on the Dallas Morning News forum 12 years ago. Selfishly, I don’t want to give this up, and I won’t (at least not this season).

What I will do is make this promise to the 5 or 6 people who do read my piece of “white noise”:

-- I will do my best not to write a knee-jerk opinion. I will try to put a little thought, and more importantly back my opinions up with something salient – like stats, or a plausible theory – never “just because I'm right and you're wrong”

-- One thing I’ve never done, and will continue to avoid is name calling. Nothing bothers me more than I when I talk to a fellow fan who christens an athlete with a derogatory nickname (99% of the time originated by some local sports talk show host). Some players aren’t as talented or as good as others– that doesn’t make them worthy of that kind of treatment, and I have resorted to reminding that the least talented player on the Rangers is probably 100 times more of an athlete than the one bestowing the condemnation.

-- I will try to refrain from bombast (unless there is October baseball in Arlington)

 I will continue to write what I see and what I think and I’ll try to keep the white noise to a low hum.

Back to baseball next week – Marla Hooch



Jason said...

Thanks for your work and your promise to "write what you see." It's always refreshing to hear someone's own opinions, acknowledged as such, rather than regurgitation of talk radio or other inflammatory outlets.

Keep up the good work! I'll be one of those 5 or 6 people this year!

Anonymous said...

I don't think white noise is Rangers' fandom #1 problem. Compared to other teams, Rangers fandom is just tiny. The lazy PR for the team is partially to blame.
With all due respect, I think it's less important to make a list of exclusions than to just post more.

EMC said...

Dear Anonymous -

I'm not concerned about size of the Rangers fandom - it is what it is - what bothers me is that real news reporting seems to becoming secondary to responding to some reporters "favorite" websites, rather than reporting news for all the Ragners fans. And don't get me started on how Twitter deprives a good portion of the local fandom from getting regular updates - I worry about how much worse that will get during the season - prime example is today: the DMN didn't report the Warner Madrigal injury on its blog until almost 2:00 pm - when it was reported on others around 12:30 p.m. However, I bet it was on the DMN Twitter right away - but the reporter figured he reached the small audience he wanted to first - so writing the story for the rest of us isn't nearly as important anymore.

Agreed Rangers PR is pretty bad - especially the "home-made" commercials (as opposed to using a professional advertising firm) that the team produced in house the past few years were terrible, embarassingand annoying -except for the ones during the 2008 season). I'm hoping that Mr. Greenberg's group will bring a fresh sensiblity and fresh ideas and more enthusiasm to that part of the Rangers business office.

I'll be honest - your last sentence is a bit confusing - are you saying that I should stop making excuses and stop being part of the problem by not posting?

-- Marla

EMC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jpp (formerly Anonymous) said...

I am very confused, in turn. You are blaming Twitter for a delay in reporting? I understand that sometimes it's confusing to check many different sites, but that is inevitable. You do know that you do not need a Twitter account to follow news, right? You only need to make one if you want to communicate.
I recommend as a digest if you're concerned about missing out on up-to-the-minute news that can fit into 140 characters.

My last sentence was meant to convey that you shouldn't worry so much about possibly glutting the system with more white noise and just post what you think is interesting and of note about the Rangers. Even if it is kneejerk and emotional. Honestly, we get enough official/anemic reports already, and I'll take an impassioned opinion. I agree that LSB is by and large a waste of time, but that board has its place, and I don't think you have to worry about resembling them.

scooper said...

I think Marla does a great job! Personally, I believe that fan blogs are great as long as the bloggers don't try to pretend that they are actually reporting news. I love the opinions and enjoy reading what other fans think and feel.

I spent most of last season following Inside Corner (Evan Grant) and their live chats during the games. I thought that it would be fun to chat with other fans during the games. By the end of the season, I was really frustrated. I didn't understand why so many people would argue so stridently, call people names, degrade players, etc. And the folks on that site were pretty decent compared to others. I'm not even going to bother with that type of thing this year because I had more fun simply watching the game.

Much of what is floating around out there in cyberspace (AND talk radio) is meant to be controversial. I'm not at all sure that the folks even believe what they are saying - they just want more people to listen to (or read) what they have to say. It is also obvious to me that the typical caller/reader/commenter has a forceful (and usually more negative) attitude. You seldom see or hear positive, kind, considerate opinions. And when you do, they are beaten into the ground, called "homers," told that they are stupid, etc. So I decided that I will let the negative folks have the airwaves and chats.

I love baseball. I plan on enjoying this season. For me, that means not paying attention to the negative things. I like your blog and will continue to read it. Thank you for not adding to the negativity that is all around us!