Best of decade: movies, TV shows, books, blogs (cont.)
Most Influential Books
Say what you want about Billy Beane's trophy case in Oakland, but when you read the first 50 pages of Michael Lewis' bestseller, chances are you'll never watch a baseball game the same way again. Moneyball has more than just entered the baseball lexicon; it's changed the way front offices conduct business. Sure, the A's haven't won a World Series adhering to Beane's once-unconventional strategies; but three of the teams that hired sabermetric analysts in Moneyball's wake have (Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees). Stay tuned for the on-again, off-again film adaptation starring Brad Pitt as Beane himself.
Game of Shadows (2006)
San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams cast an indelible stain on the legacy of Barry Bonds with the chronicle of their two-year investigation of the BALCO sports nutrition center. From the day an excerpt ran in Sports Illustrated in March 2006, the public never again saw Bonds the same way. Baked up by hundreds of interviews and exhaustive research, Game of Shadows remains a modern-day benchmark of investigative reporting.
Jose Canseco's juicy tell-all was the Ball Four of the steroid age and delivered a sledgehammer blow to the culture of silence that kept baseball fans in the dark for so long. Whether Canceco's sometimes-awkward retelling is 100 percent accurate is subject to debate. (As noble whistleblowers go, Frank Serpico the author is not.) But the truthiness paints an accurate and often-compelling tableau of baseball's most dubious era -- and many of the names Canseco mentions were later implicated in formal inquiries.
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life (2000)
Pulitzer-winning scribe Richard Ben Cramer's controversial magnum opus remains the greatest sports biography of the decade, a towering achievement of reportage. Cramer scrapes away from the legend of Joltin' Joe and gives readers an uncompromising look at DiMaggio as he was: a nasty, self-centered, resentful proto-diva. The truth may trouble anyone who clings to the icon as forged in Americana, but Cramer's meticuolous research and elegant prose set the standard by which all modern sports bios will be measured.
How Soccer Explains the World (2004)
New Republic editor Franklin Foer uses soccer's many-sided role in various cultures as a metaphor to explain the effects of globalization. Tireless reporting, memorable characters and countless colorful anecdotes make Foer's book a compelling read for soccer junkies and neophytes alike -- even if you disagree with the overreaching thesis.
Honorable Mention: Open: An Autobiography (2009), Man in the Middle (2007), Soccernomics (2009), Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education (2000)
Most Influential Blogs
The first and (arguably) only sports blog to truly penetrate the cultural mainstream boasts sports news "without access, favor or discretion" -- but with a snark and acerbity that's given it a widespread appeal. Featuring commentary and recaps of the day's major sports news and gossip, the Gawker-owned blog first shone when various MSM outlets cited Deadspin stories, among them Sports Illustrated.
Early scoops ranged from hard news (like Matt Lawton's positive steroid test) to tabloid fodder (the famous Matt Leinart party pictures). But Deadspin found itself on the front lines of the media culture clash on a famous April 2008 episode of HBO's Costas Now, when Pulitzer-winning scribe Buzz Bissinger put the entire blogosphere on trial during a segment opposite Deadspin founder and then-editor Will Leitch. Bissinger's get-off-my-lawn rant claimed blogs "dumb us down" with their dedication to speed, cruelty and journalistic dishonesty. Leitch weathered Bissinger's clumsy, half-informed accusations with calm professionalism -- and struck an important victory for non-traditional media. Recently, current editor A.J. Daulerio made news with his self-described "hostage situation" against ESPN, resulting in Deadspin posting rumors of sexual relationships and crude behavior among the network's employees.
Many personnel people in the league read PFT every day, thus influencing the way front offices conduct business. The blog has sources inside league offices, lending authority to injury tips. Yes, PFT has fallen off since "going corporate" and signing a deal with NBC Sports in June 2009, but Mike Florio's site is still a must-read for football fans.
Fire Joe Morgan (2005-08)
The slogan -- "Where Bad Sports Journalism Comes To Die" -- tells you everything you need to know. The brainchild of comedy writers Alan Yang and Michael Schur (alias Ken Tremendous), Fire Joe Morgan didn't invent sports media criticism, but it mastered the format and laid the blueprint for many imitators -- and prompted an outcry around the blogosphere when it closed shop on Nov. 13, 2008.
The Big Lead (2006-present)
Former sportswriter and US Weekly editor Jason McIntyre merged media gossip and celebrity nuggets into a popular site frequented often by members of the mainstream sports media. After ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd called on his listeners in 2007 to shut down the site by flooding it with visitors beyond the capacity of its bandwidth, the site's popularity soared. McIntyre revealed his identity in this SI.com piece, and in the following years has seen his traffic balloon to more than two million monthly page views -- impressive for an enterprise born as an e-mail correspondence between college friends.
BadJocks.com -- "where COPS meets SportsCenter" -- existed years before blog entered the cultural lexicon. Creator Bob Reno helped pioneer the blend of sarcasm and schadenfreude that inspired a generation of bloggers. Perhaps the blog's most famous feature -- a chart that ranks the highest blood alcohol contents of sports figures arrested for DUI -- still gets hit hard to this day.