Newspapers can be just like new media whiz kids! (But not in a good way)

A few days ago, I angered some of my Twitter followers by referencing a truly twisted piece of soccer opinion-writing at Bleacher Report. I can’t give a blanket condemnation of the site in deference to a couple of buddies who work there, but I can say the post in question has the following fatal flaws:

1. Somehow connecting the U.S. men’s soccer coach to the country’s failure to land the World Cup on the basis that he occasionally voiced support for it. (By that argument, Morgan Freeman should stop acting, Landon Donovan should stop playing soccer, and Bill Clinton should stop being Bill Clinton.)

2. Insisting that the “new president and coach” of U.S. Soccer should organize competition for Under-20 players, failing to notice that such competitions already exist. (Not to mention the multiple national championships for U19s and below, plus the PDL.)

3. Insisting that the new regime should switch from a 5-4-1 formation to a 4-4-2. When, exactly, has a U.S. team played in a 5-4-1?

4. Suggesting that Jurgen Klinsmann be named not just as U.S. men’s national team coach, a fairly popular opinion but not quite a majority, but as president. The case for: He’s “capable of propelling these changes.” Maybe I’ll take a random poll at the NSCAA convention and see how everyone thinks Klinsmann would fare at changing every aspect of U.S. soccer. (Then again, if he wants the USA to “change” to a 4-4-2 and institute Under-20 competitions, he could claim success on Day 1!)

Silly blogger, right? Thank goodness we can turn to respected newspapers …

… and find this piece from NYU econ professor William Easterly lamenting celebrities’ efforts to go beyond John Lennon’s simple call to “give peace and chance” and actually study issues, meet with politicians and work to bring attention to their causes.

He’s close to a legitimate argument, suggesting that celebrities should be more confrontational outside the system and less conciliatory within it. But why should one approach fit all? If Bono has the patience and kindness to meet with Jesse Helms and appeal to their shared religion (in general terms, at least) to work toward common ground on ending poverty and AIDS, why shouldn’t he?

But that argument isn’t enough to put the good professor alongside our Bleacher Report blogger in our gallery of misguided writing. Ready for this comment on Bono?

Little wonder that he hasn’t cranked out a musical hit related to his activism.

Except Walk On, about Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Or Where the Streets Have No Name, about reaching beyond the labels put on us by our street addresses. (That’s one plausible take, at least.)

Or The Unforgettable Fire, inspired by artwork of the Hiroshima bombing.

Or Sunday Bloody Sunday, a desperate cry for peace in Northern Ireland.

Or Pride (In the Name of Love), an homage to MLK.

Or (admittedly not major hits) Bullet the Blue Sky and Mothers of the Disappeared, both inspired by El Salvador’s civil war. (Live, Bono has been known to call out a few people in the spoken-word section — Jimmy Swaggart and Oral Roberts among them.)

Or Silver and Gold, a protest of politicians emphasizing money over civil rights, which originally appeared as part of the Sun City project, in which Bono joined Little Steven and many others to tell the Sun City resort they’d refuse to play there as long as South African apartheid remained.

I’m not one to take random potshots at academics. They’re under enough fire from political movements attempting to bend reality to their wills. But that comment reminded me of “hip-hop scholar” Michael Eric Dyson giving a purposefully offensive commencement address at North Carolina, in which he not only went out of his way to offend all the grandmas who had come to see a nice batch of December graduates but also mentioned Alanis Morissette singing about “fellatio in the back seat of a car.”

Car, theater … same thing.

So perhaps I’ve been too hard on our Bleacher Report blogger. If academics are going to be rewarded for failing to do the most basic bits of research on their pop-culture references, what kind of example does that set for the rest of us?

(Or maybe I’m just venting.)

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