The word “blogger” is terrible, for reasons both auditory and symbolic. It’s a word that’s a little too easy to utter with a tinge of disgust, like if one were referring to a backed-up septic system. For many, the word has become synonymous with someone who thinks they have a voice that matters. However, that’s only because they’re hearing their own voice again and again, echoing off the basement walls … of a home they don’t even own.
It might even be easier than opening a pickle jar to become a blogger for a day or a month, but to gain mainstream acceptance as a blogger is exceedingly difficult. I won’t bore you with the details.
In the past, getting a plum job with the Press Democrat was even harder than becoming a blogger who lasts. Great writers came from that place. Michael Silver was there. Jeff Fletcher, too. Brian Murphy wrote for the PD, jumped to the Chronicle, went national and became a mainstay on KNBR. Matt Maiocco built the most loyal following of anyone who’s ever written online about the 49ers, and he did it from the PD’s little website (he was also there for over 10 years, breaking stories and engaging commenters — even those who disagreed with him). Eric Branch is one of the best feature writers in the entire Bay Area. I dare you to find a Branch piece where after reading it you said, “Welp, that was a waste of time.” He started at the Democrat as well.
Both Maiocco and Branch wrote the hell out of that little Press Democrat 49ers blog. When Branch moved on, that blog was bequeathed to Grant Cohn. Grant, son of Lowell.
This isn’t about judging Grant’s overall body of work on that blog. Many enjoy Lowell’s style, and Lowell personally. They believe they know him through his writing. Grant’s pieces are much like Lowell’s, both in terms of formula and third-person headlines. Those who enjoy Lowell also enjoy Grant, as well as the idea that the Cohn family has your best interests at heart as the newspaper-subscribing sports consumer. Many in recent weeks have told me how Grant’s early work showed “promise.”
In recent months, Grant has taken on his father’s persona in the worst possible way. When Lowell throws stones, at least there’s history to fall back on. All Grant has is Lowell and that Press Democrat blog made famous by Maiocco and Branch. He’s taken his platform and used it to write posts so nonsensical (the 49ers should trade for Tebow?), it was as if Grant was writing not what he actually believed, but what he believed would generate more pageviews. It was like the Democrat said, “Hey, Lowell’s kid writes in their basement and he’s cheap, let’s give him a try.”
Many were somehow tolerant of this style of writing (the kids call it “trolling”), because Grant’s only a blogger. Hey, what’s the harm? He’s not a “real” 49ers beat writer, is he? So what if he gives the pick of A.J. Jenkins an “F” grade in order to get the commenters riled up? Who cares if he compares players to children, dogs and interns?
It appeared that Grant was going to let everything go after Davis started the hashtag, as he stayed quiet on Saturday. On Sunday, Grant proved just how safe he feels at the Press Democrat, a paper that might as well rename itself the Santa Rosa Cohn Zone.
First, Grant wrote a couple blog posts where he held a “contest” for commenters to re-write the only line he thought caused any trouble from his Friday post: “Anthony Davis threw his hands up in the air and squealed like a child.” Because comparing Josh Johnson to a “spaniel” wasn’t condescending or anything.
He mentions Colin Kaepernick in the headlines of both posts, because Kaepernick retweeted one of Davis’ tweets (a photoshopped Candlestick Park Gate A that reads “THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS INVITE YOU TO #STOPCOHN”) and wrote “I’ll roll for the homie” in another (Grant: not “the homie”). Kaepernick may have been standing up for himself as much as Davis, as Grant made harsh judgments on Kaepernick’s accuracy during Thursday’s meaningless practice. In response to Kaepernick supporting his teammate’s anti-Cohn stance, Grant retweeted something Kaepernick wrote that was almost (but not really) incriminating.
Grant also took to Twitter on Mother’s Day and did what he appeared to do when he confronted Davis during Friday’s practice: bait, bait, and bait some more.
This next tweet looks familiar (to me, anyway). Friendly advice, helpful hint…
To be fair to Grant, those tweets were in reponse to all the “#StopCohn” references and a variety of Davis tweets (since deleted) calling for the revocation of Grant’s press pass and the termination of his employment with the Press Democrat.
Grant has had plenty of time to talk with his father and formulate a plan for responding to Davis’ Twitter hijinks, but that strategy is making many wonder why the Press Democrat is letting these guys call the shots. At this point, maybe the Democrat’s through with being a feeder system for SF Gate, CSN and Yahoo — perhaps the plan is to roll with Team Cohn until the once-proud newspaper turns to figurative ash.
At around 7 pm on Sunday, Anthony Davis retweeted this:
This is a two-way street, and Davis has been hammering on the #StopCohn meme for three solid days. Without the 49ers’ right tackle pushing the issue, one of the most ridiculous Bay Area media stories in recent years would’ve fizzled. So why are so many people so angry with the Cohns? How did “#StopCohn” become a trending topic?
The Cohns would probably argue that we don’t know these players in the slightest (just like Cohn Zone readers don’t really know the Cohns), and the large group railing against Grant are “sheep” rendered powerless by the mentality of a mob. And to many in the media, it doesn’t matter how a man makes a name, as long as his name is mentioned.
Except Davis is hitting (repeatedly) on something writers and readers have been quietly saying in different corners of the interwebz for months, years. Even if Grant had an unfamiliar surname, his writing would’ve come into question. Strident views without logical backing only signal laziness, not courage. (The most important way to judge college wide receivers is yards per catch? Really?) Bite-sized morsels of high school imagery might get people to read and comment, but they don’t tell the story of Davis and his teammates. What investigative jewels have the Cohns unearthed and brought to the surface? Ted Ginn’s wearing white tights now? Evil Jim Harbaugh wasn’t all that concerned about whether or not his first round receiver walked across a stage in Champagne, Illinois? Is this family furthering the conversation or forcing players and coaches to put up walls unnecessarily?
Fans, players and readers deserve better. Bloggers deserve better. With the walls between players and athletes tumbling down 140 characters at a time, we need to reexamine how these groups communicate. Grant may think he “opened up a line of communication” with Davis. Instead, he’s closing the door on many bloggers from less fortunate bloodlines.