November 14, 2008
On Thursday, the fellas at Fire Joe Morgan announced they were returning their scalpels to the surgical tray and calling it a blogging career. The news spread quickly through the blogosphere and surely brought sighs of relief from the writers that were frequently targeted. Our own Jeff Passan was twice a victim and yet he still laments the passing of a worthy Internet adversary.
The first time I was FJM'd, my friend Jon sent me a giddy e-mail. For years, he had delighted in every shame that befell me — crash-and-burns with women, sloppy nights at the bar or the time he whacked my kidney with a broom handle and caused me to piss blood for a week — and yet never had I seen him so tickled.
I knew about Fire Joe Morgan. It was a blog that found the most absurd in sportswriting, broadcasting and, occasionally, life, and picked it apart sentence by painful sentence. Its contributors, each adopting a pseudonym — the ring leader was Ken Tremendous — were dangerous for three reasons. They were brilliant. They were angry. And they were funny as hell.
Now, I was in their scope. I had figured myself impervious. I covet logic. They preyed on those who didn't, originally their namesake, ESPN's dunderhead broadcaster, and then all others with a keyboard, a paycheck and a voice.
Problem was, I had slipped. I grew up watching Omar Vizquel. I admired his fielding magnificence. There was an emotional attachment. One day, I wrote that he deserved a spot in the Hall of Fame. Though I still believe a good argument can be made, I did not posit it. I praised his sacrifice bunts. If you ever wanted to be FJM'd, all you had to do was laud sacrifice bunts.
The vivisection that ensued hurt, and I found it wasn't quite as funny when it was your work. I understood, though, because FJM were like the ombudsmen of the baseball-writing world — only they were total dicks.
No one escaped their wrath. Thousand-word columns turned into 2,000-word rebuttals, biting and merciless and so full of bile that the writers' livers had to be superhuman. Writers never acknowledged when they got FJM'd. It was like getting a letter that began: Dear Moron.
They saved the most epic posts for Joe Morgan himself, breaking down his chats, his rants on TV, his interviews. In a way, I felt bad for the man. He was a ballplayer. To expect him to understand anything, let alone advanced statistical metrics, was a lot to ask. He did thrust himself out there week after week, though, spouting his opinions like they were gospel, and, hey, the fourth estate exists for a reason.
Accordingly, FJM's popularity grew, and eventually the main contributors outed themselves. Ken Tremendous was a man named Michael Schur. He plays Mose Schrute, the ping-pong-playing, beet-worshipping cousin of Dwight on "The Office," and is one of the show's lead writers and executive producers. The other two main writers were Dave King (aka dak), who wrote for "FrankTV," and Alan Yang (aka Junior), the surgeon on my Vizquel piece, who was with Carson Daly's show.
"It's pretty pathetic when a guy from Carson Daly rips you," my wife said. "You're not even good enough for Mose."
(Finally. I get him back. Through my wife. I am pathetic.)
My name saw the pages of FJM once more, when I tried to assign odds to teams entering the second half of the season. My grasp of numbers was pathetic, an FJM sin that led to this headline from Junior: "Jeff Passan: Royals Are Locks To Win The AL Central." I quickly corrected the error, and Junior duly noted it. Turns out, the guys weren't such bastards after all. Ken Tremendous and I emailed occasionally. He loved baseball. He had a baby son. He was like me, only rich and funny.
The love of baseball, in fact, was the reason that FJM happened in the first place. All three are Red Sox fans, and they started the site to make each other laugh. Along the way, they happened to strike a nerve with hundreds of thousands of others who needed a good chuckle.
Whether deconstructing a writer's irrational love affair with David Eckstein or pointing out the countless food metaphors that we drop on stories like sprinkles on a sundae, FJM, despite its one-note shtick, never got stale.
To see Thursday night's announcement of the site's death, then, was sad. Baseball writers had lost their foremost check and baseball fans their funniest outlet. Sure, they weren't always right, and their cultish adherence to sabermetrics bordered on ridiculous. But the bad was trivial, and the good was great.
Three and a half years and 1,377 snarling posts after it started, Fire Joe Morgan is gone and may it rest in peace. Until the Red Sox sign Eckstein in December, anyway.