Will Ken Burns' Next PBS Special be About Cheaters Who Appear in Ken Burns' PBS Specials?


Last week, Matt Welch suffered through Ken Burns' 10th Inning baseball doc on PBS so that the rest of us could get only with our lives of quiet desperation. Don't feel bad for Welch, a life-long LA/Anaheim/California Angels fan: Any baseball season that doesn't end in mass suicide is considered a victory for a team that usually folds faster than Burkina Faso in the Little League World Series.

Anyhoo, Slate's Tom Scocca protests Burns' heavy reliance on the Calvin Schiraldi of journalists, Mike Barnicle, in the special:

Mike Barnicle had to stop being a columnist for the Boston Globe because he got caught plagiarizing and fabricating, over and over again. And because he lied about it.

Mike Barnicle is a fraud and a liar. He didn't even have the excuse of being in over his head and strung out on drugs, like Jayson Blair. He had a nice, easy columnist spot. He fabricated and plagiarized because he was lazy and dishonest, and because he had contempt for his $200,000-a-year job and his readers.

Inviting Mike Barnicle to talk about what the Red Sox mean to Boston is like inviting Janet Cooke to discuss the problem of drug abuse among young people. He wasn't even a sportswriter, unless you count the time he ripped off a joke from George Carlin about the pope giving baseball scores.

Scocca helpfully points out the Barnicle wasn't the only bench coach in Burns' show that has been caught juicing: "Burns also dredged up Harvard historian and plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin to share her own thoughts about the Sox."

Whole thing here.

Scocca is flustered as to why Burns would stoop so low but really, the question answers itself: Aren't all Red Sox fans criminals one way or another? I mean, I'd rather watch Pete Rose compete on America's Next Top Hairstylist than learn about Roger Clemens' bloody, pants-soaking "palpable mass" from the likes of Barnicle and Kearns Goodwin.

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  1. No author noted for this post, but it looks like it has The Jacket’s leathery sleeves wrapped all around it.

    1. There’s that certain snarky meanness.

    2. What is he, an Indians fan?

      1. Cincy, maybe…

        1. That seems better than the Indians. Though I have a soft spot for them for losing to the Braves in the 1995 World Series.

          1. Yeah, one WS out of like 18 division titles, and even that had to come against the biggest losers in baseball history. Those Braves were something else…

            1. Well, it’s disappointing, but that run of division wins in a pretty good division is impressive.

              I wonder if they’ll make a run this year? They could if they played like they were a month ago.

              1. The Braves benefited from the National League really sucking in the 1990s. The American League won seven out of the nine WS titles played that decade.

                1. I don’t buy that. Atlanta’s starting rotation throughout that period was one of the best ever–not a lot of dispute about that. What killed them was that they were never a great hitting team. They had years where they could put up some numbers, but they were vulnerable to the stronger pitching one faces in the postseason.

                  Another problem for the Braves was that they would win their division way before the end of the season, which can make it hard to get your edge back. Teams have done it–including the Braves–but it’s another issue.

                  1. What killed them was their bad bullpen. The Braves never had a great closer. When they played quality teams in the playoffs who could stay close until the late innings and get the bullpen, they lost. They were a better team than the Yankees in 1996 at every position except set up man and closer. And that killed them.

                    1. Well, I agree that was part of the problem, but they did have decent closers several times. Alejandro Pe?a, Mark Wohlers, and John Rocker come to mind. While they seemed to need a new one ever year, I always thought their big problem was in middle relief. Their starters kept that problem from being too acute, but it was an ongoing issue.

                    2. I don’t have a citation at the moment, but wasn’t there something written by a pretty well-read writer about how the Braves’ bullpens didn’t really perform very badly in the playoffs? Sounds like a Neyer column maybe? I’ll see what I can find (or figure out the data myself if it comes to it)

                    3. Bobby Cox’s management of pitching at crucial moments was the decisive factor.

                      I watched them diligently for the whole decade.

                    4. That’s it.

        2. Probably. The “Sox fans are all criminals” line sounds like someone covering for Ambrister’s interference of the WS Game 6 in 1976.

          1. It’s gotta be hard for any libertarian to come out of the closet and support the “welfare queens” in professional baseball (or any pro sport, for that matter) with all the special tax and property breaks and public teat-sucking.

            1. Luckily, some of us can decide to just like entertaining things without needing to flex our libertarian street cred at every single possible juncture.

          2. WS Game 6 in 1975. There was no game six in 1976 as the Reds swept the Yankees.

            1. John – thx. After 35 years, the details get fuzzy.

              Smiley face – why are you limiting it to pro sports? They’re the biggest leeches, but college & high school sports programs are ripping people off, too.

    3. I, for one, love the Jacket.

  2. Red Sox? How are they relevant to anything? Aren’t they home preparing for next season?

  3. “Aren’t all Red Sox fans criminals one way or another?”

    Good point – those Three Felonies A Day could be thrown off by a heavy Boston sampling.

  4. This shouldn’t have been called the 10th inning. It should have been called “Yankees, Red Sox and Bonds.”

    1. Who paid for it–the Eastern Seaboard Promotion Network?

      1. I like that one. But no one from Florida can complain about the four letter network considering the big wet rim job it gives the SEC all fall.

        1. It’s hard to ignore the SEC when it keeps winning national titles. Lord knows that they’ve tried to inflate other teams and conferences beyond reason over the years.

          1. Hard to ignore Florida, LSU and Alabama. Easy to ignore, Georgia, Arkansas, the Mississippi schools and the rest of the rabble.

            It is not the attention they give the winning schools. It is the pretension that the second rate SEC schools are somehow by virtue of playing in the SEC not second rate.

            1. Normally, I think the second-rate schools are more than second rate. Only in the last couple of years have Tennessee and Georgia been this dysfunctional. And the SEC’s bowl record is pretty awesome.

              Ask Ohio State about playing teams from the SEC in the postseason. And that’s not just Florida I’m talking about.

    2. Has anything else happened in baseball in the last 15 years?

    3. and Bartman….

  5. I didn’t watch it. But I knew it was coming. Anyone who watched the first one and the ridiculous hyperbole over the 55 Dodgers knew that when Burns got his slimy paws on the 04 Red Sox it was going to be vomit inducing.

    What the fuck is it with Leftists and perennial loser east coast baseball teams?

    1. 21st century World Series titles:
      Red Sox: 2
      Yankees: 1

      Oh, and you might want to check the way NYC votes.

      1. That is only if you don’t count 2000 as the 21st Century. Then it is 2-2. And it is a rather selective sampling. When you consider that in the 86 years between 1918 and 2004 the Yankees won 26 World Series to the Red Sox zero.

        The Red Sox are perennial losers. They are not the worst perennial losers in baseball. The Cubs, White Sox and Phillies all have greater records of futility and generally more bad baseball played over the years. The record is what it is. A couple of store bought championships in an era when only seven or eight big market teams can consistently compete doesn’t change that.

        And you would think, with NYC being so Left that most public Lefties would be Yankee fans. But they seem not to be. The Red Sox seem to be the team of choice for public lefties.

        1. Store bought? Fucking Christ on a Cracker, a Yankees fan has no fucking right to call anyone else’s Championship “store bought”, when they pay out 40% more than the next highest team.

          You do have a point about teams needing a certain level of payroll. However, I don’t think it’s going to become like English Premiere soccer, where 4 teams are perpetually on top, and the rest compete for 5th & 6th place. The Rays & the Twins this year have shown that smaller market teams can compete. They just probably won’t be able to do so as consistently as the bigger money teams.

          1. The Rays have to do it this year, most likely. Pe?a, Crawford, and Soriano are almost certainly gone. They might be able to squeeze out a year or two more with the young talent they can bring up, but the payroll issue is a looming disaster.

        2. The Red Sox are perennial losers.

          Excuse me? The Bosox have been in the World Series eleven times (sixth all time), winning 7 (fourth all time). They boast the fourth most champions in Baseball.

          This is perenially losing? I beg to differ, and I would suspect that the other 25 teams below would be more than happy with that record.

          Also, Red Sox in 2004 had the greatest playoff comeback in baseball playoff history, which had the added bonus of giving the Yankees the title of BIGGEST CHOKEJOB IN POSTSEASON HISTORY.

          /suck it Spankee fans

          1. I think the Red Sox mystique is about choking, not losing.

            The Cubs are the ones with the reputation for always losing, which is kind of strange since they’ve had a pretty good decade from 2001-10, with three playoff trips and six winning seasons.

            1. Yes, Tulpa has it right. The whole Red Sox narrative is about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s not a story of perennial futility, like it is for the Cubs. It’s about near misses and last-second heartbreak; it’s never been a “wait till next year” sort of situation.

    2. John, leave my Dodgers alone.

    3. From “Burns got his slimy paws on the 04 Red Sox” to “Leftists and perennial loser east coast baseball teams” in the blink of an eye — you, sir, are an assclown.

  6. Matt, thanks for taking one for the team and watching this.

    Anything Burns after “The Civil War” (which I thought was epic) was like Detroit post-’68 championship – all downhill.

    [’84 Series was nice, but most of the US has “Bubba”-the-Spliff in front of the burning car as the iconic Detroit memory from that championship…Burns has Barnicle/Kearns Goodwin, so…]

    1. I like this whole “taking one for the team” bit. I get that there is plenty of room for criticism, but the Burns films are incredibly well-made and very entertaining. It’s not as if the mere act of watching is painful — these are four of the better hours of original TV you’ll see this year.

      1. Yeah, Yankees fans are known for their decorum.

          1. Those burning cop cars give off a warm glow.

          2. Favoring either team in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry was like rooting for a side in the Communist/Fascist fight. It would be better for the world if they both went to hell.

  7. “Don’t feel bad for Welch, a life-long LA/Anaheim/California Angels fan: Any baseball season that doesn’t end in mass suicide is considered a victory for a team that usually folds faster than Burkina Faso in the Little League World Series.”

    The Angels have a World Series title to their credit. Granted, it was eight years ago, but that’s better than most teams can say. So, no, I don’t feel bad for him.

    Methinks Gillespie is a Yankees fan from his youthful days in New Jersey.

    1. But until 2002, the Angels really were cursed. Their losses in the 79 and 86 ALCS were epic and just as horrible as anything that ever happened to Boston. The difference is that when they finally won, their fans didn’t run around like jackasses pretending they were the only fans who had ever been disappointed the way Red Sox fans did

      1. The most nauseating aspect to the Red Sox ’04 title was the fan interviews the following Spring Training:

        “This is for the grandfathers and the uncles and the cousins and the janitors that never got to see a Red Sox series win!”

        That emotional investment in a sports team probably embodies the modern game more than anything Burns actually filmed. How else to explain how these teams and their leagues manage to successfully blackmail cities into building them brand-new sports palaces time after time? Professional sports teams and their partners in the media manage to tap into mass community insecurity on a level that must make Steve Jobs jealous.

        1. The Dodgers moving to Los Angeles was one of the big catalysts to making such blackmail possible. Dodger Stadium was one of the first publically funded stadiums purpose built for particular franchise. Not the last time California started an unfortunate trend in government.

          1. Among an embarrassment of riches to be sure.

        2. That emotional investment in a sports team probably embodies the modern game more than anything Burns actually filmed.

          Huh? “Emotional investment” is the dominant underpinning of the entire Baseball series. Burns may have gotten plenty of things wrong, but the series isn’t exactly lacking for poignancy and sentimentality.

    2. And the 2002 win was against the Giants, too. That made it even better.

  8. Anyone else see this. Who says judges don’t know how to party?

    1. Sounds like someone has been watching too much Justified on TV and thinks he is the Hammer in real life.

    2. Bitch set me up!

      Ya gotta wonder what he did to piss her off like that. Strippers rarely snitch.

  9. talking about the angels and end of season folding ending in suicide is not cool

  10. I, for one, love you, Tanya.

  11. Major League Baseball? Is that thing still around?

  12. “Roger Clemens’ bloody, pants-soaking ‘palpable mass'”


    Surely he meant Kurt Schilling. Anyone who gets *this* wrong can’t be trusted with the other details, either!

    And while I haven’t seen the program (and probably won’t), anyone who isn’t a diehard Yankees fan (or otherwise delusional) has to admit that the 2004 Red Sox come-from-behind post-season adverture was a truly remarkably story, one certainly worth documentary treatment. There has never been another like it (in baseball, anyway).

    1. Twins, 1991.

      1. (Their comback was during the regular season.

        BTW, if Reason is paying for a server, they’re getting ripped off. Been really slow the last few days.

      2. The Braves and the Twins both came back from being in the cellars of their respective divisions in the previous season. To this day, that was one of the more compelling World Series matchups, especially if you like pitching and drama.

        1. http://www.two–

          That was the best World Series in my lifetime of fifty-four years.

    2. I know that they didn’t win it, but this comeback was pretty nice:


    3. It’s Curt Schilling.

      1. Hah. Failure all around on that one.

  13. Organized baseball played by anybody older than 12 sucks and is worthless.

    1. Self-aggrandize much?

  14. Ken Burns AND Doris Kearns Goodwin?

    Shit man, now I feel like I have to know what David Gergen thinks. I love David Gergen.

    And you know what would really round out some sweet Burns/Kearns-Goodwin/Gergen action? Bill Bradley. He’s a great, great man. I would kill for some Bill Bradley right now.

    1. You need some Daniel Schorr.

  15. Hey, fack you, cawksackah! Owah Sawx ah wicked awesome! Go Tawm Brady!

  16. No, I didn’t mean Kurt Schilling’s bloody shoe. I meant Roger Clemens’s buttock bleeding:…

    And for the record, I have never been and will never be a Yankees fan, though as a youth in NJ I did get to see their great ’72 lineup with the likes of Celerino Sanchez and Boomer Blomberg.

  17. The 10th inning was a flat out disgrace! Despite the whole thing being basically porno for Red Sox fans, I mean Keith Olbermann? Doris Kearns Goodwin? Mike Barnicle? I thought I was trapped in MSNBC hell! Terrible, terrible show!

    1. Right, because the political leanings of the producers and interviewees determine the entertainment value of a baseball documentary. Cheeeerist, a liberal on TV! Git ‘im!!!!

      Also, Pulp Fiction sucked because it was written and directed by a Hollywood weirdo and featured a scientologist in the leading role.

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