Chase Claypool, and the Problem of Soulless Aggregation

| June 20th, 2023

True story. About a year ago (I think) I got word from a source close to Ted Phillips that the former team president was cutting his workday short to pay a visit to Virginia McCaskey. Virginia’s family was concerned the illness with which she was suffering at that time might be the one to finally take her out. Ted, essentially a member of the McCaskey family, did not want to miss what might be a final opportunity to thank the matriarch of the Chicago Bears for giving him the opportunity to lead the franchise he loves. I wrote a column about it called In Praise of Virginia McCaskey. I never wrote “Virginia McCaskey is dying.” As a matter of fact, I deliberately did not speculate on her health, even joking about the notion of “good health” for someone in their late-90s. And yet days after my column posted, I was inundated with folks on social media criticizing me for Virginia McCaskey’s continued existence.

You see, what happened was, nobody read the post. Nobody read what was, in fact, my attempt at a living eulogy, a column I have been told Virginia read and enjoyed immensely. They simply read the first paragraph and ran with, “DaBearsBlog says Virginia McCaskey will be dead in minutes.”

I don’t know Marc Silverman (Silvy) personally, but I feel like I do, and he has been a pivotal part of the success of DBB. Here’s what I imagine happened last week. Someone in Lake Forest told Silvy that the team is frustrated with Chase Claypool’s progress. Silvy went on his radio show and shared that information. But he didn’t say, “CHASE CLAYPOOL IS A BUST AND THE BEARS REGRET THE TRADE!” He actually said there were frustrations, which there usually are when injuries are involved, and the ball was now effectively in Claypool’s court. He sounded, at least to me, completely measured and perfectly reliable. But the next thing you know, it is a nationally aggregated headline and the whole of #BearsTwitter is “forced” to respond, themselves having no earthly clue what anyone inside Halas Hall thinks about anything.

Here’s what I know about Chase Claypool. I know he was an incredibly productive receiver over the first two years of his career, averaging 60-860-5. I know Ryan Poles loved his unique set of skills enough to deliver the Steelers a second-round draft pick in the middle of the 2022 campaign. And I know that Claypool was relatively unproductive in the months that followed, unsurprising since he joined the worst team in the league and his quarterback fought through injuries over the final month. Do I think Claypool is going to be a star in Chicago? I have no idea. Do I think Claypool is going to be out of Chicago after the 2023 season? I have no idea. But I am willing to wait until he has a full off-season with a quarterback who likes him a quite a bit so that I can judge him over the course of a full campaign.

And I can tell you what someone inside Halas Hall told me about the Chase Claypool story: “They are out there running around in shorts. What is there to be frustrated about?” (This person was on vacation and accompanied their text response with a picture of blue water and a green beverage.) The subtext of this comment: frustrations with Claypool, and Claypool’s overall production, are not that important big picture. If wasting a second-round pick brings this building down, the structural integrity never existed at the start.

So why did this innocuous Silvy comment gain such traction? The answer is not complicated. The sports media landscape is now a conglomerate of aggregators; folks who do none of their own research, cultivate none of their own sources, write at about a seventh-grade level, and get paid by the click. They scavenge the internet for anything they can turn into a search result on Google. It seems a miserably hollow existence to me, but to each their own. These aggregators feed off the notion that NFL fans are the most impatient human beings to be found in the whole of the sports world. Everything has to be a scoop. Every post has to be posited as news.

These aggregators also believe fans are stupid and more often than not they are proven correct. I’ve always said about the phrase “snake oil salesman” that we only know that phrase because people bought a ton snake oil! Off the record, the folks doing this work will tell you their mandate is simply to create as many posts as possible. They don’t care about the veracity of the content because they are shielded by the notion that it is not their content. They’re just the messengers. Google Chase Claypool and here is what the aggregators will tell you.

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Thank You, Silvy.

| May 1st, 2020

About three months ago, back when bars existed, I was spouting off at my local about something. Why I now love the idea of a London NFL franchise. Why Lee Trevino is underrated historically. Why Korean women dominate the LPGA but Korean men are non-existent on the men’s tour. (I think it’s about size and that’s why Sungjae Im is breaking through.) A friend of mine said, “You should have a sports radio show.”

I responded how I always respond.

“Find me the market where I can talk exclusively about football and golf and I’m in.” (I’ve narrowed these markets down to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and the greater Pinehurst, North Carolina metropolitan area.)

I then went into my routine refrain. I talked about Marc Silverman. Silvy of Waddle & Silvy.

Before a Long Time, There’s a First Time.

I remember when Waddle & Silvy started.

It was about two years after DBB did. I was working a desk job, as the Associate General Manager of the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway (a job I was TERRIBLE at), and I gave their show a shot because Tom Waddle was my favorite player growing up. To that point in my life I had only listened to one sports station (WFAN in NY) and truly only one show (Mike and the Mad Dog). But if I was going to do this blog thing seriously, I needed to know what was being discussed in Chicago. So why not listen to Waddle and this other guy?

I had never heard of Marc Silverman.

Then I heard him.

The first thing that stood out to me was the voice. It was like Malört pouring through my computer speakers. I didn’t feel like I was in Manhattan listening to a show in Chicago. I felt like I was in Chicago, sitting on my favorite bar stool at Pippin’s, listening to a guy from Skokie tell me why I was wrong about everything. The accent lent an authenticity to the opinion. It commanded attention.

The second thing, the more important thing, was the passion. And still to this day, I’m mesmerized by it. Cubs. Bulls. Blackhawks. Bears. The entire year, every season, every team. What always amazed me about Mike and the Dog was their ability to yell and scream about a decision made by the Mets manager in the fourth inning of a ballgame in May. It was obvious from that first listen that Silvy was the same. This wasn’t produced rage. It wasn’t performance. It was authentic passion. Silvy gave a shit.

And sports radio, good local sports radio, is all about giving a shit. The airwaves are littered with folks who take a third-person approach to sports, treating ballgames as comic fodder. They all think they’re Norm Macdonald. (They’re not.) They all wanna be Howard Stern. (Ain’t happening.) Those of us who truly love sports know what it means to give a shit.

Emotionally investing is hard. Emotionally investing in a public forum is even harder. It’s an art form. And Marc Silverman is a master.

That Thing He Did.

One weekday.

I have no idea what year.

I have no idea why I wasn’t at some job.

I was walking around, listening to Fiddler on the Roof, I’m sure, debating which bar stool to plop my ass down on for the afternoon.

I chose Spring Lounge. In those days, I chose Spring Lounge a lot.

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