It’s all fun and games until a 16-year-old breaks the biggest story of the Major League Baseball offseason.
Thursday evening, news broke that Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, named the 2011 National League MVP, had his steroid case overturned. He would no longer have to serve a 50-game suspension for his positive test, because the positive drug test was mishandled.
The only problem? The news was actually broken nine days before that.
Meet 16-year-old Curt Hogg, who runs a blog named “Plushtamentals” (the name appears to be an ode to Brewer Nyjer Morgan, aka “Tony Plush”). On Valentine’s Day, Hogg wrote that he had spoken to a source who was a friend of one of Braun’s former teammates at the University of Miami. The source told Hogg the urine test wasn’t immediately sent to Major League Baseball; rather, it was kept overnight at the tester’s home (in a refrigerator), and therefore, there was a possibility that the test was contaminated.
So the test had to be thrown out, and Braun is free to go.
In an interview with Deadspin, Hogg said that when he got the news from the unnamed source, he decided to run with it, in the event it was confirmed by MLB. Not bad when you’re just getting started in journalism.
Is it possible that there were sportswriters working this story, trying to get an official answer before the news broke? Absolutely. Did they have sources even closer to the situation than Hogg when they were investigating the story? Very possibly.
But Hogg has the advantage of being able to take a single source’s words and put the pieces together on his own. If he’s right, like he was, then he gets all the glory. If he’s wrong, no big deal. Life goes on.
On the other hand, if a journalist reports a story like that and is wrong, it could cost him or her a career.
There’s a give-and-take to this story. The blogger has more leeway to run with a story that they think is true, but the sportswriter has a lot more sources at his or her disposal to get more stories correct, more often.
In the end, the sportswriter prevails 99 percent of the time. They break most of the big stories, and it will remain that way because they have the resources to make it happen almost every time.
But there’s that 1 percent, thanks to blogging. Maybe someday, Curt Hogg will be joining the sportswriters, because it surely seems like he has a future in it.