Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Metropolis / So SoCal

On This Ball Team, Everybody's a Critic

September 22, 2002|DAVID WOLLOCK

Trying to imagine this is enough to cause weeping in Mudville, but it is nevertheless true that every Saturday afternoon, some of L.A.'s top rock critics--gimlet-eyed tough customers from The Times, L.A. Weekly, New Times Los Angeles, the Hollywood Reporter and Spin, as well as veterans of the now-defunct BAM, Los Angeles Reader and Ray Gun--shelve the pitches from publicists and pitch to each other in a decidedly less than venomous game of softball.

"It's 'Bull Durham' meets 'High Fidelity,' " jokes freelance art and entertainment critic David A. Greene, who says he started the pick-up game in 1995 with Erik Himmelsbach, then his editor at the Reader. (Himmelsbach insists that he started it. Critics are like that.) Friends were drafted to play (many of them music journalists) and the game became a year-round weekly rite staged at parks and high schools around the city. The high jinks went on hiatus in 1996 after the Reader folded and Greene moved to New York to freelance for the Village Voice, the New Yorker and Spin. Things picked up again in 1999 with Greene's return to Los Angeles. "I look forward to it all week," says Himmelsbach, who now covers music as a producer at VH-1 and a freelance contributor to Blender. "You get to live out your athletic fantasies." The literate crew prefer to play against each other rather than challenging other teams in a league and view themselves as "a little family"--tight-knit, but not without bickering: Debate over the infield fly rule might segue occasionally into dissection of, say, the merits of "prog rock" versus heavy metal.

Inevitably, the players--these days a diverse crew that includes TV writers, musicians and an urban planner eager to break into freelance rock journalism--do some networking. Greene admits to getting his last couple of writing gigs through teammates. But he and Himmelsbach maintain that the game is no industry schmooze-fest. Business card-passing is kept to a minimum and a published byline is not a prerequisite for participation, though competitive jocks need not apply. "We're open to any fun-loving, not-so-talented players," says Greene. "We pretty much all suck," adds Himmelsbach. "That's the joy of it. It's a level playing field."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|