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The Observer was not looking for respect from Gawker Jan. 11. That was what Tom Scocca and his bloggers said they had been after, when the brawl was done—professional courtesy, blogsmanship, proper treatment between competitors. What they'd wanted, they said, was for Gawker to honor the unwritten code of blogging.

What they meant was that they were looking for pity. And so, under the eyes of the blogosphere crowd and in front of the screens that would feed the scene into a half dozen aggregator sites, the Observer threw a tantrum.

Scocca warned Gawker that it should stop mocking his manboobs. It was a funny threat for the paper's JV sports columnist to be making, because it implied that the Observer was in a position to control anything unrelated to whatever senior moments Rex Reed was having that week.

As it turned out, it wasn't. The paint was empty when Scocca lobbed his first lame insult at the other website. The volley was returned so deftly that Scocca was forced to add a quick "related" link to its post, in hopes that people wouldn't realize that it had been a cheap, retaliatory shot for Gawker's blind item concerning reporter Spencer Morgan.

So much for professional pride. Before Scocca posts any more entries about the way the game ought to be played, he might want to show that he knows how to play the game at all.

Scocca's warning and the dirtiness that followed were the first signs that anyone at the Observer felt any sense of possession about a paper that exists as a shell of what it once was (i.e., Candace Busnhell stories about how New Yorkers fuck) while its sorry employees await the inevitable dissolution that will come when its owner liquidates it in order to fund his purchase of a box factory in Bayonne.

Scocca's noisy failure with the Observer is an enigma that has sent many to the thesaurus in search of synonyms for albino. As a writer, he occasionally turned a nice phrase, wrapped in viciousness, wrapped in a beaming smile. The smile was a mask on the viciousness, but it was also a genuine mark of the joy underneath, the pleasure an acceptable columnist for a dying weekly broadsheet great could take in his averageness. Now the talent has been hollowed out. All that's left is paleness and a smile.

Related: Who Needs a Basketball Lesson from the Knicks? [NYO]

UPDATE: Scocca claims that the initial "related" was always there and offers this cached file as evidence. We dispute the point; as best we remember, the post was initially unadorned with the link, which seemed hastily added. But we tend to drink a lot, so we're willing to concede this one (but nothing else) to Tom. Also, we challenge him to a duel.