S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: This is Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen for the week of November 4th 2019. I’m Stefan Fatsis the author of Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic and wild and outside on this week’s show We’re ditching the usual format sorry Nats fans tell your team not to win the World Series on a Wednesday next time. Instead we’ll have an extended conversation with some former writers and editors at Deadspin a sports Web site that effectively died last week when its entire editorial staff was either fired or mostly resigned after a protracted conflict with its new owners about among other things sticking to sports. Josh Levine is Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen. He joins me from New Orleans.
S3: Hey Josh looking forward to providing a Southern perspective on the proceedings today. Stefan what are you doing on there.
S4: I had a book saying also just doing some scouting of Alabama for Saturday’s LSU Alabama I got an idea about that by the way sort of a light bulb moment because you’re in Baton Rouge scouting. What’s that. I was looking at the polls I didn’t realize LSU was number one in the AP poll. Congratulations Josh you should have realized that. But thank you. We should just stop the regular season right now. Sorry LSU Alabama. Take the top 16 teams start the playoffs. It’s a little tricky on the scheduling but you’ve got the bracket which would go on for four weeks of the final two teams to play twelve games. Everyone who’s eliminated resumes regular scheduling after they’re out so next Saturday would be LSU Wisconsin Alabama Notre Dame Ohio State Michigan. I’m excited.
S3: What’s the point of this. This is like the best weekend of the college football season and so your idea is to just destroy it. Why clearly the idea of a non college football fan. Stefan why don’t you stick to what you’re best at which is telling our listeners about our lives.
S5: I could do that. It’s gonna be on Tuesday December 3rd at the Hamilton live in D.C.. You can go to Slate dot com slash live for tickets and information. There will be guests. It will not be just joshing me. That’s a relief.
S6: Slate dot com slash Live Tickets info get them now Deadspin was started 14 years ago by Wil Leach who cranked out 300 word blog posts in the first person plural and it ended for all intents and purposes on Friday with a video of NCAA stooges lying about paying college athletes. At its best Deadspin was insightful and provocative and creative and whimsical and funny and fun. It became a home not just for Deadline game analysis but ambitious long form narratives and investigations moving personal essays and a generally rational world view that cut through the bullshit not just of big sports but of life. In his first post Leach wrote There’s a whole side of sports that because of either corporate obligations or just plain laziness never makes it into the public consciousness. He was right about that as much as any publication Deadspin defined what sports journalism for smart people in the digital age should look like. For many readers including me it replaced legacy sports media as the first place to go for what happened. What mattered what to think about and what to talk about. Three former dead spinners are packed into a studio at Slate headquarters in Brooklyn. They are Megan Greenwell who edited the site for 18 months before resigning this summer. She is now the editor of Wired a dot com. Hey Megan Hi. Thanks for having me. Barry Chesky joined Deadspin in 2009 and was the longest serving staffer when he was fired last Wednesday. Hey Barry Hey how’s it going. And Tom Ley who wrote and edited for the site for seven years and was among the 20 or so staffers who resigned is also with us. Hey Tom hello how are you. Good thank you all for doing this I know it was an awful week and I hope this provides some catharsis and if not catharsis at least some analysis. So Megan why don’t we start with you. Why did you explain how the conflict between staff and management developed after Deadspin was acquired in April along with other sites that were once part of the bankrupted Gawker Media Empire acquired by a private equity firm called Great Hill partners. Sure
S7: so after we were bought in April the first thing that happened was my two bosses Alex Dickinson and Suzy Bennett Karam were forced out. They were fired in addition to Tim Markman who was running the investigative desk and was my predecessor at Deadspin and then the new editorial director Paul Maidment just started making very clear that he had no interest in what the site was in protecting our editorial integrity. And so I spent about four months fighting with him on everything from the stick to sports mandate that he was already trying to enact to the idea that Deadspin shouldn’t do media reporting even though we had a full time media reporter on our staff to you know questioning the data that the analytics team compiled about what people were reading. It was just really really awful. And after things came to a head after Laura Wagner our media reporter reported a piece that Tom and I edited about the hiring practices of these managers that had come in and about the ways in which they were clearly trying to ruin the company spanned Feller the CEO assented all staff email questioning my credibility the credibility of Laura Wagner. I tried to use that to enact some protections from the editorial director Paul Maidment. I just couldn’t do it. I made the calculation that I couldn’t stay for my own integrity but also because I was putting the site at risk. My thought was maybe they would have a chance of survival if they got rid of me. And then everything else went down this past week.
S8: So bury the thing that caused everything to go downhill was this stick to sports memo that was sent a week ago. Can you describe the content of the memo and then what happened after you guys got it sure.
S1: Paul Maidment after multiple conversations where he intimated that we should stick to sports but would never outright say it because I think he knew there would be a fight. Finally he sent out a big memo saying what had been said publicly all along they had no interest in Deadspin doing the things that admitted Deadspin for the last 14 years. There are 18 billion sites you can go to to find out who won and go to ESPN. You can go to new zombie Deadspin to find out the result of pats Ravens last night in a blog. I do think it’s written by Paul Maidment.
S9: It was not the content of the memo itself that so rankled. It was what it represented like it showed very clearly that it did not have any respect and did not hold any value for what Deadspin was and what niche it had carved out. And it showed they were willing to fight about it. It was a test to see if we would fight it or if we would roll over and I do think in the end it’s mostly about power. They wanted a staff to just roll over for them and do bland work that advertisers wouldn’t complain about and just shut up and block you know I’ve been a Deadspin for my entire adult professional life and that was not I worked at and there was not a site I wanted to work at.
S10: I think some people might conclude that the prudent course would have been to try to ride this out. I know it was six long months in the way you described it Megan was pretty awful and these guys don’t really obviously seem to have much sense of what the site was what it represented why it existed what its purpose was and they had a very narrow vision for what this could be and should be that was formed. I’m guessing not from reading that’s been very much but from some other metric that was based on the way that digital media properties could be forced to turn a profit. What did you do and I guess this is all of you. What efforts did you make to try to sort of persuade them otherwise. I mean look the numbers kind of spoke for themselves didn’t they. You were with 20 million unique visitors a month. I’m sure there are other more pertinent metrics that demonstrate why the site was successful both in terms of drawing readers and generating revenue.
S7: I mean I was in dozens of meetings with Paul Maidment And with Jim Spann feller over the months between the time they took over and the time I left I could just never get them to care. I would sit in rooms with them and present them vision memos I had written and spreadsheets showing the data and you know testaments from people who worked there and people who read the site and other media people and all of that. It was the most frustrating experience in my professional life because it was truly like talking to a brick wall. They just clearly had made up their minds and nothing I could say would make them care. And that was really what kind of killed me.
S11: This is Tom. It was definitely one of the more like crazy making experiences of my life right after Megan resigned.
S12: You know we we thought that that would be sort of a signal to them that they needed to get their shit together and start listening to us and the entire staff of Deadspin had a very long meeting with Paul Maidment in which again we all in unison explained all the things that Megan had been explaining to them individually.
S11: It just didn’t go anywhere. I remember at the time I think I described it to the rest of the staff is like you’re trying to explain how a microwave worked to a baby. Like no matter what we said he just sat there you know he seemed agreeable he would nod. He would say yes I get that. That all makes sense I understand that. And it was just there is no movement. Megan resigned in August. That was the last big combo we had about it. You know I don’t think any of us thought that we made any progress in that meeting but I think maybe we thought like OK maybe I’ll just sort of leave us alone. They’ll you know sort of look the other way while we continue to do what we want. But then that memo came to start last week and that’s when we knew it was it was basically over.
S8: So a question that you guys have all been asked. I think because it seems like the big question to ask is why would Great Hall Partners the private equity firm acquire a set of sites that they clearly didn’t understand didn’t respect didn’t like didn’t want to do what they did. Did you guys come to any conclusions around that. Was it just purely around the set of sites as X traffic and I feel like we can turn it into to X and turn around and sell it again. Is it just as simple as that.
S9: This is the big question isn’t it. Why by Deadspin if you don’t want Deadspin to be Deadspin we certainly tossed around all kinds of theories about this and nothing quite went all the way toward explaining how they were doing it not even the theory that this was a Peter Teal plan to finally bring down the former Gawker network’s Peter tail of course back vault lawsuit that ultimately led to 140 million dollar judgment against Gawker. Indeed. Thanks for reminding me. So like perhaps this is the private equity model you buy a brand that has some value. Whether or not you understand why it has value you strip it for parts you turn around and sell it to someone dumber before they realize that all the value is lost like that is the very definition of the private equity model. I would not be shocked if that was what was going on here.
S7: If through a very slapdash incompetent way they were clearly focused on scale above all else. In my very early conversations I said at one point you know the goal of Deadspin is not to be bigger than ESPN and they were horrified by that. In some ways I don’t think I ever redeemed myself in their eyes from that comment. They wanted to put AP recaps of every sporting event on the site because they wanted it to be a one stop destination. And so when I said the point of Deadspin is not to be all things to all people it’s supposed to have a very strong point of view and that’s why it succeeds. I mean it was just like they could not understand any mode. But let’s be the biggest thing in the entire industry.
S13: I say something that seems pretty straightforward but I think is true and this is the problem with private equity firms buying and destroying all these media properties and that is that in order to run a journalistic outfit you need to care about journalism because journalists are annoying as hell and you guys were as a group probably the most annoying group of journalists to an owner that you could possibly construct you’re like always trying to find shit out and you’re trying to find out about your bosses. That is deeply annoying and you’re like pesky and you’re bothering them. And if you don’t fundamentally believe in or understand the principle that journalists are there to find out stuff that people don’t want them to know then you’re not going to abide that. And these guys clearly didn’t know.
S1: I mean well look where Jim spam filter came from. He he started the daily meal which is just a click farm. He made his money turning Forbes into the content farm that Forbes.com has become today. This isn’t a man who has ever done anything to show us that he values journalism.
S10: You know he made a mistake when he bought a bunch of journalists and that’s been the case at multiple media properties over the last five years. And not just digital ones obviously thousands of jobs have been hemorrhaged from daily newspapers in cities across America by their sort of aggregate ownership by private equity firms. I mean they’re scaling down and they’re homogenizing news coverage and layout and distribution. The Salt Lake Tribune it was just reported this morning has succeeded in application to become a nonprofit to avoid some of these faiths. One of the big questions I have here is like how do you create a successful model where someone’s got to own this stuff. But journalists need to run them and do what they do well. The way Deadspin did things well I mean there is gonna be a tension here as long as this model persists. I mean if you particularly in the last week since you guys have had a lot of time to sit around and think about what’s gone down I mean have you sort of tried to understand what could work better how could Deadspin survive. Does it have to be sort of a benevolent billionaire owner who gets it or is there another way of approaching it.
S14: I mean yeah I’ve thought about this question obsessively I wish I had the answer we would not be in this position if we did. And if any benevolent billionaires are out there get in touch.
S7: Yeah I do think it’s going to have to be owners with some sense of mission and maybe that means collective ownership or maybe that means nonprofits or maybe that means you know some sort of like donation model subscription model the Benevolent Billionaire model is complicated too. But at least you know you look at what Laurene Powell Jobs is doing with The Atlantic and with California Sunday now. And she seems to truly be in it because she cares about the journalistic enterprises. But you know clearly there are problems there too. And I just truly have not figured out an answer that saves the jobs of wildly talented people and doesn’t put people at risk for this again.
S10: And I wonder if this isn’t worse in the sports field because you know we’ve all experienced this as sportswriters. People think they know sports and that obviously goes up the ladder to rich people who want to buy things that are about sports and the most recent example in addition to that’s been is Sports Illustrated which was you know has been taken over by a bunch of private equity folks. Louisa Thomas has a great piece up on the New Yorker about what happened to Deadspin and Sports Illustrated and others. And she pulled out a quote from the chief operating officer of the company that has acquired Sports Illustrated who’s quoted as saying nobody is actually a fan of ESPN or Sports Illustrated they’re a fan of The New York Giants or the Iowa Hawkeyes or what have you. They’re a fan of the team. I mean there is always a gross misreading of what sports journalism is supposed to be particularly today.
S1: That’s an insane quote. Of course they were fans of Sports Illustrated. They were fans of Deadspin. If you’re a fan of the Atlanta Hawks you’re probably not reading Deadspin for coverage of the Atlanta Hawks. Nor would I advise you to. But if the last week has shown us anything it was that there was a huge audience of Deadspin fans. I got hundreds upon hundreds of e-mails just people thanking us for the work we did. Sharing how they found friends and communities and found spouses through the Deadspin comments people talking about how they got through tragedies in their lives just by distracting themselves with their stupid blogs every morning. That’s wonderful. Of course there are fans of Deadspin. Hate to use the word brand but what’s a strong brand. A stronger brand than the Atlanta Hawks.
S15: I am just concerned about all the people who are not going to be able to find love and that the Deadspin comments have been turned down.
S16: I’m interested to know about the marriage that would start from the comments under like the Paul Maidment read God. That would be interesting to see.
S1: Well they still haven’t turned the comments on yet so love is being denied.
S8: Love is being denied. Barry you were there longer than Tom or Megan. I’m curious for your thoughts on how Deadspin evolved while you were there.
S13: I personally think that it was crags Tommy crags who turned Deadspin into what it became the you know the publication and that was kind of a social conscience among other things that showed people that sticking to sports was completely amoral long before. I think a lot of other people recognize that. But I’m curious for your take on what Deadspin is and what it was.
S9: Yeah absolutely. I started reading and commenting on Deadspin and if not 2005 then definitely 2006 and then I finally came onto the site where an aged Lereah was the EIC and Tommy crags was his number two. And it seems pretty clear that that error was the birth of what we today consider Deadspin will each Deadspin was a simpler thing. It was clever it was certainly something unique on the very small sports bug landscape at the time but it wasn’t ambitious and if it had a voice it didn’t necessarily take sides in things it didn’t get political. It was unambitious for lack of a better term. But Tommy Craig’s brought a pretty clear pro labor pro athlete point of view to things that has continued to the site today and even today. That’s the thing that still gets certain people upset about the site. You look at how sports have coverage out there and everyone thinks they’re a GM or a fantasy team owner. They don’t actually care about players they care about players performing and not making too much money. They care about players not protesting because after all aren’t they being paid millions of dollars to play a kid’s game. This stuff has always been the same but the last decade or so of Deadspin has been the first one to speak out about this. And I think over the last few years you’ve seen the other sports outlets out there kind of meet us in the middle and start to lean towards what Deadspin was saying a decade ago and if Deadspin has a legacy it’s that it’s no longer the only site taking this very firm point of view.
S7: Can I just say to that this is not to take anything away from crags and bury will kill me for saying this but bury and also lay had as much to do with that evolution as anybody else. Like these are people who were consistent at a digital media shop which is not a thing that exists for 7 8 9 years like they were the ones pushing it in these new directions and they were the reason like I wanted to come to work there for sure because I had been reading them for six or seven or eight years and seeing how the things changed over time. Berry gets credit a lot of times for being the voice of the site and what he doesn’t often get credit for is being like the Vision Maker of the site because he was never the editor in chief because he never wanted to be the editor in chief.
S10: Baron Tom I sort of want to pursue that thread a little bit more because what has distinguished Deadspin in the last few years has been its evolution into a genuine journalistic product real reporting real writing bigger names a more welcoming place for sort of new writers but also people like Charlie Pierce and Ray Rado familiar bylines for decades.
S6: How did that vision evolve. Like hey we can keep doing what we’ve done and be a sort of the irreverent voice of sports on the conscience of sports but at the same time let’s be a place where we can produce real journalism.
S11: I mean that goes back to AJ Hilario. I think you know we’re talking to how crags sort of shaped the. Maybe the voice and point of view of the site but the person who turned it into a you know real brawny journalistic Institute was A.J. like A.J. was a reporter a journalist.
S12: Like key he loved to be like in the shit and doing the work and you know he’s the one who brought crags on. He’s the one who brought Tom Skokie. He’s the one who carved out a place in Deadspin to have investigations and features and things like that. You know he cut all those people loose. He let them have this site and do the things that they wanted to do with it. And I think the ways that we’ve sort of improved upon that since it was laid out pretty easily for us. You know A.J. gave us the blueprint crags gave us another part of the blueprint and then Barry was there the whole time sort of as the backbone holding out altogether. And by the time I came in you know Deadspin was already Deadspin and I just needed to fit into that and try to keep improving on what was already there. You’re talking about getting people like Charlie Pierce on the site. That all happened sort of easily because people read the site every day and they see what it’s become and they want to be involved in it. We never really had trouble hiring or getting freelancers to want to work for us or people to want to pitch features to us. It was all pretty easy because if you read the site every day you knew what it was and you knew what was possible there was that’s been really that’s been before there was consistent coverage of bears on the site.
S17: The weirdest thing is I haven’t done a bear post in like two years and I still get emails all the time like Hey Hey man are you putting the bear post up this Friday. And I’m like I never respond to them because I feel bad Blake the bitch just got stale. I don’t know what totality what I was like it was an extremely stale beer. I didn’t even like it anymore. People are still upset about that and I now in hindsight I feel bad I should have just kept going. People really seem to like it well before it got stale.
S8: The bear bit I think was an example of just the places that you can go when you let writers be weird which I think is the thing that Deadspin did really well and it’s the place it’s like the number one place I can think of in journalism that had an institutional voice without flattening the individual writers voices. And I think not to like gas you guys up. But I think the kind of top level explanation for that is a good editing which is the thing that I think is not appreciated enough about Deadspin is that whether it’s a big investigation whether it’s a dumb ass post about bears there’s like a consistent level or expectation of quality maybe not intelligence maybe like smart stupidity.
S13: But it’s a place where you could go and it’s like that in ESPN. I mean this is just going to show whether focusing on those are the only two sites that I would actually spend. Comedy has been dot.com are the only things that I would ever type into my browser into the you are Albar and I’d like have still been typing Deadspin and I like immediately click away now which is really sad but it’s just that’s the reason why I got in the habit of just always wanting to see what was on Deadspin no matter what it was.
S9: I think it’s actually a few things I think editing certainly part of it. I think hiring was a big part of it. A good good number of people who were hired including time including me were commenters and longtime readers. You can go down the list of the now former staff and see how many people were regular readers before they got there. They knew the voice of the site before they ever start. Drew McGarry absolutely Drew is the voice of Deadspin in so many ways. And he was a commenter before all else kissing Susie Kohlberg started as five Deadspin commenters. I think the institutional memory of the place played a huge role in it remaining what it was. I think even for people who came in and it may not have been everyday readers we’re very quickly surrounded by smart funny people who had been with the site for five years or ten years. And I think as long as we did a good job hiring the right people I think they would take their cues pretty quickly and fit in pretty quickly.
S7: And hiring a dud speed was always. It was very different for me than hiring anywhere else because so many people who applied were really longtime readers and knew the site’s voice so intimately and I was that way. You know I was a long long time reader before I ever came on.
S18: But the couple of hires we made while I was there you know you would just get these memos from people who even if they were not doing it well they were so clearly going for the Deadspin voice and that’s not a thing that happens at most publications like people are bringing all sorts of different things. But at Deadspin people were like Oh no I know Deadspin I love Deadspin and I want to sound like Deadspin.
S1: The hardest part was keeping people from being like self parodies of my dad’s been voice like. And that’s easy enough to iron out pretty quickly but it’s kind of unbelievable in retrospect that that was the biggest problem. They knew the site too well.
S12: And I think in addition to like strong editing as you mentioned it was also just a extremely collaborative staff. You know a lot of the longtime bits are really dumb things that we did that stuck with people you know those were sort of a joke that started by someone on the staff and then we all kind of pick up and run with it and you know we’re all sort of discussing these ideas out in the open together without even realizing it at the time and then we get to the end of the joke right. Hey maybe we should post this. That would be kind of funny. And so it was just a result of everyone feeling really comfortable bouncing ideas off each other and being stupid with each other.
S19: You know I think that was a big part of it. We had a pretty flat hierarchy when it came to that stuff. Everyone was sort of on equal footing. We would talk about things unless someone had like an extremely bad idea that you would suddenly be like No that’s bad.
S10: We’re not doing that without overstating it I mean I think one of dead spends lasting legacy is is that it made sports a healthier proposition for people. It made them realize that you could integrate sports with the rest of life but it also put sports in its place at the same time. On the one hand it’s sort of inflating the importance of sports as a social force and letting the air out of it simultaneously. And you know that’s maybe a function also of just digital journalism in the way that sportswriting has evolved in the last decade. But I think it’s a defining characteristic of the last couple of decades when you sort of look at the history of sports. You know sports writing in the 40s was like hey geography and then in the 50s and 60s you started quoting athletes and then there’s sort of a social component with the civil rights movement and then it’s a business in the 70s and 80s and free agency and stadiums and we should talk about the stuff TV contracts and then money becomes central to everything having to do with sports in the 90s and then beyond its fan behavior and athlete peccadilloes and red ask coaches and all of this peripheral stuff that makes us all feel like sports can be important but also ridiculous.
S9: At the same time this was a pure reaction to some of the stuff here sports writing there was from the very beginning. And to give will each all the credit in the world Deadspin was supposed to be the antidote to the kind of sports writing there was that was you know the type like they want to post a photo of their bourbon on their way to their first Springsteen show and long articles that did not need to be long but were clearly written for the purpose of winning awards. You know the type and Deadspin was there to point out these articles and say This is stupid people don’t talk about sports this way this athlete is human and you are portraying him as some character and you want to be screenplay.
S7: Yeah. There was so much I mean I don’t know. There was so much serious stuff on Deadspin whether it was like exposing racism or corruption or whatever and writing our share of long investigative features and things like that.
S20: But it was just joy at the heart of it even when people were pissed about things. It was like don’t take yourselves too seriously. Don’t take any of this too seriously. That was always the attraction of the site for me as a reader was it was like you know even the exposes were sort of like you realize how ridiculous this is right. And I think that’s a really special thing and it’s not there’s not a lot of journalism out there doing that.
S21: Well wait you’re saying that Manti Te’o having a fictitious girlfriend.
S9: I mean that was the perfect Deadspin story. That was a story puncturing the lazy mythmaking that was common in sports writing and still is to a lesser extent the Manti Te’o story was perfect for some sports illustrated writer who thought he was going to win an award for this perfectly maudlin story about a college football player his girlfriend dying the week before a big game but he played for her memory. Deadspin showed it didn’t exist. It was made up that athletes themselves were buying into these narratives that the legacy publications were more than willing to help blow up and all it took Deadspin to start poking into that after a tip was just one call to the university where Linda Chua was had allegedly gone and they said there was no record of such a student existing one phone call that apparently never came up in all the fact checking of all the original articles and Manti Te’o and Linda Cook who is now the only editorial staffer Deadspin.
S16: What. What information for her tip.
S8: I’m not interested in getting you guys to like quote unquote answer for your crimes. But there was a lot that there’s a lot of stuff in Deadspin particularly back in the day that was kind of gross. Drew wrote a piece. There was reckoning with some of the stuff that he had written. Barry and Tom like you guys wrote comments that you know I know Barry you apologized for jokes that you made that you were not proud of. Now if any of you guys Megan and you weren’t necessarily there at the time but then you came in or Barry and Tom what are your thoughts on kind of this stuff on Deadspin back in the day that maybe you aren’t proud of and kind of how that site evolved.
S9: Sure. I think it’s the evolution of the site that I’m proudest of. It was certainly a sophomoric Web site where you know the kind of comments I wrote that were totally unacceptable by standards of today or that day. We’re totally fine at the time because was anything for a laugh. But as David Roth has said Deadspin is not actually a site about sports. It’s a site about aging and about how well we’ve all kind of grown up through the years either from the inside or watching the site grow and come to its own awareness of other people out there in the world.
S12: Yeah. My opinion about this site and how it’s evolved it’s like it’s all perfectly natural like that’s how things work that’s how it’s supposed to happen and I think it’s good that the site was one thing ten years ago and is a different thing now. You know I think most places take any magazine any newspaper any prestige publication like you wouldn’t want it to be what it was when it was founded as to what it is now. But nobody was like worries too much about what Rolling Stone was in 1970 compared to what it was in 2000. That’s just how things are supposed to go. Publications are supposed to have all they’re supposed to get better. They’re supposed to change and I think that the fact that that happened at Deadspin is a credit to it and the people that work there and you know wanted it to grow and be different rather than just be what it was when it was founded.
S7: And that goes back to the importance of the continuity too I think like it. It didn’t. It changed gradually. It changed as a natural evolution it didn’t change because like one person came in and said No we have to blow up like what Deadspin has been. It was like people growing up.
S18: People who worked for the Web site growing up and thus the Web site they worked for growing up with them. I had like you know a somewhat public spat with Deadspin and like 2013 maybe because I like pointed out that there weren’t any women on staff on my tumblr. I was being a little high handed about it and Deadspin people were being a little annoying about it too. But that never stopped me from wanting to work there like it because it was you could see it changing over time you could see it expanding in new and interesting ways while keeping the things that made it the most special.
S5: And I think that’s like just not a thing you see in a lot of digital media places let’s talk a little about post Deadspin.
S10: I mean to me the credible thing is not just the total misreading by the private equity people about the entire ethos of sports journalism online as it’s evolved over the last 15 years as we’ve just been discussing it. What’s incredible to me is this at its core this total misreading of the entire ethos of sports coverage as Deadspin has helped it evolve over the last 15 years. That yeah you might make some more money with a sort of straight boring site for dufus is that just aggregate shed or allows unpaid writers to contribute. Which Deadspin has helped expose. By the way or you can be something that’s much broader like Deadspin or Grantland was or the ringer that demonstrates that you know sports isn’t just sports. Words aren’t enough. So I don’t know I’m just I’m just sad. And I think this is where the emotion part comes in. It’s that something that you know as you just described it really didn’t mature in its lifetime into something that was accessible to a lot of people and had a point of view and was often brilliant and often just good and sometimes cringeworthy. And that’s OK.
S4: But it was the sort of panoply of journalism and I don’t know what my point is here other than that should we be more than sad or is there a way to be optimistic that this will be replicated and maybe that’s been was just part of a cycle now.
S9: Be sad sacks in sacks. I’m heartbroken. I spent the last 10 years of my life working at this site and I never wanted to leave. I can never picture myself anywhere else. I still can’t take a week or take some time to be sad for what’s gone. But like all the good parts of Deadspin where the writers and the writers are still around and they’re going to get jobs and they’re going to tweet all their terrible thoughts now that we don’t have a chat room to shoot off our half baked cakes into. But Deadspin we’re just a collection of really talented people who believed certain things and they’re still really talented people. They still believe what they believe. Maybe this will be for the best. Maybe they’ll infiltrate every other outlet and media. Now I can’t think of one newsroom that couldn’t use a little more Deadspin in it.
S22: Yeah. To me the really sort of disappointing and part that keeps making me sad in the days since everything went down is we should have been the easiest acquisition for any company to make. You know we were a site with a staff of people that were all pulling in the same direction. You had veterans up and down the masthead. Everyone at Deadspin knew what it was supposed to be. Knew what they were doing.
S12: We all cared really deeply about each other and we all wanted to be there and nowhere else. If you were trying to imagine a publication that you as a whatever the fuck rich guy wanted to buy and say here’s a successful thing and I have like you would imagine Deadspin you would want that staff of people with that level of experience who put that level of care in their work. And so to me that’s the thing that’s really disappointing is that they they wanted to get in a fight with us about the stupidest thing possible. All we were asking them to do is okay say that we have to stick to sports right. But just like please look the other way and just let us do what we want and we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing which is making a site that millions and millions of people read every month and that everyone who works here loves and wants to keep working at it. It’s just sad that that wasn’t enough for them for whatever reason you know they wanted to be right and they wanted to prove to us that they knew more about the site than we did.
S15: So a couple years ago Max redid did a piece for New York magazine after the destruction of Gawker at the hands of Peter Teal and he kind of ran through like who is to blame for that. Peter Thiel obviously being the number one draft pick there but he was like Was it McDonald’s fault. Was it my fault was it A.J. Larry his fault for publishing the whole Cogan piece. And you know this all started with the lawsuit like this process kind of started but I feel like the group that has not gotten enough blame or there hasn’t been the conversation around whether to blame them is Univision selling to this group. Great help partners and you could say the same about Meredith with Sports Illustrated. It’s like if you are a journalistic outfit and it’s not working out like maybe it wasn’t working out with Univision maybe you’re worth working with. Meredith you should still have the understanding that by selling to a group a private equity group that does not care about journalism as we’ve stipulated that the outcome journalistically and for the people that work there there is no scenario in which it’s going to be a positive one. So I’m wondering do you guys think that’s fair.
S9: I mean Univision didn’t care who they sold to they didn’t have many options because of how badly they mismanaged it. Univision went wrong was settling all the former Gawker sites with debt from outside sources. So if you ever read about how Univision was losing money on the GM GS sites it was not the GM GS sites themselves. They were profitable. They were highly trafficked and making money but they were so saddled with debt that they did not accrue that the whole proposition became a money loser. And that’s why it’s sold.
S23: I do also think at the time grade Hill actually did seem like the least bad option. I don’t say that to defend Univision which obviously mismanaged this company in a thousand ways. But I remember being in those early meetings with Jim Spann feller and Paul Maidment like just before everything turned and they started trying to tell us what we could and couldn’t run. And it was sort of like okay maybe they said all the right. They said all the right things. Jim did not. But when Paul came in Paul said my entire job is to protect the NEWSROOM from the influence of the CEO and other people in the C Suite. That’s what he said. And I remember coming back from that meeting and putting that in Desmond’s private slack and saying Guys I think this might actually be okay.
S15: Well it seemed like this last week you guys even had a little sympathy for Paul Maidment.
S17: Like a little bit. Well OK. So I think sympathy is not the correct word.
S22: It is absolutely no but he has a way of speaking and presenting himself where he sort of seems just as like beaten down as you are. He sort of cuts this figure like oh I’m being cut in the middle here but to everyone’s mad at me like poor me. But like at the end of the day he’s just not doing what he’s supposed to be doing. You know all we were asking for from him was you know please just make our case that to the people that need it made that we’re making this case to you. Your job is to run that up and make the case for us because you’re the you’re the boss you’re the one they respect and he just refused to do it. So yeah I don’t have any sympathy. I don’t think I do think that you know the pressures that were being put on his pay weren’t coming from him personally. They were coming from people above him. But that’s not an excuse.
S14: That’s why it’s so maddening right. It’s like we saw the starkest possible dichotomy between different types of leadership right like Paul essentially came in and said all the right things but ultimately had a spine of cottage cheese and wouldn’t stand up to his bosses at all. Berry on the other hand like when he became an interim EIC he said the only way I’m going to do this is in like an ethical way that makes my staff respect me and got fired for it. And like I don’t think Paul is going to last a tremendously longtime at that company either but he’s going to he’s going to get pushed out for refusing to do anything whereas Berry got fired for like you know doing the right thing.
S1: It is exceedingly frustrating that Tom and I are now jobless because we were forced to make the own argument for our existence when our editorial director refused to do so in until you were fired had the owners actually attempted to enforce any of this sort of stick to sports stuff.
S5: I mean how much of this did you feel was bluster and how much you know when did you start getting worried that you know this is just not tolerable.
S24: That was the other maddening part because you know Paul is so you can’t really get a straight answer out of him about anything so we knew that this sort of like stick to sports thing was out there but it had never really been laid down is like a law or even communicated that strongly to us. So our our interpretation of it for months was like yeah they’re saying this to us but do they really care.
S22: Are they even reading the site that often. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing and I mean I you know I was in interviews to become the next EIC of the site. Yeah I was trying to get that job and I even in those interviews it wasn’t a huge thing that was brought up by Paul or Jim or anybody. You know I try. I was like please explain this to me like tell me what’s actually going on with this. And they were they just waffle like they always did. So that’s why you know when the memo came last Monday that was like this is official policy now. That’s why we had such a sort of flip it and cheeky reaction to it because you know none of it had been communicated to us in any sort of serious way that like this is actually happening you have to do this. That just made everything were frustrating.
S25: I mean it could be my fault too like extreme weight trying to make me communicate that to you.
S24: No I mean you told us what they were telling you and you know we were pissed. I mean all of us the whole staff were in meetings with Paul person. Yeah. And we could never get a straight answer from him. You know we were like. Tell us posts that we’ve done that would be outlawed and this new policy. He couldn’t really tell us anything because he didn’t read it aloud in the last meeting we had before we all quit we asked him that question again and he was like well movie reviews for example we posted two movie reviews in the entire year like movie reviews were not a big part of Deadspin for the last three or four years. So it was just it just drove us crazy because we were like This site is mostly sports. All we’re asking for is the ability to write a stupid post about some dogs that I saw every now and then and they were like No that’s a fucking red line. And now bear is fired because you didn’t.
S1: So this might be news to the two of you is certainly news to our readers but as you said I never heard any thing from Jim directly on this stick to sports stuff would always filter down.
S9: And one particular thing that filtered down in this case through the video side of things was that Jim Spann father had been furious when he looked at the site one day and saw a post that was Dan McQuade interviewing a 28 year old chunky cat. So there is an argument to be made that the chunky cat is the post that yeah that got his attention for whatever reason.
S16: That is a scoop for the lesson. That’s great.
S15: And so I mean do you think that those guys are happy that everybody laughed like the idea that like oh you did their bidding that I can have to pay severance and now they can just put it on like they’re their cronies or do you think they had no idea this was going to happen and they’re now terrified.
S10: Well let me jump in there because I think that any that most managements couldn’t conceive of the entire staff walking out. I mean you guys burned the village down on the way out. I’m not sure to what end yet because as we just talked about we’re all very sad. But I find it impossible to believe that they foresaw this. They thought that they could whip you guys into shape and everyone stick around because they need a paycheck.
S22: Yeah I don’t think they saw it coming after Berry got fired that next day. You know the remaining staff we you know we had several staff meetings together throughout the day where we were deciding what we were going to do. And then like 330. Paul pulled this all to a meeting that I think in his mind he thought was going to be the sort of let’s get everybody back on board meeting that’s where everyone in the shape you know let’s let’s fix you know let’s smooth it over and let’s get on with our lives. And you know in that meeting he you know he said this is the time to either you know be on board with the vision of the site that’s been laid out that cost Barry his job or if that’s not for you. You know let me know and we can work that out. And you know I think he assumed that a few people would maybe come to him and say you know this isn’t really right for me. Let me try to make a soft exit I’ll put in my two weeks notice take vacation and you know move along and like five minutes after that meeting ended we all started sending in our resignations and I don’t think he knew that that was coming at all.
S7: He always really underestimated the extent to which the strength of Deadspin was the team aspect of it and that these people all really liked working together and had each other’s backs no matter what he said something to me on my way out the door about how we had just had a meeting that I try to like facilitate between the remaining staff and Paul and then Paul said to me afterward like in this tone of true surprise like wow those guys really seem to have your back.
S14: And I was sort of like yeah no I mean I think so.
S7: Maybe not because I’m some genius leader but just because like I was trying to you know I was helping protect what this thing is.
S23: Like why wouldn’t they have had my back on that. He really never understood that this was something more than a paycheck to people. I guess that was really the fundamental thing for me.
S6: I wanted to take a break here to let you know that in our bonus segment for Slate Plus members we’ll talk to Megan Greenwell Barry Chesky and Tom lay about their favorite Deadspin stories and ours. If you want to hear that and you’re not a member you can sign up for Slate Plus for just thirty five dollars for the first year and you can do that at Slate dot com slash hang up.
S26: Plus that’s Slate dot com slash hang up.
S27: Plus so Jason Calacanis suggests that you just start off square space and get to work go buy a 10 dollar demand. He did not offer to defend you guys of Peter Thiel files a lawsuit which I thought was interesting. That would be that would be useful back to the Benevolent Billionaire idea I’ve heard from so many people in the last week. Just wondering you know it’s somebody’s going to hire all these guys. They’re so great. Is there going to be some some new site where everybody goes like what do you guys want. I mean you want to still be working together obviously I guess. Like what are you thinking about what you want to be doing. Yeah.
S24: I never wanted to work anywhere else besides Deadspin. So you know I will obviously now because I need money. Attempt to find a job like a normal guy does. But you know I think that we would all love to have an opportunity to start something new together. I don’t know what form that would take or you know the mechanics of how that would actually happen. But if you’re listening to this and you liked Deadspin and you’ve got I don’t know like 10 to 15 million dollars get in touch because you had all in an instant I think you know down the masthead we would all do whatever it took to make that happen.
S28: Yeah get in touch with me not Tom. Yeah.
S1: And you like give me like one more week to not be online before you get into. Yeah I’m kind of enjoying unplugging for the first time in a decade.
S27: Have you stopped checking the chart be that Barry.
S1: I lost access to it the second I got fired lost my log in. I can pull it up and it’s frozen to that last day I worked. It’s a bummer because I hear the traffic is really terrible. And I would love to see that.
S4: I think we could end with the current state of Deadspin a little bit because it makes me it brings a smile to my face to open Deadspin this morning and I don’t want to give them clicks anymore. But to see dolphins Dan’s pursuit of being NFL worst team karma perhaps ever on the bench is a great action verbs stuff. It really is. I apologize to the current staff of Deadspin then I think this is really what people want in sports journalism. The top three paragraphs of a wire story with a few embedded tweets. Clearly that’s a winning model.
S1: Yeah I think the actual Deadspin headline would have been something along the lines of you know dolphins shit the bed win first game.
S22: Yeah that’s the frustrating thing too is if we were still working there we probably would have a post about the dolphins that would just be three paragraphs under a headline and it would just be you know the core of the post to be news that the Dolphins win a game. But you know our ability to like put it under a funny headline and put a joke in the lead and make the kicker funny. That was the thing that people came to the site to read not just to find out that the Dolphins won. They wanted to see what Barry’s joke about it would be or if he could somehow spin it into 700 words where he’s just sort of riffing and having a good time with it. And you know I think that if management’s idea was that you can just put whatever sports content you want under the Deadspin name and that will get you all the traffic and readers and ad revenue that you could possibly want they’re free to figure that out. Like if that’s the site they want they can make it. We decided we didn’t want to help them do that. So you know they can go nuts and they can see they can see if it works or not. Maybe it will. I don’t know. But it’s not my fucking problem anymore.
S1: The core of Deadspin even beyond the investigative stuff was blogging the art of blogging of writing short punchy funny things to entertain bored people at their desks throughout the day. There were a lot of good blogs in the year 2010 2011 and they’ve slowly been dropping out over the few years and now Deadspin is gone. There’s one less good blog in the world.
S27: The thing I’ll miss is just the stuff that I wasn’t expecting that’s going to the site and seeing whatever weird shit was on there. But just as an editor somebody who has been editing a sports section for a long time like the thing that I found so impressive and enjoyable and at times infuriating was the way that you in particular Barry could kind of set the agenda of the sports day in the morning with writing up picking out what the thing was that happened the previous day. That was the most important and interesting writing about it in a way that was itself smart and interesting and funny. It was like my daily I don’t listen to the day.
S16: No offense but that was the thing that kind of started off my day. And so thank you for that. And I’ll miss that.
S29: I appreciate that. Except when it was hockey. Barry Martin just throwing those hockey blogging for the boy to be seen again. Nobody cares.
S27: Megan what are you going to miss. As a dead Sparrow reader.
S18: I’d already like lightly wept once on this podcast for her not to do it again but I mean all of it. Yeah I like the sense of fun the sense of joy the commitment to just like calling out bullshit when it happens. The people who I felt like I got to know just through reading their bio lines long before I ever worked there and then got to like work with them and call them my friends like it.
S14: It just all feels so stupid. The fact that this could have ended this way just feels enraging because it doesn’t make any sense. You know the site was having its best traffic year ever. The site had always been profitable. There was just no reason it needed to happen this way.
S18: And I’ve been alternating between like you know a blind state of rage and like a blind state of depression for like a couple months now. No more so than in the past week.
S20: But yeah I just don’t think there’s another place to get that and I think that’s a real loss for everybody.
S12: I’ll just miss just the daily stuff like not even the big features or investigations those are all clearly hugely important parts of Deadspin and what allowed us to grow and what made us successful. But you know to me the experience of Deadspin and what it was trying to be every day was just a place that people like you said you would actually type the U.R.L. into the bar and go there on purpose not just because you saw a headline on Facebook or Twitter that you liked that you actually wanted to just scroll down the front page of Deadspin and see what was on there. The one thing that’s actually made me feel really good the last few days is that the people who have sort of been doing their fond remembrance of remembrances of Deadspin have been pointing that out as the thing that they really truly enjoyed about it. You know nobody’s sort of gotten out over their skis and been like you know democracy will die in darkness now because Deadspin is gone or sports journalism will not survive.
S19: People have just been like yeah that was a cool site that I like to visiting every day and I’m bummed that the 20 post the day that we’re on there that I enjoyed are now not going to be there.
S30: Thanks to all of you for joining the show. Megan Greenwell edited the site for resigning earlier this summer. She’s now editor of Wired dot com. Megan thanks. Thank you. And Barry Chesky and Tom lay were there at the bitter end. Barry Tom it was a pleasure working with you guys when I was able to contribute something to that’s been neighborly name of the year.
S29: Got a funny name for the year. That’s such a bummer bummer. Who was the only leader in the clubhouse.
S4: I think it’s got to be the coldest Crawford de la Casey the DST. I think it’s the lower. What’s it what’s his middle name middle name is to ever do it. A Deo.
S16: He’s an LSU comet baby. I’m on a bender Yeah.
S15: What a way to just really put a capper on the Deadspin era to talk about the call that’s proper.
S17: Really idiotic way then we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks guys. Thank you. Thank you.
S2: That’s our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan to listen to past shows unsubscribe or just reach out. Go to Slate dot com slash hang up and you can e-mail us at hang up at Slate dot com. If you’re still here I’m guessing you might want even more hang up in our bonus segment this week. We talked to Megan Greenwell Barry Chesky and Tom lay about their favorite Deadspin stories.
S21: Dave McKenna’s story the writer who was too strong to live which was about a sports writing prodigy who had drunk herself to death. The humanity in that story it’s truly one of the best features of any genre that I’ve ever read.
S2: The favorite posts that I always think of is the headline was Does Tony Dungy believe that Michael Vick is being hunted by dog ghost. To hear that conversation joins Slate Plus for just 35 dollars for the first year you can sign up at Slate dot com slash hang up. Plus for Josh Levine I’m Stefan Fatsis remembers Elmo Obeidi. And thanks for listening.
S4: Hey Slate Plus listeners Megan Greenwell Barry Chesky and Tom Lay are back from Deadspin. We’re going to talk about some of their and our favorite Deadspin moments. That’s been stories that’s been long form narrative that’s been idiocies so much to choose from everybody. I hate these kind of eulogies memorial services but I think there is a tremendous amount of value in remembering some guys and remembering the fact that that’s been produced some really good reporting and really good writing.
S28: We could just remember some guys could do that. So the guy that I think we should start remembering is going to be McDowell.
S1: Oh no I’m going to puncture some of everyone’s dreams and what they really believed about here and once you go ahead about this I have a horrible secret to reveal.
S31: I think I know your horrible secret my horrible secret as I was on the initial McDowell’s water bill came out the initial tip that came in I will not out the source but this was someone that that we know said in a tip about the fact that oh to be McDowell the former baseball player his water bill from Broward County Florida was publicly available. And so there was a post that went up on Deadspin with the headline to be McDowell’s water bill is whatever it was. This continued for a very long time until Broward County password protected its water bill Web site and that itself was the sad end of a particular Deadspin era. But why do you play it.
S1: Yes that was a fun arcade that went on for more than a year we were tracking his water usage over the course of a Florida summer we’d see the year the months when it was higher than usual and we’d speculate what was going on.
S15: There was a wastewater fee one time twenty one dollars that was big.
S1: There was I wonder what that’s about. I’m not a homeowner. I can’t speak to this perfect Deadspin story because here’s a guy you remember but he’s also just a guy who has to pay his water bill every month and using the tools of a good journalist. Florida and it’s wonderfully open public records. We got to let fans know what Miguel was up to these days and how much water he was using. Now the dark coda to this story is and we got this tip. A few years later that it might have been Toby McDowell senior the player’s father not the baseball player but a relative of the baseball player Opie McDowall.
S29: I mean that’s not confirmed though. It’s not firmed. It was as they say too good to check.
S32: Well if somebody gives you a 10 to 15 million dollars to start a new site I think that would provide the kind of funding you would need to really dig in and figure this out why someone out there.
S29: I’ll go down there myself. Knock on that door. The sacrifice I will take photos of that lawn and report back on how green and lush it is or not.
S14: That is such a Deadspin thing too like we talked about like you know there was this serious investigative stuff and then the blogging on the other hand but the ability to combine those things is such a special thing about the site to like a more recent example was the pickup basketball player who called Nine 1 1 after like part of a YMCA game and we it started with like one dumb blog on the site but then getting Nathan just like kept digging on it. So he got the police body cam footage and just like the commitment getting probably spent a week solely reporting this story and it was the goofiest silliest story but it just brought so much joy. That’s a thing I will miss.
S6: Also let’s talk a little bit about some longer more serious things that that’s been published and one that I was most proud of because it sort of came from me indirectly was you using Nate Jackson my former teammate on the Denver Broncos and and having him post regular way. And it culminated in Nate revealing all of his medical files on Deadspin and writing a very long post that I think helped readers understand just how fucking brutal it is to play in the NFL in a very clinical way. And you know other other other football players have sort of talked about their injuries and other publications and listed them and I think the Times magazine at one point had done a feature on somebody and had like a chart with arrows pointing at different parts of the body.
S10: But you guys did that in a way with Nate. That was so naked and so so so so traumatizing that that was important. It was important for him to get that out there.
S9: And Nate was always a delight to edit and I inherited him from Tommy crags. By the end I was editing Nate. He was a writer before he was a football player and that certainly paid off when he was able to explain to readers just the pure realities of a game in a way that didn’t come across like you would expect a former athlete’s polished narrative to go.
S4: Let me just interject there and say Nate thought he was a writer while he was a football player and then he became a writer after he stopped being a football.
S1: Fair point fair point. Nate had a way with words even before he was a player. How about that. The greatest thing I can say about him and the work he ran there is. Compare that to anything that’s ever been written on the players Tribune which is supposed to give you the the unvarnished look at what the players are really thinking and doing. Has there ever been anything on the Players Tribune with as much impact as a single Nate Jackson blog.
S27: I submit that there is not so Deadspin has been great. The NFL concussion crisis CTA and I just want to like name check somebody. This is all you know.
S33: This is very personal for all of us like Dave McKenna is my really good friend Laura Wagner was our intern and as a good friend of ours and there are other people we just got to know over the years from reading their stuff.
S32: Having them on this podcast and Dom Cosentino is just like the greatest guy. And the work that he did on the NFL. The recent interview he did with the woman who was taking care of a player who’s going through just mental decline because of football was just so so hard to read and important to read and I just wanted to give a shout out to Don for all of his great work on that beat and that last piece felt like a real culmination of how to do those kinds of stories.
S30: You know Dom acknowledged this. I think you guys acknowledged it in an editor’s note at the top that rather than write a traditional story you decided to turn it into a first person sort of essay based on the recorded interviews that Dom had done with this woman.
S24: I mean that was just a really good example too of how the mission of Deadspin can make those sort of stories possible like you know the point of Deadspin is to get these really complicated stories and nobody really wants to think about or read and figure out how to get it to readers directly and make them understand it. And you know Dom ran into this a lot because he was covering that lawsuit and you know there are so many explainers you could try to write or breakdowns of how the lawsuit was going on and people just you know they don’t really want to get into that. They don’t want to think about that when they’re thinking about football and you know he was so good in that last post just figuring out the way to do this. You just let this woman tell her story and that sort of you write it put a capstone on all the work he’d been doing before that. You know really digging into the lawsuit reporting out all of this stuff. That’s what we were here for is to is to make those kind of stories happen.
S12: Why do you guys go around and say what your favorite were the favorite posts that I always think of is the headline was Does Tony Dungy believe that Michael Vick is being hunted by dog ghosts. I think that was what it was like a one or two sentence post that Sam wrote the post is that was the headline and then I think there is a one sentence lead that was like Here’s a tweet that someone said to Tony Dungy it’s an important question and some random guy had tweeted it at Tony Dungy. Do you think that Michael Vick is being haunted by dog ghosts. And then Tony Dungy had replied No.
S17: That was the story. Tony Dungy did not believe Michael Vick was being haunted by ghosts sticking to Tony Dungy for a second.
S10: Know where the rest of the media sort of balked very often at going after him for his homophobia clearly Deadspin did not. And that is like another example of the kind of of service to sports readers that that’s been performed.
S1: Sure. Dungy was like he was a one of the grand old men of the football industry like this respected elder. He was still on TV still. Asked for comment on just about everything. And it just seemed insane to us that here he is you know supporting this outright evil position actively and no one’s saying anything. This is insane. Why is no one saying anything. So the very least that’s been could do was to say something.
S29: Berry what was your favorite kind of listening smoke of your arms and not remembering some guys was it good. Always my favorite bit did 2014 or 15 with Vic Ballard. Vic Ballard was the first guy we ever remembering former Colts running back Vic Ballard gave some quote. He said everyone’s forgotten about me.
S17: Yeah. I think I dropped that in flak and I was like shit you know what I did forget about it. And then we were like that’s a good guy to remember though.
S24: Here are some other guys. And this is another example of stuff just starting with the staff just screwing around with each other. You know I think that we actually remembered some guys in our chat room without even calling it that for like an hour and then it hit me as like you know maybe people who read the site would also like to remember some guys. So I just put it up and it was a post that took you know two minutes to write and it was great. I mean people immediately like there was like a thousand comments on that post and like the Twitter thread people just really really liked remembering some guy.
S29: I mean that’s the purest joy in sports isn’t it.
S9: Like to remember remember numbering a sports guy who gave you some sort of joy a couple years ago or a long time ago and you just want to relive those memories. I don’t think there’s a poster a series out there that shows better how much we actually did love sports. Tom
S31: was there a guy who was remembered who was the guy the quintessential remember the guy.
S24: That’s a good question actually. For whatever reason my initial conception of like the ultimate guy to remember is any like NFL running back from the late 90s. So for me like the ultimate guy is like Lamont Jordan or Liddell bets just like I don’t know why. That’s just the way that it initially happened in my brain. And I think the first I remember some guy’s post is almost exclusively NFL running backs.
S29: It is it’s old guys who had like one or two good years and it disappeared. I think Sam Conn Gatto is a bad guy.
S22: I’m sure that has something to do with me just being like 13 years old and playing fantasy football and like having to know who Lamont Jordan was for multiple years.
S4: That’s it for everybody though. Yeah yammering you know from the core evolutionary part of your brain when you were an adolescent.
S24: Yeah I remember like some of them I had the Madden video game when you’re in Lake Ontario Smith was really good at math and one year I was like Oh yeah I’ll I’ll always remember Ontario Smith now because I used him in a video game until your Smith became a favorite early debt’s been pretty whizzing whizzing later on with a neighbor.
S28: Same with Nigel Davenport and his the Hampton Hampton allegedly taking a shit in and the guy that I just remembered we’re remembering some guys was Mets utility infielder Chico Walker just that way.
S17: That’s a good one. Yeah it’s good. Thank you. Somewhere somewhere David Roth just said Yeah exactly.
S7: I was sappy story to pick since everybody else picked the fun ones which is Dave McKenna’s story. The writer who was too strong to live which was about a sportswriting prodigy who had drunk herself to death the humanity in that story it’s truly one of the best features of any genre that I’ve ever read. I would strongly encourage anybody to read it. And the fact that Dave McKenna who is you know I said this on Twitter last week. I genuinely think that he’s in the pantheon of greatest sportswriters of all time. You can just go back through his archive and it’s just hit after hit after hit they’re so amazing that story.
S1: There are ninety nine ways to write that story and have it come out wrong or insensitive or boring. And there’s one way to nail it. And Dave nailed it because Dave always nails it. Yeah.
S7: Or just to model and to like get through you know like the story it has a real narrative arc it’s not just it’s so sad that this woman died. It’s it’s really gripping and incredibly sad as well.
S33: Yeah I had Dave on like a couple of months ago and we talked for an hour about all of his great stories. And we did not get to that one because there are so many other great ones. But the Jennifer Pryor piece was amazing. And as we were going through like all of McKenna’s catalog and talking about pieces he is just like so emotional about all the work that he had done and that’s why like you’re talking about the piece didn’t come out my black which is very true but he is the most empathetic person I think I know and that comes through without the pieces being like morose or he’s not like trying to like do the Rick Reilly or Tom Rinaldi thing where he wants to make you cry and thinks that’s like the ultimate accomplishment. And yet he does he does that just by virtue of his ability to tell a story and care for the people he is writing about but not just in this like performative way.
S30: I reread one of those just the other day in the wake of all of this the kid who didn’t die at Riverfront Stadium about the film nearly fell out of the upper deck of riverfront trying to catch a foul ball and in the late 1970s or early 80s. And again that’s the kind of piece that absolutely could sort of devolved into into Sapien this. And the funny thing is that Dave sort of sort of alludes to it by saying it made him think of it’s a wonderful life. He tracks the guy down he fing finds out what he’s done. He sort of explains how that moment in his life helped shape the rest of his life. But none of it comes off as sentimental and yet it’s right there in the story. It’s almost as if Dave acknowledged the sentiment up front and gets the guy to say Hey I thought about my life the exact same way but it feels like two people talking about it as opposed to exploiting it.
S22: I think the key to Dave is that like Barry said he has this incredible ability to be empathetic and he’s got all the empathy necessary to do that. Stories but he has a total lack of self-regard. So I think that you know when he’s working on one of these stories you know he’s feeling all these feelings about it and he knows how to just get the emotions everything just right. But he he has no regard for himself or like a need to put himself in this story or an impulse to sort of make it a big thing that he thinks is going to win him an award or get people to cry when they read it. Like he he will just if you I mean I’m sure if you ask him about any one of those stories he would probably get teary eyed about it because he’d be remembering you know the conversations he had. And then B say that you know he’s a good piece of crap and you know he didn’t do that good of a job on it. Like he he’s he’s just got no ego at all. And I think that that’s really important when you’re that kind of writer and writing those kind of features to just be able to completely keep yourself out of it.
S7: Yeah. His last giant feature for the site was about this guy Pete fellow who was an NBA scout for a long time and then ran a very popular scout school. And that story was eating Dave up. The guy turned out to have raped a teenager when he was a teacher at a boarding school for troubled youth in upstate New York. And just like talking to Dave about that story he was so upset. He was not sleeping. And then I got the first draft of that story and it was totally even handed. It was he did not have to say this is so horrible and it’s eating me up inside. And I think a lot of the classic sportswriters often hailed as the Giants would have talked about how they were having nightmares or whatever in the story but because it’s Dave he was able to just make this story about this woman who had survived this and leave himself entirely out of it. It’s a really hard thing to do.
S1: I just want to say it’s really fitting that this that’s been get together like all others has devolved just talking about how much we love Dave McKenna.
S17: Back to Dave. He’ll also love that too.
S33: All right. Well we love Deadspin and the past tense which is crazy to say and really thank you guys for all the work that you did to make it great. And for coming on the show and baring your souls and remembering some guys.
S17: Thanks for having us. I’ll say again if you have 10 to 15 million dollars you send an email to Barry.
S4: It’s funny because I actually I did e-mail Josh and he can confirm this last week and I said I wish I had ten million dollars.
S17: We all do.
S4: Thank you Megan Barry and Tom and thank you Slate Plus members. We’ll be back with more next week.