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Nikola Tesla died at the age of 86 on January 7, 1943.

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January 7, 2017.

This week, a very long story about my friend A.J. Daulerio ran in Esquire magazine. You can, and should, read it right here. I don’t have too much to say about the story, or about my role in it, except to say that Getty Images desperately needs to update its photo database. This photo of me in the story is more than 10 years old:

Frankly, I’m not sure I ever looked like that. I do not think it is actually me.

Anyway, there has been much debate and discussion of the story, of the Gawker Media-Hulk Hogan case, Peter Thiel, hackneyed Florida judges, and all sorts of other business. While I have professional connections to the case and certainly remain concerned about the First Amendment ramifications of it, the legal details, and the sordid Page Six junk of it all, has always been background noise to me, something other people seem to be paying attention to but something I’ve never been able to focus on. This has never been a story, for me, about Gawker, or Hulk Hogan, or Peter Thiel. It has never been a story at all. It has just been this horrible thing that has been happening to my friend.

There is nothing that can quite prepare you for seeing one of your closest friends called a child pornographer on the “Today” show. Matt Lauer just said it, with the whole planet watching, like it was nothing, just a little 10-second transition between a segment on souffles, dashboard footage of a tractor-trailer accident in Tennessee and Kylie Minogue promoting her new fragrance. Particularly when you know what your friend has been going through, the addiction he’s fighting, the horrors from his past he has discovered, the nightmare of having his entire life stripped away from him and ripped apart for the whole world to see, all on the whims of a vengeful billionaire whose beef wasn’t even with him in the first place.

You can argue about Daulerio’s supposed complicity in his predicament all you’d like — frankly, I’ve argued with Daulerio about his complicity; he seems to see more blame in what happened to him than I do — and I’m not particularly interested in sloshing through all those exhausting arguments again here. I’m sure you have lots of thoughts about it, and those thoughts are your right. (Short version of my view: What Tom Scocca says here.) I just know that one of my best friends in the world has had his life destroyed, and everyone watched and had all sorts of strong opinions about it, and that is an awful, surreal thing to go through.

When you are friends with someone, real, close, actual friends, not internet friends, not professional associates, they are a part of your life in a way that transcends your job or your reputation or anything. A.J. was the Best Man at my wedding. I mean, when I got married, he was the guy standing right next to me. That’s a big moment!


He has become close to my parents, and also my children. He has been personally deputized by my wife to be in charge of teaching our boys how to play golf, because their father believes the game is a waste of valuable land and a tool of the capitalist establishment.

It has been a Kafka-esque, hall of mirrors funhouse year-plus of non-stop insane torment, but I’ve been proud of A.J. (My dad told me he was proud of A.J., and hey, I’m glad he says that about SOMEBODY, grumble grumble.) A.J.’s story is his to tell, and I’ll let him tell it when he’s ready, but when I think of how he might have handled what has happened to him in the last 18 months had it happened before he got clean, well ... I’m just glad he’s clean. This isn’t necessarily over, but he has come through this clear-eyed and, I’d argue, stronger. I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it.

Watching his life fall apart and being unable to do anything to stop it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through as a friend. You can just be there for them, and listen, and sometimes it’s helpful, and sometimes it’s not, but it’s all you can do. He’s getting his life back together, and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do next. I’m glad I’ll get to be there with him for it. It’s harder to keep friendships together as you get older, and you have kids, and you move to different cities, and you get overwhelmed by life. You have to hang onto the ones you have. I know that A.J. Daulerio has been a tabloid fixture and a figure of much public fascination and discussion. But he’s not that to me. He’s just my friend. And I’m glad he’s OK.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)

1. Kurt Warner Should Be in the Hall of Fame, Sports On Earth. In the last two years, I’ve had two pieces retweeted by their subjects themselves: A piece I wrote about Richard Sherman for Bloomberg Politics, and now this one. I find it disorienting. The things I write are independent of their subjects, and I always assume they’ll never see them, or not care if they do. I sort of prefer it this way? Anyway, thanks, Kurt Warner. I meant it: You are my favorite NFL player of all time.

2. Your Cheering Guide for the NFL Playoffs, Sports On Earth. They love me in Kansas City.

3. It’s Getting Harder for Alabama Fans to Appreciate National Titles, Sports On Earth. My Alabama fan friend Matt Adair might disagree with me on this one.

4. Packers-Giants Playoff Preview, Sports On Earth. This is sort of a duller playoff weekend than I’d like, but I still wrote up some previews, if just to further educate myself.

5. Seahawks-Lions Playoff Preview, Sports On Earth. This is my sneaky maybe? upset of the weekend.

6. Steelers-Dolphins Playoff Preview, Sports On Earth. But as always, remember that I don’t know anything.

7. Texans-Raiders Playoff Preview, Sports On Earth. This is also a football game that is happening.

As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don’t even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:

Grierson & Leitch, the big massive Top Ten Movies of 2016 podcast, Dorkfest 2016, now in podcast form. It’s not even six hours like I feared it would be. We’re back to our regular schedule this week.

The Will Leitch Experience, spoke with fellow Illinois grad Jason B. Hirschhorn about the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs.

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, recap show, in which a listener says I sound like David Spade, which was very upsetting.

Also, Pro Football Now allowed me to do this very fun segment on Eli Manning.

I’m almost done being sick, but you can tell how chapped and destroyed my lips are in that video, I think. Illness makes me look like bloated death.

I’m in Tampa! Hello, Tampa!

Have a great weekend, everyone.


Best,
Will

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