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Veronica Lake died on July 7, 1973, at the age of 50.
July 7, 2018.
Earlier this week, I heard from an old adversary. Well, “adversary” is
probably too harsh, but it is someone with whom I had a public
semi-dustup quite a few years ago. This was a far more common occurrence
a decade ago than it is now, by design. My job description, both at
Deadspin and probably for a few years after that, was to be a bit of a
shit-stirrer, and I was good at it, firm as I was in my convictions as
the justified party, as everyone in a feud always thinks they are. As
I’ve gotten older, and particularly since I’ve had children, frankly, I
find these sort of public feuds undignified and mostly performative:
Most people seem to be picking fights just so someone will look at them.
Life is too short, you know? I wake up on a Saturday morning and before
I’ve even got downstairs to make the boys waffles, people are still
screaming at each other. I miss when people did that in private.
said, these feuds did happen back in the day, and while I tried never
to start them, once you were in one, you feel sort of obliged to punch
back or, at the very least, hold up the supposed offending party to
public ridicule, relying on the masses to do the punching you’d rather
not bother with. So anyway, this week, I received a private message from
someone with whom I’d had one of these feuds, back during the Deadspin
days, a person I hadn’t thought about since then and, I’d presumed, a
person who hadn’t thought about me since then either. I’d rather not get
into the details of our feud, because it wasn’t that heated and because
this person reached out to me privately, but I’ll say that, unlike some
of the feuds of the time, this wasn’t one where a lot of people took
one side or another. This person did something embarrassing, I pointed
it out, and this person doubled down, embarrassing themselves further.
It is probably not a moment that served them well, to the point that I
certainly took my foot off the gas in promoting or elongated the story
at the time. Even if people did their own hole, there’s no need to
shovel all the dirt on top of them yourself.
Anyway, I had mostly forgotten about this feud until I heard from this person this week. The note was unsolicited, out of nowhere and incredibly kind. This person said, essentially, that our feud had represented an old version of this person, that this was not who this person was anymore and, most important, that they had been sober for 10 years and that they “never want to go back to that dark time of [their] life.” This person said they were now focusing on staying clean and helping others stay clean, and they they wished me well and hoped my life was a positive one. There was no malice in the message, no score-settling, no nothing at all: Just a nice note from someone who was in a bad place a decade ago and is in a better one now.
I was honored to receive this note and pleased to see that this person was doing better tooday, and I told this person so and how I’ve had enough friends and family struggle with the same issues they have that there is no reason to apologize or explain further. We promised to stay in touch, and even though we probably won’t, we left on amicable, almost uplifting terms. People have a public battle, years pass, we grow and evolve and figure ourselves out, we make up and move on with our lives without that negativity hanging over our heads. It’s probably how all this should work.
But it got me thinking about how we disagree with each other now, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is just about all we do anymore. When someone says something online that we find abhorrent, or at least distasteful enough for us to temporarily raise our dander, we tend to attach the worst possible motive to them and, more so, take this particular odious statement they’ve just made as the totality of their existence, All About Them That You Need To Know. That particular statement is a death sentence: You’re dead to them.
But life keeps going, and the person you think is an asshole now may be going through something that you don’t know about. That asshole might be struggling with a battle that you don’t understand, may be lashing out at you because of their own issue, may be doing something that, eventually, they’re going to regret. We’re all assholes at certain times in our lives. Maybe this is just one of these times. Maybe this isn’t Who They Are.
(It is also possible that you are being the asshole. Worth occasionally keeping in mind.)
It can be frustrating to be in a disagreement with someone you believe is being irrational, or unfair, or even noonsensical. But you are catching them at just one point in their lives, and this argument you’re having with them is not the sum totality of their existence. We demonize whoever is on the opposite side of us, whether it’s politics, geography, sports fandom, whatever. But they are just another human being who, when they close their eyes at night, are struggling with the same shit the rest of us are, no matter how much they may pretending they’re so certain of everything now, no matter how much they be posing in public. When you look back at the person you were 10 years ago, you find hundreds of things you regret, things you wish you had done differently, things you’re smarter about now. Why is it a stretch to think you — and everybody around you — are going to be doing the same thing 10 years from now? Why not cut everybody a little more slack? We’re all just trying to figure it out. We’re all constantly screwing it up. We know this intellectually. But we very rarely display it in practice. We’re too busy fighting, or at least showing everyone we want to fight. We accept flaws in ourselves ... but we never accept flaws in strangers. We never give anybody time, including ourselves, for the benefit of the doubt. There are points to be scored now. Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.
In 10 years, I will surely look back at this and realize how wrong I was and attributed it to whatever demons I remember myself to be struggling with at the time. I won’t necessarily be wrong.
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. How LeBron Changed the NBA Through Pure Force of Will, NBC News. I have the weakest LeBron hot takes, honestly.
2. Ranking Baseball Trade Deadlines, MLB.com. I was working at The Sporting News Online during the 1998 trade deadline, on the night shift by myself, and was this close to going home at midnight when there had been no trades. I ended up staying an extra hour to play around with my fantasy baseball team, hanging on long enough to see Randy Johnson traded to the Astros, allowing me to post a story about it and almost certainly saving my job. The internet was a stressful place to work even in 1998.
3. Review: “Sorry to Bother You,” Paste Magazine. This movie is insane, and while I’m lower on it than most people are, you should still see it.
4. The Thirty: Hipster Jerseys, MLB.com. An old Sports On Earth staple I enjoyed bringing over to MLB.
5. When Contenders Become Sellers, MLB.com. I’m starting to be of the camp that the Cardinals should stop pretending.
6. Debate Club: Patriotic Genre Movies, SYFY Wire. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom... Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution... but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!
7. Review: “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” Paste Magazine. I rushed this review, and you can tell.
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
Lea Thompson is the greatest, and the perfect apertif after the Scaramucci interview. This was a really fun one. You can watch the show on Amazon or on SI TV.
Grierson & Leitch, one of our fun shows of the year, looking at the best movies of the first half of 2018. Also, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and “Leave No Trace.”
Seeing Red, Bernie Miklasz and I did what I think is our best show of the year, breaking down the whole Dexter Fowler/John Mozeliak fiasco.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, did a show this week, though I wasn’t there for it. So you’ll probably like it!
If you have an Amazon Alexa — and my family doesn’t, for obvious reasons — you can hear a special show Grierson and I are doing weekly solely for the Amazon Alexa. Read about it here. If you have one, will you try it out and see if it works? I have no idea how to work that weird device.
If you can’t get your sparkler lit, let it be because you are covered in chocolate.
Have a great weekend, all.