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Alfred Hitchock died on April 29, 1980, at the age of 80
April 29, 2017
This week, in a column that didn’t ostensibly have anything to do with
him, I took a nasty cheap shot at some dude I don’t know and have never
met. Well, you might not consider it a “nasty cheap shot,” and you might
be right; it’s a little too smugly proud of itself to rise, or fall, to
that level. It’s the sort of insult that can’t stop smelling its own
farts. It pats itself on the back.
It was directed at a some Barstool Sports fella named Jared Carrabis, whose job it seems to be to watch Red Sox games and then go and pound his fists into his keyboard at seemingly random intervals.
But look here I am doing it again. Stop it.
I was writing a column about the Red Sox-Orioles fight this weekend, and how insane it showed both fanbases (but especially the Red Sox’s) to be. I was researching the piece, and I came across Carrabis’ meatheadedness, and, you know, I simply could not help myself. This is what I wrote:
That whole column — which basically takes every turn it can to make sure it knocks over every “the Red Sox are always right even if they murdered a beloved family pet right in front of me” cone in the road — is a fun experiment in seeing what happens when you encourage semi-sentient oxen to write about baseball.
It is possible I just fell in love with the phrase “semi-sentient oxen.” It is possible I was just offended by the stupid column — just one of thousands, every day, often including my own — and spurred on by my lightly simmering frustration that all the things I tried to avoid doing in the early days of Deadspin (because I didn’t want us all to be thought of assholes), along with some good old-fashioned ladyhate, are what Barstool Sports has weaponized into something both awful and awfully successful. It is also possible I was just a little hungover and cranky.
But it’s something that I’ve been feeling shitty about all week. This is not because Carrabis didn’t deserve it: His mindset, and those like him, is exactly what I’ve tried to spend my career attempting to avoid. And it’s not because it’s, as they say, Off-Brand for me, though it is certainly Off-Brand. Even back in the Deadspin days, I wasn’t thought of as much of an insult comic, and even less so today, but still, we’re not playing tiddlywinks here; if you’ve got to take a shot, you should take it, and not be afraid of doing so. There isn’t much use for a writer too scared to say anything. And it’s not because it wasn’t a good line, because I believe that it was.
It’s just that I couldn’t resist it. There was no need for the insulting paragraph. It had nothing to do with the piece at large. It’s completely extraneous and could have, probably should have, been excised from the column with no loss of impact. (I worry my editors didn’t take it out simply out of deference to me. If so, that’s my fault, not theirs.) I knew it wasn’t going to add anything other than a cheap laugh. I knew it would start the sort of online monkey-poop-toss that these things always do. I knew it was just going to be a headache. And more to the point: I knew it wouldn’t change anybody’s mind. If you like Carrabis and Barstool Sports, you’ll think I’m some sort of cuck weakass; Barstool Vs. The World! And if you like my work, you’ll nod and go, “yep, guys like that are why we read cucks like Will.” And my little cheap paragraph does nothing but turn everything into Us Vs. Them, which is one of the precise things I don’t like about Barstool Sports or, frankly, almost every aspect of our current online discourse.
And besides: I don’t know Jared Carrabis. He could be a perfectly nice fellow and just playing a braying jackass online for bucks. That view — the idea that all of media is just glorified pro wrestling, that all media is just a pose, that we’re all just pretending to get your attention — goes against most of what I stand for, but who’s to say I’m right about that either? History might end up being on his side. Where do I get off acting like I know him at all, just because of one column I didn’t like?
It was a cheap line that I didn’t think through and just ran with because: a) I thought it was funny, and b) I thought it might stir some people up. The first reason could theoretically be worth it even if it’s not necessary to go out and start a fight, but the second is one of the stupidest reasons to do anything. I mean, the world is on fire, and the icecaps are melting, and we’re in, like, five wars, and we have a lunatic with his hand on the button, but also there are sunsets and walking to school with your kids and perfectly mixed vodka tonics and the look someone gives you when they know you love them and also baseball is fun and someday we’ll all be dead and everything single thing we’re fretting over right now will seem completely pointless. Why waste even a minute of our remaining time on this earth picking a fight with a stranger on the computer?
There’s no reason to. I’m not ashamed of the insult. I’m just embarrassed that couldn’t resist it. Whenever someone asks me why I’m not as active as Twitter as many others in my profession, I usually tell them, “There are so many things in this world that I am perfectly happy not to have a public opinion on.” It’s just not something I feel compelled to do, to go all “THIS IS WHAT I THINK NOW DEAL WITH IT.” It is not in my personality. Not commenting on Twitter is literally one of my favorite things to do. I’m not doing it right now! Watch me not comment on Twitter! Keeping my thoughts to myself until I’ve had a second to think them through is something I’ve gotten a lot better about as I’ve gotten older. (This is not always the case as one gets older.) Sometimes I just need to remember it in my writing as well. That column is no better and no worse with that paragraph in it. All it did was pit strangers against each other for no reason and make people feel shitty. Including, and perhaps mostly, me.
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. Dustin Pedroia Showed Sanity During Red Sox-Orioles Feud, Sports On Earth. Other than that, though, the column was pretty good, I thought.
2. Review: “The Circle,” The New Republic. Yikes, what a total mess of a movie. What in the world happened here?
3. PED Accusations Regarding Eric Thames Are Unfair, Sports On Earth. This piece turned out well, but it came out right when the ESPN layoffs news started leaking out, so (understandably) nobody noticed it. Just as well: Jayson Stark would have written it so much better than I did.
4. Who’s in Line to Be the Next Eric Thames? Sports On Earth. Hello, Xavier Scruggs!
5. The Ten Worst Hitters in Baseball So Far, Sports On Earth. I certainly wasn’t expecting two Reds and two Orioles to be on there.
6. What Current Analysts Could Transfer to Other Sports, Sports On Earth. This one was an assignment from above I was willing to give a shot at ... a shot I think I missed.
7. Dive Into Five, Sports On Earth. I do enjoy the baseball matchup rankings each week, I’ll say that.
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, Grierson and I talked about “Free Fire.” Then we realized we might be the only people in the world who don’t love “Network.” Much love for “The Royal Tenenbaums,” though.
The Will Leitch Experience, talking with Keith Law about his new book “Smart Baseball,” which you should buy here.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
Also, here are the boys at the red carpet this week.
a great weekend, everyone. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Or just stay inside and hide from everyone, your choice.