Because Tinyletter is mostly for mail, it’s nearly impossible to find old newsletters. So I’m posting all my old newsletters here so they can be searched, indexed, all that. You’re still better off just subscribing.
Anton LaVey died at the age of 67 on October 29, 1997.
October 29, 2016.
Do you know the founding story of Deadspin? Not the “They asked me to do
Oddjack, I said no but you guys should do a sports site and here’s a
super long memo, and then they said we like it you’re cheap so we’ll
give you six months until this thing fails why not?” story, the one everyone knows. The thing that gave me the idea to try such a site in the first place. That story.
It’s pretty brief. In college, I covered Illinois sports for the Daily Illini and eventually worked my way up – “worked” – to become the sports editor and managing editor, while also writing features for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (I was productive even then.) This required me to spend a lot of time in press boxes, and meet a lot of sportswriters. I did not come away impressed. It was rather striking how miserable, across the board, I found sportswriters. They weren’t bad people or anything like that; they just seemed to hate their jobs. They complained about everything, they rooted for the games to be over as quickly as possible, they openly boasted of how irritating and simple-minded they found sports fans to be. (And this was before Twitter!) Here they were, getting into sporting events for free, even getting paid for it, and all they did was grouse about it. Not only did they dislike their jobs, disliking their jobs made them dislike sports. This was a problem for me, because, well, I really liked sports, and wanted to continue to do so. I hadn’t much particular desire to be a sportswriter anyway – I just wanted to be Roger Ebert – but this secured it: Cross sportswriter off the future professions list. No matter what happened, no way would I end up doing that. Those people got to watch sports for a living … and they responded by wanting those sports to get overwith as quickly as possible. No thanks.
Still, I’d always thought about the misery of those in the press box, and eight years later, when I sat down to write that memo for Lockhart Steele, then-managing editor of Gawker Media, I kept coming back to them. The problem with sports media, it seemed, is that there was a massive disconnect between those people (the people who see sports as a job) and us, the fans, the people who actually pay for all this shit (who see sports as the happy diversion they are). What sports needed was a site that was made by people – or “person,” and by person I meant “me” – who genuinely loved sports. I didn’t care about press box food, or whether an athlete was a jerk to me or not, or whether I got some talking head job on ESPN. My favorite thing in the world was to sit and drink beer and keep score for a baseball game that went 17 innings. That’s what the sports world needed, I argued: A site that didn’t care about ratings, or hero-choker narratives, or how quickly a game ended so a reporter could get back to his/her hotel. It needed a pure, unadulterated love of sports. It needed not to take all this shit so damn seriously. It needed Deadspin.
(It also needed Drunken Athlete Photos and Carl Monday, but I didn’t know that yet.)
So that’s why Deadspin came about. Because I wanted to put together a site that was for people like me: People who wanted to read about sports, and think about sports, and be silly about sports, without getting so caught up in sports that you lose the fun of it. I wasn’t sure what direction Deadspin would go. But I knew I would make sure I still liked sports as much as I did before I was writing about sports professionally. I love sports. I damn sure wasn’t going to lose that. And never, ever would I want a baseball game to end early so I could go home. I’m at a baseball game! Where else could be better than that?
Cut to: Wednesday.
Postgame, I was having a drink with a colleague and friend after the Indians beat the Cubs in Game One of the World Series. We were both at the World Series – as established last week in this newsletter, my favorite sporting event to attend – and we both knew how lucky we were to be there, particularly such a historic one like this one. (Rooting interests aside.) My friend asked me what I was hoping for out of the series. It was late. I’d had a couple of drinks. (Only a couple, swear.) I said, without even thinking about it, “I hope it gets over with in five games or less.”
Now. There’s a logical reason for this. Halloween is Monday, which is a day off in this series. If the series only went four or five games, I’d be home for Halloween. Now, until four years ago, I didn’t care one whit about Halloween. I think I’d only dressed up for two Halloweens in the last 20 years, and I generally preferred to stay out of the madness. It’s a dopey holiday for people who are much younger than me. Even when I was young, I felt too old for Halloween. (I am not a very fun person.) Here, lemme show you. Here is one of the two Halloween costumes I have ever worn as an adult.
That is me dressed as Indiana Jones. I basically just put on a hat and said, “OK, I’m Indiana Jones, will you leave me alone now?” That is the laziest Halloween costume possible. I care very little about Halloween.
(I did have a former girlfriend who loved Halloween and made me wear this when we hosted a party.)
(That was the year I dressed up like Jesse Oxfeld.)
Anyway. The point is that I never cared about Halloween until … until I had children. Now, Halloween is a huge deal. It’s not the costumes. It’s not the trick-or-treating. It’s the whole thing: A night where our whole neighborhood shuts down and devotes itself solely to children running around trying to grab candy and not pee on anything. I had forgotten what Halloween was like when I was a kid until I had kids. They love it. It might be their favorite holiday of the year.
But Daddy is almost always gone for Halloween, because Daddy is always at the World Series for Halloween. The boys are now old enough that they can go together, and they of course want their dad to be there for it. It’s not just that I’m missing seeing my kids on Halloween; it’s that they want their father there for Halloween, and if the series goes longer than five games, they wouldn’t have him. Again.
So it took me a second, after I said it, to realize what I’d just admitted. I immediately began apologizing for it, saying that it was the opposite of the way I see the world, that in fact those sort of statements were precisely the reason I got into sportswriting in the first place.
But my friend stopped me. “It’s OK, man,” he said. “Everybody wants to get home to their kids. Everybody just wants it to go five.”
And I do. I did just want it to go five. (Now that Cleveland won Game Three, I really want it to go five.) I wanted to do something other than being at a World Series game. I don’t think this means I don’t like sports anymore, or that I’ve grown miserable and cynical. I think it just means that I want to see my kids.
But I’m sure those sportswriters in the press box back in college just wanted to see their kids too. I was judging them, and in fact founded a whole career on that judgment. And I was wrong. They just wanted to go home. I didn’t have a home yet. I didn’t know. But I know now.
I’m lucky to be here at the World Series, and if it goes back to Cleveland, it’ll be quite the spectacle to witness, and an honor to write about. But I’m different now. I have different priorities. I’m sure I’ve lost something in the exchange. It’s just a trade I have decided I’m perfectly comfortable making. I’m eager to. Who wouldn’t want to get back to these two lunatics dressed up as Kylo Ren and Yoda?
One of the only good things about getting older is the regularly realization of how stupid you once were. I’m pretty sure it’s happening daily over here.
As it turns out, even if the series goes six or seven games, I’ll be home for Halloween: I’m sneaking back on the off day anyway and just booked a refundable flight back to Cleveland the next day. It’ll be exhausting, but it’ll be worth it. This time, I get to do both. I don’t have to make an ultimate preference. But it won’t always work out so smoothly. Every year, the balance of that decision moves a little bit farther away from the direction it once was. I suppose that’s what growing up is.
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.)
- Wrigley Field is Hosting a Postseason Game for the First Time in 71 Years, Sports On Earth. This
column actually touched on the same idea as the essay in this
newsletter: New things are the best. But they are only new once.
- The Indians Take Game One of the World Series, Sports On Earth. I
legitimately love writing on deadline. It would destroy me to be a beat
reporter full time – it has to be the most difficult, thankless job in
the industry, another opinion that has evolved over the years – but I do
enjoy the occasional dabble.
- 108 Reasons to Watch the World Series, Sports On Earth. If you’re not going to write something great, at least impress people with your dedication to writing something average but all-in in its mediocrity.
- Cleveland Is Back in the National Spotlight, Sports On Earth. It was more pleasant being back in Cleveland than I’d thought it would be.
- Here’s What We Know After Games One and Two of the World Series, Sports On Earth. Did this feel like a sidebar? I think it was sort of a sidebar? I don’t like writing sidebars.
- World Series Preview, Sports On Earth. I gave up and picked the Cubs in five. Uncle.
- Writeup of Podcast With Fab Five Freddy and John Heilemann, Bloomberg Politics. Fab Five Freddy!
- World Series Bracket Final Two, Sports On Earth. I’m gonna take a little break from these.
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 four (!) podcasts I do. Here they are:
Grierson & Leitch, chatting about “Moonlight,” “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” “American Pastoral” and “Weekend at Bernie’s.
The Will Leitch Experience, previewing the NBA Season with Leigh Ellis and previewing the World Series with Alyson Footer.
Culture Caucus, the aforementioned Fab Five Freddy chat. Fab Five Freddy.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, midseason podcast at the Rook & Pawn, which is a place you should definitely go when you’re in Athens.
No Pro Football Now this week, what, with all the World Series business.
Have a great Halloween, everyone. Like A.J. back in the day.