Ailing film critic Roger Ebert (shown above, right, with Russ Myer) appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” yesterday, an occasion that inspired only slightly more emotion than the publication of Will Leitch’s “My Roger Ebert Story” at Deadspin. Our Man From Mattoon, as it turns out, was mentored by Ebert during the former’s tenure at the Daily Illini. Later, after arriving in New York and being encouraged to cultivate, uh, his snarky side, Leitch composed a hatchet job for Ironminds entitled “I Am Sick Of Roger Ebert’s Fat Face”. Though Leitch openly regrets the ill-advised piece (and Ebert has graciously forgiven him), the timing of the Deadspin entry is more than a little opportunistic. It’s entirely noble to call attention to Ebert’s work or to his habit of assisting young writers. It’s the height of narcissism, however, to flip the switch from Ebert’s writing or his courageous struggle with cancer to yet another clumsy bit of Leitch’s introspection.
The New York Times’ David Carr, not nearly as sickened as I, wrote, “who among us hasn’t fired the rocket, experiencing the atavistic glee of aiming something horrible at what we thought was some big, lumbering gasbag, and then come to realize that whatever the shortcomings of our target, we have just proved we are far more despicable?” That’s a fair enough question to ask, but not all of us would fire said missile at a target who’d gone out of his way to be a pal. And not all of us would use the occasion of said target’s major TV appearance to call attention to ourselves. And if you’re still wondering what would possibly provoke Leitch to have lashed out at a man he clearly considered to be something of a hero (watch your back, Rick Ankiel!), here’s his explanation.
The Web was beginning to emerge, and we young turks, swept in during the dot-com boom, all thought we were punk rock gods, ready to kill our idols. Ebert began to feel like the old guard: In the wake of Siskel’s death, he had become a ubiquitous presence on television, at the expense of his writing, I felt. In 2000, when I’d moved to New York and, like everybody else, was being paid far too much just to be told I was part of the next “MTV Generation” of Internet stars, I thought I knew everything. You had to burn down the past. These were the days of We Live in Public, of Pets.com, of bringing your dog in the office, of Webvan, of espnet.sportszone.com. We all thought we were hot shit.
I’m not sure Leitch realizes the absurdity of the claim “we all thought we were punk rock gods, ready to kill our idols.” You can rest assured Sonic Youth didn’t actually consider Robert Christgau to be an idol, nor were they in his debt in 1983. But it’s a revealing paragraph just the same, and one that rings just as hollow as Alex Rodriguez’ talk of a loosey-goosey clubhouse climate. Leitch puts his rotten behavior into the context of the internet boom (nice work not citing Suck.com, Will) but maybe the real gist of it is something much more simple. I’ve called him “ethically challenged” in this space previously, but never before had the benefit of this intensely unpleasant social climber serving up the evidence himself on a silver platter.
Pedro Martinez all but lobbying for a new Mets contract is a slightly depressing proposition ; it’s unlikely the talismanic pitcher will return to Flushing, his dominant performances in ’05 and the first half of ’06 being a very distant memory compared to the past couple of injury plagued campaigns. “Four years wasn™t too much to give Pedro. Two, it seems, was pushing it” scolds NY Magazine’s self-proclaimed lifelong Cardinals fans Will Leitch.
“Conventional wisdom still says that the trade was crucial because it œlegitimized the Mets, making the team seem more serious and attractive to free agents. Here™s a more logical theory: The reason free agents came to Shea was because the Mets offered more money than anybody else. Every big-timer the Mets scooped up ” Carlos Beltran (2005), Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado (2006), Johan Santana and Luis Castillo (2008) ” were showered with cash. 2007, when they brought in no free agents, was the year they were outbid for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Barry Zito.
And about the wisdom of all these signings: Pedro™s early œsuccess fooled the Mets into thinking big-name players were all it took to become champions. (Or become the Yankees ” whatever.) Thus: Beltran, solid; Wagner, destroyed by injuries; Delgado, initially effective and then a mess until the second half of last season; Santana, outstanding ” for now, just like Pedro in his first season ” and with five more years to go; and Castillo, horrific, and with three more years to go. The team spent a ton of money with no World Series to show for it. Once those contracts end, odds are that the Mets will breathe the same sighs of relief that they are now with Pedro leaving.
Not for the first time, Leitch’s take on the New York sporting scene seems utterly confused. The “trade” Will refers to was in fact, Martinez signing with the Mets as a free agent after fulfilling his contractual obligations to Boston. Of the “big-timers the Mets scooped up”, Johan Santana and Luis Castillo were each acquired via trades. And while Omar Minaya failed to land Barry Zito….are we to believe that was a bad thing?
Leitch is correct in stating there’s no worthwhile silverware in the Wilpon trophy cabinet to show for all their largesse, but signing Martinez was a viable way to show Beltran (just slightly better than “solid” during his Mets tenure, assuming you’ve actually seen him play), if not a depressed fanbase, the club was serious about contending (at least according to New York Magazine). There’s also the matter of the money-spinning SNY and the construction of Citi Field, neither of which might’ve come to fruition without Pedro’s arrival, but I’m willing to let that slide. Will’s done some amazing things in his time, but making Omar Minaya seem like a sympathetic figure in November of 2009 has to be on the top of the pile.
As part of New York Magazine’s 40th Anniversary, a number of NYC sports-thinker types of considerable repute were asked to select their Top Ten New York Athletes of the past four decades. Along with expert testimony from the likes of Mike Lupica and Christopher Russo, another Big Apple fixture, former Deadspin editor Will Leitch — when you think of Gotham, you think of Will — contributed the following :
1. Reggie Jackson
In his first game back in the Bronx after he signed with the Angels, Yankee Stadium chanted his name. They wouldn’t even do that for Jeter.
Really? If Darryl Strawberry, Patrick Ewing and Mark Messier all received standing ovations the first time they returned to New York in a different uniform, why is it so hard to believe a 4 time World Champ like Jeter wouldn’t receive similar treatment?
2. Lawrence Taylor
Dominating, gruesome, monstrous, awesome, and would have been even better if he weren’t high so often. That he was makes him even more of a terrifying, otherworldly force of nightmares.
We’ve already established that Will has some issues with black people, but with all due respect to L.T.’s defensive prowess, it’s kinda fucked up to describe him as “gruesome, monstrous” without acknowledging he might’ve been pretty sharp, too. Did Mark Gastineau have the presence of mind to send hookers to opponents’ hotel rooms?
7. Dwight Gooden
Hard to separate him from Darryl Strawberry; they were the only two people who could make you forget anyone played baseball in the Bronx.
Actually, Will, Straw and Dr. K were very easy to separate. For instance, one played right field and hit monstrous (whoops) home runs, the other was the most exciting young pitcher since Mark Fidyrch or Fernando Valenzuela. “The only two people who could make you forget anyone played baseball in the Bronx?” For the first time, someone has the guts to claim Fritz Peterson’s star power overshadowed Tom Seaver.
When he entered Studio 54, the place actually went quiet with awe.
The same could be said of Lillian Carter. When she wasn’t wearing panties, anyway. But I’ve got to stand up for Leitch’s credibility on this one. He’s not old enough to have attended the original Studio 54, and while I’m not either, I’m certain a past-his-prime Pele being recognized in a nightclub is a far greater testament to his iconic status than any of his accomplishments on the soccer pitch. Had I been asked to compile such a top ten, Anthony Mason would’ve ranked high simply because someone told me he tipped well at the China Club.
(Cronenberg : came to WEEI.com for the Whiner Line samples, stayed for the slurs on his homeland)
A : They don’t seem to register on the somewhat faulty cultural radar of former Deadspin editor Will Leitch, who in lauding Jason Bay for WEEI.com insists the unheralded (?) Red Sox left-fielder, “is such a perfect fit with Canada that if he hadn™t been born there, I™d insist he emigrate.”
Canada is the country we always forget about. It sits up there, freaking huge, but really doesn™t register much. The most famous Canadians are all famous because of America. (I doubt Michael J. Fox would have become a hero had Family Ties aired on the CBC.) Canada is modest, quiet, and strangely effective in terms of government™s assistance to its citizens; a guy who breaks his arm in Canada is gonna have a helluva lot easier time than I will, if I break my arm. (He will also cry less.) Canada does great things. But no one really notices.
Jason Bay has been one of baseball™s best players for five years now, but he has done so for a team that is perpetually in last place, in a city with a beautiful stadium but no actual fans. For a guy who once had Eddie Vedder encouraging fans to vote him into the All-Star Game, the odds that you ever gave Jason Bay much thought before he was traded here are minimal. And now, here he is, a linchpin of a team I still think is the favorite to win the World Series this year.
How will he do under the klieg lights of October? Canada™s record is spotty. The biggest Summer Olympics moment they™ve ever had involved Ben Johnson. Hardly anyone watches the NHL anymore. Right now the country™s legislature is in full turmoil. They didn™t make it out of the first round of the World Baseball Classic, despite Bay and Stubby Clapp. Heck, Sarah Palin has even stole their accent.
CSTB’s vast Canadian readership is more than capable of defending herself. I mean, themselves. But suffice to say the next time our Will is paired with another excitable sort for a television chat, I’d like the dance partner to be Don Cherry rather than Buzz Bissinger.
(The cat, four weeks ago, showing little interest in the Phillies game)
The Will Leitch Farewell Tour of Deadspin continued today with a longish post attempting to put my somewhat over the top attempts at antagonizing Will into some greater perspective.
Though admitting he once considered CSTB, “one of our favorites, though, and the one that seemed to have the best idea of how to run a general interest sports site” (keep in mind this was 2003, folks), Leitch also includes the caveat, “most of it was just long cutting-and-pastings of AP stories with a one-sentence ‘comment’ on the end.” So in other words, a mere parasite like me oughta have greater respect for someone who adds a two-sentence ‘comment’ to the end of stories cut and pasted from ESPN.com.
At the risk of C&P’ing far too much of Leitch’s self-described plucky midwesterisms, I’ll summarize the post in question. Outta the blue, mild-mannered Man From Mattoon was bulldozed by an invisible grouch who proceeded to publish his cell phone number and encouraged the homeless to use his fiancee’s portrait for target practice. Though these missives were distasteful and oh-so-unprovoked, they ultimately help Young Will to buck up, grow-a-pair…and eventually blossom into the fragile butterfly we all saw torn to fucking shreds on HBO.
You’re welcome, Will. Anytime. But the following points need to be made :
1) The CSTB category “Will Leitch Sucks” did not appear “within 25 minutes” of Deadspin’s public launch. Said category was created weeks after the fact, though for the purposes of proper indexing, old posts relevant to the matter at handed were edited to include the category.
2) It is true I posted Will’s phone number, but I only did so after some moron at CBS Sportsline sent a press release that included it. There’s a breach in Leitch’s personal security and he wants to blame the whistleblower?
3) re : the bit about encouraging the homeless to get busy with pics of Will’s ex. Not cool (dude). Hardly my proudest moment — especially the part where I had to pay the homeless to do it. This was a reprehensible act and I don’t think I will ever fully live down the way I exploited…the nation’s less fortunate!
(seriously folks, did it ever occur to Will or his
dipshit loyal readers that constantly mocking him was not entirely different from targeting, say, Stephen A. Smith or Chris Berman, neither of whom, to my knowledge, have ever met Will Leitch or done anything to personally hurt him? Or that this long-running schtick is someone’s idea of humor? That if Will were to disappear I’d have to go back to making fun of Mushnick’s beard everyday?)
4) “It can be difficult for the blog uninitiated ” which we most definitely were ” when they are being hammered online, but, thanks to CSTB, we grew used to it pretty quick. Heck, no one was gonna say anything worse than what he was saying.”
Not until recently, no.
5) The revisionist history is all well and good for lazy types who never bothered to notice how the majority of anti-Leitch posts at CSTB were not in fact, sneak attacks mounted as part of some bloggy traffic war, but directly referenced Deadspin’s real content and totally legit questions about such.
6) Good luck at New York, Will. Hopefully, the magazine won’t “focus too much on New York City for our tastes” and you’ll last more then two days at your new gig before someone compares you to Jm J. Bullock.
(Cardinals Mgr Tony La Russa, pictured, not worried about falling attendance. Says La Russa: “Maybe you oughta worry about it, my friend.”)
It’s no mystery why to this Cub fan, but Cardinal management is just waking up to falling ’2008 ‘Tard attendance. As Sports Illustrated’s direct access to the AP wire reveals:
“We’ve still sold 3 million tickets, haven’t we?” La Russa said. “The fans are supporting us.”
The team had 161 sellouts the first two seasons at the new park, missing one game in 2006 due to a rainout with the Giants that was not made up, and also sold out the last three games of the final year at old Busch Stadium in 2005.
Wednesday’s attendance was about 4,000 shy of the stadium capacity of 43,975.
The end of the streak coincides with reduced expectations for the Cardinals, who have made the postseason seven of the last nine years. Longtime stars Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and David Eckstein have departed since the end of last season and top pitchers Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder began the year on the 15-day disabled list while recovering from surgery.
General manager John Mozeliak said poor weather and a depressed economy also have something to do with it.
(aftermath of a prior generation’s Congressional hearing on PED use in athletics)
Asked by SI.com’s Richard Dietsch “why has Deadspin gained cultural currency?”, the ever-humble Will Leitch replies, “I don’t think it is because of my brilliance. I think I was just fortunate enough to have gotten there first.” And while I’m busying penning Leitch a thank-you note for inventing the internet, blogging and blogging about sports, you might enjoy the following excerpts from Dietsch’s interview.
SI.com: Do you consider yourself a journalist?
Leitch:I consider what I do on Deadspin to be based in the foundations of journalism, yes, based on the foundations of journalism that I have been trained and that I certainly use when I write for GQ, The New York Times and so on. Certainly, I think the language can be a little looser on the web, but I am held to the same standards and accuracy everyone else is. If I am wrong, and if I am constantly throwing stuff up on the site that is wrong, trust me, people are more than happy to let me know how wrong I am. And if I do that consistently they will stop coming to the site. That is the key thing. If I have no credibility, people will stop coming to the site. People are not stupid. And, frankly, with the other places I write for, if I had a reputation for using very lax journalistic principles, I doubt some of these places would want me to work for them.
SI.com: Would you print a photo of a beheaded athlete?
Leitch: To be honest, it depends on the circumstances. I suppose if I found an athlete from 30 years ago, uh, gross, no. I think that would be a question SI.com would have as well. And there would be discretion where I would say, after the jump, if what you really want to do is look, here it is.
SI.com: If Sports Illustrated had photos of Will Leitch drunk, should we post that on SI.com?
Leitch: Well, I don’t know if that would sell that much on your site. But it would be hypocritical of me to be upset about that, and they are already on the Web anyway. It’s not hard to find. Certainly, I’m not sure you would find much success posting them, but you have every right to that.
Indeed, there’s not much cultural currency to be gained in running tipsy party snapshots of Will. Photos of him perpetuating ugly ethnic stereotypes, however, are pure traffic gold, as evidenced from CSTB’s nearly 3 figures in advertising revenue earned last month.
I’m sure you’ll agree it totally sucks when jealous bloggers routinely mock successful, multi-media personalities who’ve worked so hard to attain fame and fortune. But enough about the cruel treatment afforded to Stephen A. Smith, let’s instead check out someone else’s take on Will Leitch.
“God Save The Fan” author Leitch, whose curious choice of party attire was featured here yesterday, recently sat still long enough to speak with National Public Radio’s Scott Simon. The latter could well have allowed Leitch to peddle his tried and tested spiel about crusty-press-box-reporters being out of touch with today’s fan, but instead took Will to task for some rather bizarre comments about prominent African-Americans, and didn’t let the Deadspin editor escape without suggesting he’s every bit as big a pandering creep as the television bozos he routinely lampoons.
Remarkably, with the exception of this entry, I’ve not seen a reference to said NPR interview elsewhere. That mainstream media outlets who’ve published Will’s work — The Sporting News, New York, The New York Times and GQ amongst them — might not consider such an exchange newsworthy is hardly a surprise. But the deafening silence from the sports blogosphere is rather out of character.
Let’s just imagine for a minute, a prominent pro jock, noted print journalist or sports television personality was interrogated about his or her racial sensibilities on a radio program and took it on the chin nearly as badly as Leitch. What’s the likelihood this hypothetical incident would go unnoticed by the same sports blogs who routinely cover even the slightest faux pas by an athlete or broadcaster?
Either there’s an overwhelming (quiet) consensus that Scott Simon’s out to lunch (but not so nutty that anyone feels compelled to defend Leitch), or there’s a glaring double standard.
(There’s also the possibility no one listens to NPR.)
This has been some kinda month for Deadspin’s Will Leitch. Not only has he been wowing a national TV audience with his star turn as Christian radio host Chris Kennedy (above) on “Friday Night Lights”, but I’m told he’s got a new best seller in the bookstores, “God Save The Fran”. It’s about time someone had the guts to write an entire book about how Fran Drescher has so much more going on than a nice pair of legs, and while I’m not sure Will’s the man for the job, America’s sports fans his associates (and Will’s editor) would surely say otherwise.
If that weren’t enough excitement, Leitch is hosting a Super Bowl party and Mr. Irrelevant’s Chris Mottram is nearly beside himself with anticipation.
Going to a party hosted and attended by sports bloggers (along with endless amounts of beautiful women, I’m certain) in a nondescript sports bar in a strip mall somewhere around Glendale, Arizona is more intriguing to me than, say, the Maxim party (although not as intriguing as Dan Majerle’s party). Plus, Steinz and Ufford will be there. Actually, I think those two will be everywhere together this week. Word is that they’re sharing a hotel room. Hilarity is sure to ensue.
Granted, my own SB XLII party is unlikely to consist of much more than sharing a plate of nachos and a couch with a dog and two cats (one of ‘em prone to excessive coughing). But I couldn’t help wonder if a Leitch-hosted event would really be, y’know, off the hook (as the kids say) by comparison.
Judging from the snapshots on offer at Will’s Flickr page — helpfully linked to last week at Deadspin following the “God Save The Fran” publication shindig, this shall indeed be a killer event. A lot of major companies would balk at being associated with someone who exhibits this sort of cultural sophistication, but I salute both of them for standing by their man. Don’t let the pressure groups push you around, Harper-Collins and The Sporting News! Let freedom ring!