When we started the Deadspin Book Club, the idea was to cover sports books not just as critics, but as fans. This month we discuss Will Leitch's "God Save the Fan." Obviously this month's book club is a little close to home, since the author is also the editor of this site. I want to make it absolutely clear from the outset, that none of our relationships - whether in real life or "internet friends" - with Leitch influenced our discussion, nor did Will at any time ask, beg, or bribe us to give GSTF a positive review. (We coldly jump right in with what we didn't like, so be ready.)
Joining me on this month's panel are Precious Roy, published author and contributor to Unprofessional Foul, and Signal to Noise, journalist and editor of eponymous blog. Yes this discussion runs very long, but GSTF sparked quite a conversation, which is what books are supposed to do.
- TheStarterWife, Black and Gold Tchotchkes
TSW - Okay, I am getting this out of the way first since I already brought up having problems sticking with GSTF and I want to move past it as soon as possible.
As I said earlier, I had some problems with the "Players" section and had a hard time moving on to the next sections. I don't know if either of you heard Will's interview with NPR's Scott Simon, but the issues that Simon had were the same issues I had; ill-advised race and gay jokes.
Not that I disagree with race or sexual orientation jokes. They just do not sound natural in Leitch's voice.
Precious Roy - What does it say about me that I don't even remember any inappropriate racial jokes? A couple of things did sound or read awkward in Will's voice, but I chalked it more up to the fact that he goes out of his way not to use profanity on Deadspin.
I would like to start by making maybe some more general comments, then going from there. And let me preface this by saying I am often obscenely critical of almost everything. But I sort of felt like Nelson in that episode of the Simpsons where he walks out of the movie theater where the marquee reads "Naked Lunch" and he says, "I can think of at least two things wrong with that title."
The title of the book implies that it's some sort of manifesto for how to make sports better for fans, how to take it back. But it's not really that at all. And if anything, I actually like sports less after reading the book.
TSW - I had the same problem. It seemed that at the very end the was only a nod to (And How We Can Get It Back) part of the title, and that solution was that everyone should start blogging instead of watching ESPN.
And as I am sure all three of us know, the second you start blogging about sports, the less time you have to read other blogs about sports. Eventually you'll reach a point where everyone has a blog and no one is reading a damn thing.
S2N - I had no problems getting through the book, much of it is at least interesting and amusing to consider while reading. I do have objections to those cracks brought up in the NPR interview, and I'd like to get to those later.
What I sense throughout is that it's really a collection of essays about the problems of how sports are perceived by the fans and the media that cover them, yet doesn't really challenge us with a solution. I know Will wrote that part of the whole reason of starting Deadspin is to avoid the mentality of "I'm an expert and this is what you should think," and that's noble — but essentially saying that through the simple filtering, blogging, etc. will get our enjoyment back and maybe level the field a bit reads hollow.
It kind of undercuts the biases and absurdities he points out about how athletes and fans are perceived and treated. The solution encourages us to become a bit more cocooned rather than addressing the actual issue of how the leagues, media, etc. are wrecking parts of the games for the fan.
PR - It is sort of a self-defeating proposition. Although, watching less ESPN is probably a good prescription for anyone wanting to enjoy sports more. I wonder if, as avid Deadspin readers/commenter, we're not actually well suited to review GSTF as, what, 60%? 70%? of what's in the book has been on the site in some shape or form (or at least a condensed version of it).
S2N - That does cross my mind, whether we've read so much of Will's writing that it numbs us a bit. But even with quite a few of the essays being condensed forms of general things floated about on the site, there are a few that stand out and work for me: the best example I have is the one about Gilbert Arenas and LeBron James, not because I didn't know about Agent Zero and his eccentricity, but I had never thought to run a comparison between the two.
PR - Strange that you would pick out the LeBron - Agent Zero essay because if there was anything in the book I just patently disagreed with it was that particular piece.
By that I mean I don't think of LeBron and Arenas as opposite poles of some axis that are only defined in relationship to each other. I love Agent Zero and I love LeBron. Okay, I really love Agent Zero but it has nothing to do with LeBron or who he is trying to be. I mean I wasn't pulling against LeBron in the playoffs as Will said most people he knew were.
That wasn't until the finals, and only then because of geography. I'm from Central Texas, so if I'm a fan of NBA team it's probably the Spurs. Against any other Wester Conference team I would have pulled for the Cavs.
TSW - I definitely wondered to myself on several occasions how someone who has not read Deadspin would react to the material, but that leads me another thought as I read the book: Are fans really disgruntled? Fans-at-large.
We came to Deadspin for various reasons (for myself, it was drunken Ben Roethlisberger pics in the week leading up the Super Bowl) and stayed for the writing style, comedy, and the anti-ESPN rants.)
S2N - I don't know how many fans outside of the audience that frequents blogs are disgruntled. People are still in the seats every year without fail for most franchises, and while many bitch about athletes getting into trouble, owners raising ticket prices, etc., no one really ever gets turned off completely.
I think Will tried to have it both ways: he wrote the essays towards people who probably have never heard of Deadspin, but the glossaries are where the in-jokes go.
Believe me, I wasn't pulling against LeBron myself either — I love watching him play — but aside from that, I have no particular interest that makes me want to pull for him outside of amazing skill. I guess that should be enough on its own, but Arenas' oddities do make him seem more human. Maybe that's part of the problem in and of itself.
TSW - That does speak to the point that Will makes about superstar athletes being the type of people that we would not like if we knew them in person, and odds are they would not like us. Arenas hangs out with fans so he gets a cool pass. LeBron's been a superstar since the day he was drafted and he's expected to embrace everyone he meets? It is an unfair comparison. (For the record I root against LeBron, but only because I am a Pistons fan.)
Just an aside since we're talking about basketball. There was cheap shot at the NBA in the Ankiel essay that really stuck out at me. A weird joke about MLB player having a shit father, which would more expected of an NBA player. It really didn't fit.
You guys want to go over the Rocker/Pros vs Joes stuff? Or are we ready to move on to the owners?
S2N - Hm. I may be just as guilty as the media figures I hate of holding James to a standard he can never live up to (and why should he?) I'm going to go check the mirror and see if I've turned into Skip Bayless yet — the man has been fitted for the "Next Jordan" mantle since he was in high school, yet I want him to be human, to be a Transcendent Athlete.
The NBA cheap shots were problematic, since I remember Will making a point in a later essay noting those perceptions and what they're rooted in. It may have been a joke, but it wasn't a very good one.
The Ankiel bit still disappoints me; although Will admits to giving him leeway he'd never give Barry Bonds, he still winds up doing so in a way.
TSW, I want to hear what you thought about the homosexuality essay — especially since part of it focused on your team's former QB. I remember the ruckus over the 49ers video — got a lot of play on the news because it was so bizarre — and while Will (and probably all three of us) views pro sports' "don't ask, don't tell" stance about being openly gay as silly and archaic, the ordinary fan may not see it that way.
I'll make one note on the Pros vs. Joes: I see so many retired or over-the-hill athletes pitching products in satellite media tours to morning newscasts looking to fill space. (My email at work gets assaulted with these on a daily basis; Charlie Batch has an SMT for some product I've forgotten about coming up.) So, it's a good question to ask: what do you do when you can't do what you've been trained to do all your life? There are plenty of former pro athletes with successful second careers (seems like a lot of them are in real estate), but I understand the point.
TSW - Kordell Stewart. That poor man never stood a chance in Pittsburgh. Every person in that town had a story about their cousin/brother-in-law/guy-they-knew-from-the-Lithuanian-Club that was on some supposed bust in Shenley Park where they caught Kordell giving a blow job to some guy. And everyone repeated that story over and over and over again. (Ed. note: Guilty as charged)
I actually think it is a bit insulting to gays when Will joked about making googly eyes at Stewart hoping to figure out if he was gay or not, but since that is how most 20 and 30-something straight guys joke, I was not surprised.
PR - Anyone want to take the lead on Owners?
S2N - I'll gladly take the lead on the Owners section.
Here's the thing: I don't think the NFL is the only sport that gets away with everything. NBA arenas and MLB stadia still get filled reliably. Peter Angelos proves that you can wreck a fanbase yet make the franchise more valuable somehow. MLB may take heat for steroids and HGH and the NBA always seems to have an "image problem," but neither of those things is making serious dents in the bottom line, despite the mass media's myopic focus on TV ratings.
Also, I don't know how Donald Sterling avoided the Worst Owners list. The last two years of actually trying to have a competing Clippers team does not erase the past, although I won't object to having those others in front of him.
TSW - The strongest essay in the Owners section is easily the Angelos piece. It makes the best argument for why some owners really have no need to react to their fans wishes. The money still comes rolling in.
S2N - What's the incentive to react to fan wishes if you do everything to turn them off and they still show up? That's tied to the essay comparing how fans view labor disputes between players and owners — we hold players to a standard we either can't or won't hold owners to at all.
PR - Well, if sports pages started printing owners' net worths the way the do player salaries, that might change how fans align themselves in labor disputes.
TSW - Kevin McClatchy / the Nutting family with the Pirates are way worse than Sterling any day. It would have been helpful if the book at given more examples of good ownership groups. What is the template for a good franchise to run off of?
S2N - That's a good question: how would we be able to define a good owner or ownership group? I'm probably thinking about the Rooneys and the Maras as the best examples.
TSW - What is funny about that is how often Steelers fans complain about how the Rooneys are not always responsive to their pleas. I've always thought they were "tough love" parental types not giving into their children's whining.
There were only three essays in the Owners section that were directly about owners. I didn't quite get how a fan experience at Yankee Stadium, the Olympics, and beer advertising fit into the theme.
S2N - The advertising straddles a media/ownership line to me because sports owners and leagues have so many deals with beer companies and other corporations — how they view fans and how owners view fans are similar.
The other two, I don't know, although I can make tenuous connections. And he obviously acknowledged that the Carl Monday thing has no place in the section.
PR - I can make a case for the Yankees piece as it should be required reading for owners (and I got a kick out of it as it was about 90% accurate of my 1 trip to Yankee Stadium... God that place is a shithole). Do owners think about not just the cost involved in getting to a game, but the effort? It can be a royal pain in the ass just for the privilege of ponying up $200 for a couple of hours of entertainment.
S2N - Of course they don't consider it, because no one abandons in droves large enough to make a dent. For every fan who's fed up with the Yankee Stadium experiences, there are several willing to take his place in the stands. Even if I still lived in L.A., I couldn't afford to go to a game often, if at all.
TSW - Well, that is a whole other argument to be made for the fan experience. I love going to games, but for the same money as going to a handful of baseball games, couple of hockey and NBA games, and one NFL outing, you can have a 50-inch LCD screen and all the HD coverage you want.
PR - That's what was so funny about that Pirates protest, what, last season. They paid for tickets to the game so that they could make a show of walking out!?! How about just nobody go to a game. Nobody. And don't watch it on TV. Even if you are the most spineless fan, you can't sacrifice 1 game to make a point? Stupid.
I would have liked to see something on owners holding cities hostage demanding they build a stadium for their team. It's such a total scam and cities cave all the time. Economically they are a terrible deal for tax payers. I don't want to get too high-horsey about this, but the fact that people willingly vote to pass an additional tax on themselves to subsidize a facility for a billionaire owner irritates the fuck out of me.
Especially because the preferred method of doing this now is to put the tax on hotel bed and rental car taxes. So when I go to, say, Houston, and stay in a hotel I have to pay a huge surcharge to build Minute Maid, the Toyota Center, Reliant Stadium. Yet I don't live in Houston, so I didn't get to vote on this tax I'm paying there.
This is called taxation without representation if I'm not mistaken. And it's also the reason we started our little country here.
TSW - Yeah, but those types of taxes are on many things. When I lived in Florida I didn't pay state income taxes in part because of bed taxes that the tourist paid. I wish I could find the Richard Florida pieces on building public stadia.
PR - No, the entire tax isn't for stadia but in many cities a large portion of it is. I went to a wedding in Phoenix in November. My rental car was laughably cheap, like $17 a day. The tax on it (per day) was like $19. I paid more in taxes than I did in stuff I was being taxed on.
Some of that had to be for the Pink Taco, the BoB [now Chase Field], the America West Arena and wherever they play hockey.
TSW - Funny enough, I just read about the tax exemption that the new Yankee Stadium is getting for parking.
S2N - A full essay on Jeffrey Loria rather than a simple mention would have outlined that stadium issue beautifully, although it would have been incomplete at the time of publication — he just got his $600 million dollar boondoggle in Miami.
More on why cities give away billions of dollars of taxpayer money to owners would have been a nice essay in and of itself, and could certainly have replaced the Carl Monday one, which I'm not sure why it was included at all other than to illustrate the appeal of the site.
TSW - Again asking the question - Are regular fans really disgruntled? (Pirate fans are a bad example by the way. They've long been beaten into submission.)
PR - For some reason I want to say they are disgruntled but stadium and TV revenues would seem to indicate otherwise.
S2N - I do seriously doubt how disgruntled regular fans are, yet again.
Before we leave the Owners section: The whole Tony Dungy glossary entry in this section pissed me off. I mean, you can crack on him about his clearly anti-gay associations with area church organizations, but winning "despite not being black, not really"? Come on.
TSW - Anyway - We were still on the owners? And looking for role models for great owners, and generally agreeing with Will's essay that Yankee Stadium really is one of the worst fan experiences out there? And Carl Monday just really did not fit into the section at all?
S2N - Yes. I was considering putting Mark Cuban in the ranks of "great owners," but most great owners have a title to their credit, and great owners don't allow their GMs to make dumb trades for Jason Kidd like he did. I am rooting for Cuban to own the Cubs, because someone needs to show baseball owners what it's like to be at least fan-receptive, if not fan friendly.
PR - No doubt Cuban knows how to treat his players and the guy wants to win, but I am so not in the Cuban-as-visionary camp. The guy won the lottery with broadcast.com, how that translates into him being some sort of forward-thinking genius is beyond me.
He's not a shithead. And I'm sure some of this is envy as I would totally do exactly what he did if I got a billion dollars for my start-up (namely buy a sports team and start making movies) but he hasn't had the impact on his sport as say, Jerry Jones has had on his. Jones however is a dickhead, but from a business standpoint, his thumbprint on the NFL has had a much greater impact.
Here's a question: Do we think of the Packers as having good owners?
I mean the community doesn't make the day to day decisions—and maybe this is a discussion for another time—but given that GSTF is supposed to be about fans taking back the fun in sports, this would have been a great place to talk about community-owned teams (the Packers, FC Barcelona... and the possibility of Liverpool. Heck, there was even some guy who tried to start a fan-investment group to buy the Cubs). I don't think it lends itself to dick jokes, and maybe we are generally taking this book way to seriously, but, seeing how this section seems the least coherent and most cobbled together, it seems fair game to talk about what it could have been.
S2N - The Packers are an absolute anomaly. I think of that franchise more as a trust, with a president who oversees the general use and the guy who heads up football ops. By that standard, they are doing very well by the trust —- they never fail to sell out, and that fanbase is devoted through really crappy seasons because they feel like the team really belongs to them. But that's a good point — if we look at centralized ownership, why not a look at the alternative, or at least a mention of it?
I'm not lauding Cuban as some form of genius; he just runs a team like a fan with business savvy would. Jones has had a greater impact, but only recently has he had his "most meddlesome NFC owner" mantle swiped by Dan Snyder.
TSW - Oh I agree PR, the Packers are a great example here in the US about community ownership. But seeing how we can barely agree to pass laws that benefit schools, public transportation, and military funding, the last thing I want to see is how cities would be ripped apart over team management.
PR - Okay: Yankee stadium sucks, Stupid Angelos, this section isn't really coherent, mixed on Cuban, wish maybe there was a nod to community ownership.
Agreed? We moving on?
TSW - Sounds good.
The Media. I actually thought this was the strongest section. Not for the ESPN rants, which we've already all heard from being fans of the site, but for the beat reporter work he did in college.
PR - Yeah... I thought the first essay in this section was maybe the best in the book if only because it's about something that should be patently obvious but isn't to most people.
TSW - It is not that the people (athletes, directors, actors, writers) are boring people, but there is such an overwhelming amount of media space to fill and only so many questions a person can answer before they shut down. That is true of any human being that that are thrust into the spotlight for any reason, even under the best of circumstances.
The fear that athletes have about being misquoted came up in the Rocker interview, which is another very legitimate reason for keeping your guard up around reporters. Unfortunately, after a game you have very little choice in the matter about facing the press while you are still just trying to get dressed.
Sports writers know all of this, which in turn makes for a great excuse for them to dread that grind of following a team around from city to city.
PR - I'm going to go the other way on that. The 'misquoted' defense is the biggest bullshit claim in all of sports. Athletes are just too stupid generally to realize someone is always listening to anything they say, so when they say something stupid, that's the most likely thing to get quoted. But it is almost never misquoted or taken out of context.
Not to make this about me, but I got in a couple of "I was misquoted" situations from my journalist days. To which I was like, "Oh really. Okay, here's the entire quote and here's the tape of our entire conversation." When athletes want to back-peddle they blame the messenger.
Of course, then half of them end up joining the ranks of the people they demonized while they were a player.
S2N - Ah yes, the enduring and life-altering image of Robert Traylor's dick. That's the most notoriety the Tractor has gotten in some time. That was the best written piece in the media section. There is the same old garden variety interaction between writer and subject because if an athlete goes off script, he'll get a bunch of press attention he doesn't need.
I did one piece of rock journalism in my life, and I hated going through the tape so much because the most interesting stuff on my recorder was about everything else besides the music: essentially, what they did on tour to amuse themselves, what their day jobs were like, etc. Asking them about their music and how they viewed it gave me very little that was actually interesting about them as people. Asking people in sports to define their performance seems just as fruitless the majority of the time.
I both understood yet disliked the essay about sports and 9/11, because that treacle written post-attack really does need to be taken down a peg as much as possible. However, I cannot really shake the idea that "sports do not matter" in the grand scheme, despite the effort that it has little actual impact upon my life personally outside of an escape. The problem I have is, that for many in the U.S. and in other parts of the world — the ability to rise above stations through sport is a big thing, to get a chance to make it out and survive. In that grand scheme, sport does matter, and sometimes, to say so reflects a purely middle-class perspective.
PR - I really dislike the social science revisionism of sports. The Yankees saved New York by making it to the World Series after 9/11 or when the US beat the Soviets in Lake Placid, America turned around and that led to the defeat of communism.
It's silly. I mean yeah there is escapism, but people are pretty resilient creatures and I tend to think most of the things they accomplish would go on with out without sports. Yes, a handful of lives are transformed by the money but, outside of that, I think we more often than not overstate the importance of sports in daily lives.
Plus, I was happy to see someone else call out that poem by Jack Buck as a piece of shit (especially impressive knowing what a Cardinals homer Will is).
S2N - Generally I think most writers pick the wrong kind of social significance to look at, it's rather general as opposed to looking at the context of sports in America's complicated history. (I'm thinking William Rhoden's 40 Million Dollar Slaves here.) Instead, they re-write rather mundane sporting events to attach meanings that weren't ever there.
PR - There is some great sportswriting done when you take what's going on in world politics and you talk about how that translates to what goes on in the arena. I mean certainly the Miracle on Ice is what it is because of the Cold War and the fact that it was a bunch of college kids facing a bunch of pros. There was also a vicious water polo match at the Melbourne Olympics between the Soviets and Hungary known as the Blood in the Water match. In fact there was a great documentary made about that (and I think it was produced by Lucy Liu of all people).... Anyway when those events come into the arena it makes for great sport and great drama, but when you take the results back outside the event afer the fact, sometimes I think too much is made of them.
TSW - My 9/11 experience is very much tied to baseball since I was working at PNC Park at the time, and was actually supposed to be in NYC for that one day only to attend a table reading of a friend's film. Obviously I could not make the trip, and then had to face what it was like to work in a large venue in the aftermath.
What I remember most is the day we did go back to having games, since the Pirates were playing the Mets at the time. Building security did not have all the new check points worked out at the time, so players and staff had to use the same entrance, and everyone without exception had to show identification. I'll never forget Mike Piazza nearly welling up with tears when he was asked for his ID, and shaking the hands of all of the guards. (Much like I will never forget some of the Pirates players pulling the old, "Don't you know who I am?" bit. Fuck, I worked there and I didn't know who you were.)
Those games, they did matter. Not everyone was sure what they were supposed to do in the few days after 9/11, but people certainly knew they wanted to be together.
PR - Hopefully I made that distinction. Sure because of what happened in NYC on 9/11, it made those game memorable and changed your experience of them. But to then take it outside the park and say, "Okay, baseball has helped save us," or "New Orleans is now better because the Saints won a Monday night game," to me is ridiculous.
In fact in the latter instance was probably on balance a disservice because maybe some people actually thought, "Hey the city is going to make it back okay," instead of, "Man, those people are still completely fucked and our government at every level has failed them."
Jesus, we really are taking this book a little too seriously. Maybe to go meta it's good in that at least it's serving as a jumping off point for this kind of talk.
TSW - But then that chapter undercuts the whole point of the book. If none of this ultimately matters, why do we care if it all goes to shit?
As far as New Orleans is concerned, the book did take to task -albeit lightly in the Owners glossary section - Tom Benson for his handling of the Saints post-Katrina. Much like Angelos, a whole chapter on his organization would have been much more interesting to read on poor handling of a team.
S2N - Yeah, if sports don't matter, then why is the fan worth saving somehow?
TSW - What did everyone think of the "24 Hours of ESPN" section? I think it would have worked just a little better if he had done it on a weekend, when there would have been a better chance of having a live sporting event in the first place.
S2N - The experiment is revealing, but maybe not to us. I don't know how you can subject yourself to that when there is very little in the way of new content until 3pm ET in the afternoon. I don't think it tells us much — as avid viewers who take in more than the average person — it may give a person who just checks ESPN every so often for the scores insight into the network's redundancy and tendency towards repeats.
PR - Seemed like almost any Deadspin commenter could have written that section without even sitting through the 24 hours.
S2N - Agreed. So much of why we find ESPN problematic is tied up in game coverage, and having the only mentions of it being women's softball and WNBA doesn't give us a whole lot to chew on.
PR - Moving on?
TSW - To the Fans section? Sure, but not before I ask how Charles Barkley was completely skipped in the Media glossary section. He's still one of the biggest forces in the NBA today.
S2N - Not sure how Will couldn't get a crack about Barkley in the glossary, especially when there are many jokes about being in someone's five there to use. I maintain my problems with describing Greg Gumbel as somehow being more "white" than his brother, that pissed me off in the same way the Dungy glossary entry did.
PR - Not that length is necessarily an indicator of anything, but I will point out that in a book entitled GSTF, the section on fans is the second shortest. With glossaries excluded, it runs about 43 pages to the owners' 36 (didn't check my math).
Of course, there are only 4 sections.
TSW - Although much like the Media section, the Fans part of the book works the best when he's telling stories from his own experience as a fan. The chapter on finding fellow Cards fans in New York is touching.
S2N - I thought the chapter on Willie McGee and the viewing of black and Hispanic players would be useful to people on the outside. It was one of the strongest parts to me.
PR - I enjoyed the bit on finding the Cardinals fans in NYC as well for a couple of reasons:
First, it sort of made another point that is counter to the book's stated purpose. And that is: being a fan is it's own reward sometimes. The fan doesn't need saving during that 2 hours that is the game.
Second: Sports can be a great social lubricant. I can walk into a bar showing fútbol on a Saturday morning by myself when I should be sleeping off a hangover but if I find a guy in an Arsenal jersey, I know I've got a friend. We might not have anything else in common, but for those 2 hours, we are brothers. It's like being part of a free fraternity. All it requires is some time investment, and that's time that I usually enjoy.
S2N - Wasn't that essay really the best example of why sports actually matter? Not on the macro level, but with our own interactions with people — even ones we'd never met?
PR - And think about how few things bring that many people togther.
On Saturdays in the fall there are, what, 30 stadia in smallish towns across the US just packed to the gills with college football fans. And another 20 have several thousand people in them.
Music doesn't do that. Not unless you bring 30 bands together in Tennessee for Bonarroo. Does politics? What else do we get together for in such large numbers on a weekly or even daily (baseball) basis?
TSW - Of course. It goes towards finding people who are of our own "tribe" so to speak. Ask Bryan, I point out every Steelers, Pirates, or Penguins license plate frame I see in LA. I would say the only other comparisons for group experiences like sports would be work and religion.
PR - Right, but I can actually verify the existence of sports gods.
/waits for lightning strike.
S2N - I want to address the God essay — it was actually instructive for me, because I'm a complete agnostic/heathen type, and I tend to take those expressions of faith in public and dismiss them.
PR - I did not like the Jesus piece at all. But I am on the side of separation of Church and Sport.
S2N - I'm on that side, too, but after reading it, I was reminded why these players express those sentiments publicly when given the opportunity. It makes sense to me; I still don't care for it and it almost always comes off as favoritism, but I understand it a bit better.
PR - While Jesus might be their lives, and they thank Jesus for everything, the fact that they think Jesus gives a shit whether or not that potential game-winning field goal goes between the yellow sticks or not is just something I will never get my head around.
They refuse to understand my agnosticism, yet I have to understand their quaint superstitions?
TSW - Such things never offended me and thought the essay was a good answer to those who don't understand why athletes thank Jesus or God or Allah. But I fall into the camp of "life is fucking hard and you believe what you have to believe to get through the fucking day without losing it."
PR - That's fine. I just thought it was a bit pedantic in it's "You just don't understand how these people think." Well, obviously I don't because we have completely different belief systems to begin with. And I'm sure if some athlete came out and said, "I'd like to thank secular godlessness and myself and only myself for my hitting that game winning home run," there is no end to the amount of shit that person would take from religious groups. Yet Christians get to go on national television and give it up to Jesus and nobody every says anything about whether or not it's even appropriate. Just saying.
S2N - Understanding isn't necessarily approval. I accept it, but I still find it silly.
TSW - Can we talk about how the NHL is almost completely ignored in GSTF?
Leaving hockey out of the Fan section was rather shocking to me. Shocking because it would have been a great example of why the media is not a good reflection of the sport. Just because it is on a third tier cable outlet now does not mean the sport is dead with the fans. Hardly.
PR - Yeah, no hockey was kind of shocking, but it's not in Will's wheelhouse. Although if ever you needed a story of both players and owners screwing themselves, when they killed the season, they hurt themselves in a way that they might not recover from ever.
TSW - Especially when those holes in programming are filled by more motorsports coverage. It would have made for an interesting study in how ESPN shapes the casual sports fan interests.
S2N - There are so many opportunities to lambaste ESPN over hockey coverage, explain how a sport with a thriving fanbase gets marginalized in the big picture....near ignoring it when it can make for a central part of your thesis.
TSW - Does anyone else hear "Eleanor Rigby" play in their heads when they read about Barbaro?
S2N - My oh my, now I'll never be able to separate the two. I'm dying of laughter over here.
PR - Yep, now linked forever. Thanks TSW.
TSW - Sorry, I cannot stand the Barbaro mania. Sorry if I ruined the Beatles for you, but the endless discussions over a fucking horse by the "underground" reminded me of what was wrong with mainstream sports media to begin with - same story, different day.
S2N - I never understood it myself.
PR - I loved Barbaro. Not because I give a shit about the horse itself, but because it gave me exposure to an entirely new group of weirdos that I had never seen before. And I fucking love weirdness. The whole Dee Mirich thing, priceless. That's fucking crazy. Writing poems to a dead horse. Really, you can't make shit like that up. For that reason I loved Barbaro. In fact I was sad to see the horse die not because it was the death of a horse, but because it took away the UPenn message board and my window into all of those weird people's lives.
TSW - Which leads well into the conclusion. Having the "Underground".
S2N - I feel like this "Underground" is giving me my usual Groucho Marx complex: "I want no part of a club that would have me as a member." So, with the talk of "revolution", taking things back, and the concept of an "underground," I'm getting a bit queasy.
Of course, that's a question as to whether the whole "underground" thing is serious or an in-joke. I can't tell sometimes.
TSW - I don't think it is either. All other forms of mass entertainment have gone through massive DYI movements. There is no reason why sports would be different.
PR - I'll agree to that. I think I read somewhere that Deadspin got 1 million unique visitors one month. How underground is that?
Lots of people read it. It practically sets the table for sports talk radio in this country every day. It's a voice that's not ESPN. If that's all it takes, then the three of us might as well be the Dictators to Will's Sex Pistols. More obscure, but still potentially subversive.
S2N - I'm imagining myself as Handsome Dick Manitoba and laughing.
PR - Sorry, had to get my head away from "All the lonely people, where do they all belong..."
S2N - I have to admit that the insanity of the people who were commenting on Barbaro and sending all the missives gave me a serious kick, but the problem is that the outpouring resulted in NBC tributes and TV movies — and I'm still pissed at horse racing for forcing an NHL playoff game off of network TV.
PR - Right, but that to me is just another kind of fucked up. Like, "You're really going take this kind of tone and talk about a horse?" It was all part of the trainwreck.
TSW - Both of those things - NBC grabbing at horse racing because they thought it was suddenly hotter than it was and talk radio seizing on Deadspin - might be more of what old media is still trying to figure out from new media; Which story is really the big story? Which hot internet meme really is going to reach mass markets?
Which means we can (and obviously we are too close to it) overstate the importance of the Underground. Perfect example of false internet hysteria- "Snakes on a Plane".
S2N - The tone of the conclusion seems to overstate this "Underground" yet go to the simple conclusion of "keep doing what you're doing, enjoy the games, and ignore the talking heads." How revolutionary is that? I mean, it's what I was doing beforehand, but now I'm part of a community that shows its solidarity about those ridiculous elements online. But, are we too close to this again to judge the thesis and conclusion accurately?
PR - Should we go for final thought?
TSW - Well, we touched on it very early on, but the solution that GSTF presented was basically that fans had to make the games their own. Report on them on their own. DIY and make their own blogs. Which is great, for awhile. Eventually the pressure of keeping that going can really take away your enjoyment of the games, especially if you are a lucky enough to have a successful blog.
PR - If we could truly make the teams our own... I'll stick with: As a how-to, it wasn't really much of a practical how-to. I enjoyed most parts, others less-so, and even though as a Deadspin regular had seen most of this in some form still found it a good read and an easy one. And while I think it really might have made me like sports less, it facilitated this discussion, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I just sounded corny as all fuck right there.
TSW - I know from the discussion it sounds like I didn't like GSTF. I did enjoy quite a bit, but maybe I wanted just a little bit more out of the book. It was an easy read that picked out some easy targets. The "aww shucks, I'm no expert" tone did not work, mostly because Leitch is an important voice that should be heard. Make a stand Midwest boy!
S2N - I enjoyed it, although I'm not quite sure how much I agree with Will's central tenets and conclusion, and I still have problems with some of the jokes about race and homosexuality. I would recommend it to someone unfamiliar with Deadspin or the way sports media operates on its own. I think it works better as a discussion piece than as a book on its own; given Will's preference to not be seen as an expert, maybe he might have been going for that.