When this here site launched on September 8, 2005, we wanted to introduce ourselves to other sports blogs around the Internets. Sports blogs did not start with Deadspin, obviously; there were some great ones out there, from Mr. Irrelevant to Free Darko to SportsPickle. One of our favorites, though, and the one that seemed to have the best idea of how to run a general interest sports site, was called Can't Stop The Bleeding.
The site was sporadically well-written, and seemed to focus too much on New York City for our taste, but it seemed to have the right skewed stance on the world of sports, even if most of it was just long cutting-and-pastings of AP stories with a one-sentence "comment" on the end. In the still-young world of sports blogging, CSTB, whose editor we had never met or had any contact with, was one of the better sites out there. And it's not like it's a competition or anything; sheesh, we're just dopey sports blogs. So when we finally launched Deadspin, we sent an announcement email blast — as you all know, it's scary trying to launch a new site; you never know if anyone will be reading — and CSTB was one of the many sites to give us some much-needed links. Though his was decidedly less positive; it included the tag "Will Leitch Sucks."
We emailed him, in our signature plucky Midwestern way, to say hello, and he then posted the email and mocked us. And then we were off. Over the next year, he'd pretty much hammer us every day — including, in our favorite touches, post our phone number and encourage homeless people to masturbate to pictures of our girlfriend. (We're having trouble locating that post right now.) He slowed down in recent years, but you can read the whole "Will Leitch Sucks" tag right here.
Now, at first, as you might suspect, we were a bit taken aback by this. Our site had been live for about 25 minutes, and we had an online enemy, albeit one we'd never met and knew nothing about. (It turns out he's pretty cool.) We were unnerved, and a little freaked out. And then ... well, jeez, we just got over it. In a way, CSTB might have been the best thing that could have happened to us in the early days of the site. 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. And as we grew more comfortable with what we were doing here, we came to appreciate his, and all, criticism, even when we felt it was wrong-headed.
If you are going to put your name out there in the public sphere, as a celebrity, or an athlete, or a media member, or just a stupid blogger, you have to recognize that there will many people who do not appreciate what you do. You have to have a thick skin; if you wanted to live in a world where no one called you out in a public sphere, you probably should have been a banker. This is why we have been consistently surprised how sensitive media members we've tweaked on the site have been; it's like no one has ever criticized them before.
And, in a way, no one really has. When you hear old-school folks like Bob Costas talk about how "meaner" everyone has gotten online, it's clear they're missing the point. It's not that people have suddenly become cruel toward you; it's just that you can hear them now. Twelve percent of this country thinks Barack Obama a Muslim. You think 100 percent of your readers/viewers are going to love you? But so many people have constructed their careers in a plastic bubble, where only their friends and supporters talk about their work. Now that the Web's here — and we use the word "now" awfully liberally — it's amazing how unprepared they are to handle criticism.
In the underrated movie The Paper, Jason Alexander plays a city council member driven to madness by columnist Randy Quaid's blastings of him in a New York City tabloid. Alexander, distraught, pulls a gun on Quaid in a bar.
Alexander: "Why? Why would you do this to me? Why did you go after me?"
Quaid: "Hey, you work for the city. It was your turn."
If you do something in the public sphere, and the world knows your name, you have to accept that people are going to come after you. You do not receive the upside of fame without the downside. If you are going to email every person who says something negative about you, or start some flame war in the comments, you're probably not cut out for this business. May we recommend banking?
So thank you, Mr. Cosloy, for thickening our spine and helping us get over ourselves. Even if we had to change our number.