Gregg Doyel: Anger Is A GiftA.J. Daulerio11/25/08 12:15pmFiled to: Gregg DoyelInterviews Of A LifetimeTop631EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalink There's something about CBSSport.com columnist Gregg Doyel that's very appealing, even though his combative nature and his odd mohawk stage would most often have him seated at the douchey table, he at least comes across as comfortable in his own Affliction T-shirt. Doyle has been on the wrong-end of many Deadspin posts and also managed to score a lower Media Approval Rating than Steve Phillips. Does he care? I get the sense he kind of does. (That's just an opinion.) And here's an interesting little tidbit of Gregg Doyel minutiae sure to impress at cocktail parties: He's 4-0 as an amateur welterweight boxer, with 3 KO. He tried to fight Jose Canseco this summer when Canseco advertised online for an opponent, but Canseco's manager told him he was too small. After the jump, Gregg Doyel being Gregg Doyel.DS: So you briefly mentioned it in one of your mailbag columns, but what was the deal with you flipping out on those poor Arkansas DJs? Was there some bad blood, or were you just in a foul mood? GD: No bad blood, no foul mood, no nothing. The question that set me off would probably set me off again if anyone ever asks me something like it down the road: "Before you wrote this column on Arkansas (or whatever), did you come to Arkansas (or wherever) to report the column?" Come on — that's ridiculous. You don't have to live in Arkansas to be appalled by how that fan base has behaved over the last couple of years. Actually, if I get that question again and I go off again, I WILL be disappointed in myself for my lack of originality. But I'm not disappointed I went off that time. I mean, I realize the mature thing would be to say I'm disappointed. But I'm not. I'm me. And going off on occasion ... that's me. DS: Is there a method to your columnist assholery? How much of your style is overblown into a calculated persona? GD: You assume I'm going to agree with the adjective "assholery." Maybe that's an adverb. Ah, hell, whatever it is ... I agree with it. But it's not calculated, if by calculated you mean insincere. I believe everything I write, and my aim is to tell readers something they're not expecting to hear, maybe even something they would inherently disagree with. My ultimate goal is that by the time they finish the story, I've changed their mind — but I'll settle for having challenged their preconceived notion on the topic. And if I fail at both ... well, then, assholery is mine! DS: Do you have any influences? I know Rick compared you to a budding Jay Mariotti in the piece he wrote, but is he someone you look up to? GD: I saw what Rick wrote, and sighed. That comparison was a matter of time. But I'm 38 — I'm not a budding anything. Whatever I am, I'm in full flower. But anyway ... um, my favorite writers when I was younger were Dan Le Batard for his eye for detail, Leigh Montville for his rhythm and Rick Reilly for his creative genius. Le Batard isn't writing now, Montville has completely disappeared, and Reilly is so likely to mail it in, he ought to just write from the post office. Which means I need to find some new role models. Well, here's one: I love me some Matt Taibbi. And Dr. Seuss. DS: Have you ever written something negative about someone that you would ever take back? Have you ever felt something you wrote wasn't fair? GD: Last year before the BCS title game I predicted Jim Tressel would outcoach Les Miles, and while I'm not sorry that the prediction was so dreadfully wrong, I do wish I hadn't been so rude in my commentary on Miles. I'm not proud of that one. I don't even want to read that thing. I'm guessing you'll find it and link to it, which makes me wonder (A) why I would offer it up to you in the first place and (B) if I'll click the link as I'm reading this interview online. Probably I will. Maybe after reading it again I won't feel as bad as I do currently. But I doubt it. DS: Do you think the role of the columnist has transformed at all since you've been doing it? Have you had to augment your style at all in the new sports media marketplace? GD: Columnists haven't changed — everyone else has changed, or should change. The straight game story is a dinosaur. It's a complete waste of time, the Catholic ritualization of empty gestures. Hell, all stories, other than breaking news — and even that, come to think of it — are being (or should be) written with more insight, analysis and opinion. More like a column, in other words. A straightly written story is an insult to readers, considering many of them already know the news before they click on us, whether we're online or in print. It takes some kind of gall to assume people are getting information from "us," whoever "us" is. We need to get away from the "who, what and when" and focus more on the "why" and "how." And I think we mostly do, across the board. Those who don't ... suck. DS: Who's the most overrated sports columnist working today? Underrated? GD: Overrated? I guess Reilly, although I'm not sure who other than his editors at ESPN rates him that highly any more. Bill Simmons is very good, but I don't get the mass hysteria every time he writes, or doesn't write, or whatever. So I guess that means I think he's overrated, too, but not for the same reason as Reilly. I respect Simmons' work and effort. I just don't get the frothing that follows it. I'm probably jealous. As for underrated ... three guys from CBSSports.com blow me away, and then I'll mention three others from outside: Dennis Dodd is as good as it gets with words. Gary Parrish is the best all-around talent I've ever worked with. And Mike Freeman makes me laugh more than anyone. Elsewhere ... does anyone really understand how good Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer is? There aren't five better columnists in the country. Not five. I defy anyone to read him for a month and tell me I'm wrong. But until I moved to Cincinnati in 2004, I had no idea. Also, Greg Couch of the Chicago Sun-Times and Mike Finger from San Antonio are fabulous. Whatever their rep is, their talent exceeds it. DS: Would you ever work for ESPN's print or online publications? GD: I already have. I was the ESPN.com ACC columnist for football and basketball before going to CBSSports.com in 2003. So the question is, would I work for them again? Sure I would. But I love where I am, and if I retire from this business after 30 more years at CBS and only CBS, I'll consider myself a lucky man. Any of my three supervisors (Mark Swanson, Craig Stanke and Lyle Crouse) would be the best boss I've ever had. I'm talking passionate, if platonic, love for all three of them. DS: Do you think the critiques of certain journalists by other journalists are racist/sexist or unfair? The possible racism I see is in the critiques of our business, not in the actual hiring (as if) or the execution of our business. Go to SportsJournalists.com, for example, and you'll see certain writers get ripped over and over and over. I'm thinking Scoop Jackson and Jason Whitlock and a handful of others. And while I can't say for sure who's ripping them — the brave posters are mostly anonymous — I have a general idea. It's a bunch of white guys, people who by definition don't have the perspective or voice that Jackson or Whitlock or, to name a woman, Karen Crouse has. So that ignorance of an unusual perspective/voice breeds dislike of that perspective/voice. I'm not sure racism or sexism is the exact word for the whole thing, but it's bad, whatever it is. DS: Do you think anonymous message board posters bring out both the good and bad in writers? Everybody reads them, yet they say they ignore them, yet there are always a few that seem to force the writer to confront some harsh truths about themselves. GD: Anonymous message boards serve a purpose, and for the most part, it's a great thing — really. It's a place to exchange ideas or blow off steam or swap stories. But when anonymous assholes start ripping media members it makes me queasy. Mariotti gets hammered for not going into clubhouses or locker rooms, and that does strike me as a bad way to do his job, but message board heroes feel all big and bad for ripping him, or someone else, behind some clever (not) nickname. It's pathetic. At least Mariotti, or whoever, puts a name on the rip job. The cowards who do it facelessly ... I cannot respect. And that includes anyone reading this who counts me as a friend. I do not respect you. I just wish I knew who you were so I could tell you to your face. Oh, and I read that thing [Sportsjournalists.com] four times a day. Not saying I don't. But there's not a single truth I'm ever going to believe about myself — even if it IS a truth — if it's offered by some anonymous asshole. DS: Well, what's your biggest criticism of yourself, then? GD: Damn that's a great question to ask anybody of themselves. I'm probably too belligerent or confrontational, and I don't just mean in my job, but that's probably what you're asking about. When I'm faced with the choice of going too far or not going far enough, I'm going to go too far. Every time. That means writing a single line or an entire column, or asking a question during an interview, or snapping at a radio guy. I've got no fear, which can be good, but I also have no diplomacy, which can be bad, and that's everywhere. I've gone onto my kid's school bus to chew out the driver (he had it coming, but still). Principals at my boys' schools know who I am, because when I have a problem, well, now YOU have a problem. Apparently assholery is a way of life for me. And now that I've used it in a sentence ... it's a noun. Definitely. DS: What would you have done if you were in the Adrian Wonjnarowski situation? Would you have reacted similarly? Or, at least, wanted to? GD: Well, here's a true story: I'd already read that post earlier today, and as soon as I finished, I sent Adrian a text message to congratulate him on the way he handled it. That doesn't mean I'd have handled it the same way, because I'm not sure I'm generous enough to offer the guy a plane ticket. (This is where I say something dumb like, "I prefer to give out my ass whippings for free.") But I'll tell you something I HAVE done: I've been irritated enough by certain anonymous SJ.com posters that I tracked every post they'd written, took notes and figured out who they were. Then I confronted them, both of them, next time I saw each of them in a press box. Didn't challenge them to a fight or anything, but let them know I knew who they were, and if they had anything else to say about the way I do my job, to feel free to say it right there. Of course they said nothing. Clowns. I got both of their ID's correct, by the way. (That story is sad enough as it is, but imagine if I'd confronted the wrong guy. Next time, maybe.) Oh, there was the time last year when a West Virginia football beat writer, don't know who he is, was cursing at the college students who were bringing him postgame stats on deadline. Apparently they weren't bringing them fast enough. Anyway, I told him to knock it off. He cursed me, so I told him I'd be waiting for him outside the press box when we were done writing. The guy finished before me and was gone. Crap. DS: Do you think more readers would like you or dislike you if they met you in person? GD: They'd have to like me more in person, if for no other reason than they couldn't possibly like me less than they do on-line. I'm joking, I guess, but whether that's actually true depends on when someone runs into me. I'm pretty moody (shocking), and if I'm in a good mood, which I think is most of the time, I'm gonna be pretty silly. But if I'm feeling quiet, that's it. No talking from me. I'll get to a press box two hours before a game, and if the mood strikes I'm going to sit there at my seat and read a book, and since I'm enjoying myself, I'm not going to be thrilled to be interrupted. If that makes me selfish, fine. But isn't it also selfish to interrupt me and assume that your company is more enjoyable than whatever it is I'm doing? I don't know. I'm weird. Whatever you do, do not break the ice with a vague "what's up?" Hell, I don't know what's up. You're the one talking to me. You tell me what's up, or I'm going back to my book. And with that, I've just given assholery a bad name.