This is a new weekly column from Leitch. It has words, and pictures. It's called Ten Humans Of The Week. It might or might not work. But here it is.
One of the most nonsensical constructs of sports journalism is the notion that your reporter is supposed to be "impartial." I think this is some sort of misguided offshoot of political journalism. There, if you are "biased" against a candidate or party, at least theoretically, you could somehow skew coverage and public perception to fit your own agenda. I don't think this happens, but I suppose it's possible.
In sports, we have actual winners and losers, real, live, official contests that help us decide who is successful and who is not. If I were covering the Chicago Cubs, I could write whatever I wanted to about them, and it would not change the results of their games. (Unless I screamed my stories in their ear when they were trying to hit or something, though I have a feeling someone would eventually stop me from doing that.) Yet we go on, pretending that our reporters have no personalities of their own, that they are mere robots here, that they weren't once kids with their own rooting interests, their own posters on their bedroom walls. Hey, everyone: Peter King grew up cheering for the Giants. How can we ever trust him again?
I think this is shifting, though, and I think it's a good thing. Though I have to remind myself of it. For New York, I regularly write about the Mets, a team I've always kind of liked, even before I had any professional reason to write about them. They've had some historic run-ins with the Cardinals, though, and, as I've discovered, many Mets fans are loathe to forget them. Well, at least the Mets fans who comment on New York's site.
Last week, I wrote two separate pieces on the Mets. The first looked at the Mets' roster, and the second at the whole National League. I thought it was fair enough, I suppose, though I'll confess that Fernando Tatis could set off a dirty bomb at a Woody Allen retrospective and I'd still love him. But the comments were all, "Hey, St. Louis boy, go home!"
The perma tourist picks the Cardinals. Shocker.
And honestly Will, there was not a funnier 15 words that I have ever read
"One of the charms of being a sports fan in this wonderful city of ours"
Manny Ramirez led all outfielders in slugging last year you asshat. Shouldn't you be writing for St. Louis Magazine? With all the media downsizing, how have you made it this far?
Probably should have made the teaser a little less deceptive if all you were planning on writing was a Cardinals fluff piece.
I think this is progress: We have gone from being angry with writers for perceived biases to being angry at them for real ones. (Even if the biases aren't really there.) In journ school — what few classes I attended, anyway — we were told to hide any allegiances we had, which is faker than the truth they were trying to teach us to find. The perception would have been that a writer about the local team was secretly "in the tank" for the local nine, and, frankly, they probably were. (Even if they'd never admit it.) Now the complaints are that the writer isn't biased enough: Why is a writer for New York not a Mets fan? I think this is good. I think this is a sign matters are going in the right direction.
I'll confess to being a "perma tourist," though. I live in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, the area of town where the major danger you face on a daily basis involves dodging rogue Bugaboos. A couple of years ago, my parents came to visit, and during a rain delay of a Cards-Mets game, we struck up a conversation with two Mets fans. They were as friendly as almost every other Mets fan I've ever known, which is to say, pretty friendly. The following conversation ensued:
Sally Leitch (wearing a bright red Cardinals jacket and socks that featured blinking lights in the shape of the birds on the bat): So, where are you guys from?
Guy No. 1 (in unmistakable fuhgeddaboudit accent): We're from Bensonhurst. Brooklyn.
(Note to non-New Yorkers: Bensonhurst is where real New Yorkers grew up, and live.)
Sally Leitch: Oh! Will lives in Brooklyn!
Me: No, Mom, please ... don't ...
Guy No. 2: Oh, yeah? Where you from?
Me (hiding under my scorebook): Uh ... Cobble Hill.
Guy No. 1 (snickering): Yeah, real nice there. You into yoga? Drive one of them hybrids?
They were really nice guys. I totally deserved that, though. I've lived here for almost 10 years, and let's face it: I'm not kidding anybody.
Tyler Hansbrough. It seems only fitting that Psycho T and company would finally get that national title they've been plugging away at, but it's a shame it had to happen so quickly, and suddenly. More than any other sport, it seems, a college basketball game can just get away from you early, immediately, irretrievably. Last night's game had ended by the third commercial break, and there are few sounds more depressing than 70,000 people who, 10 minutes earlier, had been screaming as if their whole world depended on this game — which, despite what Jim Nantz and company would like to tell you, it didn't — and are now dead silent. I really think there should be a word for tens of thousands of people shocked into quiet by the implosion of their home team. Like Yankee Stadium during Game 7 in 2004. Is there a term for that? Are there other examples coming to mind? It's an awful vacuum of a sound.
Michael Jordan. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty obsessed with finding out which jersey Jordan's going to wear when he's inducted into the Hall. I still think it would be awesome if he wore the throwback Bullets jersey, the one they put on him with just a few games left in his final season just because the Wizards needed to sell a bit more merchandise before he retired for good. (Considering what he did to that franchise, it's difficult to say they hadn't earned the right.) I still have NBA Live 03, which features Jordan on the Wizards, and I busted it out a couple years ago, just to remind myself of that team. Do you remember who else they had on the roster? Brian Cardinal, Christian Laettner, Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes and ... well, Charles Oakley, of course. What a miserable idea that truly was. It's gonna be sad when Tiger Woods does this in 25 years.
Eric Karabell. I only recently started listening to podcasts, mostly because baseball is starting, and, come late March, I'm so excited for baseball that I would literally listen to a man reciting types of baseball equipment ("Donut." "Catcher's Mitt." "Protective Cup.") So it was with considerable surprise and delight to learn that I truly enjoyed the ESPN Baseball Today podcast with Karabell and curmudgeonly crank Peter Pascarelli. Since Matthew Berry came and muscled his way into Top ESPN TV Fantasy Guy — that Berry, with his Hollywood gloss and glitz, ruining everything — Karabell has dropped down the roster, and that's a shame: The guy's legitimately smart about baseball, in that nerdy, Never Actually Met A Player kind of way. Pascarelli is less charming, but still entertaining, and, even though I suspect after every show they take off their headphones and leave the room through opposite doors, not speaking until the next day, I kind of love the two of them together. (Though they need to wake up earlier: The podcast isn't typically posted until the early afternoon, Eastern Time.) Each of them actually knows what they're talking about: It's amazing, but that actually makes a difference! Plus, you know, they both picked the Cardinals to make the World Series, which is kind of amazing. (As did Berry! I spot a trend!) Though Pascarelli, hilariously, forgot his own picks when on the show, and submitted about four different predictions in four different places. (Professionals!) I was excited about that fact until about 7:30 yesterday evening. (Motte! Dammit!) Speaking of podcasts ... you are welcome for stepping aside for Michael Silver on Drew's podcast last week. The guy has a million things to talk about and he doesn't sound like Andy Dick.
Clark Kellogg. I feel like the worst kind of wishy-washy "pundit" saying this, but it's time to face facts: I miss Billy Packer. (I know. I know!) Kellogg, surprisingly, has brought almost nothing to the broadcast, and, as John Ryan pointed out, both he and Nantz just danced around the impending hammer-toss on Connecticut and Jim Calhoun over the weekend. Packer would have been an asshole about it, but he would have harped on the issue and given us all something to bitch about all weekend. Kellogg is barely there: Sometimes it feels like Nantz is doing these broadcasts by himself and, hoo boy, is that ever a terrifying concept. I'm beginning to think that everyone I loathed growing up — Packer, Bob Knight — is going to start to make more sense as I get older. And that sucks. If I write a, "Come on, guys, Berman is hilarious!" column in the next year, I'm begging someone to put me down, before I strike again.
Tony La Russa. Lost in the FERVOR about the genius' love of his iPhone was that Mr. Three Nights In August actually batted the pitcher ninth yesterday! (The lineup also featured leadoff man Brendan Ryan, third baseman Brian Barden and cleanup hitter Khalil Greene. Yep.) The Cardinals have only six guys left from the 2006 championship team (Pujols, Carpenter, Molina, Wainwright, Josh Kinney and Chris Duncan), and I think every other guy plays seven different positions. Tony La Russa loves to Manage!, and man, is he going to be doing a lot of that this year. By July, when Joe Thurston is catching David Freese's knuckleballs, La Russa is just going to burst into flames. I don't know what's going to happen with the Cardinals' this year, but man, it's going to be entertaining.
Kyle Orton. It's worth noting that the Broncos said the key — the key! — to the Jay Cutler trade was how much they liked the way Orton looked on film. What an amazing run it has been for the neckbeard after the last two years. Remember, when we had our original Orton photos from October 2005, he was the Bears' starter, and then he lost the job to the Sex Cannon, who, after that travesty in the Super Bowl, lost the job again. (Thought project: What would have happened to the Bears had Orton played ball-control offense that game, rather than Grossman's "Hey, let's see where this lands! Wee!" insanity? Could the Bears have won the Super Bowl behind Kyle Orton? What a planet we would live in!) Now, Orton, a Hall-of-Famer, I remind you, is a franchise quarterback! There's hope for Matt Leinart yet.
Josh Pastner. Much of the talk about Memphis' new head coach, Pastner, is that he's young: He's 31. I think the real story is that he's clearly insane. In a positive, kid-you-know-at-the-age-of-12-is-going-to-own-you-someday insane. Pastner actually had his own scouting service at the age of 13; his dad had to explain this fact to recruiters interested in subscribing to it. He's also, if you remember Arizona's national championship season, the walk-on freshman who was jumping around and dancing like an idiot. (You can see this a few times in this video.) He graduated in three years and got his Master's in four, all while studying under Lute Olson and training to be a coach. And here he is, taking over for John Calipari at Memphis. At 31. Another reminder how much the rest of us have wasted our lives.
Michael Schur. Why was last week's 10 Humans column so weak? Well, because I'm a lousy writer, yes, but also because I wrote it on a Virgin America flight to Los Angeles, which meant I spent most of my time playing DOOM. (They actually have DOOM on Virgin America flights. I love playing it while sitting next to a child. "See, Louie, I'm blasting the zombies' heads off with my shotgun. Here, you try! Hey, stop crying.") I was in Los Angeles to write a magazine story about "Parks and Recreation," that new Amy Poehler show that debuts Thursday. I'd have to think Deadspin readers would like this show because it's staffed predominantly by Fire Joe Morgan writers. Schur/Mose Schrute/Ken Tremendous is the co-creator, and Junior, a.k.a. Alan Yang, is on staff as well. Though if the show collapses — and I highly, highly doubt it will — they might have time to return to FJM, so, no matter what, we all win.
Brent Spiner. You probably won't believe me when I say this, but I never watched an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and am therefore not quite sure who Brent Spiner is. But he pulled a rather amusing stunt last week on his Twitter page, pretending to have a breakdown and spending time inside the "Betty White Center." (The gimmick was that he was just trying to jumpstart his acting career, which, all told, probably isn't the worst idea.) He really seemed to be enjoying himself, and his little riffs reminded me of Dave Eggers' old magazine, Might, and the time they faked Adam Rich's death to comment on the practice of magazine's cashing in on celebrities' deaths to sell magazines. (Might also did this to sell magazines.) Now that I'm thinking about it, Might seems almost quaint now, a relic from a time when satirizing magazines and celebrity culture seemed like the most earth-shattering thing you could do. Ah. Might. If you've never read it, buy their anthology here.
Nick Swisher. Another magazine story from the last couple of weeks: My massive feature on the Yankees, which was a Will Leitch special: 5,000 words with, like, four quotes from people who are not Will Leitch. My favorite parts: Reggie Jackson's sphincter exploding when he saw the A-Rod Details photos, and the whirling dervish of empty energy that is Nick Swisher. If the Yankees get off to a good start this year, you're going to read about 50,000 stories concerning Swisher's "loosening up of the Yankees clubhouse," and while I can't tell you whether that's true or not (thank God), I can say that Swisher's going to do everything in his power to make sure those stories happen. Nick Swisher is a moderately interesting athlete, which is to say, he waves his hands when he talks and chases beat reporters around the locker room. Which is not all that interesting, really, but, after spending a week in Tampa, I can tell you it's slim pickings around there. Swisher is proof that there are still amphetamines in baseball: By mid-May, I suspect he'll be dry humping Mariano Rivera's leg. Which probably won't go over well. Nice guy, though, and he should really be starting over Xavier Nady.