TMZ Sports: Prepare For The Next Great "Tabloid War" Or SomethingS

I already have to worry about one scary gay tyrant breathing down my neck, now I have to worry about two? If Brooks is right, TMZ Sports is about to change everything for the better. Or worse.

Yes, these are the type of announcements that get the black blood gurgling over here at Gawker HQ. Predictably, a state-of-the-state online meeting had to happen with overlord Nick Denton to start training for the Amazing Race to the Bottom.

11:40 AM Nick: so is there anything new about this TMZ Sports story?
this is same thing Levin was planning last year, no/
?
5 minutes
11:46 AM me: I guess? I didn't know if you'd heard anything recently.
11:47 AM Nick: no
I guess I thought they'd abandoned the idea
11:48 AM me: Yeah. I just don't see how this will change things that much.
11:49 AM I keep getting these emails and IMs from people asking me if I'm worried.
Nick: well, they're pretty intense competitors
but I don't think Deadspin v TMZ is such a bad struggle
could be a fun tabloid war
me: I just think it already exists. It'll be more upfront now.
11:50 AM Unfortunately, I don't have photographers to stalk people at airports.
Nick: they do pay
me: Right.
11:51 AM Nick:so we might need to get more aggressive in that domain
but they're going to be all over the big-name stars
11:52 AM me: Yeah. They are.
Fuck.

Does this mean that every single person on the planet with a raunchy photo of athletes drinking or sliming over women will now run over to TMZ first because they'll offer some payment for these types of photos? Yikes. That would suck. But remember — we pay, too. Probably on a less frequent basis than they do, but should the right thing come along that I feel Deadspin could benefit from, I'll gladly pay for it. It's only happened once before, but if I have to start being more aggressive about using this burlap sack of scuzz money I have sitting on my desk, then so be it.

Oh, and that thing I paid for before? Here's how that went down. The first tip about Josh Hamilton falling off the wagon came into us on March 13th. It was as follows:

I am a former student at Arizona State. I since have moved back to Chicago, but I still have a lot of friends and family there. A month ago I heard to 2 unrelated but believable stories from my good friend and brother that Josh Hamilton has fallen off the wagon.

First story...My brother (also an ASU alum) told me his friend was at a bar that Josh Hamilton was at. His friend struck up a conversation with Hamilton. After many drinks, Hamilton was hammered and began asking my brothers friend if he had blow. My brother's friend said no, but as the story goes Josh Hamilton would not leave him alone and refused to take no for an answer until my brothers friend eventually told Josh to leave him alone.

That story was possible, but I did not believe it until 4 days later I heard a 100% unrelated but very similar story, which in my opinion validated this beyond a doubt.

Second story...My friend adam who used to work Maloneys in Tempe, but still frequents it and is like family there was there drinking one night when Hamilton ( who I later found out was training at the facility right across the street) came in by himself. Adam continued the story, "Hamilton was getting wasted and..." I then interrupted and said, "He didn't start asking for coke did he?" To which adam replied, "how did you know?!" I told him my brothers story and he said that's basically exactly what happened at Maloney's. I guess Hamilton never got blow there, but the manager and him went to a strip club after and that's the end of what I heard.

If I heard only the 1st story, I might not believe it because it was a 3rd person source, but the 2nd confirmed it and my friend Adam is pretty reliable.

Normally, these things get tossed into Deleted Scenes and are over and done with. Or are just hinted at, thrown out there, so we — sorry, I — can fish for more details and determine the level of truth. This was something I followed up on — called Maloney's, tried to track down the people this person mentioned in his email, etc. I even reached out to a Rangers beat writer from the Fort Worth Star Telegram via email to have an "off the record" conversation about it over the phone. He was pleased to hear from me:

A.J.-
I can't help you on the Cowboys dong-sucking story. I cover the Rangers. What's up with them?

Jeff

Ah, newspapermen. God bless 'em. The phone conversation we had was pretty awesomely condescending. In fact, I'd say the reporter let out no less than two scoffs during it. He didn't say it wasn't newsworthy, he was just pretty skeptical about it, rightfully so.

I sat on it and sat on it, hoping for something substantial to come through. Eventually, it did. The "Adam" mentioned in the original email was not only willing to talk, but that he had pictures. He's in his 20s, just so happened to be there that night and was, for some reason, now coming forward with the photos because he was tired of "Hamilton's hypocrisy." Fair enough. He sent along the pictures. After he did, he sheepishly inquired about payment because he had approached TMZ about them but didn't want to sell them to "that crappy site." He said he "likes us" and would rather have the photos put on Deadspin than TMZ. Okay, I thought, how about we pay you, like, a fee we would pay a photographer. He agreed to that. It was about $1,200 for his services. I pushed forward with Craggs to get the Jerry Narron interview and then leaked the story to another baseball journalist to give them the jump-start on it. On Friday night, everything was in place, it seemed. Then at about 1:30 a.m.EST, with the pictures already in hand and on the site, Adam called again. He'd just received another offer for the photos: $4,000 from The Dirty.com, he said. Whether this was true, was hard to tell. He was very apologetic and kept saying over and over again that he never "did anything like this before and didn't know how it worked."

"Me neither," I said.

Remember, I already had the photos, all loaded up and it would have been easy to just throw them up there without any sort of watermark and all that crap. But Adam, for whatever reason, seemed genuinely concerned that he was forced into internet tabloid negotiations over these photos. "I really, really hate to do this, man," he said. Fine, fine.

At about 2 a.m, with the other reporter already on a flight to Anaheim to go confront Hamilton in the locker room with the evidence, I had to make a deal. So I did. I said we'd pay him the $4,000 for the Hamilton photos he claimed The Dirty was offering if that ended the conversation right then and there. It did and then it was hurdy-gurdy time on a Saturday morning in August.

Once the story broke out, I received plenty of email inquiries and interview requests, etc. One of them was from the reporter from the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

A.J.-
You contacted me about the Hamilton stuff back in March. Wondering about the process that got you to today. Would like something on the record if possible.

Thanks,

Unfortunately, I knew nothing about any Cowboys dong-sucking stories. We never spoke.

So here's the deal spelled out for you again, vermin: Yes, I'll pay for things. Sometimes. If it's a good enough story that will help keep the lights on at this organization so that Craggs, Dash, Drew, Leitch, Barry and other writers can do more less sleaze-covered stories that are the true heart of this website, I'll do it in a second.

Keep that in mind if and when this "TMZ Sports" launches. I'm easy to talk to and promise to not make you feel so bad about yourself should you decide to peddle your sports-related gossip and assorted Cowboys dong-sucking stories and other crap. And when I do get these inquiries you, dear reader, could be helpful in determining whether they're worthwhile to pay for or not. Just don't send me photos of Brett Favre's ass.

Email me with inquiries: ajd@deadspin.com. Oh and please start to assemble a wish list of things you'd like to see on Deadspin that we'd probably have to pay for. My first thing? Audio/video from the infamous "Mike and Mike Roast." I think that would be worth it.

Update: So it begins. The 700 Level has been asked to join the party:

Hi guys,

TMZ is expanding its sports coverage and we wanted to know if you were
interested in working together. We'd like to be able to include you on
the emails we send out when we have relevant content and would like to
get a heads up from you as well when you have breaking news. Please
let me know if you're interested and, if so, who the best contact
would be.

Looking forward to working with you.