Will Leitch, contributing editor at New York Magazine and editor emeritus of Deadspin, is filling in for Drew Magary on today's Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo. Leitch has written four books. Find more of his business at his Twitter feed.
All I remember about being a kid is doing chores. When I think about growing up, almost every memory I have involves me pushing a lawn mower, chopping firewood or washing my parents' 1986 Buick Skylark. I didn't have a Walkman or AM/FM radio or anything, so there was nothing to distract me from the tedium. So I would daydream. Before they had a thousand beeping distractions every second, people used to daydream. It was a thing.
The main daydream I had: that there were a vast number of people out there, somewhere, who were just fascinated with my life, who were obsessed with everything I was doing, who needed constant updates on my love life, my grades at school, my stats on the baseball team. This is probably not unusual, or at least I hope not: For a kid in a small town who was neither tall nor short, fast nor slow, cute nor ugly, the most fantastical notion my 12-year-old brain could concoct was that someone in the world might care that I existed. I imagined these people as breathless fans who cheered my successes and mourned my failures. Rather than write a diary, I put together something called "The Will Street Journal," which actually posited my day-to-day existence in newspaper form. Sample headlines included "Nikki From Biology Passed Note To Will Thursday" and "Church Camp Is Next Month: Will Will Find a Girl?" (I balanced out the hard-hitting metro section with a sports page in which I merely copied the current standings from the Mattoon Journal-Gazette.) I'd even give myself little quotes, like, "I'm hopeful camp will work out this year. Last year was a bust, but I'm still looking forward to it." After all, with fans beckoning, you had to release a statement; you had to say something. I actually did this. I don't think anyone ever read it, though if my parents did, they were kind enough to have never told me.
This is stupid, self-aggrandizing, and frankly deranged. It also is pretty much an exact copy of what Twitter has done, to all of us, in a staggeringly short amount of time. At least I had the good sense never to show it to anybody.
I have been on Twitter for almost three years. I wasn't sure how long I'd been on Twitter, so I just typed "Will Leitch Joined Twitter" into Google, and whammo, some site called "Twitaholic" told me: January 15, 2009. That took me to ANOTHER Twitter metric site (and what a terrible word, "metric") called Twittercounter, which told me I'm 38th in followers in Brooklyn and that I should be expected to have 60,000 followers in 1,019 days. Oct. 5, 2014, is going to be so exciting. There are so many people keeping score.
The reason I joined Twitter in the first place is because I was doing a story about Twitter. I thought I would be oh-so-clever and start an Twitter account while I was sitting in the Twitter office; I conceived it as some sort of metacommentary that would pop up throughout the story. (This was a dumb idea and I dropped it immediately.) While I was in the Twitter offices, Sully Sullenberger landed his plane in the Hudson, and within seconds, a witness named Janis Krums posted this infamous picture to Twitter.
At the end of that story—which was mostly about Twitter's business potential, raising questions that I'm not sure they've answered three years later—and inspired by that picture, I got all Deep Magazine Writer.
Think about that for a second. In the midst of chaos—a plane just crashed right in front of him!—Krums's first instinct was to take a picture and load it to the web. There was nothing capitalistic or altruistic about it. Something amazing happened, and without thinking, he sent it out to the world. And let's say he hadn't. Let's say he took this incredible photo—a photo any journalist would send to the Pulitzer board—and decided to sell it, said he was hanging onto it for the highest bidder. He would have been vilified by bloggers and Twitterers alike. His is a culture of sharing information. This is the culture Twitter is counting on. Whatever your thoughts on its ability to exist outside the collapsing economy or its inability (so far) to put a price tag on its services, that's a real thing. That's the instinct Stone was talking about. If the nation has tens of millions of people like Krums, that's a phenomenon. That's what Twitter is waiting for.
Three years later, this Deep Magazine Writer pontification feels so obvious it reads as self-parody. (Note: It might have read like this when published.) Of course this is what happened. And I think it's making us all fucking nuts. I don't mean that it's "bad" or it's "good." I mean that it's turning perfectly ordinary people into maniacs.
Yesterday morning, I went for a run. I've begun marking my runs using the Nike+ App, which my mother recommended to me. I haven't really figured out how to use it, though, and yesterday, it stopped working in the middle of my run. For reasons I still don't understand, it sent my "time" to my Twitter account, publishing it to everyone who follows me. This was embarrassing, and not just because it looked like I only ran half a mile, and slowly. (It is patently pathetic that I feel obliged to insist to you that I ran more than half a mile.) But it happens. I've had more humiliating moments online.
By the time I noticed and deleted the errant Tweet, though, Darren Rovell had seen it and did a little digital footstomp, as he is wont to do. Irritated, and still a little sore from my mistake, I fired back at him, taking a (minor) shot at his somewhat pathological obsession with food Tweets. Then it became a whole thing, leading to yet another Twitter fight between Rovell and Letterman head writer Justin Stangel. It was quite the kerfuffle.
(All right, all right, wake up.)
Now, I've met Rovell a few times, and I find him to be a generally affable, professional, intelligent human being. He has a certain well-hello-people-who-are-not-me-but-are-obviously-just-here-to-see-me vibe to him, but I just chalk that up to an occupational hazard of appearing on television regularly. And all told, the guy has always done good work (in addition to the Nike press releases and Fathead sales updates, of course); he's a legit reporter. But something about Twitter has caused him to lose his goddamned mind. He's asking people to send him pictures of their lunch, showing up in public with his Twitter handle on his back and, perhaps most infamously, installing himself as a sort of Twitter cop, with his rules of Twitter and his scoldings of those who disobey his laws. I'm fairly certain Rovell considers a moment he's not on Twitter to be a wasted moment.
This, of course, has been nothing but rewarding for Rovell: It just got him his own TV show. It might be just that, as frustrating as he is (and I honestly can't follow him), he's just better at it than the rest of us are. He has simply transplanted his life and personality onto Twitter in a more efficient way than anyone else. And don't think it doesn't matter: For some reason, people keep score on Twitter. People consider it a legitimate achievement to become a trending topic. It's like someone took the old "+1"s of the Deadspin comment section, tallied them, and not only devised a whole Website around them but actually changed the plane of human interaction. This is all we are anymore.
We've always said and done things online that we wouldn't say or do in person: This is the very nature of the Internet, and one of the million ways it is awesome. But Twitter is so quick and so pure and so valued that you can make an argument that it's more human and true and honest than actually being human. When I first started doing Deadspin, Lockhart Steele, the man who hired me, told me that running a high-content blog "will teach you things you didn't know about yourself; when you just start typing without thinking, and then doing that 18 times a day, it distills you to who you actually are." The idea was that writing like that left no time to use any of the self-protecting conversational buffers that guide us through our everyday lives; it would turn personal, emotional reaction to the outside world into a reflex. It was one of the main reasons I left Deadspin in July 2008. I loved it too much, and I was starting to worry I was becoming more a blog than a person.
But I had no idea. Twitter, at its core, is just a really short, really fast blog. It has turned everyone into high-impact content providers. I always wondered what it would look like, back in the early days of Deadspin, if every athlete and media person had a blog. It turns out: They're just themselves, but more so, unleashed, truer. Bissinger's an unhinged loon; Ron Artest is raw and crazy; Rovell's a compulsive self-promoter; Bill Simmons is certain he knows better than you about everything. Just because we'd say things on Twitter that we wouldn't say in person, that doesn't mean what we said on Twitter is somehow less palpable and honest: It's the precise opposite. If I ran into Rovell at a bar tonight, I'd shake his hand and we'd talk about sports or weather or media or whatever random conversation-fillers came into our brains. We'd be totally polite and cool. But our conversation would be bullshit. It would be much more open and truthful on Twitter. That openness and truthfullness wouldn't make us any less dickheaded, though.
Twitter just keeps growing. We are pouring so much into this, throwing it into the ether, talking to our imaginary friends who are no less imaginary simply because they are real. It is going to become our primary mode of conversation, in 140-character bits, lacking nuance, reflection, or perspective. Twitter is so much fun, right? It's easier, it's quicker, it's Just Twitter. I love it. You love it. It's how we communicate now. But let's not pretend: It's batshit that we do this. It's talking to everyone, and no one. It's releasing statements to fans who don't exist. Here's to knowing that, dammit, I'll never stop.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Packers Saints: Well, all right, so that went a tad long. Sorry about that. Anyway, I'd like to thank Drew for having me in for a cameo this week. This is my first piece for Deadspin since ... jeez, has it really been since August 2010? Apparently I really was pissed at Daulerio about the Erin Andrews story. Huh. Anyway, I love the Jamboroo so much that I not only feel overwhelmed taking it over this week, but also angry that someone other than Drew is writing it. The NFL season is almost over, and Drew's giving his column to some asshat? In Week 16? Believe you me, I understand. This is the fifth season of the Jamboroo, and I do not remember what experiencing the NFL season was like without it. It was perfect from the very beginning too. Here's a line from Drew's first-ever Jamboroo column:
Dolphins at Redskins: GAH! You're better off watching mime porn. You're better off watching someone else play solitaire. Many people play solitaire by drawing three cards at once. And to those people I say: Are you fucking nuts? You're playing alone. Why are you being so strict with yourself? Give yourself a chance and draw one card at a time, for fuck's sake.
How did we ever survive without it? I'll try to make this replacement week as painless as possible. (Probably a bit late for "quick" and painless, though.)
Giants at Jets: I've been meaning to confess something for a while: I didn't think Michael Strahan's sitcom was that bad. Everyone's forgotten about it already, but it actually did last 13 episodes, which is longer than, say, Terriers lasted. It wasn't terrible, I mean it:
Suffice it to say, Strahan's acting opportunities have dried up since then, but it's worth noting that since Brothers was canceled, there hasn't been a single sitcom with an all-black cast on network television. Unless you count Friends reruns, of course.
Chargers at Lions: The Lions can clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help this week, a factoid I'm actively cheering against (the Buzzsaw are still alive; Viva Le Skelton!) and will be fully ignoring so that I can bring you the other crazy old Mr. Belvedere clip, after the whole AIDS one that Best Week Ever uncovered last week:
Eagles at Cowboys: Specious, poorly thought-out theorem alert! The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles are the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. A well-constructed, intelligently run franchise competes at the highest level for a near-decade but never breaks through to win a championship. On their last legs, with the fanbase exasperated, the team looks lost, and good riddance. And then! And then! They get hot at just the right time and end up winning the whole thing with what was probably their worst team of the entire run. Told you it was poorly thought-out.
Raiders at Chiefs: Getting back to Twitter from above: It is always depressing when writers you admire are so obnoxious and insufferable on Twitter that you unfollow them simply out of self-preservation: Any more, and you'd never be able to read anything by them anymore, therefore ruining something that once provided you actual joy. Examples: Buzz Bissinger, Glenn Kenny, Dan Harmon, Judd Apatow, Bill Simmons, Bret Easton Ellis, Salman Rushdie. I'm sure I'm missing a bunch.
Cardinals at Bengals: Thanks to Jimmy Traina for this piece of goodness:
Broncos at Bills: Hey, I had a kid! Years ago, after reading one too many "the Red Sox matter because my son just learned how to say 'Nomar'" columns, I vowed not to be one of those writers who only wrote about his kid, and I'm sticking to that. (For now. I'm sure I'll go back on it in three years like everybody else does.) Instead, I'll talk about his mom, and childbirth. We were not going to be one of those "natural" couples, with some sort of bathtub birth, or hanging from a trapeze or something: My wife was getting the drugs, and that was that. Except she didn't. Her water broke at 1 in the morning, and we were at the hospital by 2 and in the delivery room by 4. That left no time for an epidural or anything like that: She had to go Oregon Trail style. We had not prepared for this pioneer-woman-just-go-out-behind-the-wagon-and-push scenario. But she just freaking did it, and it was the most inspirational thing I've ever seen. And by that I mean it was so terrifying that I'm urinating on myself just thinking about it. Just for fun, though, sometimes when I come out of the bathroom, I say things like, "Hey, so I had kind of a tough time time in there, so now I understand what you went through. Man, that was hard." She loves that.
49ers at Seahawks: One of my favorite films this year was Drive. Partly because of Albert Brooks, and partly because I will think of this every time I'm in an elevator the rest of my life:
Ah, young love.
Texans at Colts: The NFL Network launched Nov. 4, 2003 ... and you still can't watch it on Time Warner Cable systems in New York City. Can you believe that? It has been eight years! Right now here in New York, the MSG Network is fighting with Time Warner over whatever dickwick tiny percentages huge corporations dickwick over, and there's a real chance that the Knicks and Rangers won't be seen by Time Warner subscribers after the new year. I think they're going to get it figured out, because, hey, they always do, right? Except: We still don't have the NFL Network. Eight years!
Dolphins at Patriots: The NFL and Major League Baseball are difficult sports for me to filter out the noise from: If Phil Simms or Joe Morgan is broadcasting a game, or if Mike Ditka or Kevin Millar are talking about it, I find it impossible to ignore them: They drive me crazy. I'm not sure why, but I don't have this problem at all with the NBA. There are so many terrible broadcasters involved with the NBA, but they never bother me. To be fair: I only listen to The Basketball Jones and Walt Frazier. That probably helps.
Bears at Packers:: Probably too low for this game, I'm just now realizing. Because I have to stay up so late with the baby these days, I've been watching far more television than I ever have. So I just discovered the BBC's Sherlock, an updating of the Holmes tales that doesn't feature Robert Downey Jr. with his shirt off. The show is terrific, and not just because it has Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson. Plus, the guy who plays Sherlock Holmes—who is also in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy—has the most fantastically British name I've ever heard: Benedict Cumberbatch. That's his real name! Benedict Cumberbatch. You have a pretty good idea of what that guy looks like, when you hear that name.
Browns at Ravens: When Ron Paul wins the Iowa caucus in a couple of weeks—and he's going to—I do hope everyone remembers to go back and read Mobute's scans of all his old virulently racist newsletters. Here's my favorite bit:
"Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-communist philanderer, Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day. Listen to a black radio talk show in any major city. The racial hatred makes a KKK rally look tame."
Charming. At this point, I would like to note that the Republican Party is in serious danger of nominating The Newsletter Guy. When Kinko's first opened, before the Internet took over, that's what the joke about Kinko's was: That all the lunatics would go there to make copies of their crazy manifestos. That joke was specifically about Ron Paul. And now he has a chance to be the next president. Terrific. Progress, this.
Jaguars at Titans: Did you know that the two people in Daulerio's Twitter profile avatar are my parents? I've never quite understood why that's the picture he chose, but hey: They certainly get a kick out of it. My parents love Daulerio; he's the shit-stirring drugged-out wild-child they clearly wanted more than the spineless, "Hey, I'm just a plucky Midwesterner!" Meat Loaf fan they ended up with. Anyway, my parents always like to check in with Deadspin—they understand what the site is now so much more than they did when I ran it—and they were a little confused when Daulerio announced that was heading to Gawker, a site they (perhaps predictably) had never heard of. The exchange (as their first grandchild snoozed nearby):
Sally Leitch: So what does Gawker cover?
Me: Oh, everything. News. Entertainment. Funny videos. Politics.
Bryan Leitch: Politics?
Me: Yeah, they're doing more of that.
Sally Leitch: Oh, I get it.
Me: What's that?
Sally Leitch: I get why A.J.'s going to Gawker: He's gonna nail politicians who cheat on their wives.
And you know what? That's exactly what he's going to do. I mean, he'll do a lot more—if Deadspin is any indication, he'll more than quintuple the traffic brought in by the former editor—but "when will Daulerio break a presidential race scandal story?" just became my new favorite subplot of the election season. I cannot wait.
Rams at Steelers: Because concerned friends keep asking me:
1. I was very sad Albert Pujols left.
2. I understand completely why the Cardinals didn't offer him as much as the Angels did. I think it's the smart move.
3. I am not mad at Albert.
4. I nonetheless did throw away all my Pujols jerseys, along with the four Pujols #5 onesies people bought my son.
5. I want the Cardinals to win the 2012 World Series so much more than I did three weeks ago.
Vikings at Redskins: Also because people have asked: Everything that the sports and news sections of Yahoo are doing is great, from all the terrific sports blogs and The Upshot and the great work so many journalists like Adrian Wojnarowski and Jeff Passan do every day. And then there is Yahoo! Entertainment. Needless to say, The Projector (and The Set, and others) was a bad fit with Yahoo Entertainment from the get-go. I still miss it. If anybody wants Tim Grierson and me to write movie reviews for them, you know where to find us.
Buccaneers at Panthers: And, just to wrap up the Twitter talk, five people who do Twitter exactly right in a way I can't figure out myself:
WHEW. I think that's all the games. I always hated it when Drew skips some. Now I understand why.
Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
Death From Above 1979, "Losing Friends."
Holy shit Death From Above is awesome. I enjoy when bands have as few members as possible, making as loud of sounds as they can. It's amazing to me that two people can make this much noise. Loudest, greatest bands with certain numbers of people:
Four members: Early Metallica
Three members: Nirvana
Two members: Death From Above 1979
One member: Uh ... is there a Bobby McFerrin of metal? There should be.
Embarrassing Song I Once Liked That Will Not Fire You Up
Meat Loaf, "Dead Ringer For Love."
This album was Meat Loaf's (along with songwriter Jim Steinman, who also wrote Air Supply's and Bonnie Tyler's song, FOR YOUR INFORMATION) followup to Bat Out of Hell, and that you've never heard of it gives you a good idea of how well it went over. This was the title track off the Dead Ringer album, and it's an obvious attempt to recapture the success of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" ... except it has Cher!
To be honest, I don't find this song the least bit embarrassing. I still know all the lyrics by heart. I REGRET NOTHING.
Gregg Easterbrook Is A Haughty Dipshit
Drew's gonna be mad at me here but ... I don't really think Gregg Easterbrook hates Jews. Sorry.
That said: It sort of tells you everything you need to know about Easterbrook that he is literally the only person I know—the only person I've heard of—who doesn't think the 1972 Miami Dolphins are bunch of sad assheads. Seriously, he honors them! He calls their champagne toast "one of the sweetest traditions in sports lore." I had no idea anyone thought that. People think that? Apparently!
Also, it never fails to amuse me that Easterbrook still insists on "The Boss Button" running with his columns. Jokes from 1998! That it simply goes to the printable version of the column has to be a joke one of his editors is playing on him, right?
Suicide Picks Of The Week
Last week's picks of Arizona, Tennessee, and Atlanta went 2-1 (37-8 on the year). Time to pick three potential teams for your suicide pool and something that makes you WANT to commit suicide. This week's picks? Pittsburgh, New England, and Houston, and the fact that authorities continue to ignore the mounting evidence that Craig James Killed Five Hookers While At SMU. Craig James Killed Five Hookers While At SMU. Craig James Killed Five Hookers While At SMU. Craig James Killed Five Hookers While At SMU. Craig James Killed Five Hookers While At SMU. #CraigJamesKilledFiveHookersWhileAtSMU.
Great Moments In Poop History
This is the one section of Drew's column I always skip. Just not a poop guy. Instead, I present the Table of Contents for the newest issue of The Paris Review:
The final installment from Roberto Bolaño's The Third Reich, with new illustrations by Leanne Shapton.
Jeffrey Eugenides on the art of fiction: "Every novelist should possess a hermaphroditic imagination." And Alan Hollinghurst: "I was rather a goody-goody as a child… It was only later on I discovered that you could be naughty and get away with it."
New fiction from Adam Wilson, Clarice Lispector, and Paul Murray, and the English-language debut of Valérie Mréjen. A portfolio of women by women, curated by Charlotte Strick.
Poems by David Wagoner, Jonathan Galassi, Dorothea Lasky, Ange Mlinko, Gottfried Benn, and Rowan Ricardo Phillips.
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we'll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year's end or sooner. And now, your potential 2011 chopping block:
• Jack Del Rio—FIRED!
• Todd Haley—FIRED!
• Tony Sparano—FIRED!
• Jim Caldwell*
• Norv Turner
• Chan Gailey
• Mike Shanahan
• Hue Jackson
• Andy Reid
• Raheem Morris
• Pat Shurmur
• Tom Coughlin
• Steve Spagnuolo
• Jason Garrett
(* - Could happen any moment!)
I did a little dance when Drew took Ken Whisenhunt off this list earlier this year. I probably need some more friends.
DeSean Jackson Memorial Fantasy Player That Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death
Didn't get many emails this week, but if you started Eli Manning, I mean, you probably had it coming.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
I have lived by myself for five of my 36 years on this earth, and all five years, I bought Bagel Bites in bulk. In 1998, I'm pretty sure there was a six-month stretch where all I consumed was this, Franzia boxes of wine, and Marlboro Reds. Ah, for the energy and hopefulness of youth!
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
I've long believed that Drew owed a debt to The Black Table's old beer reviews, so I'm just gonna run some of our old ones right here:
Sam Adams Summer Ale
My left testicle may be hanging out of my little white shorts, but why should I care? I have a $400,000 fiberglass boat and a Sam Adams Summer Ale in my hand. If my sister's husband doesn't want to see my hairy ball, he doesn't have to look at it. After all this is my goddamned boat, I fucking paid for it and if my fat ass slut of a sister doesn't like it, she can fucking swim back to shore. This is my damned boat. This is my damned beer.
Rating: It's MY Boat. Mine.
Ah, those wonderful summer thunderstorms. They break the humidity at just the right time — a great departure from running through sprinklers, barbecues, and the menacing, unrelenting July heat. Time for indoor games. And while something called "Summer Lightning" seems perfect for such moments, it's about as satisfying as a vibrator made of hummus. Sure, the bottle's gi-nor-mous and it's got fucking lightning on it — but this beer's bland, uninspired taste made me curl up with Emily Dickinson's poetry and toss in that Hayden record for kicks. Damn you Summer Lightning! I have lost my will to live. Forever.
Rating: Budd Dwyer.
This beer, like its eponymous canine, tastes like it was aged seven years in the basement of a Midwestern frat boy who just learned the nitrous tank ran dry. He's alone, the Hustlers are sticky and stained and all his brothers have spent the night fucking his sister Amy, in town for the weekend from south Jersey. It's time for date raping, and the Red Dog, injected directly through her neck for maximum (and immediate) impact, will do the trick nicely. Here's hoping her dad isn't a lawyer.
Rating: No means yes.
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Colts Fans
Martha Marcy May Marlene. A terrifying cult mystery that features a surprising amount of Olsen sister boob. Trust me on this one.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
This has nothing to do with The Simpsons, but can we talk about this for a second?
Lemme get this straight: State Farm uses the song from "Cheers"—only the greatest television sitcom of all time—in its ad and never once acknowledges that it's the song from 'Cheers?' Sweet heavens, I'm old. I look forward to "I'll Be There For You" running on lawyer commercials in 10 years. (This is probably already happening.)
All right, that's all I got folks. I have no idea how Drew does this every week. He'll be back for you next week. No one will be happier to have him back than me.
Enjoy the games, everybody.