We're roasting our former editor A.J. Daulerio, who has moved across the room to edit Gawker, a paperless Hamptons travel magazine. If you have an A.J. story to share, or if you would like to participate in some other way, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Lightly sourced slander is welcome. Our guest now is Chris Jones, a writer for Esquire and the back-page columnist for ESPN The Magazine.
A.J. Daulerio and I have never met. We might have exchanged an email, but I'm not sure that's true. What I know about him is mostly from osmosis: from his running/ruining of this site, from the fawning GQ profile that missed the opportunity to Deadspin the guy from Deadspin, from painful images of a beard that looks like the hair at the top of my bum crack.
But I know A.J. best from a night he was never in the room. It was the first night I'd met Tommy Craggs in person. Chuck Klosterman and I had cornered him in a bar in a Chinese restaurant on the occasion of Tommy's absolutely inexplicable rejection of a job at Grantland.
Chuck and I had both signed on as Grantland contributors, and I had been really excited at the prospect of Tommy joining us. I had sent him giddy emails, exhorting him to come along. And then suddenly the negotiations had ended, and not well. I'm not sure I'll ever understand what happened or how, exactly. Once the pink gorilla entered both the equation and the hotel lobby where Tommy had his final meeting with Grantland's suitors, I gave up trying to figure things out.
Many things baffle me, and I will confess to harboring a rigid worldview that can make it hard for me to see things through another man's eyes. But Tommy's decision seemed so idiotic to me that I couldn't even attribute it to him. It would be like blaming a man for chopping off his own hands. On my way to that Chinese restaurant, I made up my mind that Daulerio had to be the reason. Daulerio had made everything fall apart.
Tommy and Chuck were already at the bar, pushing back drinks from short glasses. From what I could gather, Chuck had spent the previous 20 minutes or so explaining to Tommy how dumb he was. After I got my first beer out of the way, I did what seemed like the moral and correct thing to do: I joined the hectoring whole-heartedly. I think at one point, I even pulled out a flowchart detailing precisely how Tommy had ruined the rest of his life.
Chuck eventually left to do something far more awesome with the rest of his evening, leaving me to berate Tommy alone. We stayed a long time. I ate a lot of bone-in meat. We talked about how Daulerio had just hired Tom Scocca, with whom I've enjoyed a loathsome and totally pointless running battle about his utter uselessness as a failed writer and self-appointed media critic; we talked about Drew Magary a bit, too, because that guy makes me SHIT MY PANTS LAUGHING. This is the problem with A.J.'s Deadspin: Whenever I decided he'd made the place too poisonous with some prick like Scocca, I'd see that Nazi shark making football picks and forgive.
Mostly, though, we talked about Tommy and his fate. I love Tommy's writing. I write the back-page column for ESPN The Magazine, and I've often thought how much better he'd be at it. (I'll probably get an email from somebody at ESPN for saying that, but I believe it.) Like Deadspin itself, Tommy's sometimes gone too far in his viciousness—the Internet has the terrible side effect of making all of us forget that every one of us is a human trying his best—but he has also displayed moments of pure poetic redemption in this space. He has that rare quality that allows him to be many things: both beautiful and cutting, both sentimental and brave.
And in that Chinese restaurant, he swore that of all those things he could be, of all those doors open to him, he chose Deadspin. He chose to stay with A.J. Daulerio, the man who sent the pink gorilla to the hotel lobby. It was a decision I never would have made in a thousand million years: I would almost always choose more audience, and more access, and more money, and more praise. But that's because I'm flawed and unsatisfied. All Tommy needed was what he already had.
Chuck and I wanted to believe that we were the angels on Tommy's shoulders, albeit in our misshapen, more fully bearded forms, and that Daulerio was the devil. Tommy saw the world—and us, and A.J.—differently. And hey: Now he's going to run the show. I hope he'll make Deadspin smarter, and kinder, and funnier. More Luke O'Brien, please. More Ludella Black over slow-motion video of a guy getting kicked in the face. More reasons to help me understand how the devil convinced one of our best young sportswriters that this ugly pretty place was his most perfect home.