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An Interview With Jongin Craggs, Tommy's Mom

Illustration for article titled An Interview With Jongin Craggs, Tommys Mom

A couple of years ago, Tommy's mom, Jongin Craggs, emailed me out of the blue. Ms. Craggs, who lives in Champaign, Illinois, where Tommy's dad works as a math professor, told me that she read all the things I wrote and asked if I could maybe get Tommy to write a little bit more often; if it weren't for my occasional CRAGGS ALERTs on Twitter, she might miss the few things he does write. We email semi-regularly now, talking about Tommy, and Deadspin, and (mostly) Illini basketball.


So for this, his roast day, I thought it would be fun to interview Ms. Craggs about her son. Like everyone else, I'm in awe of Craggs: I've always hoped he would run Deadspin for the next 30 years. I thought maybe she could give me some idea of how he turned out this way.

Tommy has always been talented, but it took a while for him to find his way and really break through. Were you ever worried? Are you STILL worried?


Tommy learned to read when he was five. We intentionally stopped reading captions of the photos and scores in Sports Illustrated. So we kind of had a feeling that he would have a sports related career. Having said that, I did worry when he decided to apply to Medill because of the uncertainty of the job market in journalism. I say "I," because [my husband] Bob was more relaxed about it. He did the same thing to his dad. I resolved by reminding myself that getting a good college education is more important. After that, I was not worried. Whenever he went through internships (paid and unpaid), we were excited about his new adventures. We were always proud of his being able to endure new workplaces.

And no, we are not worried now.

Do you read Deadspin regularly? Do you like it? Do you have any favorite writers? Least favorite?

Yes, we do. I am a Twitter junky more than Bob. I click Twitter whenever I have time and read Deadspin, and your articles. I like all the writers. I guess a better way to say it is that they are all so talented we are not qualified to judge.

Do you wish he wrote more?

Definitely. We really miss reading his writing.

What's your favorite thing Tommy ever wrote?

My all time favorite one is Fishing the Mainstream, about the bass fisherman. For some reason, it made me choke up with the beauty of his writing. Bob's favorite is the story on the Irish boxer.


Has he ever written anything that embarrassed you, that you wish he hadn't?

No articles ever embarrassed us. Deadspin postings with strong words used to embarrass us, but now we are used to it. Kids have a way of converting parents.


He doesn't always seem like the happiest adult. He's not sad ... he just seems to fret a lot. Was he a happy child?

He grew up a very happy child. All his childhood pictures prove that. A few times when he was 4, 5, 6, 7 years old, he was sad whenever the Bears would lose. He would sob and say, "My life is over. The Bears ruined my life." When he was four years old, during a dreadful Illini football game, he cried out "flea flicker" out of nowhere. The surprised nearby spectators chimed in: "Why not, nothing else has worked!"


I sensed that he was disenchanted with Northwestern students, spoiled financially, ideologically, and ethically. Other than that, I don't know why he changed. Journalism, maybe?

What activities was he in growing up?

Tommy did everything geeky and everything athletic. He was in Chess Club, Sherlock Holmes Society and Drama. And he was in sports; track, basketball, and soccer. His cousins used to say that Tommy was having the best high school life any kid could ever ask for.


When Tommy was deeply involved in chess, he brought books to the football games and read them during the games. Bob was mortified and embarrassed until, after one play, Bob, thinking that Tommy was ignoring the game, asked him, "Did you see that play?" Tommy said, "Yeah, the left tackle was offsides."

What was he like with girls as a kid? Do you remember his prom date? Wait, did he go to prom?


He had a lot of guy friends and enjoyed hanging out with them. We think he was shy with girls even though he appeared very popular. Even in first grade, he had one girl who had crush on him. He went to every prom. The last prom he went to, he wore a blue tuxedo with a baseball cap, much to our dismay.

How old was he when he was potty-trained?

I think he was about one-and-a-half years old. I took him to Korea to visit my parents. My parents decided that it was time for him to be potty trained. So, they did not put on any diapers or any clothes, and that did it.


Did you think he was going to take that job with ESPN? Did you want him to?

Yes. At first, we thought that would give him more time to write. We thought that he could contribute a lot to the literary world. But, in the end, we are glad he stayed with Deadspin. We think he would not have been happy at ESPN.


What does Tommy do when he comes back to Champaign?

He likes to hang out with some friends that are still staying around here. He reads a lot, as usual. He likes to go through his library and pick out books he wants to take to New York. (I wish he could take them all, so we would have some room.) He helps out with some house projects that we cannot do any more due to age. A typical good boy.


Did he ever want to be called Tom, or Thomas?

No, he never did. When children were dropping diminutives, Tommy insisted on keeping his because his hero then was Bobby Fischer.


Do you believe him to look like New York restaurateur David Chang?

Illustration for article titled An Interview With Jongin Craggs, Tommys Mom

Yes, especially when Tommy does not shave.

In your view, did Tommy ruin Deadspin?


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