I don’t remember where I was going or why I was going there, but given the neighborhood I was in and when in my life I was there, I was almost certainly going to a bar. It was raining, and as I hustled down a street that was briefly in that golden New York state of being both smelly and shiny, I saw it blaring out from atop a bundle of old tabloids sitting on the curb—a New York Post back page featuring a squinting Mike Piazza next to a headline reading “I’m Not Gay.” I remember thinking, as I rushed past it in the rain to go get some stupid well drinks, that it all seemed like a long time ago. That was in 2002.
The story of how Mike Piazza came to tell the assembled members of the New York sports media that he was in fact not gay felt bizarre even when it was happening—the result of cheesier-than-usual tabloid salaciousness and reflective of a series of ancient biases and expectations that were musty and out of date even then. It’s something I think about from time to time, and in the interest of remembering this strange and stilted thing more accurately, I did what one does in a situation like that: I leapt down a Google hole, opened a bunch of tabs, and talked to some people in hopes of figuring out just what the hell had happened, there, and how. I’ll be writing something on it this summer, but for this first installment in our new video series, I did my best to tell the story—not just of how this particular strange moment came to pass, but of what I found in going back to the contemporaneous sources. A great deal of the worst things about the story are very old, but the rest of it is very 2002.
There is a brief and glorious moment that comes when you’re reading and reporting and researching a story in which you really and truly do feel like an expert on it. It’s mostly a thing you feel and invariably also extremely fleeting, but that brief moment in which you really can briefly slip the surly bonds of idiocy and believe that you know something about something is one of the happier ones any writer gets. It blooms briefly and is all the way gone when it’s gone, but the feeling is all the more powerful for its brevity. The idea of Down A Hole, as a series, will be to capture that moment—to show a Deadspin Idiot borne briefly aloft in a moment of non-idiocy. Of course the videos will be short. By the time I walked out of the studio I was already a dope again. But oh that moment in the sun, when I actually knew what the hell happened.