Deadspin turns 10 years old today; we’re proud of what our site has done, even though we’ll look like self-aggrandizing assholes if we talk about it. It’s hard, when you’re working here every day, to think of the stories that have really stood out, or stood in for other ones that stood out, so we asked the editors of the site, past and present, to point to the stories they thought most worth pointing to. They missed most of the best ones (because the story of the site is mainly about its editors having no idea what they’re doing) and in some cases just avoided the question (because the site attracts the performatively self-deprecating) but so it goes. Happy 10th to all of you; here’s to 10 more.
I was told to pick three stories from my era, but I’m also picking one from the Daulerio era, the Craggs era, and the Marchman era, because those are better eras.
I always loved doing the field trips, if just because in the early days, everyone thought I was a shut-in who never left his home and was terrified to talk to live human beings. (Ten years later, this is now something people simply know to be a fact.) Dennis Rodman had written another autobiography—it was published by tiny Champaign, Ill.-based Sports Publishing LLC, which was a step above self-publishing and which went bankrupt three years later—and had some dumb launch event where he dressed up like Beetlejuice and was brought into a Wall Street Barnes and Noble in a coffin. It was incredibly stupid and quite depressing to see in person, particularly because Rodman was (and is) my favorite NBA player of all time. So I wrote a long report about it—Deadspin has gone through so many CMS reconfigurations that most of the photos I took have disappeared from the piece—and then the next day, I got a crazy email from Darren Prince, Rodman’s agent saying, among other things, “How pathetic are you or maybe financially compared to Dennis how broke are you or sexually you probably have not had the amount of women your whole life that Dennis has had just in the past year.” Prince is still around, apparently writing his own Wikipedia pages. Considering his way with words—he signed off with “Best regards loser!!!!!!!!!!”—I assume he will soon be named the Republican nominee for President.
This is a short three-paragraph, everybody-awake-yet? post the day after Gonzaga lost in the NCAA Tournament, making Adam Morrison cry his eyes out. The post itself is nothing special, but I just love that there was a time in Internet history where THAT would be the headline to a post about the biggest news of the day. Today, that headline is “MUST WATCH! Adam Morrison Cries Like a Baby (VIDEO)” at its most modest. My headline nine years ago? A quick joke about an obscure Sesame Street song with no explanation. (The headline actually sounds like something Buffalo Bill would say.) Suffice it to say, SEO was not something we cared about in 2006. It’s a shame we care about it so much now.
What happens when I wake up at my girlfriend’s place in the West Village, grab a copy of the Daily News for the subway ride back to Brooklyn, realize that Rick Ankiel—my favorite player, and one I’d been writing fan fiction about on the site every day for a month—had been busted with HGH and then get back to my apartment in time to write the morning post? I turn into some pathetic cross between Garrison Keillor and Ari Fleischer. Also, funny to think there was a time in Deadspin history when a post could begin with the words, “The Rick Ankiel thing, for Cardinals fans, has always been about hope.” Even I’m a little barfy reading that one.
Daulerio has a combination of fearlessness and relentlessness that I’ve never seen in another person. When he gets an idea, or a question he wants answered, he won’t let go of it—ever. Sometimes that leads to the Brett Favre story, or the WRESTLER NAME REDACTED story. And sometimes it leads to him dropping acid and trying to win a video game while Craggs looks on, cackling, and someone at Gawker Video films the whole thing. I found myself amazed by the idea, and deeply envious that I didn’t get to be there for it.
Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax
Sorry, I know it’s the obvious one, the biggest story in the site’s history, the one that changed the whole trajectory of Gawker Media, and the reason tens of thousands of you are still reading this site right now. But let’s not forget that it’s the perfect Deadspin story. It’s salacious, sure, but mostly it’s a story that refuted what every other media outlet, out of laziness or overwork, had just handed over to you, straight-faced, unblinking and unquestioning. Deadspin calls out bullshit. That’s the job. That this story was so easy to unravel—Dickey and Burke famously pulled it apart in, like, a couple of days—is more proof of how important Deadspin’s role is, and was, and always will be: If they don’t do it, no one else will. And as great a job as Jack and Tim did with it, let there be no doubt: Craggs’ fingerprints are on every word of that story. It’s as pure a distillation of Deadspin’s purpose as any story before or since.
We used to think we were hot shit because we found a spare internal ESPN memo or two. Here, Greg takes a logical, fundamental question—Hey, what happened with that secret Whitlock project?—and blows it apart with detail, wit, and laser focus. You want internal documents? Here’s crazy-ass Jason Whitlock putting quotes of his next to Maya Angelou’s in internal memos that ended up being one of the only things his site ever actually produced. As a casualty of the old dot-com days (I once worked for a site for seven months, with a staff of 20, that never actually launched), there isn’t much I enjoy more than an Incompetent Management Corporate Horror Story, and that it was Whitlock just made it that much more delicious. But this was about more than schaedenfreude. This was Whitlock and ESPN and a talented staff all squandering an opportunity that anyone else in the industry would kill to have. We need a site like what The Undefeated could have been, and those dopes couldn’t get out of their own way to even start the thing. That this was all put together by Greg, who had been approached to work for the site and who is as insightful and intelligent and challenging a writer about race and class and culture as we have working right now, made it matter even more. I still wish they’d just give the site to him, and not just because there’d be more Arsenal pieces.
Before I wish Deadspin a happy 10th anniversary, I’d like to wish a happy 7th anniversary to this meme. From the tips email box, circa Sept. 2008, from anonymous:
Just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for completely ruining Deadspin. I think that the transformation of the site from a witty, alternative POV site into one dominated by filth, snarkiness and sarcasm is complete, don’t you think?
On to my top five posts:
1. Leitch Interviews Harold Reynolds After He Basically Got Him Fired (Or, “Our Interview With Harold Reynolds”)
Re-reading this interview, I’ve come to terms that this is pretty much one of the most insane interviews ever granted and seems completely unthinkable considering all the future (and past) problems ESPN Horndoggery hath wrought. Who told Harold Reynolds this was a good idea for him to do this, Bob Durst? To top it off—hey’re both wearing the same outfit for some reason. But seriously, this exchange actually happened:
Did you ever have any sexual harassment training at ESPN?
Nope, never. They put out that there were concerns of five women with incidents of misconduct, but this isn’t something that happened in one incident. I never had training, I was never asked to go to training, though I think everybody else in the building probably had it.
Everybody but you?
I’m sure I wouldn’t slip through the cracks now, after me, but yeah: It was just never offered to me.
And, then, of course, Will Leitch and the Royal We get all Frost/Nixon on us:
So we were wondering if you would give us a hug.
I don’t think my lawyers would like that too much.
We promise not to file a complaint.
Sorry. Probably not a good idea.
Good save, Harold. Good save.
The first Fire Joe Morgan reunion came about because Michael Schur was doing Leitch a favor as a former “friend of the site” and agreed to do it because he thought it would be good promotion for this new show he was working on called Parks and Recreation. FJM enjoyed the experience enough that they came back for a second one, which was even better than the first. “Titties Vs. Vorp” is still one of my favorite things ever put on the internet, even though I’m sure it cost poor Jerry “Fuck Bitches, Get Money” Thornton his chance of ever copping a feel of those sweet, sweet Phoebe Cates yabos.
This was the first in a series of stories by Tommy Craggs which taught us a valuable lesson in sacrosanct media ethics. Pay for pictures of a famous quarterback’s dick? Sleazy scumbags. Pay for stolen financial records? Real journalists.
Barry was our go-to gunner for most of the time Craggs and I were at the site, since he was the only person who would consistently post things that had to do with actual real-time sporting events. He was a terrific—pardon the word—overworked, underpaid “blogger” who carried everyone throughout most of the week. So Barry decided he wanted to show us what else he could do and followed through on a tip about Pete Rose’s corked bat that strung together a well-reported narrative where every single shred of evidence seemed to reveal more and more about how Rose’s hit record came courtesy of his Mizuno 4192 being super-charged. But instead of getting all sanctimonious, Barry went the extra step and actually revealed that science shows that corked bats won’t help bat speed or give the hitter any marked advantage and that Pete Rose is just a big idiot after all.
I don’t know what’s funnier to me: that Greg eats it within the first millisecond he lifts his foot up or that Kyle Wagner runs the entire race like he’s fucking Usain Bolt and doesn’t look back to see if his coworker is dead.
Marchman: You doing any story picks? Leitch and AJ have sent some in.
Craggs: Could you send me theirs?
I’m doing them as one big post under Deadspin Staff with no one’s name in the headline
Craggs: When’s the post going up?
Marchman: I dunno, depends on when you file
Leitch is chatting at three
Craggs: ah, fuck it. just publish without me. i’m not in the right frame of mind to be wistful or self-effacing or proud or really anything at all.
Marchman: Can I run this chat as your contribution
Craggs: we’ve got all the eras covered anyway
Marchman: It’ll be mine too
Craggs: now this is the deadspin way
mailing it in, but transparently
Art by Jim Cooke