Friday, June 27, 2008

Thank You, Will Leitch

Like religion, sports interest me, but the surrounding culture involved make it very, very difficult to continue giving a shit. Especially since, growing up in Connecticut, I was sandwiched between cities with the most irritating of sports fans, Boston and New York. I grew up having to sit with my family and listen to out-of-touch commentators from ESPN, and hockey anchors with the WORST HAIR KNOWN TO MANKIND. Not to mention that 80-90% of sports fans are date-raping retards that care a tad too much about whether "we" won the game last night or not. Sure, I love the spectacle of an NFL or NHL game, and I love the feverish hype surrounding March Madness, but who the hell am I going to talk to it about? Sports moralists that hated Randy Moss until he joined the Patriots? People with a useless knowledge of stats that have no logical application? Very few people I know in real life can have an intelligent, funny, rational conversation about sports. Why bother when everyone around me would rather watch America's Next Top Model than be a "barbarian"?

That's where Deadspin came to save the day. I was a little late to the game, mainly because I spent a bit of time avoiding anything associated with Gawker after getting fatigued. Eventually I noticed that the blog was run by Will Leitch, a name surprisingly familiar to me! While in high school and making 'zines, I had a period in life where I enjoyed a certain kind of blogger, essentially the "first wave" back when no one really knew what a blog was supposed to be. Claire Zulkey, Ben Brown, Lindsayism, Elizabeth Spiers, and the crew at the Black Table. Zulkey (who I once interviewed for Placebo Effect, my old lit mag) linked to some contributions she made to the Black Table, and occasionally I'd browse the other content, mainly the Week in Craig (brilliant). Sometimes I'd stumble upon some other hilarious stuff written by AJ Daulerio and, yes, Will Leitch's "Life As a Loser" column. That whole group of writers set the standards for blogging, and, in retrospect, the Black Table is probably the best example of what makes a blog great: a group of kids with J-School backgrounds that kept some of the old values, threw some away, and added a few irreverent ones of their own.

Anyway, when I realized that the "dude from the Black Table" was running a sports blog, I finally found a way to get back into sports. It had been two years since I moved to Brooklyn, and probably one year since my brother essentially called me a sell-out for no longer watching sports. With Leitch at the helm of Deadspin, I found a voice in the sports media that I could empathize with, and make me approach enjoying sports in a different way, one that seemed tailor-made for my new life amid the wussiest pseudo-hipsters known to man. Hell, where else will you find writing that name-drops the New Republic and the Office while talking about sports. Actually, a lot of blogs now, but Deadspin will always be known as the first and the best. Deadspin was a life-saver, and helped me reconnect with my family during holiday sporting clusterfucks like Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. Hell, it even inspired me to do some sports writing of my own.

Sure, that piece of writing was for a class, but I also had to research the genre I was working in. Thus, I emailed Leitch with some poorly articulated questions that will embarrass me to the day I die. Still, he was gracious and replied no matter how stupid he probably thought they were. My last question was about whether he felt like he was stretching himself too thin by writing in so many places, and how keeps from being cynical. His response was this: "I try to keep my distance from those things whenever possible. Sports is still fun for me, and writing is the most fun thing I do. The minute I start to feel like I'm losing touch with the reason I started the site, I'll quit and write about something else. " Shortly after that little email exchange, Leitch participated in the now-infamous panel with Buzz Bissinger that serves as a microcosm of why mainstream journalism will die via its own ignorance. Will didn't fall to Bissinger's level either, a real class act.

Today is Leitch's last day as editor of Deadspin. He's joining Joe Hagan, David Amsden, and some other brilliant writers as a contributing editor at New York. Before actually joining there, he did some neat Office writeups and a few sports profiles. Let's hope his talent and insight will be put to good use with some hard-hitting long form journalism. Since it's his final week, he's been giving a farewell post each day and so far he's on a roll. Leitch and company have yet to name a replacement, but I trust them, and I'll still visit daily whether he's editor or not. Thank you Will, for everything.

Why? - These Few Presidents


Sharon said...

Thank you Gary

Yoknapatawpha Kid said...

Dear Kid,

Nice entry on Leitch! My name is Peter Ricci, and I am a college student and writer who currently contributes to 'Too Shy to Stop,' an upstart online magazine focused on culture and the arts.

I found you entry, as it would turn out, while doing research for my own essay on the legendary 'Costas Now' episode between Leitch and Bissinger. I focus first on how much I adore Bissinger, but quickly change focus to how wrong he is regarding his stance on blogging and why.

If you have the time, check it out! I’d love for you to read it and comment.


Peter Ricci