Dispatch From The Deadspin Book Tour

Posted by Ryan

Will Leitch 2

[Welcome, Deadspin readers. If anyone who went out drinking after the Milwaukee GSTF talk has photos or stories, please share!]

Will Leitch, editor of popular sports blog Deadspin, was in Milwaukee last night for a talk on his book God Save the Fan. You might have recently seen Leitch on HBO’s Costas Now for a discussion of sports blogs with Bob Costas, author Buzz Bissinger (Friday Night Lights) and Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards. We use “discussion” here loosely, as the segment basically devolved into Bissinger ranting against Leitch and other bloggers’ “journalistic dishonesty” and general coarsening of the culture.

Anyway, Leitch talked and answered questions for an hour, touching on the book, Deadspin and the changing sports media culture. A few highlights of the talk, plus my interview with Leitch from when Deadspin was in its infancy (it’s all growns up now) below.

The wife of St. Louis Cardinal Rick Ankiel once sent Leitch an e-mail (with cute animated gifs and everything) acknowledging Leitch’s man crush on her husband and that HGH is apparently not so bad. OK, then.

A discussion of that one episode of Quincy that warned against the dangers of enjoying rock and/or roll music.

How the “Grunge Crisis” 0f the early ’90s rescued all of us from being lifelong Warrant fans.

The highlight of Leitch’s career was receiving an e-mail from a former member of the Village People. It was the cowboy, if I remember correctly. (I know where he’s coming from, as my career highlight is still the time I interviewed Mr. T.)

Some discussion of the fallout from the Costas Now appearance, including how he was worried his dad would have a heart attack and his hometown newspaper would write “Local Boy Gets Incinerated.” Leitch hopes that Bissinger’s ravings don’t dissuade people from reading his fine books.

The maxim of “no cheering in the press box” may be part of what’s wrong with the dead-tree sports media. To cover sports and not be a fan of sports is to be disconnected from what’s so damn great about sports.

A little behind the scenes of Deadspin’s daily operations, and how he manages the site’s growing roster of writers and contributors. Leitch actually does payroll himself, using the mathematic computing power of Excel!

Cris Carter chewed Leitch out for something someone else once wrote on a Michigan fan blog.

Michael Wilbon is really nice and has really big hands.

You might date a Cubs fan at some point in your life, but you likely won’t repeat that mistake.

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I was first introduced to Deadspin by a colleague in the fall of 2005, when the site posted photos of Chicago Bears QB Kyle Orton being a sloppy drunk at a bar. While the photos were funny and all, I discovered plenty of other stuff on Deadspin to keep bringing me back. I became a Deadspin junkie, and I’ve rarely missed a weekday post. Seriously, if I’m on vacation and not checking the site, I feel like I’m missing a limb or something. So considering how much I read Deadspin and how big it’s become since, it was nice to finally meet Leitch and confirm that he’s definitely not a douche.

Leitch was gracious enough to do a little interview with me back in December 2005, which appeared in the Feb. 2006 edition of Channel Guide Magazine. I’d like to say that he owes Deadspin’s success entirely to the publicity we brought him. Anyway, here’s the very dated interview:

Spin Out
When We Want To Know What’s Really Happening In Sports, We Hit Deadspin.com. By Ryan A. Berenz

While the big boys in sports media bloat themselves with highlights and hype, sports blog Deadspin.com gives us the wacky, juicy and often lurid sports stories we don’t get on TV or in the newspapers. From features like “Why Your Hometown Columnist Sucks” to a collection of readers’ hilarious tales of run-ins with athletes, Deadspin keeps us informed and entertained throughout the day. Deadspin editor Will Leitch tells us about bringing “sports news without access, favor or discretion” to the world.

What’s the biggest story that Deadspin broke which was later picked up by the mainstream sports media?
Will Leitch: Definitely the Matt Lawton story. We were the first people to report that [N.Y. Yankee] Matt Lawton had tested positive for steroids. I posted it on the site, and an hour later a Newsday reporter attributed the story to us, and an hour later ESPN was reporting it (with no attribution). I think that was important for us; it showed that we weren’t just throwing up blatant Internet gossip up there.

Deadspin has covered a lot of embarrassing things about athletes and other sports personalities. Has anyone contacted you to voice their displeasure (or chased you with an ax)?
Dennis Rodman’s agent was particularly amusing. I wrote a story about how few people came to Rodman’s much-hyped book signing in NYC, and he wrote in to say, “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.” (That’s actual spelling from the actual e-mail.) It was pretty hysterical. I can’t believe that guy takes five percent. Of course, in Rodman’s case, it’s probably five percent of zero anyway.

You’ve got a healthy obsession with ESPN2’s “Cold Pizza.” What gives?
Honestly? It’s the only sports show on in the morning (other than watching SportsCenter for the eighth time), and since I do this out of my apartment and need to keep an eye on sports news, I’m kind of forced to watch it. And that’s really the only word for it: forced.

Do you have any good athlete run-in stories?

When I was a kid, I ended up in an elevator with Ozzie Smith and his son. I asked him if he’d do a flip for me, but he said “No, son, I’m in an elevator. I can’t.” So his son did a somersault, which was totally awesome.

What’s your all-time favorite Deadspin headline?
After Michael Irvin was suspended from ESPN for one week: “Beleaguered NFL Countdown Closed Captioning Typists Get One-Week Reprieve.”

About Ryan Berenz

Star Wars nerd. Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL). Father of two. Husband of one. I write about sports on TV because I am bad at sports in real life.
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