Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Books | Sports

November 1, 2011

Jock Mock

The Onion takes on the laughable excess of sports journalism and sports stars. Editor John Krewson says it's all for the beef-jerky ads.

David Goldenberg

What's the difference between sports coverage and sports journalism? According to Onion editor John Krewson, almost all of the public is interested in the former, very few of them care about the latter, and the sports media can't seem to tell the two apart. That's bad for sports fans, who get talking heads yelling at one another on TV instead of actual game footage, but it's good for The Onion, which has turned satirizing sports journalism into a multimedia enterprise comprising newspaper, internet, and television properties.

John Krewson
"The Onion's resources, readership, and unique platform let me do things no other publication can or would even dream of."

John Krewson

To that burgeoning mega-enterprise of ridicule, we can now add a book. In The Ecstasy of Defeat, The Onion compiles thousands of its favorite sports articles from the last 10 years. The resulting anthology takes dead aim at some of the tropes of sports journalism (Report: Your Favorite Player Took Steroids) and repeatedly skewers the boys in Bristol (ESPN Completely Misses Brett Favre Vs. Green Bay Storyline).

The Onion doesn't just mock the sports media; it also goes after the players and teams themselves. Several pages of the book are devoted to Alex Rodriguez—it seems he's now off the emotionally disabled list—and Tiger Woods—who recently announced his return to sex. In the following interview, Krewson tells Gelf why The Onion is going big on sports, and why certain athletes get the Joe Biden treatment.

Gelf Magazine: What other titles did you guys consider for the book? (Steve Friedman, another Varsity Letters alum, already took The Agony of Victory.)

John Krewson: Oh, nothing good, really. Down For the Word Count was one I remember being the sort of clever thing you wind up hating years later. Our Dumb Sports Book was one, in line with the Onion's other titles. I liked Blown Coverage OK, but the publisher was worried no one would get it.
Didn't know about The Agony of Victory. Friedman nearly got that one right.

Gelf Magazine: The Onion seems to be featuring a lot more sports coverage than it ever used to. Why is that?

John Krewson: It was quite a natural fit with our alcohol-and-beef-jerky advertising model.

Gelf Magazine: You seem to write about all sorts of stuff for The Onion. How did you end up focusing on sports?

John Krewson: It looked like a fun break from the politics-and-losers coverage we usually feature, and we had the people to do it.

Gelf Magazine: Why do Manny Ramirez and Tim Duncan get the Joe Biden treatment from The Onion?

John Krewson: Well, they're definitely on opposite ends of the strong personality spectrum, so in a way they're compelling for opposite reasons. Manny you'd want to spend time with in a situation from which you could walk away any time you wanted. Fascinating, but a little too much. Duncan, you'd want in a lifeboat. He'd quietly have some good ideas.

Gelf Magazine: What are a few of your favorite articles in the book? (Mine is about Wade Phillips's fondness for the NFL Giraffe.)

John Krewson: I tend to like the nutty ones and the mean ones: Undefeated Colts To Play Football's Harlem Globetrotters, Patriots Season Perfect For Rest Of Nation.

Gelf Magazine: Why should we buy the book when all the pieces are free online?

John Krewson: Don't you have any intrinsic love of the material itself? Don't you have a brother-in-law who needs a holiday present? Don't you still use the bathroom?

Gelf Magazine: How did you convince Anabolic Steroids to write the foreword?

John Krewson: Convince? You serious? The guy's an attention whore.

And here are the Vital Stats questions we ask each of our speakers:

Gelf Magazine: Whom do you agree with more in this old debate, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger (even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's)?

John Krewson: Oh, man, this again. I'm sorry, but this debate, if not this actual clip, puts me right to sleep. I think we as a society are past this, or have at least accepted the imperfections of both blogging and traditional journalism, especially since they've done nothing but edge closer in the four years since this. But OK, I have to say, Bissinger made some good points in almost the worst way possible and Leitch didn't have his best stuff that night. And neither of them addressed the problem with sports journalism, which is that only about five percent of the reading/viewing public wants any. The rest want sports coverage.

Gelf Magazine: Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?

John Krewson: You're asking a former competitive archer. And you left out motorsport; too done? But OK, here goes: Yes to all but gymnastics and cheerleading, in which scorekeeping is subjective, holding them to the status of incredibly strenuous competitions. They're also the ones that are most athletic and have the largest population of creeps hanging around.

Gelf Magazine: Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:

John Krewson: Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Badgers hockey, Marlboro Agostini Yamaha (I was a big Eddie Lawson fan, and oh yes, motorcycle racing is a sport).

Gelf Magazine: What's your dream sportswriting job?

John Krewson: This is it, really. The Onion's resources, readership, and unique platform let me do things no other publication can or would even dream of.

Gelf Magazine: Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?

John Krewson: Wherever the guys who write for Onion Sports wind up. Also, Deadspin, once Daulerio gets out of rehab, and provided he doesn't find Jesus in there.

Gelf Magazine: What's the best sports venue to visit?

John Krewson: My friend Dave's house. He's got NFL Sunday Ticket, he's an intelligent and passionate fan, he buys the newest and latest television about every six weeks, and his wife has this compunction to make food whenever there's anyone resembling a guest within a hundred yards.
That or Lambeau Field. Citi Field is nice, too. And Madison Square Garden is a unique experience that shouldn't be missed. It's like going to a game in 1982.

Gelf Magazine: Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?

John Krewson: What's mainstream anymore? And who has favorites anymore? All I know is, right now, my favorite sportswriter is Katie Baker. I wish I'd hired her, or had a chance to, back when Onion Sports started. She's great, even though she's held back by writing lovely stuff for a poorly organized little Boston-area sports blog called "Grantland."

Gelf Magazine: Put the following sportswriters in order from your most to least favorite: Bill Simmons, Mitch Albom, Dan Shaughnessy, Peter Gammons, Deadspin's A.J. Daulerio, Rick Reilly.

John Krewson: Oh, man. Really? I think you mean "Rank two feature columnists and a blog editor against the storied sporting tradition of Boston." Seriously, if the best sportswriter currently in the game is some grind monastically chronicling the Kansas City Chiefs, would you even know? I'm not sure I would.

David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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Article by David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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