Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports

March 3, 2007

Sports Bloggers' Benevolent King

Deadspin editor Will Leitch dispenses 'cheeky,' self-deprecating commentary on athletes and the broadcasters who love them.

Carl Bialik

Will Leitch is a nice guy. As editor and chief writer of Deadspin, the most-popular sports blog, that's not always an easy thing to be. Leitch regularly skewers athletes and sports personalities such as Chris Berman, Jay Mariotti, and Matt Leinart, then steps aside as devoted commenters compete to be even harsher.

Yet Leitch is about right when he tells Gelf his tone is "cheeky." It's not his fault that Ben Roethlisberger "has an unnatural skill at bouncing his head off things"; that's just the way of the sports world. Nor did Leitch make John Rocker say the things he did in an interview last December; Leitch just wrote them down. Hey, that's his seven-figure (if you count pennies) job. Sports bloggers generally are generous with hat-tips for each other, but Leitch stands out for frequently genuflecting to his peers and downplaying his own sports knowledge. In this interview, he says of another blog, "Those guys are smarter about every subject than I am."

Will Leitch at Eva Peron's grave in Buenos Aires
"I have no desire to ever be in a press box. They won't let you jump up and scream there, and that is the essence of sports. Nothing else makes me do that, unless I see a spider."

Will Leitch at Eva Peron's grave in Buenos Aires

The other thing to know about Leitch, the former co-editor of the late, lamented Black Table, is that he's remarkably prolific. He's written two books (Catch and Life As a Loser) and somehow has two more on the way, even while he writes roughly a dozen posts daily, Monday-Friday, and helps edits the growing ranks of outside contributors to Deadspin. That helps explain why Leitch's answers to our questions were short but sweet—and sent in at 2:22 a.m. In the interview below, edited for clarity, Leitch weighs in on David Foster Wallace's sportswriting, discloses his workplace wardrobe, and explains why "no cheering in the press box" means there will be no Leitch in the press box. (Also, you can hear Leitch and other online sports writers read from and talk about their works at the free Varsity Letters event presented by Gelf on Wednesday, March 7, in New York's Lower East Side.)

Gelf Magazine: If you were running ESPN, what are the two things you'd do first? (Or would you just blow the whole thing up and start over?) Explain why.

Will Leitch: I would immediately fire myself and hire someone who can find where the heck Camera Two is.

GM: Same question, different media company: Sports Illustrated.

WL: I'd hire back Jeff MacGregor. [Eds. note: Recently MacGregor took a buyout offer from SI.] And I'd see if Gary Smith could write a story that wasn't about some sort of childhood trauma.

GM: Bloggers are known for writing in their pajamas. What's your preferred workwear?

WL: All Gawker Media employees are required to wear suits to blog every day. I'm surprised this isn't publicized more.

GM: How much do you make from your blog? (Hey, we had to ask.)

WL: I can't say. But it's seven figures. Well, if you count the part after the decimal points.

GM: Which athlete has provided you with the most material?

WL: Ben Roethlisberger, strangely. That guy has an unnatural skill at bouncing his head off things.

GM: Are there any people or topics you won't make fun of? Why are they off limits?

WL: I don't think anything is off limits, whether it's to make fun of or just stare in wonder at. OK: I think Tom Hanks is off limits. Tom Hanks is a serious issue.

GM: Which post of yours do you regret the most, and why's that?

WL: In retrospect, posting a picture of my high school scholastic bowl team was a poor decision. That really was a silk shirt.

GM: Would you rather cover the big game from the press box or your couch? Why?

WL: I have no desire to ever be in a press box. They won't let you jump up and scream there, and that is the essence of sports. Nothing else makes me do that, unless I see a spider.

GM: What's your favorite sports blog not among those featured at the next Varsity Letters? Why?

WL: Free Darko. Those guys are smarter about every subject than I am.

GM: Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?

WL: Does David Foster Wallace count? He is both my favorite and least favorite sportswriter. [Eds. note: Read Foster Wallace on Roger Federer.]

GM: Has a mainstream journalist ever ripped your stuff off without acknowledgment?

WL: Oh, sure, but I never get too bothered by this. Life's too short.

GM: Where does your blog strike the balance between sincere and snarky? Do you worry about being judged by readers based on your tone rather than content?

WL: I have no idea. I just type fast and try to be fair and occasionally funny. I've never thought of the site as "snarky." I prefer "cheeky."

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik is a co-founder, contributing editor, and Varsity Letters editor of Gelf. Bialik currently writes the Numbers Guy column for the Wall Street Journal and plays no role in Gelf's day-to-day editorial decisions.







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Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik is a co-founder, contributing editor, and Varsity Letters editor of Gelf. Bialik currently writes the Numbers Guy column for the Wall Street Journal and plays no role in Gelf's day-to-day editorial decisions.

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