Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports

February 1, 2011

Varsity Letters Interviews, the Quickish Way

New York's sports reading series celebrates its fifth anniversary, and the launch of founder Dan Shanoff's site Quickish, with a lineup of over a dozen sportswriters. Here's what they have to say—briefly—about a host of sports issues.

David Goldenberg

Varsity Letters, New York's sports reading series, is turning five this year. On the first Thursday of almost every month since spring 2006, three sportswriters have read from and talked about their work before a crowd of sports fans, book fans, and people who just wandered in—a format that doesn't exist anywhere else (that we know of—if you're hosting your own version of Varsity Letters in San Francisco, Sao Paolo, or anywhere else, please let us know; we'd like to be friends). Varsity Letters was founded by Dan Shanoff, who more recently has created the sports-info site Quickish. Gelf took over the reins at the end of 2006 and has been running with it since.

Varsity Letters highlights. Photos by Anita Aguilar and Gelf Magazine.
"Top of my list, for sure: that genius in the next chair."—Henry Abbott, on ranking his favorite sportswriters

Varsity Letters highlights. Photos by Anita Aguilar and Gelf Magazine.

More than 100 authors have joined the ranks of Varsity Letters alumni, some of them three, four, or five times over. To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the series, Shanoff and Gelf are hosting more than a dozen friends of the series, including distinguished alumni and a few first-time speakers. Each one will speak for a few minutes about a defining moment in sports. In keeping with the brevity of their remarks, and the even briefer brevity of updates on Quickish, Gelf is forgoing full-length interviews with each, in favor of rapid-fire questionnaires with each—including, for those who haven't answered them before, the vital stats questions we subject all of our authors to.

Brevity is the soul of wit, as our respondents do their best to demonstrate. Below you'll learn that today's sportswriters are fascinated by a vintage recording of a dead president ordering new pants, enjoy Tweets by impostors of Rahm Emanuel and Walt "Clyde Frazier," wish they'd seen Secretariat run away from the field, compete for self-deprecation except for one brave writer who'd beat Kobe in a game of one-on-one, feel for Al Davis and his disappearing face, and find a lot of Republicans on sporting sidelines these days. The following interviews were conducted by email and edited for clarity but not length, because they're already short and sweet.
Henry Abbott
ESPN's Henry Abbott (spoke at Varsity Letters in March 2007, then recapped the night)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Lyndon Johnson ordering pants.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
@mhaubs is low-volume but high-smarts. That's good Tweet.

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
The 1977 street party in Portland, starring the world champion Trail Blazers. Steve Mix played for the disgraced Sixers, and he told me the mood was so fun he just walked out there and had some beers with the Blazers fans. I was actually in town at the time, but three years old.

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
Zero and zero. They'd also kick my ass at Sudoku. For some reason, I'm powerfully bad at Sudoku.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Deadspin. The whole thing.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
Dammit, I'm a doctor not a pollster! But here's a rough guess: that like a lot of rich people, as athletes age, they play more and more golf, get more and more pissed off about taxes, and vote more and more Republican.

Also, here are Abbott's answers to our vital stats questions, asked of each Varsity Letters guest:

Whom do you agree with more, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger? (Even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's.)
This question is really not fair to Buzz. It's as if Costas and Bissinger were examining moon rocks. They had no idea what they were talking about. BLOGS?! Both, I'm sure, would say very different things now. Leitch, on the other hand, would still look pretty nervous and call everybody "sir."

Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?
If they're not basketball, who cares?

Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:
Blazers. Blazers.

What's your dream sportswriting job?
Running TrueHoop and the TrueHoop Network for ESPN.com. Only way it could be better: Say, a $10 million budget and three months a year to "try new things."

Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?
Every damn place.

What's the best sports venue to visit?
Not that ginormodome football deal in Dallas. I'm an optimist, but if the future looks like that, we're all doomed. I can't explain why. But that sucker is optimized for cyborgs, and as a human, that worries me.

Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?
My very favorite thing is when great writers who write about real things slum in sports. I live in constant hope that, say, Jonathan Lethem will go 10,000 words on basketball. I subscribe to the New Yorker because once a decade, or close, they have an NBA article.
My least favorite is a secret, but you know who you are. (No, seriously, I have no hatred for any sportswriters. Not in this economy.)

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.
Before I could answer that, I'd need to know about the roster and seating at this event. Top of my list, for sure: that genius in the next chair.


Listen to Henry Abbott's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Katie Baker
Deadspin's Katie Baker

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
I've read this article on Brian Burke and his late son Brendan several times, and I've cried like a baby each time. (You can use this AV Club interview with Jon Lovitz to cheer up.)

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
Barry Petchesky, aka @barryap1. It's got all the unmitigated rage of a sports-radio talk-show caller, but with the important addition of focus and wit.

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Rangers-Devils, 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6. The Rangers were down 3-2 in the series and 2-1 at the start of the third period. Mark Messier, whose guarantee of victory was splashed all over the tabloids that day, scored a hat trick in the final period to force Game 7. (There was a time in my life when I fully convinced myself that I HAD gone to this game, by the way.)

"I feel like if Kobe were in a good mood he would let me go up 24-0 before casually turning it on. (Most strong people do the equivalent of that when they arm-wrestle me.)"—Katie Baker
In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer? This question is like some sick trap—nothing like engaging a bunch of sportswriters in a self-deprecation-off! Anyway, I feel like if Kobe were in a good mood he would let me go up 24-0 before casually turning it on. (Most strong people do the equivalent of that when they arm-wrestle me.) And I've read enough David Foster Wallace to know that Federer would have me on and off the court in less than 10 minutes.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Mark Brunell being used as a human snot-rag by Mark Sanchez was pretty devastating, no?

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
Can't we just ask Nate Silver? I guess at gunpoint I'd say 40 percent vote and of those, 70 percent are Republicans/baseball players.

Also, here are Baker's answers to our vital stats questions, asked of each Varsity Letters guest:

Whom do you agree with more, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger? (Even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's.)
Well, since the whole thing led to my favorite piece of writing on Bob Costas, I think everybody was a winner.

Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?
My New Year's resolution is to sound more pretentious in 2011, so I'll say that they may not be sports, but they are "SPORT."

Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:
Knicks, Rangers, Giants, and Mets. (People never understand the combo of the Giants and Mets, but WFAN was the flagship station for those two teams.) The only difference between my childhood and now is that I no longer don a tigertail at Princeton lacrosse games, to everyone's great relief.

What's your dream sportswriting job?
Covering gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, and weightlifting. For Esquire.

Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?
Wherever Tommy Craggs is working.

What's the best sports venue to visit?
I haven't been to enough venues to render judgment, but: 1) I went to Pittsburgh recently and had visions of a 1 pm Steelers game followed by a boozy crawl down the street to a Pirates night game at PNC dancing through my head. That place is the best sports town. 2) Yale's Ingalls Rink had an insane sellout atmosphere even back when the team had a five-win season, so I can only imagine what it must be like this year with the Bulldogs one of the best in college hockey; and 3) I mean, that Citi Field food court is pretty dope.

Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?
Favorites: Secret soft spot for Phil Mushnick, to the horror of several of my coworkers. (I'm sorry, I have a thing for curmudgeons!) Honorable mention to the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, who combines a blogger's sensibility and humor with the legitimate work ethic of a "real reporter"—that's the preferred nomenclature, correct?—better than anyone. In the Budweiser Hot Seat: I don't know if I'd ever read a Dan Shaughnessy column before this one, but everything suddenly made sense as soon as I did.

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.
Daulerio, Simmons, Gammons, Reilly (he gets nostalgia points, but little else), Albom, Shaughnessy. That'll teach you to malign the Winter Classic, Dan.


Listen to Katie Baker's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Alex Belth
Bronx Banter's Alex Belth, editor of Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories: Unforgettable Tales from the House That Ruth Built (Varsity Letters in April 2009 (video), October 2010)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Chicago Magazine on street photographer Vivian Maier

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
Richard Deitsch from SI.

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Doc Ellis's beanball tour de force against the Big Red Machine.

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
Zero and zero.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Brett Favre announcing his retirement again.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
37 percent vote. 2 percent are Democrats. 98 percent are Republicans.

In a prior interview with Gelf, Belth answered our Vital Stats questions.


Listen to Alex Belth's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Ben Cohen
Ben Cohen of Deadspin and the Wall Street Journal

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Nick Paumgarten's profile of Mike and the Mad Dog in the New Yorker wasn't published recently—August 2004, actually—but I've read it recently, because I read it all the time.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
After running my favorite follows through a very complex algorithm, one with a lot of big numbers and fancy formulas, I came up with a runaway winner: Nolan Smith. I'm not sure there's anyone who enjoys his Twitter more than I do.

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
The O.J. Simpson trial.

"The best sportswriting is about the people, ideas, and developments that govern the games we watch."—Ben Cohen
In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer? Winners take, right? Then none. But Federer's totally mine, which is to say that he would double-fault once, maybe.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Feb. 3 is a long way off, so who knows what will happen between now and then. Like, it might be pretty embarrassing for Rex Ryan if he joins Quora and no one answers his questions.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
They all do! And they all vote for the best candidate based on the important issues, regardless of party politics, because that's what you're supposed to do.

Also, here are Cohen's answers to our vital stats questions, asked of each Varsity Letters guest:

Whom do you agree with more, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger? (Even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's.)
Oh, the good ol' days, when Bob Costas actually dubbed something called the blogosphere the "Wild West of the Internet." I didn't know this was still actually a debate, but, like Bob, I'll give my last word to Braylon Edwards. Take it away, Braylon! Braylon?

Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?
I'm going to say everything except cheerleading, because I crave their emoticon-laced spam. Bring it on, Kirsten Dunst's character from Bring It On.

Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:
Devils, Nets, Rutgers, and the Yankees. I ditched them all when I went to Duke. Well, not all of them, actually. I still watch the Yankees.

What's your dream sportswriting job?
I'm too embarrassed to tell anyone but the few friends that will humor me.

Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?
The short answer: the same places it is now. A little longer: To me, the best sportswriting is about the people, ideas, and developments that govern the games we watch. Not to say that's an innovative thought, because it's certainly not, but I think it's worth remembering, because I do believe it will dictate sportswriting going forward. There's a certain democratization of sportswriting now—if there's a wonderful story in a campus newspaper, for example, there's nothing stopping me from reading it—but I think the great bulk of these worthwhile, intelligent, humorous pieces will be published in the outlets we all read: national magazines, national newspapers, city and regional magazines, and smart websites. Oh, and probably Tumblr, too.

What's the best sports venue to visit?
Cameron Indoor Stadium, center court, third row behind the scorer's table, standing in front of important people who actually paid to sit down.

Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?
I read, cherish, and respect the same writer's writers as everyone else, but I'll mention three, in particular, especially because they've been so kind to me in the past: Tommy Craggs, who can somehow write long as brilliantly as he does short; Jason Gay, the funniest and best daily columnist in America; and J.R. Moehringer, whose every sentence makes me envious. I don't know if I have a least favorite, because that is a person I just won't bother to read.

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.
A.J. bought me too many bacon-egg-and-cheeses, bodega sandwiches, and slices of Ray's for me to even try to answer this question.


Listen to Ben Cohen's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Joe Drape
Joe Drape of the New York Times, author of Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen (Varsity Letters in December 2009)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Paulick Report

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
@richarddeitsch

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Secretariat winning the Triple Crown

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
17 and zero.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
LeBron/The Decision

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
2 percent vote. None are Democrats. 100 percent are Republicans.

In a prior interview with Gelf, Drape answered our Vital Stats questions.


Listen to Joe Drape's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Jason Fry
Jason Fry, co-blogger at Faith and Fear in Flushing and columnist for the National Sports Journalism Center (Varsity Letters in March 2007, plus appearances at other Gelf events: Media Circus in December 2009 and Geeking Out in January 2010)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
The GQ portrait of A.J. Daulerio was both entertaining and unexpectedly poignant. And if that's not A.J.'s Facebook picture by now, I give up.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
@OGTedBerg is the Man.

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Secretariat at the Belmont. It's pretty transporting even on lousy YouTube video. Runner-up: The "black cat" game between the Mets and Cubs in the '69 stretch run. (But I did see the Grand Slam Single. Woooo!)

"For least favorite, I'm going to say Neanderthal Columnist Who Knows There's No Difference Between What He Does and What That Hotshot Blogger Does, and So Wants the Entire Web to Go Away. Anyone who thinks that was meant for them is correct."—Jason Fry
In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?

Seriously? Zero. You could blindfold them and the result would be the same. You could blindfold them and tie them to each other and the result would be the same. The most athletic thing I do is type and I'm probably not that good at that.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
"Cash is the best general manager in the game. That's why we're completely ignoring his advice and spraying a firehose of money at some infatuation of Hank's." Of course when the Yankees do dumb things and reveal fault lines in their front office, it means they've bought themselves an ace closer to serve as a setup man. And then they talk about sacred obligations. My hatred of them defies description.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
20 percent vote, 1 percent are Democrats, and 99 percent are Republicans.

Also, here are Fry's answers to our vital stats questions, asked of each Varsity Letters guest:

Whom do you agree with more, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger? (Even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's.)
Reductive question. Deadspin itself is on both sides of this supposed debate these days—witness, say, Katie Baker's awesome recent piece on her misspent, misrepresented youth. Actually, that was true of Deadspin even before Costas sicc'ed Buzz on Will, but the lampshade-on-the-head stuff was so new that people didn't notice the other stuff.

Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?
Anything that requires some modicum of athletic skill and can transport you to a place where you deeply care about the outcome is a sport.

Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:
I'm one of the dozen or so biggest Mets fans on the planet. I'm a half-assed Saints fan. Working for MSG this year I've been blindsided by an entirely unexpected interest in the Knicks.

What's your dream sportswriting job?
Co-writing Faith and Fear in Flushing and getting paid for it.

Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?
Same places it is today—here, there and everywhere. Our peers will help us filter and find it. If you want to find great sportswriting, friend its practitioners and fans on Facebook.

What's the best sports venue to visit?
Whatever they're calling the baseball park in San Francisco these days. Actually I don't know if that's true, but I've had tickets to go there like three times and something's always happened, so I'm a little obsessed.

Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?
I love the joy Joe Posnanski brings to every sentence he writes. I love the implacable precision with which Sally Jenkins constructs an argument. I love Tom Boswell's ability to summon up memory and emotion. I love how Bruce Jenkins captures character in a few quick lines.
For least favorite, I'm going to say Neanderthal Columnist Who Knows There's No Difference Between What He Does and What That Hotshot Blogger Does, and So Wants the Entire Web to Go Away. Anyone who thinks that was meant for them is correct.

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.
Gammons, Simmons, Daulerio, Riley, Shaughnessy, Albom.


Listen to Jason Fry's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman, author of Eating the Dinosaur (Varsity Letters in February 2010)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
An animated re-creation of Lyndon B. Johnson ordering pants.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
N/A

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
1954 Cotton Bowl (i.e., Tommy Lewis's tackle of Dickey Moegle)

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
25 points against Kobe. I can't answer the Federer question because you didn't specify grass or clay.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Tiger Woods's life implosion

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
Of the three major American sports, I would estimate less than 20 percent (although perhaps slightly higher in the 2008 election). I have no idea how many hockey players vote in Canadian elections, but I'm guessing 35 percent. Since the athletes who do regularly vote are probably doing so for tax reasons (and since they tend to be very wealthy people), I assume they generally vote Republican. Although I do know of one prominent New York athlete who declared he was voting for a person named "Kerry Edwards" in the 2004 race.

In a prior interview with Gelf, Klosterman answered our Vital Stats questions.


Will Leitch
Will Leitch of New York magazine, author of Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball and God Save the Fan: How Steroid Hypocrites, Soul-Sucking Suits, and a Worldwide Leader Not Named Bush Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports (Varsity Letters in October 2006, March 2007, January 2008, February 2009 (video), and July 2010; Leitch also served as a moderator in November 2008)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Imaginary Lines From an Imaginary 9/11 Sex and the City Episode.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
Spencer Hall

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Ozzie Smith's home run off Tom Niedenfuer to beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
Three and zero.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
I'd have to say that Al Davis showing his gnarled, the-guy-in-RoboCop-after-he-fell-in-the-toxic-waste face a couple of weeks ago would have to be pretty high up there.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
I'd say that of the ones who vote, 60 percent vote Republican. And 11 percent votes. Math!

In a prior interview with Gelf, Leitch answered our Vital Stats questions.


Listen to Will Leitch's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Amy K. Nelson
Amy K. Nelson of ESPN

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
ESPN's Tom Friend on the Oklahoma State basketball team's plane crash, 10 years later.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
@NotWaltFrazier

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Pedro's 17k game

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
None, but my defense would stifle Black Mamba.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Windermere says it all, I think…

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
No idea, gut says Republican.

Also, here are Nelson's answers to our vital stats questions, asked of each Varsity Letters guest:

Whom do you agree with more, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger? (Even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's.)
[No answer.]

Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?
Yes, to all.

Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:
Michigan Wolverines.

What's your dream sportswriting job?
Think I have it…unless we're talking about being assigned to covering Costa Rica fútbol fulltime…

Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?
Internet, where it is now.

What's the best sports venue to visit?
SF Giants ballpark.

Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?
[No answer.]

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.
[No answer.]


Listen to Amy K. Nelson's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Jeff Pearlman
Jeff Pearlman, author of The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality; Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty; and Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero (Varsity Letters in May 2006, October 2008, and June 2009 (video))

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Steve Buckley's amazing Stanley Teevin profile from Boston Magazine (I admit, I have it linked on my site. But it's my favorite story of all time…)

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
Jon Wertheim's tennis Tweets

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Drexel beating Memphis in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament.

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
Zero and zero.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Al Davis's press conference, when his face started falling off.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
I'd say 20 percent. And the divide is probably like this: 97 percent of African-American athletes are Dems; 97 percent of white athletes are Republicans. A disconcerting divide, but true.

In a prior interview with Gelf, Pearlman answered our Vital Stats questions.


Listen to Jeff Pearlman's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Dan Shanoff
Dan Shanoff, founder of Quickish.com and of Varsity Letters (also spoke at Varsity Letters in March 2007)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Ben McGrath in the New Yorker on football's future and the concussion crisis.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
Wired's Erik Malinowski and CNBC's Darren Rovell

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Florida beats Alabama in the 2008 SEC Championship Game

"I love Joe Posnanski's obsessiveness, which he combines with near-complete earnestness. I don't personally care about half the stuff he writes about, yet I inhale it anyway."—Dan Shanoff
In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer? Zero and zero.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Tom Jackson picking the Pats to win, then saying he was only trying to motivate the Jets.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
10 percent, with a relatively even 50/50 split between Ds and Rs.

Also, here are Shanoff's answers to our vital stats questions, asked of each Varsity Letters guest:

Whom do you agree with more, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger? (Even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's.)
Leitch, although I presume Bissinger also now agrees with Leitch, too.

Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?
All, as is billiards, competitive eating, video-gaming, and fantasy sports.

Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:
Growing up: Cubs, Bears, Maryland hoops.
Now: Florida Gators football and basketball.

What's your dream sportswriting job?
Writing a daily national sports column with my quippy opinion about every big topic that fans care about that is read by a ton of people, while getting paid more than enough money to do it. Lucky enough for me, I got to live that job.

Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?
Same as it has for the last 10 years: the web. (And I don't mean print content repurposed on the web; I mean content originally produced and published on and for the Web.)

What's the best sports venue to visit?
Wrigley Field on a Friday afternoon.

Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?
Most, currently: Joe Posnanski, Tommy Craggs, Jeff MacGregor, and Joe Sheehan. I love JoePoz's obsessiveness, which he combines with near-complete earnestness. I don't personally care about half the stuff he writes about, yet I inhale it anyway. No one in sports media packs more wallop than Tommy; his essays make me want to shout "Yes!" Jeff is my idealized version of a sportswriter. And Joe Sheehan isn't just fearless (and rigorous) with his analysis, he has been willing to stake his claim as an entrepreneur, which puts him ahead of 99.9% of sportswriters who have no conception of the in-progress macro shift in the economics of media, sports and otherwise.
Least? Anyone who approaches serving sports fans cynically.

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.
Ha ha: Does anyone answer this question?


Listen to Dan Shanoff's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Emma Span
Emma Span, author of 90% of the Game Is Half Mental: And Other Tales from the Edge of Baseball Fandom (Varsity Letters in April 2010)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
"History Lessons With Bud," from Joe Posnanski.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
There are tons, but @craigcalcaterra, @metsgrrl, @jonahkeri, @KenTremendous, and @jay_jaffe all spring to mind.

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Eddie Gaedel's at-bat for the Browns, preferably from Bill Veeck's box.

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
Please. I couldn't make a basket in that scenario even if Kobe was offering me coaching tips and moral support.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
To pull a Favre is now an expression that means two different things and neither one of them is at all good.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
Fewer than you'd think, less than you'd think, more than you'd think. Taxes and Jesus.

In a prior interview with Gelf, Span answered our Vital Stats questions.


Listen to Emma Span's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011


Sam Walker
Sam Walker, sports editor at the Wall Street Journal and author of Fantasyland: A Sportswriter's Obsessive Bid to Win the World's Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball (Varsity Letters in April 2006)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
Rahm Emanuel's fake Twitter account

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
WSJ's Jason Gay

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Secretariat at the Belmont.

"Against Federer, I'd score six points. Eight years of junior tennis must be good for something."—Sam Walker
In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer? Against Kobe: ZERO. My sixth-grade basketball coach used to laugh at me. He knew it was mean, but he couldn't help himself. Against Federer: Six points. Eight years of junior tennis must be good for something. It would break down thusly: One service ace (I'm probably dreaming, but if I hit it just right…); one unforced error by Fed off one of my serves (he's probably not used to returning balls hit so slowly); one desperate, half-blind serve-and-volley putaway by me; one flailing return winner off Roger's second serve (that just nicks the line); and two uncharacteristic Fed double-faults (boredom will make him sloppy).

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Very recently it was Todd Woodbridge's text about Kim Clijsters. In the last year or so, it's gotta be Tiger's racy texts to… Oh, no. Wow. Really?

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
21 percent vote, and 71 percent are Republican.

Also, here are Walker's answers to our vital stats questions, asked of each Varsity Letters guest:

Whom do you agree with more, Will Leitch or Buzz Bissinger? (Even though these days Buzz is a friend of Deadspin's.)
Neither. I love them both. They should make a baby.

Are the following sports: gymnastics, golf, archery, bowling, cheerleading, weightlifting?
Yes, all.

Favorite teams growing up, and favorites now:
MICHIGAN FOOTBALL. Michigan Football. michigan football.

What's your dream sportswriting job?
Sounds corny, but I have it now.

Where will the best sportswriting be published in 10 years?
The Wall Street Journal, natch.

What's the best sports venue to visit?
My living room. HD beats ticket prices.

Who's your favorite mainstream sportswriter? Least favorite? Why?
No way this answer ends well for me.

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.
Yikes! No comment!


Michael Weinreb
Michael Weinreb, author of Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB, and How the '80s Created the Modern Athlete and Game of Kings: A Year Among the Oddballs and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top HighSchool Chess Team (Varsity Letters in May 2007 and September 2010)

Favorite linkable thing you've read recently?
A.) LBJ buys pants.
B.) Tom Junod on Roger Ailes.

Favorite sports-related Twitter feed to read?
Longreads, if that counts.

Which sports moment in history would you like to have witnessed in person?
Howard Cosell, drunk on Monday Night Football.

In a game of one-on-one to 25 against Kobe Bryant, how many points would you score? How many points would you win in a set against Roger Federer?
This scenario seems highly implausible. Though I once had a dream that I defeated Willie Mosconi in a game of pocket billiards.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to a sports figure recently?
Howard Cosell drunk on Monday Night Football.

What percent of pro athletes vote? What percent are Democrats? Republicans?
37.4 percent. I don't know the percentage of Democrats vs. Republicans, but I hear there are a high number of anarchistic darts pros.

In a prior interview with Gelf, Weinreb answered our Vital Stats questions.


Listen to Michael Weinreb's talk at Varsity Letters on Feb. 3, 2011

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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