The smart, honest (and a little snarky) sphere of Jared Dubin
A series of interesting conversations with interesting people.
Jared Dubin is a freelance sports writer and lawyer based out of New York City. We caught up with Jared to chat about his path to becoming a full-time writer, how he decides what topics to write about, why the Knicks are such a mess, and what he’s been reading and finding interesting lately.
You are a lawyer and writer. What came first? And how have you managed to combine the two?
I started writing while I was in law school. I’d never actually written anything other than essays for exams throughout high school and college but I always did well with those so the transition was a bit more natural than it might’ve been otherwise. The impetus for my actually starting to write about sports was the NBA lockout that took place the summer between my 1L and 2L years. None of my friends wanted to talk to me about basketball while it was going on, so I started my own site to write about what I was thinking. Things just kind of took off from there.
When I got out of school, I did contract work as a foreclosure mediator for a while. That was incredibly boring and the scheduling was somewhat irregular so I went to work for a legal recruiter for a while before eventually deciding to write full-time. I wouldn’t so much say that I have combined the two vocations as I have used some of the skills that I learned in law school to enhance my writing. I took a class called Persuasion where all we did was write a five-page persuasive essay every week and then discuss them in class. It’s probably the single most helpful class I’ve taken at any level of school. Thanks for that, Professor Newman. I suppose I also use what I learned in law school to help write about things like collective bargaining and legal issues that players face when they get into trouble off the field.
You primarily write about sports, but have you ever considered writing about another topic or area of interest? If so, what would it be?
I’ve always wanted to write about TV and movies, but there are so many good pop culture writers out there right now that it’s a little intimidating. I’d have to have a really strong opinion on something that I hadn’t seen anybody else talk about if I were going to actually wade into those waters. I have considered writing about politics as well, especially in recent months. Like everyone, I have a lot of thoughts on the state of political discourse in the country and the world; but right now I mostly fire them off in snarky tweets that don’t actually help. I know that venturing into those conversations can bring vitriol my way in the form of comments and Twitter mentions, but I’m considering doing it anyway because I feel like there are topics and angles that are being under-discussed.
How do you decide what’s worthy of covering?
A number of ways. If there’s a question I have that doesn’t have an immediately apparent answer and I have to research it in order to find one, that’s probably worth writing about. If there’s a topic of national discussion that I have a different spin on than the one that’s being thrown around, that’s worth writing as well. Any kind of news event that has a big impact on the leagues I cover is always worthy of being explored, especially if I can find an unexpected angle from which to tackle it. A lot of it really boils down to something along the lines of, “What do I want to read about right now that I haven’t yet seen anyone else write the definitive take on?”
The Knicks are famous for being…well…kind of a mess. If you could give the Knicks front office some advice, what would it be?
Stop pretending that you’re special and just be a normal basketball team for like five minutes.
You regularly contributed to Grantland. What was it like to write for such a respected publication during its heyday?
Like everyone else that worked at or contributed to Grantland, I have only good things to say about the site and the people that worked for it. It was, of course, a surreal honor to share internet real estate with so many of my favorite writers — Grantland hosted the work of my favorite writer on just about every subject — and it was equally wonderful to work with such excellent editors. Everything the former staffers say about what a great group of people they worked with is 100 percent true, and in particular, the New York branch of the staff (they’re the ones I know best because I’m based in New York as well) was extraordinarily welcoming to freelancers like myself as well.
What NBA rules would you like to see changed?
I’d like to see the NBA eliminate the age limit and let players enter the league whenever they want. It’d also be nice if the owners stopped trying to “fix” the “problem” of stars leaving their home team. They get these guys under team control for 5–9 years guaranteed. If they want to leave after that, they should be allowed to do so. Also, every “solution” the owners come up with always backfires. In the 2011 CBA, they accidentally eliminated the motivation for any star-caliber player to sign an extension, which guaranteed they’d hit unrestricted free agency. And we’re already seeing the effect the new super-max contracts from the 2016 CBA are having.
There are a lot of sports out there that get little to no coverage. What sport, in your opinion, is the most underappreciated?
It boggles my mind how little coverage soccer gets relative to how popular it is.
What teams do you most admire, be it NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, etc. and why?
The Spurs and the Patriots are the best-run organizations in sports and it’s not all that close. Both have stability at the owner, coach, and management levels; and the people in those jobs all have humility, flexibility, and a willingness to accept new ideas. As a rule, they seek out inefficiencies in the market, value development at every level of the organization, appropriately balance present and the future contention, and operate with an apparent knowledge of the fact that they don’t actually know everything.
What have you been finding interesting lately / what have you been saving and recommending about recently?
I usually read about and recommend articles relating to the NBA, the NFL, the Yankees, the Rangers, the Miami Hurricanes, Manchester City, politics, tech, popular entertainment, and media. Looking through my recent recommendations I really enjoyed this piece on Donald Glover by Lacey Rose in the Hollywood Reporter; this MLB.com piece by David Adler on Yankees starter Sonny Gray’s varied pitching repertoire; Kate Knibbs’ Ringer story on how the internet is built for advertisers, not readers; Ben Thompson’s Stratechery piece on Apple’s business strategy; Ryan Bradley’s New York Times story on dialect coaches; this ode to Mad Men’s role in creating today’s Peak TV universe by Alan Sepinwall at Uproxx; former NBA executive Ben Falk’s piece on inefficiencies at his blog, Cleaning the Glass; Jack Schafer’s exploration of Fox News at Politico; Allison P. Davis’ New Yorker profile of the actress Natalie Morales; David Wasserman’s examination of statistical congressional district bias at FiveThirtyEight; Rob Mahoney’s piece at Sports Illustrated on Klay Thompson; Ira Broudbay’s story at Bloomberg Businesweek on NBA players investing in startups; and Elle Reeve’s stirring documentary on Charlottseville and race at VICE.
What are your go-to places — sites, apps, people, etc — for finding new stories to read and watch in Pocket?
I live in New York, so I spend a lot of time on the subway. I usually scroll through Twitter while I’m riding, saving articles to read later on because the subway doesn’t have internet for the most part. I also get the SportsREDEF, MediaREDEF, TechREDEF, and NextDraft newsletters.
If you had the chance to escape and read all of your current Pocket saves where would you go to do it?
I’ve never been to Italy, but I’ve always wanted to go. I feel like going there to just ready a bunch of articles online would be a waste, but the question doesn’t say I just have to sit in a room so I’m bringing my phone around with me and reading while I travel from place to place in Italy.
Who would you want to see us interview next?
This is obviously unrealistic, but I desperately want to know what President Obama is reading these days.
Follow Jared on Pocket to find more of what’s he’s been reading and recommending on the quiet corner of the internet.