Without Access, Favor, or Discretion
A eulogy for the last good site on the internet
I’ve cried twice since the news broke: once while listening to the final episode of the Deadcast, and then again this morning as I read through some of the other writeups around the web. And I’m sort of crying now as I type, so maybe we’re at 2.5.
I keep telling myself this isn’t about me, that I didn’t lose my job, and so I didn’t really earn these feelings. But then, I think it sort of is about me. Without being overly dramatic, Deadspin made me. I started reading in high school, around 2011. And I read it regularly, up through 30 October 2019. What happened over the course of those eight years? Not too much. I grew up, went to college. I had my own political awakening. I realized I was gay. Fascism came back into fashion, but then so did socialism. I started my PhD in sport history. The world caught on fire — or rather, we all acknowledged that it had been on fire for some time. And through it all, Deadspin was there. It grew up with me.
I was too young to have been part of the earliest, wildest days of the site. But I feel confident that was there for its best days. For all the goofiness the Deadspin folks would churn out, they became a serious, influential voice — at least in my corner of the world. Deadspin taught me how to think critically about sport. They taught me that it was okay to love it, but I still had to pay attention to the larger game outside the game. They taught me sport wasn’t escapism, that it could never be. It was too tied into the rest of modern life, and so we couldn’t handle it with kid gloves. Deadspin gave me the tools that would allow to me follow the career path I am (into another dying industry, how ironic). But more importantly, reading that site made me a better person. I was pretty shitty as a 16-year-old. And maybe I’m not great now, but I think I’m much better than I was. Deadspin made me more empathetic; they expanded my worldview; they forced me to learn about labor and power and showed me how to question the narrative.
I wanted to write for Deadspin so, so bad. Not as a staffer — though I did send in a resume and cover letter at one point. I mostly just wanted to see my name on the same page as that iconic teal logo, to be able to say that I now gave back to the same project that was so formative for me. I wanted to be counted among those I considered the sharpest of sports critics. Twice, I was close. Out of the dozens of pitches I sent in, two were accepted, written, and edited before being derailed by changes in leadership at the site. One of those, I had to skip class, borrow a car, and drive through a snowstorm to conduct some interviews for it. But the potential of finally making it to Deadspin easily outweighed the dangerous conditions. I think I was getting better too, or at least getting closer to wearing Roth down enough that he would eventually publish me just to stop the deluge of shaky pitches. But it looks like the clock’s run out. Oh well.
This subculture of critical sports voices has been absolutely decimated over the past few years. Vice Sports is gone. Free Darko is gone. Bob Ley has been put out to pasture. SI is a husk. Zirin is just one man. ESPN, The Athletic, and the rest of the access-driven sports media mainstream has shown time and time again they’re unable to hold anyone in power accountable. It was just Deadspin, and now they’re gone, too. There’s no one left to monitor the halls of power. Sure, the writers and editors of Deadspin aren’t dead — they’ll still be out there somewhere, hopefully carrying on the spirit of the site. But that collection of voices, with that specific mandate, is gone, and it would be awful hard to recreate in this environment.
And all this because rich people can’t be happy just fucking off to their private islands or mountain compounds and let the rest of us scrape by — they feel the need to destroy anything that might bring joy or enlightenment to the masses along the way.
Anyway, here’s a roundup of more eloquent takes. Never stick to sports. Deadspin forever.