Monday, July 7, 2008

Deadspin v. 2.0 Stumbles Out of the Gate

I'm actually a pretty big fan of A.J. Daulerio's. While most folks know him best from some of his long-form performance art at the 2007 Super Bowl, he's actually an excellent writer and knows a hell of a lot about sports. Now that he's in charge over at Deadspin, he'll no doubt be doing more writing and less mascoting, and that will serve the site very well. Upshot: Daulerio was a good choice to succeed Leitch, and I'll continue to read the site.

That said, there were two posts over there today which may make me rethink the previous paragraph.

First, in his introduction post this morning, new Associate Editor Clay Travis -- a lawyer, by the way; we're totally taking over -- says:
I do not like fat girls from Florida with bingo wings, people from Long Island, ‘Bama Bangs, Georgetown University, the major league baseball regular season, goatees, the NFC East, billable hours, old white men who claim that writing about sports is hard, or Jim Rome.
Deadspin is a general sports beat, isn't it? It's not a single-subject thing like this place or a site like Yahoo! where folks have their own particular bailiwick. How on Earth do you get that job if you admit that you hate one of the major sports' regular seasons?

I suppose I can get over that, though, because I happen to know a few places where I can get some decent baseball coverage.

More problematically, in today's Comment Ombudsman piece, Rob Iracane says:
Let me get this right out in the open: new Deadspin editor A.J. Daulerio has granted me the ability to execute commenters, and I am going to take quick advantage of this ability. Mr. Daulerio does not hide behind a folksy, aw-shucks Midwestern sensibility. Rather, he has embraced the dark, cutthroat side of sportsblogging that permits the public humiliation of one's readers. The good news is that I'll be a little more lenient in letting in new commenters, so if you want an invite, send me an e-mail or go ahead and audition below to become a commenter.

Also, my sword will no longer be silent and I will broadcast the news to everyone once you have been killed off. Don't let the Gawker Media technical issues that bewilder us on a regular basis worry you too much; if you have trouble logging in, that doesn't necessarily mean your commenting privileges have been taken away. In fact, if you make duplicate comments about not being able to sign in because of some mythical hamster, I will not just ban you from commenting, I will track you down and slice your Achilles.
That's a rather strange choice considering that as recently as two weeks ago Leitch was defending Deadspin from accusations that its commenters served as a distraction from the site's editorial voice. With the move towards a be-funny-or-die comments section, Deadspin has essentially put its comment threads on equal footing with the actual writing, thereby validating many of the criticisims of the Bissinger/Costas gang. You got a commenter bringing down the discourse? Too bad. You asked for it.

In addition to the move being a bad one, it was poorly executed as well. To wit, note that today's piece still has the old Leitch-penned preamble:
We want the place to continue to be as much fun as it is every day, and it's not an execution thread like our friends at Gawker do. We like to be inclusive here, because if we're not, we'd be forced to rely on our own wit and knowledge, and that's a scary thought indeed.


So, to sum up: Deadspin has essentially pledged to decrease its baseball coverage, to be less inclusive, and to depend on the commenters to perform like trained monkeys under penalty of virtual death.



Osmodious said...

It's almost like their collective reaction to Bissinger's attack is, "Oh yeah, well...we ARE like you accuse. So THERE!" Someday, people will learn that there is a (miniscule) difference between being 'snarky' and outright a-holes.

So I guess I will continue to not read deadspin. Jalopnik and Gizmodo will have to suffice for my daily infusion of 'snarkiness' (and they are pretty weak on the snarkiness, which befits their subjects, which are somewhat less religious than sports).

Oh, and to leave a vestige of a prior regime that contradicts your 'new direction', well, that's just plain stupid (not careless, or silly, or sad, or's stupid).

Peter said...

A lot of the entries on Deadspin are funny and interesting to me, but the commenters strike me as a bunch of people who are trying too hard. This move will make them try even harder.

Pete Toms said...

Isn't so much of the pro / anti sports blogging ( or blogging period ) debate a generational difference in taste?

I don't read Deadspin either but I suspect had I been born 20 years later I would. Ok, I read this blog but you don't find the insults and smarm and "edge" that I think the anti sports blogging folks are opposed to. I don't want to be a "get off my lawn" old guy. I don't think the Deadspin audience are stupid, I just don't really get it. We become our parents.

Ken Dynamo said...

i dont think the hiring/inclusion of travis clay wil really decrease or bias the baseball coverage at deadspin. rich chandler's been posting a lot more since leitch's departure and he is very pro-pro baseball. in fact some would agrue less baseball posts will bring deadspin's coverage more in line with their each sports' respective popularity. plus, its not worth fretting over since, as you point out, there are plenty of places to go on the net for great baseball analysis. deadspin's really just a humor blog that focuses on sports anyway. ive never learned anything useful about baseball from their site.

i have to agree with your opinion on the commenter policy tho, i always thought it was stupid and counter productive. too elitist for their mission statement anyway.

Ken Dynamo said...

er, thats the inclusion of clay travis, not travis clay.

damn southerners and their last names as first names.

tadthebad said...

Craig and/or Ken,

I don't know the site well, so what is it about Deadspin's commenter policy that you are generally opposed to?

Craig Calcaterra said...


They've always had an audition policy, meaning that in order to even be allowed to comment, you have to do some practice comments that only the comments editor -- Rob Iracane, who happens to also write the blog Walkoff Walk -- can see. If you're funny and clever enough, they'll let you comment. If not, sorry, you have to watch the cool kids.

Now it's a step higher. Once you have commenting privileges, Iracane has the prerogative to eliminate them at will. Based on how it works at Gawker and other affiliated sites, that means that if you aren't cool and snarky and funny enough, you're dead.

Which is fine. It's their site and they can do what they want. But as Ken notes, there's quite an elitism there, and it clearly constitutes mission creep from what most websites view as the purpose of a comments page (i.e. to allow readers to comment). Now it's a show, and commenters who are already taken with trying to outdo one another are now doing it under pressure.

Which again, is fine. It's their website. It's just not how I view the purpose of blogs and comments which is to begin and extend conversations about what's going on in the world.

David said...

I gave up on Deadspin when it came out with its first Commentator Manifesto (essentially, if we don't think you're funny, you're out) a few years ago.

mahnu.uterna said...

Gawker Media's major blogs all have cool names that indicate their content: Jalopnik is about cars, Gizmodo is about gizmos, Lifehacker is about lifehacks, etc. Deadspin is about the selective use of propaganda to present a slanted version of events in a way that is unfeeling and incapable of growth. I hear they talk about sports sometimes, too.

tadthebad said...

Got it, thanks.

button hole said...

Sometimes I read Deadspin... then I remember why I hate it when I accidentally click on a comment section. For a site that supposedly serves as an alternative to ESPN, they are exactly what is the worst about ESPN - snarky, embarrasing, annoying tidbits from amateur commentators. It's like the sarcastic, mean-spirited bits of sports center, over and over again. Oh, and plenty of random links to people getting hurt.