Wednesday, November 10, 2010


"The second you put anything out anywhere, someone out there immediately hates you." -Will Leitch

That is more than likely a misquote. I tried really hard to remember the exact wording, but it was strikingly similar to the feeling of trying to remember dreams after you wake up. It was just kind of blurry despite the fact that I was so focused in. I was doing my best job observing every hiccup, clothing imperfection, speech stutter, and patch of wayward facial hair that I could to cement in my mind what a famous writer looks like.

Will Leitch likes to talk a lot.

Now, given Classic Brian's typical audience, most of you probably don't know who Will Leitch is. I say he's famous, yet you've never heard of him. Put two and two together? The dude's a sports writer. And a symbol of innovation in the sports writing business. Basically he started sports blogging. is his doing, and that was the first successful attempt to fuse written sports news and true sports fan opinion. The difference between this and your typical sports column? They dressed as the news, breaking stories and such, but delivered it in a conversational and human form. Like the guy at the bar who knows more than everyone else, but eloquent and legitimate. Usually.

Anyway, I heard that he would be guest-speaking for our sports journalism class oh, about two months ago. At the time I was scrounging to remember who the guy was. Ah, yes, the Deadspin guy. That tiny scrap of excitement snowballed over the next two months to the point where this week that was the one thing I was looking forward to. Hell, if I didn't get to see all of you for Thanksgiving it'd probably constitute the highlight of my month (Fact: that made 95% of my readers happy. I love Denmark!). (November sucks.)

I've always had a thing with famous people. Being in Springfield, I was away from anybody who did cool shit with their life. (I wasn't so desperate as to freak out that Legally Blonde 2 shot a bunch of scenes in Springfield, but nonetheless I was somewhere between there and apathy) I used to go up to Packers training camp as a kid and be enamored by the athletes. Even the shitty ones. The ones who I knew were going to get cut and forgotten by everybody, even the Packers' trainer caught my eye and had to ask me twice if I was sure I wanted his autograph. Hell yeah I did, Pepper Burress. I guess it's something that stems from the attention they get. If someone who has been paid attention to simultaneously by thousands of people is devoting their attention to solely me, if only for a moment, I become important. That's why half of people get Twitter–to tirelessly try and grab the attention of someone who matters. But today I got to do that with a famous writer. A guy who used to want to do what I want to do, and now he does what I want to do! Crazy!

So, the guy likes to talk. He likes to write too, but he's not very good at writing, he should stick to talking. (Just joking, that's a little inside joke Will and I have) He talked to us about him, he talked to us about them, and he talked to us about us. We covered all bases there, pretty much.

First of all, I don't think it's in my head. Famous people are brighter than normal people. I don't mean more intelligent, I mean they emit light energy better than pedestrian humans like you and I do. He walks into the room and its immediately obvious that he's the guy who we're going to want to listen to for the next hour and a half. Then he starts talking, and it's obvious that he's the guy that we're GOING to listen to for the next hour and a half. For instance, I asked Mr. Leitch if he reads a newspaper (it made sense in conversation, I think), and eight minutes later he arrived at the conclusion that the decline of the newspaper industry WASN'T because of bad journalism or the rise of the internet rather than it was the simple lack of advertising stability. Yeah.

Will started at the University of Illinois. He wanted to be Roger Ebert. He's not, but he's doing his thing. He got involved with several different writing outlets, one and most notably of which was a blog he started with his friends (DID YOU HEAR THAT GUYS? WE'RE ON OUR WAY!). Somewhere in there he started writing about sports instead of movies. He used the internet as a tool to expose himself (as a writer, not like Greg Oden or Brett Favre) to a bunch of different possible employers. And back then (way back, like in 2005), it was innovative. Neat! The question is, that won't work for writers today. And you're right, that wasn't a question. Exactly my point. Today you have to write in thousands of places and make great friends with every person in a higher position than you and you have to break an astounding news story every month and you have to simultaneously write a story, make a podcast of it, video tape a YouTube video and opine about it, tweet it, Facebook it, e-mail it, have a chat discussion about it and write a rap song about it all at the same time. It is becoming exponentially harder to fill in what few niches haven't been filled in yet. I figure it's best to quit college and jump right in as soon as I think of a good one. But maybe not really.

Going back to the quote I used to lead off this post, public people have to have thick skin. People are assholes and love to prove it. In fact, if I wasn't close friends with 80% of our readers and distant acquaintances with the other 20%, I'm sure it'd be impossible for me to post anything without getting lambasted and torn to shreds by some asshole who knows more than I do. But then again, just saying that makes me some asshole who knows more than he does. If you're writing an opinion piece, you can't make everybody happy. You can't make music without someone saying it sucks. You can't make a movie without someone saying it's not that great. You can't make a joke without someone thinking it's very un-funny. And usually that person is Tynan Shevlin, but at least he picks his spots.

What did I learn today? Not much. I discussed a lot of things that I wanted to discuss. I got a happy earful (why does that sound so gross?) from somebody who is well-known, and I got a renewed hope that maybe I can make it as a writer. Why? Because by the end of the chat, Mr. Leitch seemed more like a Will. He thinks Reilly stinks now just like I do, he loves Simmons but gets tired of how predictable he is from time to time, he appreciates a good joke and Buzz Bissinger told him he was full of shit on live television and he hasn't even YouTubed the clip. He's busy, he's happy, and most importantly, he does what he wants. He doesn't mail it in when writing about certain things because he doesn't have to write about that. He's got his niche, and that's all he needs to worry about. I just hope there's room for more than one person of that nature in the journalism stratosphere.

So what is the point of this post? Oh, I don't know. To exalt, perhaps. I had a good day. I met an interesting person. I met someone who was in my shoes once and now he wears the shoes that I want to wear myself at some point. Maybe I'll get there someday, but if I want to, I'll have to find a different path than the one he's taken. Well, I might have to.

We don't know what the future holds, but we're pretty damn excited about it.

--Eliot Sill


  1. I watched that video. Leitch seems like a really smooth tool with a great vocabulary. I scanned Deadspin (briefly, so I could be missing out on a lot of good stuff), but from what I saw, I'm definitely on Bissinger's side. If I can access this ( as a follow up on this front page video (, I'm a little disgusted. That's not journalism at all. That's a drunk friend sharing a story with a drunk friend at a bar. Not like that's illegal in any way, but it absolutely should not call itself journalism.

    A lot of the rest of what I saw was almost as bad. Deadspin pries way too deep on matters of little to no significance. It's fun to talk about Becky sleeping with Bobby, but I don't think it should be put on the public forum. It's one thing to be cruel to a reputation if it's news that people need to know about, like the Michael Vick thing, and another if you're just being a dick for attention, or "to build a readership."

  2. Leitch is no longer The Guy at Deadspin as of I don't know how long ago. It's just what made him famous. The guy who runs it now has less inhibitions as to what is news and what is a lapdance at a Cowboys game. If you want some of Leitch's current work? His tumblr account is a better starting point rather than a website he used to work for. Leitch at his core is a writer, not a picture snapping gossiper like a TMZ of sports.

    He told us that he has become less involved with the site since the current editor conferred with him as to whether or not they should run a story that was borderline and the editor did so anyway in spite of Will's recommendation to not run it because Will saw it as purely a ploy for page views. Him and Bissinger e-mail back and forth occasionally and its a running joke that they want to move that fight further down their obituaries, its paragraph four on bissinger's and paragraph two on will's. Will cited Friday Night Lights (a Bissinger book) as one of his all time favorites. He wasn't just seizing the opportunity to act above somebody of higher stature like it may seem, he was just wary that he didn't have a Pulitzer Prize to fall back on if he's in a viral video being a huge asshole.

    I met the guy, he's not a tool at all. He's actually overflowing with personality. I may be biased, but I also may just have a better idea of him than you do at this point.