Good morning, WFNYers. If you’re anything like me on this lovely Monday morning, you’re rejuvenated and ready to go, having watched no fewer than seven NCAA basketball games over the course of the weekend. This entire tournament has been magnificent theatre. As a sports fans with zero rooting interest in a given game, the way that these kids have battled throughout the course of the last four days has been nothing shy of fascinating—almost enough to completely make me forget about the other basketball being played.
No lead has been safe, major programs are falling left and right. If you thought the way that Texas lost on the half-court heave on Friday was going to be peak March Madness, that bad boy was just the tip of the iceberg. I watched Duke fend off Yale. I watched Miami barely scrape past VCU. UNC thrashed Providence on Saturday night, but Sunday’s slate of Oklahoma (Buddy!!) and VCU, Notre Dame shock Stephen F. Austin , Wisconsin stunning Xavier at the buzzer, and Texas A&M come back from a double-digit deficit with just 30 seconds remaining to top Northern Iowa… an insane day of basketball.
My bracket is in shambles, and I couldn’t care less. Thursday can’t get here soon enough.
Hulk Hogan is $115 million richer. While his keys to success always involved training, prayers, and vitamins, the legendary wrestler’s latest windfall arrived through a combination of on-camera sex and a website that published a snippet of the interactions without his approval. Gawker, the New York-based outlet that is the parent company of Deadspin, claimed that the tape was newsworthy due to Hogan being a public figure and the story being of interest to readers. Hogan, clinging to First Amendment privacy laws, said that had Gawker felt they were being journalistic in their efforts of sharing his private life, they should have at least reached out for comment. After a well-covered trial, and several hours of deliberation, the jury sided with Hogan.
As much as I would have loved for the Web (as personified by Gawker in this instance) to prevail, the outcome wasn’t a surprise. As if it were the late-80s squared circle, Hogan was The Real American; Gawker was the villain du jour—Andre the Giant would be hyperbole; Jake “The Snake” Roberts would be more fitting. Interestingly enough, it’s Hogan’s character which may have gotten him this Hell in a Cell victory. While Gawker claimed that Hogan is a public figure, Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bolea, insisted that the video in question wasn’t of his leg-dropping, spandex-wearing alter ego, but of the actual human being with a family and (former) friends.
The trickle-down effect of this ruling has a host of tentacles. Now, this whole situation is far from over, and Gawker believes they have enough ammunition for a healthy appeal, and it will be a long while before we truly know the outcome,rar but if you listen to Ars Technica, it’s believed that this could be the end of not just Gawker, but digital journalism’s ability to take advantage of its own Amendment—Freedom of the Press.
Like Deadspin and other sites under the Gawker media umbrella, I’ve always appreciated what these outlets stood for. Refusing to play the PR game with teams and player representatives (specific to sports here), there was rarely ever a question regarding the objectivity of their reports. The Manti Te’o story is still one of the more important pieces of sports reporting over the last several years, and it was done by Deadspin. Same for countless other stories which have been linked to around these parts. But in appreciating their approach, I can also admit that even I felt they went to far in a few instances1—celebrity nudes, d-list executives, stadium bathroom sex…the list goes on. But one can simultaneously not defend certain items of content, yet immediately side with the writers and editors during the moments last summer when several members of their masthead resigned after business decisions started to interfere with editorial ones.
It was Gawker/Deadspin’s lack of “discretion” (as it says in their tagline), which has made them such a big player in this web space. As stories need to be told and local folks are forced to worry about teams revoking credentials or disbanding from radio partnerships, it’s these outlets who do the important work in taking the steps that others feel they cannot.
Here’s Luke O’Neil at Esquire putting my thoughts into eloquently constructed words:
Even if you’re inclined to agree, as I do, that the posting of a sex tape against the wishes of the parties involved, even if one of them is a celebrity, is morally reprehensible, and very hard to justify on journalistic grounds, it’s a disquieting feeling finding yourself on the side of MRAs, GamerGate losers, and smarmy listicle peddlers. If all the wrong people hate you, you must be doing something right. And yet it’s possible to arrive at the same destination through significantly different routes. …
If this decision makes an editor think twice about posting the private sex tape of a celebrity, that may be a positive outcome, but if he or she now thinks twice about reporting on the unethical behavior of a public figure in general, then we’re no longer talking about journalism anymore, we’re talking about a vast landscape of public relations and promotional entertainment.
Due to the hero-villain parallels, and the way this case played out in public with Gawker doubling down on their position before things really came to a front, it’s easy to take the schadenfreude angle, applauding Hogan without thinking of the residual impact of the ruling. I was screaming from the e-mountain tops a few summers back when everyone in the city of Cleveland refused to report out the Davone Bess situation. Yet, it wasn’t until it was too late and the player was arrested in an airport when reports of mental illness and the Miami Dolphins trading the wide receiver with knowledge of such that things started to bubble up. While George Kokinis is still cloaked in mystery, I don’t believe we’ve heard the end of the Alec Scheiner story. But I do know that if we’re ever going to find out more, it’ll be from outlets like Gawker or Deadspin.
As O’Neil said best, if all the wrong people hate you, you must be doing something right.
Speaking of journalism, Bill Simmons’ latest podcast guest is FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer. Glazer talks about his life covering the NFL, what it’s like to be a one-man wrecking crew, and how you have to break stories that people may not be too happy about once the information is made public. The entire podcast is a must-listen if only for the story about when he almost fought Peyton Manning in Las Vegas (around the 35-minute mark), but my favorite line transcends all professions and hobbies:
“We grind and we grind. We outwork the world… Nobody gets lucky. We outworked everybody and put ourselves in the right place at the right time.”
Glazer is now mostly known as the barrel-chested bald dude on Sunday mornings, but listening to him describe how he got to where he is today is fascinating front to back.
Speaking of “outworking the world,” here’s this week’s #ActualSportswriting:
“Drew Brees has a dream he’d like to sell you” by Mina Kimes (ESPN The Magazine): “Chavez, who lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona, sat in the crowd when Brees spoke three years ago. He had been reluctant to fly to Texas for the event, which cost $119, but he says his superiors pushed him to make the trek. ‘They told me, “Put it on your credit card. If your family doesn’t support you, go anyways,”‘ he says. Friends and family members who raise questions about AdvoCare are labeled “dream killers” by other salespeople, according to several distributors. By 2013, Chavez had spent three years trying to build an AdvoCare business. He had taken out a loan on his 401(k) and quit his government job, dropping $15,000 on products that he struggled to sell.”2
“The Fall of Johnny Football” by Emily Kaplan (MMQB): “With a post-rehab glow and Scott at the helm, coaches noticed Manziel was studying the playbook more. Teammates noticed he was drinking less. By July, coaches and friends had the sense that Manziel had his life under control. By the end of the summer, Scott had been dismissed. By midseason, the quarterback had fallen back into old habits. It’s a familiar pattern: Manziel straddles the line between becoming the professional football player many believe he can be, and the kid from Kerrville who can’t help but sabotage himself.”3
“Once hands off, sense of urgency now drives Phil Jackson” by Ramona Shelburne (ESPN): “Whatever nostalgia may have been conjured up by seeing Bryant and the coach with whom he won five NBA titles in the same basketball arena one last time before Bryant retires was just a fleeting emotion. Mentally and spiritually, Bryant has already moved on and is just trying to enjoy his final 15 games for what they are. Jackson is the one in transition, metaphorically and existentially as he sat above the Knicks’ bench but still with the Lakers in the field of view.”4
“No Country For Old LeBron” by Jason Concepcion (The Ringer): “This is a lesser LeBron we’re watching. His 3-point shooting has been worsening since the 2012-13 campaign. This season, he’s posting his lowest free-throw rate (.354) since his rookie season. And he takes off more plays on defense than ever. Is this the great decline? Who knows, maybe he’ll turn on the afterburners in the postseason. One thing’s for sure, though: Father Time has more rings than anyone.”5
And finally, I’m not sure what it is about this commercial, but I really dig it. Whether it’s the March Madness-April angle or the lines that the kids deadpan throughout, but the “art school” hammer is great. Well done, Buffalo Wild Wings.