Deadspin is easily my least favorite website that I regularly visit.
They’re the sports wing of the Gawker empire and a frustrating, mean-spirited, unambitious web site that does more to poison online discussion about sports than to advance it.
Let’s break down its tagline, “Sports News without Access, Favor, or Discretion,” word for word, and see how truthful it is.
Okay, this is mostly true. I’d estimate that 90-95% of the articles that hit the front page are about sports, or at least people in sports.
But pretty frequently they’ll write or link to something that has absolutely nothing to do with sports. They have recurring features about food called “Foodspin,” which gives us such mind-rotting turds as “36 Cheap American Beers, Ranked.” Listen, I like cheap beer, and even I felt like I gained nothing from the three minutes I spent reading that.
And then sometimes they link to things they just think are funny. Pictures or videos that have nothing to do with sports. Or write overlong, unfunny “mailbag” posts.
I don’t intrinsically reject Deadspin’s attempts to write about stuff other than sports. Grantland, one of my favorite and one of the most popular sites about sports, writes about pop culture as much as sports.
What I reject is the laziness and the disorginazation with which it writes about stuff other than sports. Their more successful spinoffs than Foodspin have a purpose — The Stacks and Regressing look at sports through classic journalism and statistics, respectively.
If you’re going to position yourself as a Sports News site, then stick with it and don’t waste our time with funny pictures you found on Reddit.
Haha. Yeah right.
Probably a quarter of the posts I see on the site are legitimately news. Most of them are re-posted bits of content from other websites or complaints about athletes or media.
Other times, their spin on “news” is interpretation about why something is (or, more often, isn’t) important. I don’t actually mind these types of post, like the one near the top of the site today: “The NCAA-Killing Lawsuit Might Finally Be Here.” At least this is engaging my brain cells in some capacity, and has to do with sports news.
Then again, the other popular posts today are “How to Win a Swearing Contest,” a Vine of a 300-pound athlete running a relay race, and a video of NBA 2K14.
I’m not 100% sure exactly what they mean in this context, but I think the site is playing off of the idea of news sources claiming to offer “full access” to a story.
It seems kind of weird part of a tagline for a web site that received a Hall of Fame ballot to submit to Cooperstown and occasionally get interviews with real athletes and sports celebrities.
This is the least true word in their tagline.
Without favor? Deadspin loves some things and hates many more. They love athletes with an SAT-level vocabulary who use profanities and don’t have much of a filter. Chris Kluwe and Richard Sherman, for example. They hate famous, influential sportswriters like Bill Simmons and Rick Reilly. They love buzzer beaters (as do I). They hate Tim Tebow and ESPN and Brett Favre.
Basically all the site does is favor and unfavor things.
Definitely true. For starters, read about everything I’ve complained about so far in this post.
But it goes beyond that. For a site largely about sports, they spend an awful lot of time complaining about sports. It just comes across as mean-spirited and counterproductive. I’m not saying they need to be all sunshine and smiles, but I click away from Deadspin disappointed every time how little they actually contributed to conversation.
Their original pieces of real journalism do tend to be thought out and compelling, but few and far between. It’s actually disappointing that the site has demonstrated such thorough journalism while putting it to practice so rarely. (The Columbia Journalism Review published a great article discussing this.)
But even these impressive pieces can be reckless and lacking discretion. The Te’o article more or less stated point blank that Te’o perpetrated the hoax himself — through an interviewee. Since then, almost every piece of evidence has pointed to Te’o being a snookered idiot and shameless exaggerator, but not a mastermind of an excessive hoax. Yet Deadspin has left the quote untouched. (American Circus wrote an article considering this point.)
They Know It
The craziest part to me is that, pretty much to a T, they proudly proclaim all of these things are true. Here’s a quote from an interview with Deadspin writer Jack Dickey:
I think the tagline is a little bit of a joke to us now, because we occasionally have access like if we want to do a story with access, we don’t have a ton of trouble getting it. We have a ton of favor for [laughs] a number of our…we have particular team allegiances. We will write about them in such a fashion. And discretion, we have some, not much, [laughs] but just a little bit. I think we have that tagline basically to say a big part of our job is to hold the mainstream sports media accountable. A lot of the time, that winds up just being like calling out ESPN when they’re perpetuating some silly narrative about something, or over‑covering something that most sports fans don’t care about, like Tim Tebow, but occasionally we can challenge them on a more substantial basis, like we did with this.
I’ll cut myself off here because I could probably rant for another 750 words. I just want to convey that Deadspin rubs me the wrong way in just about every possible way. They have a bad attitude to the point that I wonder if they even like sports. The site often comes across as lazy and rehashing and whiny. They waste space with non-sports content. And their flashes of compelling work ultimately come across as frustrating.
I guess I just don’t get it.
…But as I led the article with, I still check the site regularly. It’s because the site, for all its flaws, has its ear to the ground for click-worthy sports stories and gossip, even if they spend half their time just complaining about it.
(Unfortunately, the far superior and funnier and more substantial sports media criticism site Fire Joe Morgan — run by Parks and Rec runner Michael Schur! — folded in 2008.)