Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That Book-Leg Guy: "God Save the Fan" by Will Leitch

I first discovered Deadspin during a week-long stay with the in-laws in Ogden, Utah over Thanksgiving 2005. I'm pretty sure I finished the entire internet during that debacle of a holiday break, in which my mother-in-law sent us a bill for the food she served. Anyways, that was just before Deadspin blew up HUGE.

Today, it's one of the most irreverent, insanely popular sports sites on the net. Editor Will Leitch bills it as "Sports News without Access, Favor or Discretion" and, yes, that about covers it. So, it comes as no surprise that what started out as something of an underground resistance towards the continued ESPNification of sports has joined forces with a major book publisher to make a buck or two-hundred for, ostensibly, "the little website that could".

Checking in at just under 300 pages, I started and finished the book over a few days during last week's stay in San Francisco.

What Aaron Liked: Leitch breaks his subject matter into four parts ("Players", "Owners", "Media" and "Fans"), then writes dozens of smaller essays under and about each one. It's the very definition of an easy read, as even the material that doesn't click isn't long enough to annoy (for the most part). Even though Leitch admits he's screaming to an empty room, his breakdown of the MLB/NFL steroid double-standard is absolutely on point. Equally insightful – albeit, obvious – is his piece on homophobia (Kordell Stewart! Mike Piazza! Others!) which really cuts to the inherent absurdity of jock culture. Leitch really lets the owners have it – highlighted by an essay entitled "Peter Angelos Kills Kittens and Is Trying to Sleep with Your Mother". Even better are the pages dedicated to a night at Yankee Stadium. The book finishes with a terrific "glossary" section that defines the fanbase of every MLB, NFL and NBA team (sample: "Hawks, Atlanta: For years, thought the old logo was Pac-Man and never understood why.")

What Aaron Didn't Like: I was surprised that the sections on fans and the media were so damn flat, considering Deadspin's mission statement. Most of the media essays are the same "I hate ESPN" opinions held by all the people who still watch it, anyway. Leitch's "Clockwork Orange" experiment – in which he watches 24 straight hours of ESPN's family of networks – is cringingly unfunny. Along the same lines, the piece on's Peter King and how King "…got exactly what he deserved" when another website posted pictures of King's college-aged (and inebriated) daughter is simply indefensible. The "fans" segment is a little better, but still reads a lot like some guy projecting (actually, cramming) his sanctimonious preaching down my pie-hole.

Steal, Borrow or Buy It? I've recommended Deadspin to several friends only to come to the conclusion that you either "get it" or you don't. An easy recommendation if, like me, you hit up the site daily. Leitch's quips of criticism get a little redundant and the author doesn't exactly convince me that stuff like Ben Roethlisberger's drinking is "news", but any book I can start, read and finish entirely in my hotel bathroom is worth $24.95, retail. Buy.

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