Tag Archives: Deadspin

Deadspin As Obsessed As Ever with Jason Whitlock

When the news broke that Jason Whitlock’s departure from ESPN was official, I checked out Deadspin to see what snarky comment they would have on it, but there was nothing. A day later, still nothing. I thought this odd, since I had previously written about their apparent obsession with the erstwhile Undefeated editor-in-chief, but the other shoe dropped today when they posted a 3,800 word rant from their resident Whitlockologist, Greg Howard.

I have written before that I find Deadspin’s obsession with Jason Whitlock to be confusing. I mean, he is fairly well known among sports writers but he is far from a household name. Yet they seemed to go to great lengths to critique his management of the Undefeated and leak all sorts of private correspondence and documents. This latest article seems to take that obsession to a whole other level.

Jason Whitlock has claimed that much of the writing about him attributed to Greg Howard has actually been written by some of the more senior writers at Deadspin, but after reading this most recent article I find that hard to believe. From my experience reading Deadspin, the longstanding writers, while blunt, if not at times cruel, often have at least a hint self-deprecation. The writer of this article takes himself extremely seriously.

This article, on the other hand, seems to border on being unhinged. An article that is ostensibly about ESPN’s and Jason Whitlock’s troubles with launching The Undefeated spirals off in all directions, calling George W. Bush a war criminal, Kevin Johnson a corrupt sexual harasser, and taking some shots at Grantland as well as numerous ESPN personalities. In between all these attacks are heaping amounts of fawning praise for the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic. I am not necessarily disagreeing with the criticisms or praise of these people, but cramming it all into a single article about ESPN’s difficulty in launching The Undefeated adds a shrill tone to the writing.

I read Jason Whitlock’s articles, but I understand much of the criticism of him, and even agree with some of it. But this article lost all credibility when the author said that “he went on PTI and spoke at length about the importance of isolating women from their friends and families while dating”. First of all, the format of PTI prevents anyone from speaking at length about anything. There is only a minute or so for each topic and there are two hosts, so each host only get about 30-40 seconds to speak on the subject. Second of all, the comment that he is referring to was a failed attempt at humour and Whitlock went on Twitter shortly thereafter to explain himself and apologize. Someone who is not familiar with Jason Whitlock and didn’t see that PTI segment would come away with impression that he really does support isolating women from their friends and family, which the author of this article knows is not true.

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms you make about this guy out there, but to twist a failed joke like this indicates that this article was written with malice. The only real objective criticism of Jason Whitlock in this article was the point about him just being a standalone writer for twenty years and not having management experience. That is valid and instructive. The best writers may not make the best managers or editors. Those kind of criticisms have more value than misrepresenting a bad joke.

I like Deadspin. They are irreverent and from time to time they produce some great examples of investigative sports journalism. But I can’t help but feel like there is some sort of untold story about why they are so focused on Jason Whitlock.

Why is Deadspin so Fixated on Jason Whitlock?

Last week, Deadspin published a 10,000 word article on Jason Whitlock and the website that he is supposed to be creating for ESPN, “The Undefeated”. If you would prefer a short executive summary, it is essentially just a detailed explanation as to why the author believes Mr. Whitlock is an incompetent, egomaniacal buffoon, supplemented with some leaked e-mail correspondence between him and one of the writers working for him as well as a copy of his so-call playbook, which lays out his philosophy for him website. After the article, Deadspin had a Whitlock-focused podcast. This isn’t the first time Deadspin or this author has written about Jason Whitlock. Last year, the same author wrote a rather critical account of his discussions with Mr. Whitlock about potentially writing for his site.

What is curious about Deadspin’s criticism of Jason Whitlock is that much of it centers on how he holds himself in such high regard, even going so far as to include inspirational quotes from himself in his playbook. I will admit that it takes an ego of a rare size to quote oneself, but the fact that they are spending 10,000 words on Jason Whitlock and his website that doesn’t yet exist seems to suggest that Deadspin considers him to be a very important and famous person. Deadspin probably doesn’t like anything I write either, but they’ve never even made mention of me even though I have a fully functioning website. I can only hope that one day Deadspin will deem me important enough to warrant a 10,000 word article.

I find this topic particularly interesting because I read pretty much everything by Deadspin and Jason Whitlock. Many of Deadspin’s criticisms of Mr. Whitlock are valid. Aside from the previously mentioned practice of quoting oneself, he frequently uses examples from TV shows, particularly The Wire, when discussing societal issues. In an article from June, 2014 on Fox Sports, he even admitted that his “full enlightenment” regarding male homosexuality didn’t occur until viewing the character of Omar in The Wire. As a Canadian, I myself was taken aback when Mr. Whitlock suggested that one of the reasons why Cleveland might want to trade Andrew Wiggins was due to a perception by “smart basketball people” that Canadian athletes might not “want it as much” as American and even European players, even though anyone familiar with the sport of hockey would know that Canadian athletes routinely play though injuries that would sideline a Game of Thrones character for a month. Though he was passing along a perception from others, I would question just how smart those people are who held those kinds of perceptions of Canadian athletes.

That being said, Jason Whitlock is without question someone who regularly writes thought provoking columns and isn’t afraid to take controversial opinions on issues. As a black man, he often takes positions that are unpopular with large segments of the African American community, none more so than his criticisms of the rap music. While Deadspin likes to be controversial, they rarely take positions that would make their base of supporters uncomfortable. For all his flaws, Jason Whitlock will write things that infuriate both the left and the right; Deadspin will never alienate their left wing, sports hipster base.

Before you shed too many tears for Jason Whitlock over his treatment at the hands of Deadspin, I should point out that he has his own history of unfairly targeting someone. For years, Jason Whitlock mercilessly attacked the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, Scott Pioli. Mr. Whitlock spent many years as a sports writer in Kansas City, and he frequently devoted his Fox Sports columns to railing against the Mr. Pioli. His attacks were not simply against his personnel moves; they were deeply personal. He often used inside stories about how he dealt with his employees, and much like Deadspin’s criticism of him, focused on his inflated ego. He even went so far as to refuse to refer to him by his real name, calling him instead Scott Egoli. Perhaps the best explanation for Deadspin picking on Jason Whitlock is simply karma.