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.