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Well, I just read that Will Leitch is quitting his baby at Deadspin.

And for what? A contributing editor’s position at New York magazine.

I can’t say I understand that guy. Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely have nothing bad to say about Will Leitch whatsoever. I’m hardly a frequent blogger and even less important than I am frequent.  That said, Deadspin opened my eyes to the blogosphere. Along with Bill Simmons (and Glenn Reynolds), he opened my eyes to the fact that regular people frequently have something to say that’s more insightful than anything the intelligentsia would ever come up with. Not only that, he was gracious enough to link here twice–once for my piece on John Bunting and the other on Lance Armstrong. Both of those posts were the kind of information I wanted to know but the mainstream media never added up, so I did it and Will gave me an audience by linking to it on Deadspin. Power to the people!

So what does he do? He leaves his new media empire, chief of the most important sports blog gateway around, for an old media publication named after the world’s most over-exposed town. I don’t get it. (Maybe it’s the money.)

Earlier this year I read Will’s book Life as a Loser. It’s a compendium of essays he wrote pre-Deadspin. It’s okay, hampered by the fact that his life hasn’t been all that crazy and that he’s just not as good at that type of thing as Chuck Klosterman. (Then again, Klosterman is the king.) But what struck me from reading that book is that Leitch is a huge movie buff, a devotee of Woody Allen, and given a choice would probably like to live life as a movie critic. I thought that was shocking–a midwestern, straight, sports nut who gets shaky knees over Woody Allen? Plus, that kind of thing never seems to invade Leitch’s writing. With Bill Simmons, he reviews movies all the time and it’s obvious that, given the chance, he’d love to take his hand at writing comedy in Hollywood. But until I read Leitch’s memoir I’d have never guessed that. How do you reconcile the guy who edits Deadspin with a guy who wets his shorts over Annie Hall?

I don’t know, and I don’t know any other sports fans who dig Woody Allen. Maybe that’s part of the special mix that makes Will Leitch special.

I wish him well and his voice will be missed. And if he doesn’t name Kige Ramsey the new editor he doesn’t have a hair on his ass.

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Just a few things based on one viewing of HBO’s telecast:

Oscar is still a world-class, championship-class fighter.  Steve Forbes is borderline world-class but does have an excellent chin and survival instincts and never appeared to be in any danger. This is one of the troubling aspects of Oscar’s career–while he has scored the occasional knockout, for the most part he lacks the power that would provide him with a wildcard in these kinds of fights. Everyone still likes to talk about his left hook and him being better at 147-150, and that may be true, but even against naturally smaller men his power barely seems to be a factor, much less any significant advantage.

So to beat Mayweather, Oscar will have to outduel him on points, and there’s little evidence that he’ll be able to do that better now than he did a year ago. Oscar was slightly more relaxed tonight I suppose but I would lean toward Larry Merchant’s suggestion that his comfort was significantly influenced by the caliber of opposition he faced. Oscar looked tired and/or tight versus guys like Mayweather, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, etc. To the contrary, he was gunning for Julio Caesar Chavez late in their rematch and he desperately wanted to knockout Hector Camacho. He was probably somewhere in the middle tonight, but there was nothing to suggest he’s found the secret to taking out Mayweather in September.

He also got hit way too much. Maybe he didn’t respect the feather-fisted Forbes but Oscar took his share of clean shots and postfight photographs will prove that Forbes repeatedly got to him, even if he never was in any distress. Mayweather probably can’t hurt him either but he’ll hit him even more. At his age, Oscar doesn’t have the stamina or the speed to deal out the same quantity of punches so he’s going to have to find a way to better deflect some of those. It appeared to me that in the early rounds Forbes was content to stay just out of both fighters’ range–even though Oscar had a significant reach advantage, Forbes was quick enough to close the distance when he wanted.  (Of course, in the mid-to-late rounds Forbes gave up on winning and just wanted to show that he was competent.)

Kudos to Golden Boy for giving us a free fight on HBO. Kudos to Jeff Mayweather for being the sole likable Mayweather. Kudos to the judges and referee for not embarrassing anybody.

Kudos to Larry Merchant for a good night. Say what you will about Larry, but one thing he’s always done well in my opinion was walk the fine line between saying his piece and being a HBO company man. Read between the lines and he said basically exactly what I feel: Oscar’s great for the sport and a truly terrific, dedicated fighter, all the more impressive considering his tremendous success, but other than the money, there’s nothing to suggest the world needs another Oscar/Floyd showdown.

Mayweather by decision seems as safe a bet as ever.

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I’ve been at a conference out of town and am just now catching up to the whole Will Leitch/Buzz Bissinger/Bob Costas train wreck. Watch here.

A few thoughts:

First, King Kaufman over at Salon wrote a wonderful rebuttal to Bissinger. It’s full of links and everything! You know, the exact kind of thing you can’t do on your old-fashioned typewriter. In any event, it’s much better than anything I could write so if you want to read it, I highly recommend it.

Second, from the above-linked clip of the show, at about the 4:41 mark Bob Costas says:

A.J. Daulerio [Deadspin contributor]… said ‘you can’t brutally criticize athletes and expect them to give you any access.’

Two parts to this question: Isn’t that a false choice? Brutally criticize them or kiss their ass? What about responsibly criticizing them and responsibly praising them when they deserve it? Why would access preclude that?”

Is Bob Costas serious? That’s not a false choice but it is a false question. Rather than focus on the actual point Costas tries to create a straw-man and focus on the descriptive word “brutally”. When writing about politics, does a guy like George Will “responsibly” criticize some liberal political position or does he “brutally” criticize it? Peter Travers is the film critic for Rolling Stone magazine. In his review of the Matthew McConaughey/Kate Hudson movie Fool’s Gold, he began: “It’s early in the year but I defy any 2008 comedy to be as stupid, slack and sexless as Fool’s Gold.”

Okay Mr. Costas. Now is that “responsible” or is it “brutal” criticism? Isn’t it a matter of perspective? (Or perhaps it is “responsible” since Travers writes for a print publication.) Of course Costas can’t answer that because it’s all semantics and he’d rather get bogged down in the idea that “brutal” must necessarily be synonymous with “unfair”.

But never mind that. Consider also that he asks why access would preclude responsible criticism or responsible praise. I wish at that point Leitch would have turned to the athlete on the panel, Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns, and just rattled a bunch of questions right at him: Have you ever experienced a writer shading a story or situation in the favor of an athlete he has a good relationship with? How about one where the writer and athlete (or coach or general manager or owner or whatever) didn’t have a good relationship? Have you ever had a teammate who intentionally tried to gain favor with any member of the media? How about a teammate or opponent who leaked information to a member of the media in the attempt to create a controversy of some sort?

And so on. And the answer is: of course! Geezus, Costas. Off the top of my head: what about Bob Hammel and Bob Knight? Do you really think Hammel, who’s close friendship with Knight was in part chronicled in John Feinstein’s excellent book A Season on the Brink, could be totally objective about The General? Hammel went on to help Knight with his autobiography for crissakes. Jim Rome obviously has different standards of criticism for people who come on his show and those who don’t. Just this year Doug Gottlieb suggested that perhaps Ty Lawson’s injury was a result of “karma” because Roy Williams would not come on his radio show.

You don’t think access has anything to do with that Costas? That’s just stupid, and it’s absolutely one of the advantages those of us wearing pajamas in our mother’s basements have over people like you, Buzz Bissinger, and everyone else who thinks that journalism is something you are, not something you do.

Finally, a while back I reviewed Friday Night Lights(the book, not the show). Until this controversy broke I had never seen Buzz Bissinger before but I’m somewhat comforted–I feel more justified in my reaction to that hit-piece than ever.

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*In a meaningless game 16 against the Broncos in the 2004-05 season, Manning played one series, went 1-2 for 6 yards passing, and then sat out the rest of the way.  I don’t begrudge the Patriots going for the undefeated season but it’s worth remembering that Manning played it smart in his last game when he broke the record and he didn’t spend half the season classlessly running up the score on his opponents either.

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I wanted it to be said from the start: Lance Armstrong is an American hero. The man beat cancer. He rode his bike like Barry Bonds hits fastballs, although other than that, he has nothing at all in common with Bonds. We should all continue snapping up those snazzy yellow wristbands and not think there’s anything suspicious about America’s Livestrong Athlete.

In fact, Lance is nothing at all like so many of those guys he beat in winning the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005. For instance:

  1. Ivan Basso: Finished 2nd in 2005, 3rd in 2004. Along with eleven other riders is banned from the 2006 Tour. Admits to “attempted doping” in May 2007 but denies ever successfully doping, not even in his dominant win in the 2006 Giro d’Italia, after which one competitor calls his performance “extra-terrestial”. More.
  2. Jan Ullrich: Finished 3rd in 2005, 4th in 2004, and 2nd in 2003, 2001, 2000, and 1998.  Just before the 2006 Tour Ullrich was banned (along with Basso) from the race on suspicion of blood doping  The 1997 champion of the event denies any involvement with Dr. Eufamiano Fuentes, allegedly a heavy player in the blood doping game, but then retires in 2007 just before DNA tests are released that link Ullrich to the doctor. See for more.
  3. Alexandre Vinokourov: 3rd in 2003. The pre-race favorite in 2007, Vinokourov is kicked out mid-Tour after evidence of blood doping surfaces following his demolition of the field in Stage 13. More.
  4. Raimondas Rumsas: 3rd in 2002. In January of last year both Rumsas and his wife were convicted by a French court of illegally smuggling illegal substances (growth hormone and EPO) in 2002. Rumsas had denied the accusations but had been suspended in 2003 when he failed a blood test. See for more.
  5. Alex Zulle: 2nd in 1999. Banned from the 1998 race when he was caught up in the huge Festina scandal that year. Zulle confessed to authorities he had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs (EPO). See for more.

Of course, this list just covers those riders who finished second or third to Armstrong during his run. It doesn’t cover people like Laurent Dufaux, the Swiss cyclist banned in 1998 and who finished fourth in 1999, Fransisco Mancebo, fourth in 2005 and caught up in the Operacion Puerto mess in 2006, fellow American Tyler Hamilton, fourth in 2003 and banned in 2005 for two years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and that jackass 2006 champion Floyd Landis.

But by all means, we should all continue to unquestionably worship Lance Armstrong without a hint of irony, because he beat all these cheaters with vitamins, prayers, and hard work. (Just like Hulk Hogan! Er, maybe that’s a bad example…)

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