It’s Friday, rejoice!
Let’s dive into the mailbag.
Not surprisingly there are a bunch of thoughts on the implosion of Deadspin and we’ll begin there.
“I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Deadspin (outside of the sweet clap-back from their comments when you left). It seems pretty simple from my view, they weren’t making money and ownership (the private equity group that several of them railed against) attempted to make changes to fix that, among them advertisements and asking them to reduce the politics. They didn’t like this, as they wanted to be a purveyor of truth* (note- truth to them was for the most part their opinion, not always unbiased facts).
The thing is, they can still all do that. They can write whatever they want, they just won’t get paid for it by the group in charge of deadspin. That’s how jobs work.
I’m quite frankly torn on this. Some of their stuff was amazing (i.e.- the breaking of the Manti Teo story). Some of it annoyed me to the point of deciding I wasn’t checking their site again that particular day (a novel concept, we don’t have to read anything we don’t want to read…I never thought they should be cancelled).
They honestly believe that they are 100% in the right on 100% of the issues and no one, not even a CEO could be smarter.
So what are your thoughts on what has happened?”
These are two representative emails that I received about the Deadspin implosion and I thought I’d share them witha all of you here.
I have quite a few thoughts on Deadspin in particular, but before I share them, I’ve been in a similar position as these writers before.
Back in 2011 I was working at FanHouse and convinced I’d be there forever. I absolutely loved it. I was a national columnist close to signing a multi-year extension for them. In fact, there was a multi-year extension on my bosses boss desk. (At least that’s what I’d been told).
I went in for a panel discussion on the future of media in Nashville the week after Auburn beat Oregon in the national title game and turned off my phone while I was on the panel.
When I turned my phone back on after the panel ended, news had broken that FanHouse was shutting down and 100+ writers and editors, including me, were out of jobs.
I was stunned, terrified, and furious.
I’d been doing great work, busting my ass and traveling all over the country while I did my daily radio show too, and just when it seemed like I might finally be able to make a decent salary as an online sportswriter, the rug got pulled out from under me. (At the time I was making $45k a year writing for FanHouse and I was ecstatic at the fact that I might be able to make six figures going forward).
By the time I was fired at FanHouse I’d already worked at three places online: CBSSports.com, Deadspin, and FanHouse.
And I felt like I was as smart — or smarter — than most of the people running these sites from a business perspective.
So I made an important decision — I decided I didn’t want anyone else to control my future and that summer I launched Outkick.
Before I launched Outkick I spent months hitting up advertisers to sponsor the new site. I wasn’t just writing, I was going in for meetings and pulling a full on Don Draper to try and sell advertisers on being with me at launch.
We had five advertisers at launch and within a few months it became clear I’d created a viable financial model for myself.
But there were zero guarantees at all when I launched this site, just like there are zero guarantees any time anyone starts a business.
The reason I did this was simple — I didn’t want anyone else to control my future. I wanted to be able to write and say exactly what I wanted to write and say every day without worrying about someone being able to tell me what to do.
And I didn’t want to bust my ass and then get fired because someone decided what I was doing didn’t make business sense any longer.
So when I see this Deadspin implosion happening, I actually have sympathies with the writers here. I know exactly how they feel. I may not agree with what they want to write, but I completely understand the desire to have total creative freedom.
But the only way you have total creative freedom — that lasts — today is by owning your content and controlling all of it.
So if you truly believe you know the business of online writing better than your bosses, stop whining about how much you disagree with your bosses and start your own site and prove they’re wrong and you’re right.
If there’s a huge market for the intersection of sports and left wing politics, get rich on it.
I don’t have any sympathy for any writer who says, “Why won’t my bosses just let me write whatever I want and pay me to do it!”
That’s not what bosses do, they pay you to execute their vision. That’s what the money is for, you follow their instruction and they pay you for doing so. You’re an employee, not an owner.
The number of writers who fail to understand this basic truth stuns me.
The only way to have complete creative freedom is to be your own boss. Otherwise you’re always subject to the whims and vagaries of your bosses. The reason why I’ve never sold any portion of Outkick and still own 100% of it is because, frankly, I’m a control freak. I value my creative freedom very highly. I don’t want to give anyone else the opportunity to control in any way what I write or say or do because I think I’m pretty good at what I write or say or do.
Now I have bosses for radio and TV — and I like them a ton and enjoy working for them — but bosses change and no one knows what the future holds there.
One day, especially in entertainment, everyone can love you and the next day you can be washed up and people can be done with you.
So long as I have Outkick I know that even if my radio and TV jobs disappeared, I’d still have a place where I can make a good living and not have to worry about feeding my family.
Ultimately the great thing about capitalism is this — if you believe your bosses have left open a business opportunity with their decision making then you can grab that opportunity if you have the balls to do it.
Start your own company, work your ass off, and hopefully make a better living than you would have as an employee.
I’m here as perfect evidence in the online sportswriting space that such a decision is possible.
Finally, I was an editor at Deadspin at the age of 28. That was 12 years ago now. I was only there for around six months because I didn’t get along with AJ Daulerio, the editor whose posting of the Hulk Hogan sex tape ultimately bankrupted Gawker. (AJ didn’t let me write what I wanted to write and aggressively edited me. Several years ago he reached out and apologized and said he’d gotten caught up in a turf battle and been threatened by my hiring. That was why he’d behaved the way he did. I don’t bear him any ill will at all because I was at Deadspin long enough to learn quite a bit about the online writing business and still think going there was an important lesson for me).
When I left Deadspin after six months, I had no back up plan for online writing and I had a kid less than a year old.
So when the FanHouse implosion happened, I’d already been through the experience of not having a job once.
At my Deadspin exit interview one of the top executives at Gawker told me, “At Gawker, we make stars. But our sites aren’t cut out for everyone. Lots of people try us out and then leave and are never heard from again. That will probably be the case with you.”
Really, that’s what she told me.
That executive expected for me to disappear. Her dismissive position was I didn’t make myself relevant, Deadspin made me relevant.
I disagreed, clearly, but getting kicked in your teeth on the way out the door can leave you with some pretty good motivation. I was already fired up with a great desire for success, but being doubted can be great fuel.
So do I take great pleasure in being by far the most successful person who has ever worked at Deadspin?
You bet your ass I do.
And as that site collapses, guess who is absolutely thriving? This guy.
The big lesson here is pretty straightforward — don’t let other people value you if you have the chance to value yourself. But if you are letting other people value you, make sure they aren’t valuing you cheaply.
“Is it appropriate to steal your favorite candy from your child’s Halloween bucket? As many as you want, that is. And never tell them.”
Every parent steals some Halloween candy.
But I’m pretty open about it with my kids.
I call it the daddy tax.
Whenever they are eating something good and I want a taste of it, I come take a bite of it and tell them that’s the daddy tax.
It’s to the point where my kids will sometimes cover up their treats when I come into the room and say, “No daddy tax! No daddy tax!”
Implementing the daddy tax is a great way to explain taxes to young kids too. I tell them the daddy tax is just like the government, what you have isn’t all yours, the government comes and takes some of it too.
Bonus: they already believe in lean government and they aren’t even 12 yet.
I think instead of a 100,000 seat stadium every new football stadium being built today should be around 35,000 seats, but all of those seats should have incredible viewing angles and amenities.
You need to offer me something I can’t get elsewhere to get me to come to the game.
I’m a season ticket holder for the Titans, but there are many games where I don’t want to corral my kids, get them in the car, drive downtown, park, walk to the stadium, and sit there to watch a game in person when I could be at home watching on television and flipping back and forth to RedZone to make sure I don’t miss anything.
The simple truth is this: watching sports on television, especially football, is often a better experience on television than it is in person.
That’s a real challenge for all live sports going forward.
“Should the Jags stick with Minshew or go with Foles once he’s healthy?”
The game this weekend against the Texans is important, I think.
If the Jags win and go to 5-4, how do you replace a guy who has you near the top of the division? I understand that you’re paying Nick Foles $22 million a year, but right now Gardner Minshew has the fifth highest passer rating in football.
Do you really think Foles is going to do better than that?
Regardless of how you finish out 2019, I think you enter 2020 with a clear quarterback battle in place.
The biggest challenge, honestly, is you’ve got $45 million in dead cap space given to Foles over the next two years.
So I think you’re hard pressed to pay a guy $22 million a year to be a back-up.
It’s a luxury to have two good quarterbacks, but it’s also a challenge when the salaries are this out of whack.
“What is stopping people from saying they identify as female to get lower car insurance and life insurance rates?”
Has this ever been litigated?
It’s actually a fascinating question.
I need to see a case like this play out.
“Why are officials not required to stand in front of the media and answer questions after a game? Players answer to their performance, why not officials? Shouldn’t they have to explain blown calls the way players explain mistakes?”
Officials should 100% have to address the media.
But the more important issue here is: how do we get better officials? Right now we’re pretty confident, for instance, that in pro and college sports the best athletes are playing in the games.
How do we know this?
We have a massive foundation in youth sports. The base of our sports pyramid is youth sports. Everyone starts out playing youth sports and as kids age the number of them playing diminishes until we reach the absolute best, the apex point of the pyramid.
We’re confident these remaining players are the best because we’ve tested them against the masses and they’ve triumphed.
But are we confident we have the best possible officials calling these games featuring these best players?
I doubt it, simply because there aren’t that many people who ever officiate a game.
What if you started paying officials, for instance, a million dollars each a year? Wouldn’t the overall quality of officiating, and the number of people interested in officiating, be likely to increase if the salaries did?
I think there are a ton of people out there right now who wouldn’t become officials because it doesn’t pay enough for them to quit their existing jobs.
But what if it did?
I think the overall quality of officiating would increase substantially.
We need to expand the pool of available officials in order to increase the overall quality of officiating.
The challenge here, clearly, is officials have to work their way up. So you’d need for pro leagues to help pay higher salaries to, for instance, high school football officials, then higher salaries to college officials, and on up the line until the best officials matriculate at the top leagues.
That would take a decade or more to happen.
But I think it would make a ton of sense.
“When is the appropriate time to start Christmas decorations?”
The day after Thanksgiving.
Having said that, I was at Costco a couple of weeks ago and I saw the Christmas decorations already up. And I was like, “Why in the world are the Christmas decorations already up?!”
Then do you know what I did?
I bought a huge reindeer to put in our front yard.
On October 12th!
So I’m a big part of the problem.
I say I don’t want to start Christmas until after Thanksgiving and then buy a Christmas decoration in early October, while it’s still 95 degrees outside in Nashville.
The reason Christmas starts so early is pretty simple — there’s a market for Christmas to start super early.
Thanks for reading the mailbag.
Hope all of you guys had great Halloweens and have good weekends.