The ongoing rivalry between ESPN’s Grantland blog, founded by Page 2 star Bill Simmons, and Gawker Media’s Deadspin is shaping up to be more entertaining than anything either blog covers on the field.
For a second, it seemed Deadspin was losing yardage to Grantland, which had seen its buzz steadily increase since ESPN announced a writerly line-up including Molly Lambert, Lane Brown and Deadspin’s own Katie Baker. In a New York Times Magazine profile last week, Mr. Simmons aimed a barely veiled jibe at the home of the Brett Favre dong shots.
“The worst thing that’s happening [to sportswriting] is that people are writing things just to drive traffic and get attention,” he told the Times.
Simultaneously, Grantland editor Daniel Fierman (formerly of GQ) had been putting the moves on Deadspin senior editor Tommy Craggs, eventually offering him a position. But ESPN put Mr. Cragg’s offer on hold after he wrote a mocking blog post on Deadspin about ESPN.com editor Lynne Hoppes. Discussions were tabled pending a make-nice lunch with ESPN exec John Walsh.
Then, Deadspin editor A.J. Daulerio began narrating the drawn-out hiring process with the same giddy bloodlust the site has shown in its coverage of other ESPN operations, despite admitting that “someone close to the situation” had warned him that doing so further jeopardized Mr. Cragg’s employability there. “He still works at Deadspin and I still work at Deadspin and this is a story we’d cover had any other potential Grantland writer become entangled in such stupidity,” Mr. Daulerio wrote.
He then promptly sent a pink gorilla singing telegram to Mr. Cragg’s lunch with Mr. Walsh at the Essex House. She sang the SportsCenter theme song. (Watch for that on the expense account, Nick Denton.)
Mr. Craggs and Mr. Daulerio separately told Off the Record that Mr. Daulerio’s actions hadn’t sabotaged Mr. Cragg’s shot, and that the discussion had already deteriorated. Mr. Daulerio added that no Gawker Media blog expects to keep employees forever, but that the process illuminated the appeal of working at Deadspin.
That doesn’t mean the competition has calmed down. Mr. Daulerio recently hired Tom Scocca, a former Slate blogger who on his last day posted—what else?—a critique of Grantland’s hype. Around the same time, Chris Jones—whose writing Mr. Scocca has eviscerated on Slate—was named a Grantland contributor.
Better yet, Mr. Jones’s interactions with Mr. Scocca seem to have left him willing to play at Deadspin’s level. In this month’s Esquire he has a short piece called “How to Win an Internet Feud.” “There is a school of thought that fighting on the Internet is childish and foolish,” Mr. Jones wrote. “That school of thought is populated mostly by sanctimonious pussies and old people.”
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