"Stick to Sports" narrative killed one of the most prominent sports websites of the past decade

Not sticking to sports: I am going to miss Deadspin

Deadspin

Last week Deadspin, one of the premier sports blogs over the past 15 years, went down in a blaze of glory. For me and many other fans of sports, satire, and silliness the events of last week feel like the loss of a friend. What is worse though, is that it is a loss at the hands of the ridiculous "stick to" commentary that has unfortunately entered our discourse. If you aren't familiar with what happened, the implosion went down like this:

Deadspin and its parent company Gawker, had been involved in a number of highly controversial stories over the past few years which resulted in a number of lawsuits which eventually took down Gawker. Deadspin, along with a number of its sister sites survived but the sites were acquired and sold to different groups a number of times over the past couple of years. This past week the actions of the most recent ownership group, G/O Media, unfortunately brought about the the end of the site as we know it by issuing a "stick to sports" edict to the Deadspin staff. If you know anything about Deadspin you know this did not go over well. Readers of the site know that some of the best parts of Deadspin have nothing to do with sports. No its stories that rank breakfast cereals, share unfortunate poop stories, or touch on the trials and tribulations of being a dad. Deadspin unquestionably produced great sports content, however it is the other "stuff" that really makes Deadspin what it is. Following this corporate demand, the staff revolted and immediately filled the homepage with their best non-sports stories, all of which had the not-so-ironic tagline of "Stick to Sports" plastered on the cover photo of each story. This did not sit well with the powers that be at G/O Media and brought about the immediate firing of the site's editor who had been with Deadspin since the site's beginning. Over the next three days the entire staff of Deadspin resigned, completely neutering the site of everything that made it great. While the site is technically still up and running with new writers there is no doubt that it is for all intents and purposes dead, and for this I am sad.

We all have our favorite little spots on the internet, a sanctum from the stresses of daily life. A place that we instinctively and almost subconsciously type into our browsers as soon as we log on to the internet. Deadspin was one of those places for me; when I type the letter "D" into my browser it auto-fills with Deadspin. I would spend entire class periods in law school on Deadspin and even more time once I started working a full time job. If I was bored it was one of the first places I went.

I realize though that not everyone loved Deadspin and they found themselves embroiled in controversy on regular basis making more than a few enemies. Could their writers be somewhat insufferable at times, yes, but really who among us isn't. Did they say things that they probably shouldn't have, yes, but who among us hasn't. Were they childish, absolutely, but again, who among us isn't. I didn't necessarily agree with all of their takes, but I still read because maybe at the end I would learn something or be entertained (God forbid that someone continues following a site with takes that they sometimes disagree with).

However, I will miss Deadspin the most because it was a major factor in bringing me here – writing on SportsMap. While I am certainly not as talented as the Deadspin writers their style of irreverent writing spoke to me and gave me a template to build my own written voice from. Additionally, through Deadspin I discovered a sister site called The Vane which was more or less Deadspin for weather. Being the weather geek that I am this was a mind-blowing discovery for me. Were there actually people who would read weather related content that wasn't just a bland local forecast? Apparently there were, and I wanted to be part of it. I began writing on a personal blog that never gained many readers but helped me develop a writing style I was comfortable with. Eventually I managed to hook on with Houston Sports and Stuff (somewhat of a predecessor to SportsMap) and when SportsMap came along I was lucky enough to have the powers that be (Fred) allow me to continue.

These days the "stick to" mindset has become way too prevalent. We are all humans with varying interests and some of those interests may even be * GASP * outside of one's stated profession. I see the "stick to sports," stick to weather", etc. commentary way to often now and I just don't get it. It is the "stuff" in life that makes it interesting and I fear we as a society are losing sight of that. Lets be honest, no one wants to be around the guy who only can talk about one topic, so why is this not true in our online lives? The "stick to" mentality is unfortunately becoming another buffer that people are using to insulate themselves from information that makes them uncomfortable or that they don't agree with. This mindset killed one of my (an millions of others') favorite places on the internet and it is just sickening to me. Even though it has cost me one of my happy places, I applaud the Deadspin staff for standing up for their principals and sticking it to "stick to sports" guy.


WWE's Royal Rumble arrives this Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Paul Muth

I'm not a big sign guy.

You know sign guys. The people who write puns on posters. The ones who carry the letter "D" in one had and a cutout of a literal fence in the other. The "Houston, YOU have a problem" sign guys.

I tried it once when I was 14, was punched in the face, and sort of lost my appetite after that.

Let me explain.

It was April 1, 2001. Wrestlemania 17. I won't ask my parents how much it cost them, but my aunt and uncle scored floor seats to the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in no better confines than the Astrodome herself and I got to tag along.

It was a hell of a show. Some say it was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever. The card was stacked, including a Triple-H match against the hometown hero The Undertaker that set the stage for the main event.

At precisely two hours and forty-eight minutes into the event, Undertaker sent Triple-H flying over the barricade and "INTO THE STANDS!"

"Holy crap," 14-year-old Paul thought. "They're headed right down my aisle."

Now I'm not sure how it works these days, but back then it was totally customary to bail on your seat and follow the fight as they weaved up and down the aisles. I wasn't about to miss the chance so I grabbed my poorly scribbled wrestling poster, glanced back and my Aunt for the OK, then darted after the action.

The fight snaked its way up to some scaffolding with a camera perched atop. There, the fight would stall as they battled their way to the top. Oblivious to anything but the action in front of me, I threw my sign up as high as I could, probably screamed at the top of my lungs, and my voice probably cracked in the process. I was 14.

Suddenly someone pushed me in the back of my shoulder. I turned around and there was an old lady, maybe five feet tall, standing on her chair. She had the quintessential cowgirl big hair and enough costume jewelry on to short-circuit a metal detector.

"GET THE @#$% OUT THE WAY, BOY," she commanded in the most east Texas accent you've ever heard in your life. I ignored her and turned back around.

Then she pushed me again.

I turned around again and before I had any clue what was happening, this knockoff mini Dolly Parton had already connected a stiff left hook to my temple. She then grabbed my sign and ripped it in half. Stunned, I retreated to my seat while tending to a now bleeding eyebrow thanks to what I assume was a Wal-Mart engagement ring.

Haven't really been a big sign guy since.

But this weekend the WWE takes over Minute Maid Park for their annual Pay-Per-View event known as the Royal Rumble. It will be the first time since that fateful night in the Astrodome 19 years ago that I've returned to a high profile wrestling event.

Now am I looking forward to this weekend as an opportunity to retake the dignity that was ripped away so long ago? Probably not. I'll most likely just drink a bunch of beer and yell at wrestlers with my friends. But I'm not ruling anything out.

Now instead of a power rankings this week, I figured that in the spirit of the Royal Rumble we could rehash some of the best sports fights Houston's served up:

#5 Charles Barkley throws man through window

Now I know this one didn't happen on a court, but the story is just too good. In a classic case of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes," a 5'2" Floridian by the name of Jorge Lugo decided to harrass the 6'6" then-power forward for the Houston Rockets at an Orlando bar . Barkley ignored and avoided the issue until a Lugo-thrown glass intended for Barkley missed and struck a nearby woman. Bad move. When judge presiding over the ensuing case asked Barkley if he had any regrets, The Round Mound of Rebound replied "Yeah, I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

#4 Chris Paul serves a two-piece to Rajon Rondo

This one is actually fairly recent and adds to what I discovered was a hefty list of Rockets throw downs. After breaking up a stare down between Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and James Harden, Paul and Rondo began a heated chest-to-chest exchange. From all replay indications it appeared as if Rondo then spit on Paul, which triggered a disrespectful finger push to Rondo's face, which then descended into a good old fashioned knuckle sandwich exchange. Paul was suspended for two games.

#3 Derrick Lewis verifies amateur of amateur status

Some dude actually had the nerve to walk in to UFC Heavyweight fighter and Houston native Derrick Lewis' gym and pick a fight. The amateur claimed that he would knock Lewis out because he was an MMA fighter, and not a real boxer. "The Black Beast" was more than happy to oblige, and swiftly teleported the no name into the shadow realm.

#2 Vernon Maxwell fights Portland man

Sometimes people forget that sporting events are intended to be family friendly. Some also forget that players are people with actual feelings. Maxwell claims that aside from general harassment, a Portland fan decided to bring Maxwell's wife's recent miscarriage to light as well. Maxwell stood up from the bench, calmly walked up the stairs, and knocked the crap out of the dude. Maxwell was suspended 10 games.

#1 Andre Johnson baptizes Courtland Finnegan

It had been seasons in the making. Finnegan had built a reputation out of adding cheap shots here and there, ripping helmets off at the end of plays, and various other dirty tactics. In late November of 2010 Johnson had reached the end of his rope. Schadenfreude was the flavor of the day for all Texans fans as Johnson manhandled Finnegan, reigning down fists of righteous justice.

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