Volume 1, Issue 83: Spank Thru
|Will Leitch||Dec 2, 2017|
I had two pieces get around a bunch this week. The first was a column in New York magazine about the NFL's struggles to get its arms around its various problems, political, concussion-related and otherwise. The other was a long emotional piece about what I've learned about being a Georgia football fan in my four-plus years here in Athens.
This is a very stupid thing for someone whose job is partly to get as many people to read his work as possible, but I'm always a little suspicious when something I've written gets popular. I don't trust it. My rule back when I did Deadspin was to never look at traffic numbers -- my philosophy was that if I made the site good, people would find it, and staring at the numbers would just turn me into a mouse who just keeps monotonously pressing a button to get more food pellets rather than someone who was trying to make the site good -- and I've held firm to that policy to this day. The only reason I know those two pieces got around so much was because an unusually high number of people emailed or Tweeted me about them and because many new people signed up for this newsletter. (Hi, everybody, by the way. Welcome. It's mostly just wistful remembrances of '90s rock around here.) I request my editors to never tell me how my pieces are doing. I always tell them what I told Lockhart Steele, the guy who hired me to start Deadspin in the first place: "If I'm not getting enough readers, just give me a warning so I can be prepared. If it's still not enough after the warning, you can go ahead and fire me." I used to have a joke at Deadspin that if you put "Britney Spears pantsless" in every headline, I'd have the most trafficked sports blog on the planet but I'd blow my brains out by the end of the first week. I sometimes worry my joke has turned into the internet business plan.
I don't claim to be any special snowflake and begrudge no one anything: I've been especially lucky and privileged to mostly avoid spinning endlessly on the Web traffic hamster wheel this far in my career. It's pretty easy for me to say, "don't worry about traffic, just do the work you love!" or at least a lot easier than it would be if I were 23 and just starting out. (I also like to think I have some built-in readers anyway, whatever number that may be.) But I don't write the way I do -- endlessly, and constantly -- with much worry about how many people read it. I obviously would like as many people as possible to read my work -- the more people read it, the longer they'll let me keep doing it -- but that's not the goal. I'd argue it can't be. If you're only writing things to make a little number counter go up, I'm not sure what the point of becoming a writer in the first place is. If you just want to make the numbers to go up, you can go be an accountant. You'll make a lot more money that way, and with a lot more job security too.
All I ever wanted to do was just write, every day and for a living. I get to do that right now. I have no grander plan than that. I do not want to be a huge television star. I do not want to start some hot web company. I do not want to become a major social media presence. I do not want to make millions of dollars. I just want to write every day and make enough money to support my family. That is enough. I'm working on a book right now, and I hope that it will get published and people will buy it. But only because if enough people buy it, they will let me do another one, and I'll get to keep writing. The world of the Internet has changed so dramatically in the last decade, in ways that never fail to confound and confuse me. (I was just dumb enough to think we all went into this web business in the first place just to write.) It changes more by the year, the month, the week, the day. One of the good parts of getting older, one of the few ones, is realizing your limitations and your strengths. I know what I am good at, and I know what I like to do, and attempting to chase whatever the newest thing is is an excellent way to make yourself look ridiculous. I like to challenge myself and try new things. But I'm not going to put a party hat on and dance on the hamster wheel. I have to do what I'm good at and just hope it remains valued.
In the wake of my old pal Clay Travis' most recent escapade, someone asked me what I thought of it, and him. I repeat: I've never had an issue with him personally and have generally found him a pleasant person, though I haven't seen him since he turned into Breitbart Sports and imagine his soul might a little more gnarled than it used to be. But my response was: "If that's what it takes to win, I'd rather lose." I do not plan on losing. But I also do not plan on turning into a hamster.
Hey, I wrote some pieces that people liked and forwarded around. Next week I'll try to be more excited about it!
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. Is This the Beginning of the End for the NFL? New York Magazine. I say this every time but I am so honored to get to write for this wonderful, important magazine. I'll never get used to it.
2. Georgia Football Has Its Moment, Sports On Earth. I always type a little more carefully when I suspect my kid's school principal might read it.
3. Why Would Giancarlo Stanton Want to Go to the Giants Again? Sports On Earth. Maybe a little wishcasting here.
4. SYFY Debate Club: Star Wars vs. The Empire Strikes Back, SYFY Wire. Grierson and I started a new series for SYFY Wire where we debate back and forth age-old science fiction pop culture quandaries. It's fun.
5. SYFY Debate Club: Which Chris Is Best? SYFY Wire. The best of course is Pratt in Parks and Recreation.
6. Book Review Roundup: And Your 2018 NBA Champions are ... The Wall Street Journal. I reviewed a bunch of books about the Cavaliers and the Warriors.
7. When Will the MLB Hot Stove Get Going? Sports On Earth. Taps fingers on table impatiently ...
8. Confidence Pool, Week 13, Sports On Earth. This doesn't get any easier.
9. Dive Dive Dive, Sports On Earth. Dive Dive Dive.
As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn't be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don't even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:
Grierson & Leitch, discussing "Coco," "Call Me By Your Name," "The Darkest Hour" and "Spaceballs."
The Will Leitch Experience, no show this week, sorry.
Waitin' Since Last Saturday, a big massive SEC Championship Preview. If you listen to one show, make it this one..
Have a great weekend, everyone. I will be at said SEC Championship Game. I'll be the guy dressed in red.