There’s no room for a left(ish) version of Barstool

Herbs gonna herb

Let’s say you’re the sort of fellow who is a nice complement to spices or delicious when steeped in some hot water for a few minutes.

You’ve made a name for yourself in the media, turning a profit via low-rent content mill, and now you’re looking to do it again, since you’ve grown bored resting on your bay laurels.

Like some ancient sage, you search for an idea. Suddenly, you realize it’s right in front of you, the biggest success story in sports blogging since Bill Simmons built a media empire by being an obsessive but regular fan. (Sadly, that was a very long thyme ago.)

It’s Barstool! They made a mint! Let’s rip them off!

Since you are the sort of thing early physicians used for homemade remedies, you will happily copy others’ success, but you have a reputation to uphold, so the recipe can’t be exactly the same.

Instead of being a bro-tastic celebration of troglodytes, it’s going to be totally different! It’ll be a bro-tastic celebration … for the left-adjacent instead! Who we think used to read a former site with the same name!

Pure brilliance, you think, as you sit back in your chair and relax before retiring to your garden.

This was from earlier this year … looks like things are going great.

If web traffic estimates are to be believed — and take them with a grain of salt, which I’ll note for no particular reason is a spice not an herb — Deadspin went from one of the more popular sports sites to getting slightly more traffic than your cousin’s old My Little Bronie: Friendship is Magic gif collection on tumblr. 

Squint real hard at the new homepage, and it’s almost what it used to be. The headlines are longer and clunkier, but are in the ballpark. The content seems lefty-ish. There’s talk of women’s sports. There’s some general anger toward the right people, like Trump and Mitch McConnell. Heck, they’ve even got Trevor Bauer’s phone number posted, which screams Gawker DNA.

And yet, the “new” site is none of the things that made Deadspin good or interesting — it’s basically an AI program trying to write the site after being programmed with years of its content.

Clearly, nobody who went through The Last Days and its sequel, The Rise of Herb, is going to un-deadspin.

But I’d pose an even wider question: Who else would?

Barstool isn’t automatically a sports Breitbart, but its shitbag president and its entire ethos — testosterone-drenched bros before hoes, edgelords yelling haha u mad — mean that it bends in a specific direction. There are people at that company who are definitely more thoughtful, but they’re either there for other reasons, they’re a token or they’re subsumed by leadership’s whims.

Sports fans aren’t entirely a right-wing army. They are, however, heavily weighted toward the sort of person who would see no trouble in Barstool’s check-her-out-bruh objectification of women, or see nothing wrong with the NCAA not paying players, or take management’s side in a lockout. 

All of that is why it’s so jarring to see Deadspin try to take some weird hard edge and bro it up, as if that was the missing ingredient. People didn’t want to read about how sports intersected with the wider world and what it meant for both of those spheres; they really just wanted some “yeah, fuck that guy” superiority about shitbags like Greg Hardy. And the story ends right there, because the mandate remains that sports must be stuck to. We couldn’t possibly explore how his second chance resonates in a year when, say, maybe both major presidential candidates face sexual assault allegations?

In 2004, a new talk radio network called Air America launched. Its reason for existence was the theory that talk radio was a huge driver for GOP success in the ‘90s, so why not have a left version? The reality was that most listeners inclined toward center or left politics just aren’t as interested in turning on the radio and nodding along in agreement like Rush Limbaugh fans. While the network had some decent talent, the audience never really materialized and it was gone by 2010, shortly before podcasts would have really eaten its lunch.

I’m not sure how this version of Deadspin is any different from that. There just isn’t room for a left Barstool because, like Air America, the format doesn’t work for the intended audience.

Trying to service two ideas that don’t match up, you end up with the headline that leads this blog: An ugly, gross mess. That it’s written by scabs who took the job knowing they’d have to take neutered progressive stances is just the fetid icing on a rotted cake. 

I’m not here to tell Jim Spanfeller how to tend his garden, but honestly, he’s an even bigger fool than we took him for if he thinks this is gonna work.

Hope that autoplay ad contract is ironclad, herb.

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About Clever Name Here dba "Black Rod" 97 Articles
Vell, Clever Name Here just zis guy, you know? Sometimes funny. Often annoyed. Once I saw a blimp.

15 Comments

  1. i figured no one was going to deadspin coz they killed the comments
    really… whats the point of reading all that shit if you cant then call the author a dimwitted cockwomble afterwards…
    that was the best part

    • There are so many articles on Actual Deadspin that I skimmed through just to get to the comments. The comments were the best part!

      But they’ll never re-enable them over there because they know they’ll get called out for smashing Actual Deadspin to bits.

    • The comment sections in Deadspin – and in particular Foodspin – were pure gold. I hope they are somewhere safe, because the whole article and comments section about “State Foods, Ranked” should be in a museum somewhere. Same for “Horton, here’s a poo” and the whole thread about the guy who had never tried pie.

      These are just a few off the top of my head.

  2. That’s the thing about NuDeadspin; if you squint at it and kind of aren’t aware of how the site was nuked from orbit, it kinda looks like Actual Deadspin. But if you read the articles, you can tell that the soul of Deadspin, the art, the voices of it’s writers aren’t there. There’s no diving beyond the surface level news of the day. There’s no commentary, no wit. You can tell everything is being edited with a strict “don’t rock the boat too much” mentality.

    Also, the front page is fucking mess. They did the same thing to the AV Club’s front page and it’s an unreadable mess. The entire appeal of a vertical is that everything is nicely lined up in a row and you can click through it at your leisure. Shoving everything on the front page is a fucking eyesore. You can’t tell which articles are new and which are weeks old. There’s approximately 300 articles about The Last Dance and none of them have anything interesting to say.

    It just feels corporate, vapid, and totally soulless. And the rube they put in charge of running it is going to get put in charge of the whole suite of sites. It’s fucking mental.

    • I would have been less offended if he just turned it wholly into a bland content mill or chased after Barstool’s audience in full. Those are also horrible, but those make business sense, and if I had no soul, I’d grift right-wingers every damn day.

      But when I saw Marchman tweet that headline over the weekend, I had a visceral reaction to how horrible it was. And yet, it really sums up what (idiocy) they’re trying to do (poorly).

  3. …not sure if I can make this work but I recall it being about the highest compliment anyone ever paid me on kinja so I’m hoping it’s the thought that counts?

    null

    • He can’t handle the impending tide of being called an herb once more on the internet (moreso than exists in our exile), so safe bet that though he’d consider the debasement of plebs for his own amusement–Spanfeller is too chickenshit to ever take you up on it.

      And someone in that crowd would rally the masses to pummel his herb-ish ass long before you knelt down.

    • I’m a gay man and I’d hate fuck him if he’d just, I don’t know, leave. But then I did a GIS. Wow. OK, we could both wear paper bags over our heads. Then I saw his academic credentials. Union College in Schenectady. I’d have to make him sign an NDA for that alone.

    • I originally was going to grab some screenshots of bad/dumb headlines but once I got to the homepage, I felt bad enough about it to stop. That’s only the second time I’ve been to the page since everything went down.

      I only saw the Greg Hardy one because Marchman tweeted it.

      • The fact that he’s stooped all the way to the level of Dan fucking Shapiro suggests not that there was any plan to be a, uh, “20% more edgy” version of Barstool, but that Herb’s grand vision of a bland brand name to draw in all sports fans is DOA. They’re hiring shit bloggers like Shapiro because he’s the fucking backstop. His level of writing is a bar that anyone could clear, yes, but far more concerning is that clearing his bar would be a step up.

        If Spanfeller were even half as clever as he thinks he is, he could have watered down the site without poisoning the well, but he did and now he has to drink his own shitty koolaide. Bottoms up, bottom dwellers!

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