all the young black sportswriters
June 13, 2014 3:56 AM   Subscribe

God this was excellent. I read it on the bus a couple of days ago and missed my stop, the stop after that, and the stop after *that*, I was so gripped.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:12 AM on June 13, 2014

I read this the other night and also thought it was fantastic. The main takeaway for me was how careless Whitlock has been with his brand. Look at those tweets! Even if there ever was any nuance to his position on hip hop culture, that went out the window (ha) as soon as he became O'Reilly/Carlson approved. What talented up-and-coming writer is going to take the chance of associating with that?
posted by gimli at 5:37 AM on June 13, 2014

This was a very interesting read for me. I found myself agreeing with some of the things attributed to whitlock, only for me to feel foolish when Howard explained why those POV were not helping blacks in America.

Do we need to focus on the single issue of inequality and ignore any concerns about the reinforced behaviour supposedly engendered by rap culture, or can we look at both issues concurrently?
posted by trif at 6:46 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: "Defenestration" derail deleted. Let's not completely sideline this discussion one comment in?
posted by taz (staff) at 6:47 AM on June 13, 2014

I read this a couple days ago, and more than anything else, I find myself wishing that the author was giving the reigns to the website being planned, rather than Whitlock.

Simmons, for example, has a ton of faults. Knowing to leave the pettiness out of things and step aside to let the more talented writers shine isn't one of them. Whitlock sounds like the absolute wrong person for a site like this, and had I heard about the site before the article, I'd have been shocked they were considering him. It's almost as if ESPN only knew of one prominent black writer, and rather than actually do any research...
posted by Ghidorah at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I didn't really start watching ESPN until after Whitlock's original departure from the network. When he was brought back on, I guess on PTI, and especially on the first episode of Olbermann, it sounded like he was hard done by, so I was inclined to like him.

The thing about Whitlock and his critique of, as he styles it, "prison culture", is that he's not wrong about that. It's corrosive. He just doesn't seem to draw the line from an unjust system disproportionately sending young black men to prison to the fatalistic elements of culture he dislikes.

I'll be curious to see how Ta-Nehisi Coates' recent masterpiece will inform Whitlock's thinking on this in the future.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:00 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Excellent article with clever insight, I personally think Whitlock is funny, he is down and dirty, I always enjoy whitlock he entertains me: He wore the black hat in kansas city and Joe Posnanski the white hat, both terrific writers for the KC Star. BTW Joe pos has excellent books. The star apparently was a turd to work for: but I digress. Whitlock is an entertainer who calls a spade a spade. Mike Royko would be proud.
posted by Upon Further Review at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2014

As a college jock, I was a latecomer to journalism, not seriously considering it as a profession until my junior year of college. I decided I wanted to write magazine features, and then decided I wasn't good enough. So in the fall of 2010, I enrolled in graduate school at New York University and walked out a year and a half later with a master's degree, a student-loan debt in the six figures, and a job making about $400 a week writing 5,000-word cover stories at a ridiculously good, ridiculously understaffed alt-weekly in Dallas.

That's one hell of a gamble; glad it paid off.

Great article!
posted by Renoroc at 7:22 AM on June 13, 2014

Michael Holly in Boston would be a better bet to build a "Black Grantland" around - he's been settling into Glen Ordway's old role as WEEI's sports-radio ringmaster - the voice of experience and reason for the entire channel. Even the notoriously racist ultra-conservative morning hosts have nothing but respectful things to say about him, and the nasty contrarians down the dial also hold him in high regard despite being direct competitors (Dale Arnold and station management gets most of their wrath.)

He's one of the few journalists Bill Belichick genuinely likes and will work with, and that man is hard on the press.

His combination of charm, experience, talent and collaborative spirit would bring in young writers in a way that a more abrasive "big name" may not.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:27 AM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do we need to focus on the single issue of inequality and ignore any concerns about the reinforced behaviour supposedly engendered by rap culture, or can we look at both issues concurrently?

Yes, it seems like we do. We have a black president, who I do like on a lot of issues don't get me wrong but who has built his career off of highlighting the need for personal responsibility in the black community instead of increasing programs or decreasing the criminal justice slavery system that continues to brutalize their chances at getting out of poverty. Meanwhile the situation for poor people of all races in this country has gotten a lot a lot more hopeless since even the Reagan era, even as their culture actually becomes less and less violent. I think it's time to start pushing back against the anti-bling-and-gun tirades from the middle class no matter who they are.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:28 AM on June 13, 2014 [12 favorites]

Great reading so far. Thanks for the post.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:38 AM on June 13, 2014

If we're nominating black Grantland writers I'd rather see Ta-Nehisi Coates just helm a black Grantland in general with a bunch of sports and other cultural writers writing for him. As an NBA fan I read great black sportswriters all the time, making Bill Simmons question about "Where are they?" just crazy offensive on so many levels.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:44 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Interesting article, but did anyone else get a bit of whiplash after reading Greg Howard's savage dissection of Whitlock's 2007 Oprah appearance - "chickenshit...for white reactionaries Whitlock was offering shallow expiation...the Acceptable Negro...the racist right's unwitting attack dog, here to explain how black people were the problem...a bona fide, nationwide cash cow, even as his credibility as a writer and a thinker was beginning to crumble..."

I mean, that's pretty harsh stuff. And then Howard goes ahead a couple of years later and gets excited to work for this guy?

Honestly, though, I didn't know anything about Jason Whitlock.

Huh. I guess that could have worked last October, when he first got Whitlock's offer, but didn't he have time during the "vetting" by Whitlock to learn more? But Howard was still ready to go work for a guy most other black sportswriters already knew was "the racist right's attack dog."

I know, struggling journalist takes what struggling journalist can get. It just seems a little weird, that part, and knocks the moral superiority down a notch or three. But yeah, thoughtful piece overall.
posted by mediareport at 7:57 AM on June 13, 2014

Great piece. Heavy on their history and very informative about the events that are discussed. It doesn't appear in the text, but I feel like "here's what they think about you" appeared several times.
posted by cashman at 8:39 AM on June 13, 2014

after reading through this very well-written article, i concluded that i would not go to work for mr. whitlock under any circumstances, no matter what color i was.
posted by bruce at 10:34 AM on June 13, 2014

Greg Howard has quietly become the best Deadspin contributor. Amidst an increasing barrage of one-liners, reposts from other gawker media sites, and hastily-written and typo-filled snarkpieces, Howard has produced well-informed soccer commentary, and thoughtful long-form stories like this one.
posted by googly at 10:47 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I almost never read sports reporting because of the writer but this article was good enough that I looked up Howard's page. This article on the American world cup team is excellent and I hate soccer.
posted by bukvich at 10:55 AM on June 13, 2014

Great article. I generally don't read sports writing, or indeed, watch sports at all, but this stuck out to me:

Mockups of the page have been passed around. One source explained that when you open the site, hip-hop music plays in the background, like the homepage of a multi-level nightclub or an old Myspace profile, stopping and starting when you click on different links and so forth.

Seems like blatant pandering, especially considering Whitlock's disparagement of hip hop culture.
posted by supermassive at 11:16 AM on June 13, 2014

did anyone else get a bit of whiplash

He definitely seems less than scrupulously honest. Not only does he totally ambush a guy he asked to work for, he pretty clearly quotes a tweet out of context.
posted by jpe at 5:13 PM on June 13, 2014

There's also this bit:
When he asked me about my favorite sportswriters, I told him Whitlock. We got along just fine.

Honestly, though, I didn't know anything about Jason Whitlock. I'd never read his columns...
Really inspires trust.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:28 AM on June 14, 2014

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