The emperors of ancient Rome infamously realized that by providing free entertainment in the form of slaves murdering each other, the great masses of Disgruntled Citizens could be transformed into the great masses of Content Citizens. By nature, Content Citizens do not revolt against their rulers. They do not commit acts of violence against the wealthy elite. They might harmlessly Grumble about Things from time to time, but you never have to worry about them forming an angry mob.
Content Citizens are nice. Sanitary. Easy to manage. Easier to abuse.
American football is often referred to as a Gladiator Sport. The comparison is easy to make – “Muscular dudes in an arena beating the shit out of each other” is a description that could just as easily apply to the action on any given Sunday as it could to an event in the ancient Roman Coliseum. And while the players are no longer slaves, the rags-to-riches stories we often read about NFL stars are not unlike the saga of a captured prisoner winning his freedom in the gladiator pit. We like it. It makes us feel good.
It makes us content.
Deadspin was murdered this week, killed off by a simple three-word declaration handed down by their new ownership, the private equity firm Great Hill Partners:
“Stick to Sports.”
The untimely death of Deadspin is no doubt part of a larger trend where beloved websites are gobbled up by big-money corporate fucks who, in their endless quest for More Profits, proceed to gut their new assets until all that remains is an ad-covered husk of what used to be readable. Talented writing and editorial staff are jettisoned in favor of inexperienced freelancers whose primary directive is to generate ad-clicks via a continuous stream of hollow, meaningless posts fueled by social media data and godless algorithms. What exists from then on is a zombie, the reanimated corpse of a website doomed to stumble along until its tech-bro ownership gets bored and decides to go destroy something else.
These glorified pump-and-dump schemes are often disguised as a necessary restructuring – a means to right the ship after having sailed too deep into the waters of unprofitability. News media is dying, after all. But Deadspin was no damsel in financial distress – by all accounts the popular sports blog was quite profitable, boasting a world-class staff and a dedicated readership that most content creators would kill for. That Deadspin was so successful makes their unraveling all the more infuriating. If it was so clearly not broke, then why the fuck were the suits at Great Hill Partners so intent on fixing it?
The truth is that Deadspin was more than just a ruthlessly clever sports blog. They covered pop culture. They covered current events. They covered viral stories about people getting random objects stuck up their butts.
They covered politics, sometimes from a sports angle, but oftentimes not. And they were brilliant about it, with biting commentary and fierce takes that often rattled their more compliant peers in Big Media. Deadspin was fearless, provocative, and truthful. Across the whole of the internet, they might have been the only journalistic outlet that was operating without one iota of bullshit. Speaking truth to power became as much a part of Deadspin’s identity as their annual “Why Your NFL Team Sucks” series. The result was that a fucking sports blog was somehow pushing better political content than actual websites allegedly dedicated to the craft.
And it was a winning formula. People loved it. I loved it. And now it’s dead, murdered by a brainless edict that will without question cost its shitfuck ownership to lose money on their investment.
All because they didn’t Stick to Sports. Because Deadspin treated its readership like they had both a pulse and an IQ with more than two digits. Because reading their posts made you think. Because we are not allowed to mix politics and sports, unless those politics are thinly-veiled Republican talking points about Hard Work and Determination and perpetuating the myth of the American Dream by framing the rags-to-riches stories of elite athletic talents as something that could happen to anyone.
Because our corporate overlords are like those Roman Emperors. Because they don’t want us to draw any meaningful connections between sports and politics. Because they don’t want us to see Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, or to hear Dan Le Batard describe the racist attacks on Ilhan Omar as un-American, or to read a thought provoking article defending Nationals fans for booing Trump during the World Series. Because someone looking for news about the Big Game might stumble upon Deadspin and read something that discontents them.
What they do want are submissive fucks like Jimmy Pitaro, good little shills that work tirelessly to maintain the illusion that sports and politics exist in separate vacuums, and to maintain the ultimate goal of sports being a distraction from whatever heinous unraveling of our society is occurring this week. What they want is for us to shut our brains off, and to keep them off as long as possible so that they can keep generating More Profits at our continued expense. What they want are nice, Content Citizens.
Deadspin was destroyed and its ultra-talented staff driven off because they dared to deliver something more than the vapid, mindless bullshit that makes up ninety-percent of sports “journalism.” Now one of the best websites to ever grace the internet has joined the ranks of Forbes, Playboy, and Sports Illustrated – all domains destroyed by corporate fuckery. But the death of Deadspin stings worse. It is a more jarring and brutal loss. In a media world driven by profits, it makes no sense. But in a world where the ruling class is intent on using sports to keep us sedated, their demise needs no further explanation.