Slow Motion Interview: Deadspin Founder, Will Leitch

Slow Motion Interview: Deadspin Founder, Will Leitch
  • We're excited to be joined today by Will Leitch to discuss The Buzzsaw That Is the Arizona Cardinals.

    (By the way, Mr. Leitch, if you google "the buzzsaw", Arizona Cardinals is the third option)

    I was curious about your opinion of the Cards obtaining Carson Palmer.

    Palmer is turning 34 this season and his best years were in 2005 and 2006.

    It seems like there are about 22 teams who have what they would consider their franchise quarterback. There are about 8 teams, who either know they will have to go shopping after the season, or don't know enough about their own QB yet.

    I would put Arizona in a class only with the Chiefs where they know what they have is a competent short term fix.

    Do you think rolling the dice with a Carson Palmer is a good idea in today's NFL? The Cardinals have an otherwise intriguing roster; there is probably more "buzz" (no pun intended) around them than there has been in years.

    But can you really contend in this golden age of QB's with Carson Palmer? Or is that not even the point of trading for him; is the idea, ala an Atlanta Hawks mentality, to just try to make the playoffs every year to fill the seats?

  • First off, thanks for having me. I like this pseudo-blog-pseudo-interview-pseudo-podcast format. I feel as if I'm having a chat session with Earth.

    Second: I'm delighted that you hear buzz about the Cardinals this year, because I haven't heard much. The main issue is this division: It's so tough already, and now the Rams are improving. The Cardinals have some talent, but they have so far to go to catch those guys that it's tough to see how they can get there. And that was before Cooper's injury. There's not much worse than your first-round pick -- used on a position where you desperately need help -- going down for the year (probably) in preseason.

    I'm excited about Palmer, not so much because of him but because of how historically horrible the quarterbacking has been since Kurt Warner retired. (And before he joined the team, really.) I'm just happy to have someone who doesn't look like he's throwing with the wrong hand. Whatever keeps Larry Fitzgerald more sane: He looked so sad, all year. It was difficult to blame him.

    As for that Atlanta Hawks mentality ... man, if the Cardinals made the playoffs every THIRD year, I'd be elated. In my lifetime, they've been there during a non-strike-season three times. As a fan of this team for nearly 40 years, I've learned the only thing worth asking for is relevance. Or at least people remembering the team exists.
  • I wanted to ask you about rooting for a sports team in a foreign city.

    Since 1990, I've been the only San Antonio Spurs fan I know in New York. When they won their titles, I basically gave myself a high-five and then went to do the dishes. Obviously this is in stark contrast to rooting for the Mets, where I have 100 people to commiserate with.

    What is your routine for watching Cardinals games? Is there a Cardinals bar in the city somewhere? Do you have a group of friends who are Cardinals fans to watch the games with? If not, do you find it to be a strange experience rooting for a team by yourself?
  • Well, I just moved out of NYC, so watching them in Athens should be relatively simple: These days I can just watch the games on NFL Sunday Ticket on my computer. More than happy to pay $300 bucks to watch the Cardinals lose 12 times. Seriously, it's my honor.

    In NYC, though, before they had the Ticket online, I had to go to bars. There isn't much sadder than going into a crowded sports bar in New York City and asking them to put on the Arizona Cardinals game. They just assume you're a degenerate gambler.

    I always ended up with the smallest TV in the place, in the back of the bar, right next to the kitchen where people are coming in and out of all the time. But it was never lonely, because for most of my life, I've never known any Arizona Cardinals fans. It was my own personal thing, and I kind of liked having it to myself. Cheering for a team is an intensely personal activity anyway, so I see nothing wrong with watching a game by one's self. It's like going to a movie by yourself: You don't have to worry about whether anyone else is enjoying what's going on other than you.
  • Alex Added by: Akiva
    Will, follow up question: WHY did you remain a Cardinals fan when the team moved to Phoenix?

    I'm a Vikings fan, and even though I haven't lived in Minnesota, I don't think I could continue rooting for them if they moved (even if they moved to where I live!). I know I certainly have never rooted for the Lakers (granted, they moved two decades before I was born). I half-heartedly rooted for the Stars that year they played Buffalo in the Cup finals, but only because their best players (esp. Mike Modano) were the same guys who had played for the North Stars.

    There's no connection between the current Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis, except for the Bidwells. And it's not even a franchise that originates in St. Louis -- didn't the Bidwells first own the team in Chicago? The only other person I know who roots for a team after they've moved from his hometown is Adam Carolla, who now roots for the (St. Louis, ironically) Rams.
  • Are the Bears who we thought they are?
  • Amazing -- I've had that same miserable experience asking the Gin Mill waitress to turn on the TV so I could watch the David Carr-led Texans. Was a moment filled with such profound shame.
  • Re: Alex, and continuing to be a fan when your team leaves:

    It's difficult for me to get too angry at the Cardinals for leaving St. Louis: After all, I don't live there anymore either. And moreover: When you're a fan of a team, particularly in the NFL (which is a 400-day-a-year follow at this point), you are a fan of them all the time. I don't understand when I was just going to suddenly switch, out of nowhere. These are my guys.

    Being a fan of a team is illogical -- they don't care about you; they only care about how much money you will give them -- so the only way to make sense of it is to make it personal. The Cardinals will someday have a different coach, different players, different owners, maybe even a different city and a different name ... so the only thing that can tie all the different strains together are their fans. They're the only constant. I think that is important.
  • Re: The Fades:

    You know what people never remember about that game? That was the best game Matt Leinart ever played. He was AMAZING that game. He was never that good again, or even close. But it bought him an extra year's rope, that game.
  • Hi Will, as a big Cardinals' fan living in New York, I definitely can commiserate with the small TV assignments at bars. It always seems that even though a bar could be littered with big flat screens, the Cardinals' game always lands on an 11" Black and White TV that is partially obstructed somehow from wherever you are sitting or standing.

    One question I have for you is: Do you also have the same feeling about the early stages of Arians along the lines of the early days of Whisenhunt, where there was an instilling of major confidence (rational or not) in the franchise. The more and more I hear from him , it keeps me deeper entrenched in talking myself into not just being competitive this season but actually being in the mix to contend in a tough division. It can't just be the Kangol.
  • Re: Yosef:

    Yeah, Arians provides me with some reassurance, but I wouldn't put much faith in me on that: I would have stabbed myself in the face if Whisenhunt had told me to. That guy got us to the Super Bowl: I trusted him unconditionally. He had me briefly believing in Max Hall!

    That's to say that I still need some time to be able to trust again, as much as I dig the Kangol.
  • Will,

    Slightly off-topic, random question.

    In your book about the Cardinals, I remember you wrote about taking a stranger to a Cardinals playoff game (was it the World Series clincher? I've blacked out the entire 2006 playoffs as a Met fan.)

    You asked him not to contact you because it would ruin the memory you and your father had in your head of that night- did that guy ever contact you?
  • Yeah, I didn't take the stranger to the game: We just happened to be sitting next to him, and at the end of the game, after we won (the World Series clincher over the Tigers), he took a picture of me and my parents. It's a famous family picture: I think my dad briefly had it on some stamps. But then he left to go meet his brother who was on the other side of the stadium, and we never saw him again. I didn't have to ask him not to contact me: I'm sure he didn't care one way or another. He was a nice guy, but he had celebrating to do. I've never heard from him, and suspect he has no idea he was ever written about at all.
  • Will,

    Can we get a prediction for the Cardinals this season? Is it feasible that they challenge for a playoff spot in what is really a brutal conference this year?
  • I don't think so. Palmer should make life easier for Fitz, and the defense was good last year and should be all right again this year ... but San Francisco and Seattle are so far ahead of them, and the Rams are coming ... this looks like a 6-10 year to me. It's sad that I'd be OK with that, but I would be.
  • Max Added by: Will Leitch
    Who is the guy who does color commentary for the Arizona Cardinals during preseason? I don't know how to describe this guy's voice as anything but Brute. And he's such a homer in the very best sense of the word!

    Do Cardinals fans love this man as much as I do? What does this person do the rest of the year or -- and this would just be fantastic -- is this his full time gig?
  • Re: Max.

    That's actually Ron Wolfley, former All-Pro special teams guy for the Cardinals. And yes, he is awesome. I'm also disappointed he doesn't look as gruff as he sounds, but it doesn't matter.
  • I know you're hear to talk Cardinals, but I know you must have an opinion on the story involving ESPN's pulling out of participating in the PBS documentary about concussions.
    And do you see ESPN any differently than you did when you founded Deadspin?
  • Will: Eagles fan and AJ Daulerio enthusiast.

    One of the lowest points of my Eagles fandom was the night that they lost to the Cardinals in the 2009 NFC Championship game (also the reason why AJ has the Buzzsaw tat on his Ass).

    The Eagles were the heavy favorite going on the road against a 9-7 overachieving Arizona team, yet somehow choked and basically started the end of the Andy Reid Era.

    Going into that game-- did you have any sense that the Cardinals would or could win that game?

  • Re: Shamir

    I really thought they were going to win: I was willing to shave my head had they lost. (No way I was getting a tattoo.) And I don't remember the Eagles being a HEAVY favorite, either. It was four points, which is a lot on the road, I guess, but not insane. That Cardinals playoff team was outstanding, and the team, on the whole, was a lot better than people thought. I wrote about why everyone assumed they were horrible, back then, right here:

    Yeah, I believed they would win. I was there, in person for it too, and it was as terrific as you might imagine. That building gets louder than you'd think.
  • As for ESPN and the concussions business, that's not surprising: It's just sad. ESPN is a place that, by dint of its resources, can amass some of the most talented journalists and writers and broadcasters working today. But it is still a hugely successful business, and that's of course what's going to win out in the end. Working at ESPN might make one think one is immune from the weakened institutional foundation of journalism these days, but this was excellent proof that they're not any more immune than the rest of us. Truth will always lose out to profits when profits are all that matter.
  • Will, thanks so much for joining us today!

    You can read Will on sports at the fantastic site - He talks about movies at http://griersonleitch.kinja... (/
    Download his podcast on iTunes "The Will Leitch Experience" and follow him on Twitter @williamfleitch

    Did I miss anything??

    Hope your draft went well and the Woody Allens were able to pick up their missing pieces (