An Interview with Jason McIntyre

An Interview with Jason McIntyre

An Interview with Jason McIntyre

“From 6 a.m. I hit the ground running – I go through the New York Times, LA Times, Miami Herald, USA Today, a lot of the big papers. I’ll sift through 50 to 100 e-mails from bloggers and readers, who send me stories from important papers or a neat story from Saskatchewan or a crazy story from Australia or a story about Mike Tyson doing something nutty in Cannes. E-mails drive the website and they continue throughout the day. Then I go to the entertainment sites to see what athlete hooked up with some celebrity last night. I peruse the political sites – I poke around the Internet basically – I know it can be an evil place but there’s just so much information. … I don’t want to give away my secret places – I’ll go to some of the more prominent college sports message boards – as much as people laugh at those sites there are nuggets to be learned. Then I’ll eat breakfast and prepare the posts. The next thing you know it’s 8 or 9 o’clock…”

Jason McIntyre: Interviewed on June 12, 2008

Position: co-creator, writer and editor, The Big Lead

Born: 1977, Queens, NY

Education: James Madison, 2000, BS

Career: The Herald News (NJ) 2000 -01, Bergen Record 2001-04, Star Magazine 04-05, US Weekly 05-07, The Big Lead 2006 –

Personal: married

Favorite restaurant (home): ”Curry in a Hurry”, New York; Woo Lae Oak, New York “great for dining with a large group of friends

Favorite restaurant (away): Madame Janette’s, Aruba

Favorite hotel: Grand Mayan Acapulco, “a hot tub on our deck”

Posted by The Big Lead, June 10, 2008, 9:57 a.m.:

In our frequent discussions with sports journalists, without question, they seem most embarrassed by Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times. He’s viewed by many as a coward who takes joy in lobbing knee-jerk grenades
throughout Chicago, but refuses to face those he disparages in print. At least every other week we get an email about how Mariotti sits isolated from other journalists at major sporting events, and wears a perpetual scowl as he forms his incendiary columns. Some view him as a glorified blogger – a strictly opinion-based Negative Nancy who has the access to ask pointed questions, but never does because he’s allergic to locker rooms. He might as well opine from his sofa.

According to Teddy Greenstein of the rival Tribune
, writers at Mariotti’s paper – in particular, columnist Rick Telander – seem to be disgusted by Mariotti’s hack tactics. Back in 2003, Telander and Mariotti nearly went to blows in the Wrigley Field press box
, and last week, a similar incident played out in the offices of the Sun-Times “after [the paper’s] editors refused to run columns Telander filed for the Wednesday and Friday papers.” Telander was reacting to yet another idiotic Mariotti column, but was censored.

Why the paper’s editors continue to protect one of the biggest jokes in sports journalism is beyond us. Does anyone else think that maybe Around the Horn would become watchable if Mariotti were no longer on the show
? We’ve had many folks ask us to interview Mariotti, since it’s wrong for us to go after him without giving him a chance to respond. But he won’t do it. If a guy won’t face athletes, why do you think he’d face a big, bad, blogger?

Q. You wrote that you were amazed at the “venom” directed at your blog. Who and why?

A. I guess on the Internet it’s a lot easier to hate something and not like it and be mean than is to enjoy something or say it’s great. Buzz Bissinger – you saw his HBO rant – and a lot of people have echoed that and said the Internet is mean and nasty and vile. To some extent that’s true. A prominent member of the media said to me once – he had seen some of the heat blogs were taking – and he said ‘Jason, some of these journalists who hate blogs are just mad that you and other blogs are pissing on their hydrant – they don’t like somebody else coming into their territory’. I didn’t see it as that – I saw it as just offering our thoughts on sports – guys with opinions.

Let me ask you, when you dislike something do you normally go out and slam it or do you avoid it?

Q. Avoid.

A. Yeah. Jay Mariotti – every week he writes something mean and off the wall and knee-jerk and somebody will send it to me. If you know that, why bother to read the guy? Why get all worked up about Jay Mariotti or Scoop Jackson – why not ignore them?

Q. Emily Gould recently wrote in New York Times Sunday Magazine about her addiction to personal blogging. Why don’t you reveal much of yourself in your blog?

A. I’m not the story. I’m just a guy with a blog. I don’t think people care that much about me. There have been times when I reveal some things but the blog’s never been about me. I wanted to create a brand that could resonate – The Big Lead. I don’t want people thinking Jason McIntyre, so when somebody else takes over it will be a seamless transition. One reason I don’t use the word I is that people would think of an online journal – I don’t want it to read like a high school journal.

I have zero aspirations of that. Maybe you’ll see a couple of posts about my experiences in the celebrity world, or about the time Albert Pujols brushed me off.

Q. What happened?

A. I was with the Bergen Record. They threw me a bone and I went to a Mets game. I’m a young aggressive writer and I bumped into Pujols and Renteria in the bowels of the stadium – it was just me and those two guys, who were sitting there. I started to talk – they looked at me and at each other and pretended like I wasn’t there.

I covered the baseball All-Star Game. You ask Derek Jeter a question and he tunes you out like you don’t exist. Seeing that, I would almost rather be a blogger than put up with that every day.

Q. Why did you give up anonymity?

A. I had been writing the blog as a hobby for two years and I had turned down some media interviews – one with NPR – after the Colin Cowherd thing – and a bunch of middle-of-the-pack newspapers came after me. But they couldn’t mention my name, which was a deal breaker, and that kind of stunk. It came to the point where some people said being anonymous held back the website. I had quit my job and we were preparing to move out of the area. SI asked me and I said all right.

Q. Why were you anonymous in the first place?

A. I had a job – I was doing this as a hobby after hours with a friend and had gained a following. I had read stories about people getting canned for having a blog and I didn’t want to take a chance. I wasn’t making any money off of it – it was a fun after-hours thing, a way to unwind.

Q. Who is intern Bill and why do you need him?

A. He’s a guy who is a fan of the website and blogs and sports – one of these guys who sits at his desk at work and surfs the web and newspapers and obscure websites and must send me 20 links a day. I said ‘this guy is too good and too passionate to just be sending me links – let’s get him on as an intern’. I’m giving the fan a voice. A lot of people want to start a blog but figure ‘who’s going to read it?’. So I’m giving sports fans a chance to get their message out to a broader audience. Obviously some can write and some can’t and I have to edit them. But it’s an opportunity to let their voices be heard and it’s good to get a different perspective. Who wants to read 12 or 15 posts a day from one guy?

Q. How many posts do you write?

A. It varies. The most we’ve done in one day is 18 or 19. Neil Best at Newsday sets the blog crossbar pretty high with 25 or 30 posts on his record days. It depends on the news and it depends on my life. Do I have to take my wife to the airport? Do I have to take in the car for an oil change? These things cut into the amount of posts. I would say it runs from six to 12 to 15.

Q. Describe your typical workday?

A. I set the alarm for 5:58 a.m. and I wake up to the Howard Stern Show – which is sad but I have to be honest. That’s on in the background. From 6 a.m. I hit the ground running – I go through the New York Times, LA Times, Miami Herald, USA Today, a lot of the big papers. I’ll sift through 50 to 100 e-mails from bloggers and readers, who send me stories from important papers or a neat story from Saskatchewan or a crazy story from Australia or a story about Mike Tyson doing something nutty in Cannes. E-mails drive the website and they continue throughout the day.

Then I go to the entertainment sites to see what athlete hooked up with some celebrity last night. I peruse the political sites – I poke around the Internet basically – I know it can be an evil place but there’s just so much information. I’ll go the Mac Rumors site and veer off and do non-sports. I’ve been following real estate for a while. I don’t want to give away my secret places – I’ll go to some of the more prominent college sports message boards – as much as people laugh at those sites there are nuggets to be learned.

Then I’ll eat breakfast and prepare the posts. The next thing you know it’s 8 or 9 o’clock. Basically you are at your computer from 6 onward – you break for breakfast and go for a run – and most of the traffic picks up around 9 in the east and by 10 in most of the rest of the country. I’ve got on ‘Mike and Mike in the Morning’ – muted because those guys are awful but they have some headlines. They had Schilling taking shots at Kobe – I went to the Globe for that and typed up a post. After that show I watch some morning shows – you can’t watch sports all the time. If you consume sports that many hours a day you’ll kill yourself. I can’t stomach that – I need diversity. I need to get on my personal accounts, like Facebook, and maybe I’ll go out to lunch. The great thing is that you can post-date items – by 9 I might have items post-dated until 1 – it’s like being on autopilot for a few hours. I can run errands and go out to lunch. Then in the afternoon I’ll get a couple of posts ready and I try to sign off by 4 o’clock.

This week I happened to check an e-mail – it was about Tyler Hansbrough partying with a UNC cheerleader – so I instantly jumped back on and jammed the post in. One of the problems is that you never know when these things will come in – you’re constantly checking your e-mail. Every once in a while we want to bring the readers original stuff.

After dinner I hop on the computer and start to prepare the shells for posting the next day – that’s the formatting. That’s usually a good 45 minutes. Then I’ll turn on the NBA finals – if I don’t watch the game what can I say about the game the next day? We went away Memorial Day weekend and I missed three games. I said ‘I missed three games but from what I’ve read…’ – that’s how I had to phrase it.

I can’t be everywhere and I can’t be totally tied to the website – I can’t let it consume my life. I’m still going to go on vacations and have fun. I went to the Grand Canyon in February – my wife let me bring my computer. We got off the plane and in the airport I saw that Shaq got traded. You’re kidding me. At the hotel we were dressing to meet some people but I had to get on the computer and formulate some quick thoughts on the trade. That’s how on top of the website I am.

The toughest time for me was when I got married and we went on our honeymoon to Hawaii for two weeks. I obviously wasn’t allowed to bring a computer to that for two weeks, and I didn’t bring a phone either. Faced with that option I said I won’t watch sports. It should be noted that I made sure my wedding day did not coincide with the NFL draft.

A friend of mine got married in 2003 on the day Pedro and Zimmer got into that fight. There was some down time between the ceremony and reception and I went back to my room and saw it. What do you think everybody was talking about at the reception? I told my wife ‘let’s get our vacations out of the way now, or just wait until December when the NFL season is over’.

Q. Do you break news?

A. Depends on what you call news. Is that Tyler Hansbrough thing news? Is my interview with Tony Kornheiser news? We had an item about Hannah Storm’s new partner – is that technically news? In the world of sports media I guess you could qualify it as news.

Q. Why your interest in sports media as opposed to sports?

A. Take Mike Wilbon. He’s on PTI, NBA Live, and other stuff, and he’s more known than 50 percent of the players in the NFL. You can’t name a starter on the San Diego Chargers offensive line but you know Mike Wilbon – that’s the case with most sports fans. These guys have gone from being behind a byline to being on TV every day – every sports fan watches these shows and knows the writers – whether they want to or not they have become celebrities – when you see Mike Wilbon and J.A. Adande walking down the red carpet at the Super Bowl party. Rick Reilly is getting paid more than 98 percent of the players in MLS, and maybe more than 80 percent of the NHL players – he got a four year deal at $17 million – isn’t that more than the NBA minimum? It’s not just money but fame and notoriety, and not in a negative way.

Q. How big is your staff, including stringers and contributors?

A. I’m always trying to build to take the pressure off of them. There are great writers out there – the soccer guy who contributes is good – he’s going to get snatched up by a larger entity. I like the idea of new voices – ideally I’ll have four different voices on any given day. Anybody likes to think their voice is the greatest but people can take only so much from one guy. I don’t have an opinion on hockey – I can’t pretend to follow every team in every league. I’ve got a guy who writes hockey who is a free lancer for newspapers. I don’t know about the NFL but hopefully I’ll find someone. I’ve got a free lancer who breathes college football. Somebody is always pitching ideas – it helps to have different eyeballs everywhere to expand this site. One thing we try not to do is have items that are on the front page of SI and ESPN. That stuff is already out there. You try to go for obscure and random stories that people might not have seen.

Q. Is there a major league of sports blogs?

A. Probably not. If you look at size and traffic there’s probably some separation but that’s based on who’s been around the longest. You’re not going to jump in overnight and have 8 million readers.

Q. Do you read all the commenters?

A No. I would get nothing done if I read all the commenters. Some posts have 250 comments and I don’t read 10. If somebody is going in the comment section with something that is unruly somebody will e-mail me to check it out. People get hold of me if things get out of hand on the comments…we’ve tried to clean things up. People are going to curse – that’s fine – but we’re trying to do away with personal attacks or the racist and sexist stuff. Some people come on and try to start shit with other people – there’s no place for that – it doesn’t add value.

Q. Do you do your interviews by e-mail or phone?

A. Kornheiser was over the phone – he doesn’t do e-mail. I prefer e-mail.

I started doing it by e-mail because I was anonymous at the time and didn’t feel like I could call a major journalist like TJ Simer. Why would he take the time to talk to an anonymous blogger. I started out by e-mailing eight or ten questions.

People are more comfortable with e-mail because they know they won’t be misquoted. They can be far more eloquent explaining themselves in e-mail. Some people aren’t wordy but they might be wordsmiths on e-mail. I much prefer doing e-mail interviews. That was a sticking point with Richard Dietch (SI). He said no.

Q. How do you know if you’ve had a good day?

A. Good question. (long pause) Can we come back to this?

Q. What’s the latest on the blog wars – who is attacking who?

A. I try not to get caught up in that stuff. Which is weird, because I report on the media and that Jay Mariotti and Rick Telander hate each other, and Norman Chad and Tony Kornheiser had a beef. I feel like the folks in mainstream media would like that to happen – right now they feel it’s eight thousand bloggers against ESPN – but I don’t know that it’s necessarily like that. Certainly there are some people out there who don’t like my blog or don’t like me but I don’t know that there’s a blog war going on. Certainly there are bloggers who don’t like other bloggers – that’s just the nature of the beast.

Q. Why don’t blogs scrutinize other blogs the way they do mainstream media?

A. One reason is that a lot of bloggers are doing it as a hobby. Are you supposed to come after a guy blogging in his spare time as a hobby? A lot of the guys don’t have a ton of readership or writing experience. Are you going to hammer some guy who has 50 people coming to his website and destroy him – that’s kind of mean. There’s no intent to take anybody down. Some writers have the potential to have impact – they’re speaking to large audiences and sometimes people take umbrage and disagree with some of their stances. There’s no intent on my behalf to destroy anyone or be super mean to anybody

I get tons of e-mail every day with stuff being very harsh on athletes and people have said you gotta be careful what you write. If you link someone to something that is unconfirmed the blood is on your hands. I have to be cautious on what I read and link.

Q. You screen sources?

A. When we started we got crazy tips and ran with them because there were not a lot of people looking at us. As we’ve grown and earned respect we’ve had to clean up our act considerably.

Q. Posts you regret?

A. Yeah. Matt Leinart. It was off base and wrong. We took it down but it should have never gone up.

Q. Most mainstream sports media now have blogs? Are they co-opting the territory staked out by independent sports blogs?

A. Interesting topic. I recently talked to a newspaper that is doing a story about this exact topic. A Miami Herald writer (Armando Salguero) wrote a blog post on his Miami Herald site as if he were a blogger with no accountability – he used some choice language and the ombudsman wrote him up – you can ‘t do that and you can’t write like that. When people write for a blog the idea is that I can be free and loosey-goosey. Well, you can’t do that with a newspaper – yet. But there are plenty of good newspaper blogs, such as Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post, who get blogging now. It’s just an natural progression – eventually newspapers will hire bloggers or create their own on staff. I pitched one to my last paper in 2002 – a page 2 entertainment one-day-a-week thing. The newspaper shot it down and it became my blog.

Q. What’s the difference between Deadspin and Big Lead?

A One thing is that I started Big Lead and I also wear many hats since it’s mine and I’m not part of a larger company. I have to deal with everything, running it as a small business as opposed to being an employee, which is why I’m here from 6 to 5 every day. If something goes wrong with the server I call up and spend 30 minutes getting it fixed. I don’t have a marketing guy to reach out and lure advertisers. Luckily I have an understanding wife who is cool with me investing so much time in this.

I guess we veer more toward entertainment than they do, things like movies, stuff I think is fun that is not as serious and sportsy. They’ve been around much longer – Deadspin always will be the No. 1 sports blog. It’s in the Gawker family – the Gawker empire is phenomenal. I did a test sports blog for them in ‘02 or ‘03. I met with Nick Denton – he’s brilliant and he just gets it. They know what they want and they make it happen. I’m surprised there’s not more copycats.

Q. Any interest in replacing Will Leitch at Deadspin?

A. I don’t think they would put it to me.

Q. If they did?

A. I don’t think so. I’m having fun doing my little site here.

I’ve got an answer to how I know if I’ve had a good day.

Q. Go ahead.

A. I’ve had a good day If I’ve been fair to the people I’ve written about, be it athletes, journalists, coaches, other bloggers, whoever. If I’ve been fair and accurate I’ve had a good day.

Posted by The Big Lead, Sept. 20, 2007, 3:47 p.m.:

You’ll be seeing a lot more of Reggie Bush’s girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, this holiday season. Specifically, in the pages of Playboy
, according to Us Weekly. Mike Wilbon’s favorite piece of ass will be featured in 12 pages of magazine, making for a great stocking stuffer. As for Bush and Kardashian, a Chicago reader spotted Kardashian in the Windy City Friday, and according to our tipster’s dog’s, sister’s, boyfriend’s gerbil, Bush’s girlfriend jetted to Tampa to watch the Saints get hammered on Sunday. Perhaps she’ll be mugging for airtime in the Superdome this weekend?

(SMG thanks Jason McIntyre for his cooperation)

Posted: Wednesday March 12, 2008 5:32PM; Updated: Friday March 21, 2008 5:23PM

Jason McIntyre started The Big Lead in February 2006.

In the ever-evolving sports blogosphere, where truth and rumor-mongering collide daily and often on the same Web site, TheBigLead.com has found an unlikely ally: the mainstream sports writer. The site has gained traction among the sports media thanks to a near-daily dose of gossipy items about its practitioners and interviews
with some of the power hitters of sports journalism, all the while remaining anonymous to its readers and subjects.

Until now.

The person behind The Big Lead
is a 31-year-old former sportswriter who runs the Web site from his home in Brooklyn. He recently left his job as an assistant news editor at US Weekly and has been working full time on The Big Lead since January. That month, according to Google Analytics, TheBigLead.com had 2.07 million page views and 429,949 unique visitors. “At the blog’s best, it would strive to be The Colbert Report meets Drudge Report,” says Jason McIntyre, the co-creator and principal writer and editor of The Big Lead.

McIntyre decided to reveal his identity following a number of conversations with me. “It never really crossed my mind until now,” he says. “I had opportunities. NPR asked me to come on, and I’ve done some interviews anonymously.”

His decision to go public comes five weeks after the writers of another popular anonymous sports site — the entertaining and snarky FireJoeMorgan.com
— came out of the blogging closet to their readers. “The arguments against anonymity were overwhelming,” says Michael Schur, one of FJM’s founders and a writer and producer for NBC’s The Office.

“The arguments for, at the time we started the blog, were simple: We didn’t want people conflating our professional lives with our blogger lives. But once the site gained a substantial readership, and given its content, it became clear to us that it was more important to stand publicly behind what we write. The accused have a right to face their accusers, should they care to. The only reason we didn’t do it earlier was laziness.”

Should sites such as The Big Lead put a face or byline behind their opinions and reporting? It’s a question that will continue to percolate as more sports bloggers extend into reportage. “When you get into the business of gathering information and reporting news, I’d like to see someone accountable with a byline,” says Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. “If it’s just a site or a blogger throwing out general sports opinions and jokes and whatever it is they do on their own private site, then who really cares? That said, if bloggers are gaining access as contributors to serious mainstream sports journalism sites, the rules should change. It’s no longer the free-for-all of posting that they had in cyberspace. They’re going to be a reflection on the sites they’re writing for. If they’re going to be reckless here, there are bigger consequences for everyone.”

Unlike the FJM crew, McIntyre has a background in sports journalism. He interned at the Greensboro News & Record after graduating from James Madison University in 2000 and then moved to New Jersey, where he held sportswriting jobs at the Herald News and Bergen Record. McIntyre freelanced for ESPN.com’s Page 3 and ESPN the Magazine and had a tryout for Gawker’s sports blog, the precursor to what is now Deadspin.com. He left the Bergen Record for Star magazine in 2004 and went to work at US Weekly in 2005 as a reporter. He has also freelanced for a number of papers, from The Boston Globe to Metro, a free daily newspaper published in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

McIntyre updates the site 10 to 15 times a day, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and usually answers upward of 75 e-mails daily. He has aggressively courted media members as sources. He says writers forward him stories — often their own — on a daily basis. “I think they e-mail us because we are fair,” he says. “We call it like we see it.”

Why would a major sports columnist agree to an interview with an anonymous sports blogger such as The Big Lead? The New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro said he spoke with the site because he thought it might be helpful for anyone who wanted to work for a New York tabloid. “I read, and had read, TBL occasionally, and it always struck me as relatively harmless at worst and kind of funny at best,” Vaccaro says. “After a few e-mail exchanges, I was fairly certain they were trustworthy, and they proved to be.”

Added Wojnarowski, who also agreed to an interview
: “I spend most of my days interviewing people for columns and stories, so I’ve always felt that the least I can do is honor the request of someone who asks that of me.”

Unlike traditional media outlets, The Big Lead has no written code of ethics. McIntyre says he and the site’s co-founder, David Lessa, a friend from college, have often debated adding one to the site. Does McIntyre consider himself a journalist? Is The Big Lead journalism? “I looked up the definition of journalism and it said something like the occupation of writing, reporting and editing,” he says. “So in the broader sense, in its traditional sense, I would say, yes, The Big Lead is journalism. We have some original reporting and other times we will just riff on a sporting event or a news story. But in the sense we don’t have anyone looking over our shoulders — we don’t have any editors and there is no one to answer to — that is not traditional journalism. Sports Illustrated has standards where you will have to vet a story with two or three sources. We don’t have that, and blogs don’t have that.”

BL was born quietly in February 2006 as a long e-mail chain between three college friends. It soon morphed into a blog with a core of 200 readers, mostly friends and family. McIntyre would post before and after work, and Lessa, a 31-year-old from Annandale, Va., who sells software to the government, would fill in during the day. (Lessa still handles the site’s technical side.) That August, McIntyre read a column from the syndicated columnist and ESPN poker commentator Norman Chad. “I had read him religiously in the Washington Post when I was growing up,” McIntyre says. “So I decided to e-mail him. I wrote, ‘Hey, we’re a blog. Nobody knows who we are, but can I send you some questions?’ He said sure. I was like, wow, that’s surprising. We sent him some questions, and he answered them.”

McIntyre and Lessa posted the interview
. The feedback was strong. Over the next three weeks they went hunting for other well-known sports media members. Bill Sheft
, then the humorist at Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers
, and Chris Jones
of Esquire all agreed to interviews. “At this point we realized the more we wrote about the media, the more the media would pay attention,” McIntyre says. “They liked reading about their colleagues and their peers.” Readers e-mailed suggestions for other sports journalists. One name stood out: Jason Whitlock. “Overwhelmingly, our readers wanted Whitlock,” McIntyre says. “He was writing for ESPN.com’s Page 2 and appeared on The Sports Reporters. But I thought he would be a long shot.”

Not so. The provocative columnist, a multimedia player in the sportswriting world, held nothing back in an interview posted on Sept. 22, 2006. Whitlock trashed his then ESPN colleagues
Scoop Jackson and Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, a regular on The Sports Reporters. The interview was picked up in USA Today and the New York Post, among others publications. ESPN quickly announced that Whitlock was persona non grata on its airwaves, saying his personal attacks went too far. Whitlock responded with a column critical of ESPN’s inability to tolerate criticism. (The network says Whitlock had quit his dot-com job with ESPN prior to his interview with The Big Lead.)

“Doing the interview was no big deal,” Whitlock says. “Norman Chad and T.J. Simers had already done interviews with the site. I never gave it much thought in terms of responding to their e-mails.” Whitlock says the site’s anonymity was not an issue for him. “I felt like it would be difficult to misquote or fabricate what was written in an e-mail,” he said. “I had a record of what was said and they had a record. Hard to screw that up.”

If the Whitlock interview caused a small ripple in the sports blogosphere, ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd created a tsunami. Last April, while hosting his national radio show, Cowherd urged his listeners to flood the Web site, an act that is commonly known in the 2.0 world as a denial-of-service attack. The added traffic was too much for The Big Lead’s server, and the site was forced offline for a couple of days.

“At the time I didn’t know much about The Big Lead,” Cowherd says. “I remember at one point just laughing and saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just blow up a Web site?’ How did I know in four seconds that I would knock it down for a weekend?”

Cowherd’s act put The Big Lead on the map. ESPN’s ombudsman forcefully wrote that suspensions
should occur for Cowherd-like acts in the future. NPR, Slate, USA Today and a host of other publications discussed the attack. It made TBL a sympathetic figure in the sports blogosphere — which covered it like D-Day — especially among those with an anti-ESPN bias. “I’m sure he felt like Mike Tyson knocking out a tomato can, but it didn’t take that much to knock us offline,” McIntyre says.

Not so, says Cowherd. “I’ve been on the air for more than a decade in radio, and the only thing I’ve ever regretted in my life is The Big Lead thing,” he says. “My dad was a small-business owner, and I would never in a million years inhibit a small-business owner’s ability to operate. It was very off-the-cuff. … I regret it. I felt terrible about it.”

In a next-gen twist of irony, Cowherd says he hears from sports blogs more than ever these days. “I have had hundreds of bloggers e-mail me and say, ‘Please blow up our site!'” he says. “Literally, it is a running joke on the show.”

Asked if he targets ESPN because of Cowherd’s attack or because ESPN the Magazine did not offer him a job when he interviewed there a couple of years ago, McIntyre says, “We don’t intentionally target anyone. … We are sitting here objectively covering the sports media.”

The Big Lead generates a small amount of income from ads on the site; McIntyre’s wife also works full time. Like many Web sites that traffic partly in gossip, The Big Lead’s information is not always correct. It has shown questionable judgement on occasion by linking to items based on suspect information at best. McIntyre says his biggest regret was running what he termed an “insensitive” and “irresponsible” post regarding Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart and fatherhood. He says he took it off the site after 45 minutes.

It’s unclear how going public will affect McIntyre. He is actively seeking work as a freelance writer and is now able to channel his energies full time into The Big Lead. The site’s interviews keep coming, including a Q&A last week
with New York Times reporter Karen Crouse. McIntyre says that he hears biweekly from sportswriters asking to be Q&A subjects. (Last year TBL approached me to do an interview; I politely declined.) “We’ll still do obscure stories and wonder aloud why USA Today gives a full-page feature to Doug Gottlieb,” he says, referring to the ESPN college basketball analyst. “We’re going to try to solve blind-item riddles in columns. Nothing is going to change.”

Or everything will change. There is now a face and a name behind the items. The problem with losing your anonymity, as the wise philosopher Marla Maples once noted, is that you can never go back. “I wish TBL would make his name known because ultimately, a site is only as credible as the credibility its readers ascribe to it, and over time I think it’ll be hard to sustain that,” Vaccaro said.

“And it’s not just so we can know whom to rip when something bad happens on TBL. I would suspect it’s a lot of work maintaining a site like that; you would think someone would want some kind of recognition for those labors. Wouldn’t you?”

EMOGRAPHICS

(source: Internal Survey Data)

Age

Under 18 4%

19-25 28%

26-34 45%

35-44 20%

45+ 3%

Gender

Male 90%

Female 10%

Education

High School Education 1%

College Education 84%

Post-Graduate Degree 15%

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