Deadspin’s piercing coverage of ESPN has long been one of the anchors of the biggest sports blog on the web. The ESPN-Deadspin rivalry goes all the way back to 2009 and the infamous ESPN Horndog Dossier under former editor A.J. Daulerio. For the last several years, the Gawker outlet has emerged as the biggest thorn in the side of Bristol, Connecticut.
The feud would make for a great 30 for 30 documentary with all of its twists and turns over the years. There was the time ESPN wanted to hire Tommy Craggs at Grantland and a pink gorilla stole the spotlight. Then there was the time Craggs crashed ESPN’s offices and got kicked out. And who could forget ESPN exec John Walsh accusing Deadspin’s John Koblin of having a vendetta against the network because Lynn Hoppes stole his girlfriend when Koblin is openly gay. When ESPN credited Deadspin on air for breaking the Manti Te’o story, it was a sure sign of the apocalypse.
Deadspin’s coverage of ESPN has matured and grown in recent years though, specifically with the addition of the respected reporting of Koblin. Deadspin’s reporting on Lynn Hoppes, Sarah Phillips, and the network’s Tim Tebow obsession were influential pieces of journalism – not born out of vengeful spite and fury, but of holding the powerful accountable.
In December, the small circle of those dedicated to critically covering the sports media industry took a hit when Koblin left Deadspin for the Style pages of the New York Times. After a brief vacancy, Deadspin now has a new person monitoring the ESPN beat.
Dave McKenna, formerly of the Washington Post and Washington City Paper, has joined the website and will focus on covering the self-proclaimed leader. McKenna has written articles over the last year for Deadspin on subjects ranging from Adrian Dantley to Dominica’s Winter Olympians. Editor-in-Chief Tommy Craggs confirmed McKenna’s hiring for the ESPN beat and said, “We’ve hired one of my favorite reporters to replace one of my favorite reporters.”
McKenna is perhaps most well known for being the thorn in the side of another powerful entity – Daniel Snyder. The Redskins owner sued McKenna over a damning column and Deadspin stood by McKenna in public support until the lawsuit was eventually dropped. Most recently, McKenna wrote a cover story for the Washington Post magazine on DC high school sports. This was noteworthy because he hadn’t written a sports story for the Post since a confrontation with Tony Kornheiser years ago. Now, McKenna will be covering Kornheiser and his employer, which should make for some very interesting reading should their paths ever cross again.
This is a strong hire from Deadspin. It’s encouraging to see the site continuing their efforts in covering ESPN and the rest of the sports media industry in great detail. ESPN is a company worth $40 billion dollars and the world’s most valuable media property. Forbes lists ESPN as the 37th most powerful brand in the world, ahead of the likes of Gucci, Ford, J.P. Morgan, Shell, and Starbucks. This is a company that needs dedicated reporters holding it accountable. Given McKenna’s history with Daniel Snyder and willingness to disrupt an empire, this news probably won’t be celebrated in ESPN’s corporate offices today. And that’s a good thing.