to disclose their names, two of the site's six founders--all women; they say
they met on a message board for baseball groupies and are now in their
20s--agreed to talk to SI. One of the two, who goes by the alias Satine Ivey,
says she is a 20-year-old accounting major at NYU and that neither her parents
nor her friends know she runs the site, because if they did, "they'd think
I was some sort of slut." (The other interviewed founder, also an NYU
student, 20-year-old "Katharine Heart," would communicate with SI only
by e-mail because her parents pay her cellphone bill.) When asked why they run
the site, Ivey said, "We want to expose the hypocrisy of players. A lot of
people think these guys are perfect with their cute little family and the
pretty wife and the money. But they're so messed up, the drinking and the drugs
and the women."
As for how the
site got started, she said, "We just had a crazy idea one night. Let's do
something like this, nobody will ever find out. Well"--she giggled--"I
guess they did." In an attempt to prove that On the DL's stories are
accurate, Ivey offered the cellphone number of a married big-name American
League pitcher who, she said, tried to persuade her to come to his hotel
(You might be
wondering: When might libel lawyers get involved in such an enterprise?
According to Jeffrey Neuburger, chair of the technology, media and
communications department at the New York City law firm Brown Raysman, Internet
portals are protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and
Communications Decency Act in ways that print publications aren't--because
sites are hosts and not responsible for what people write--but the posters
themselves can be held liable. Bloggers can be sued not only for what they
write, but also if they post a doctored or falsely incriminating photo or
reprint a libelous rumor from another source. Says Neuburger, "If you put
up a defamatory rumor about Derek Jeter and he can find you, he can sue
This is the
power--and the danger--of the Internet: Any girl or guy at a bar can bring down
an athlete, and a rumor can be fanned into a full-fledged conflagration. The
result: Athletes are very wary. Even Darrin Horn, the basketball coach at
low-profile Western Kentucky, is worried; he says that last summer he declined
to have his picture taken with two women at a golf function. "It would have
just been an innocent thing, but people can even misinterpret pictures and make
a story out of it," says Horn. "So no pictures like that. You just
can't do it."
Hornets forward David West echoes that sentiment. "You always have to be
conscious of where you are and who you're around," he says. "Those
camera phones are bad. When you go out, you've got to make sure you're not
caught in a compromising situation."
Where is all of
this leading? Well, for one, athletes--already inclined to hide behind agents,
tinted windows and the gates of walled-in communities--will become as guarded
as A-list movie stars, if they're not already. Maybe the Web, while providing
more access than ever to the games, is really taking us further from those who
play them. This shouldn't be surprising. "Athletes are celebrities,"
says Leitch. "We get enough people like the guy who took those pictures [of
Orton], and we won't be stopped."
what, exactly? "So what, a guy's drunk?" says Padwe. "What does
that tell me about him?" Perhaps the advantage is in not knowing:
Ignorance, or at least detachment, is bliss. And detachment is what allows
Internet scribes to trash athletes from their living rooms without fear of
reprisal. Maybe, in a weird closing of the circle, we are returning to the
earliest days of sports journalism, before those long train rides, when the
writers didn't even go into locker rooms. The famous 1924 story by Grantland
Rice about the Notre Dame--Army game--you know, "Outlined against a blue,
gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again"--contained not a single
"I think the
main reason I've done well is that I like sports," Simmons says while
watching a Celtics game on TV and complaining about Doc Rivers's coaching.
"I feel that a lot of people in the media, columnists for big papers, don't
like sports. I think fans can relate to me partly because I'm not in the locker
As popular as he
is, though, Simmons is already thinking about his life after Sports Guy; he
says he has only "a good 18 to 20 months left in me," because he
doesn't want to be "that 42-year-old guy sitting on a barstool, saying how
hot Anna Kournikova is." And that may be a good thing, because despite
Simmons's vast readership, some believe his time has passed. In an ironic
twist, there is a message board called Sons of the Sports Guy--observers
critiquing the observer--that obsessively follows Simmons's work. Of late, some
have soured on the Sports Guy, and Leitch sees where they're coming from.
"Simmons is talented, but I think he's kind of worn out," he says.
"One of the reasons that people have turned on Simmons, I think unfairly,
is that people think he's not one of them anymore. He goes to parties, and you
have to go through a forum to e-mail him."
Yes, it's hard to
be a "common fan" when you become a celebrity, even if your columns
remain funny and provocative. And it's probably inevitable that the blogosphere
will eventually turn on Simmons, who isn't truly "one of them." His
format--long columns without responses--really makes Simmons a transitional
figure between the old-school journalists and the new bloggers, like Leitch,
who are champions of interactivity, who have taken fan empowerment one step
further, for better or worse.