The American soccer community suffered a blow earlier this month when Grant Wahl, a veritable legend in the field, was abruptly fired after over 20 years at Sports Illustrated. As a member of that community, as well as a person with a healthy sense of solidarity with my fellow worker, I was enraged. Here was an established writer who was presented a boot to lick, refused to do so, and was kicked in the teeth for his temerity. For management to try and force a permanent pay cut on a writer, then smear him afterward, is absurd and unprofessional.
And yet, I am human. Upon hearing about Wahl’s firing—and his considerable salary, even excluding the hefty bonus—I admittedly thought to myself, Hm, SI has jobs, and I need one. The guy who just lost his did more or less the same thing I do. What if they hit me up about potentially taking over Wahl’s beat?
I may be human, and an inarguably flawed one at that, but I am not a coward. I am not a total clown. I am not a cretin worthy of the fiercest enmity, a piece of shit of the vilest stench. I am not a scab. Because of that, I answered my own question: No, if SI approached me for that job, I would decline.
Fuck no, I wouldn’t take that job! Since the content-farm experts of TheMaven took control of SI, they’ve done nothing but demonstrate how clueless and despicable they are. Breaches of editorial independence, short-sighted decision-making, callously handled layoffs—everything they touch turns to shit, and I don’t want those fingers on me. Especially in light of how dirty they did Wahl—trying to take his money, firing him when he balked, and then defaming him on his way out the door—I’d be an idiot to associate myself with them after that.
It’s worth acknowledging that the stakes are real here. I am presently unemployed. Also, I work in or around two fields—sports and journalism—that COVID-19 has killed almost as quickly as it kills people. And yet, in spite of that, if SI offered me today a life raft out of unemployment hell doing the only job I’m in any way qualified for and desire, my response would be, “Are you fucking kidding me? You turned a once-heralded company into a complete joke; you’re run by a shit-brained loser named James; you fucked over all the employees you’ve let go during your brief, horrendous tenure; and ESPECIALLY after the way you mismanaged the person whose job I’m ostensibly stealing, I’d sooner stick my hand down a running garbage disposal than work for some fucking ghouls like you! Fuck off! Grant Wahl forever!” Please, Sports Illustrated: Save me the trouble of having to copy and paste that into an email.
I mean, could you imagine what it’d look like if I weaseled my way in and pretended like none of that had happened? As if I’d try to court Wahl’s legion of readers with my articles, handwaving away the criticism with some limp excuse like, “You know, it wasn’t an easy decision, but the bosses promised they wouldn’t do to me the thing they just did to the guy everyone liked a lot more than me, and if you knew the facts you’d know it wasn’t as cut-and-dry as it seems. Also, I just feel like the world truly needs my pro/rel takes, so I gotta put them up wherever I can, you know?” Everyone—the readers, my colleagues at SI, fellow writers elsewhere, my friends, my girlfriend—would hate me, and they would be completely justified.
The mere fact that I’d be doing work for a bunch of people who hate me would suck. My style of writing and empty gas-baggery would not translate well at a place like SI, and it couldn’t differ more from the style of the man I’d replace. I’d probably wind up doing some comedically awful impression of what I thought it was Wahl did. The resulting dreck would be uniformly and necessarily terrible, and it would shame Wahl’s legacy by proving his stupidest critics right. Wahl’s fans would take every opportunity to tell me just how much they hated me, both for my terrible takes and my even worse choice to accept the job. They’d be right, of course—why would I be doing it if not to court the people who read and like SI?
Nonetheless, SI wouldn’t be crazy to consider me. Relatively, I’d be cheap. My previous job paid pretty well, but not Grant Wahl well. Then there’s the fact that I’d qualify as a change of pace. I’m a U.S. Soccer and MLS rabble-rouser. Wahl was no ass-kisser and criticized the powers that be when he believed it was deserved, but he was more of an optimist. I am young(ish) and black, whereas he is old(ish) and white.
The people in charge could see those things as assets, as ways to twist the framing of the Wahl debacle from “SI fires beloved writer in despicable way” to “SI sheds overpaid has-been to bring in young, black up-and-comer, whose tell-it-how-it-is attitude will be crucial toward building the magazine’s new voice.” Too often we see employers turn to systematically overlooked minority candidates only when it’s time to do something contemptible like, say, cross a picket line, finding no value in “diversity” but for the most cynical of benefits. I for one am too proud to sell my skin color to any amoral CEO so that he may use it as a shield.
All of this is probably moot anyway. Most likely I will struggle through unemployment even longer, either turning to freelancing if/when those budgets ever return, or, god forbid, I’ll hang up my typewriter for good and find a new industry to hack it in.
I guess I’d consider returning to one of my former places of employment, if the situation was right. If, say, my old haunt reopened after a long period of inactivity and wanted to make a splash by bringing back a familiar face. So, should the Texas Roadhouse in Greenwood, Indiana, open back up after the coronavirus lockdown, this busboy is ready to get back to work, if you’ll have me.
I feel like…. maybe…. just maybe… there is a deeper message here.
April 24, 2020 — 3:30 pm
Herb Tarlik says:
A boy can dream…
April 24, 2020 — 3:42 pm
I like this.
April 24, 2020 — 3:36 pm
April 24, 2020 — 3:37 pm
I can’t help but notice some similarities here with another media outlet I used to read.
April 24, 2020 — 3:43 pm
Space Coyote says:
Gilbert Arenas’s “Agent Zero: The Blog File”?
April 24, 2020 — 5:32 pm
RPM esq. says:
This 10/10 fire is better than anything Billy has ever written about soccer, which must mean…Billy should not Stick to Sports, and in fact should Stick to Not Sports!
April 24, 2020 — 3:44 pm
This is so vicious I can hear Jim Ross yelling while I read it. Just a brilliant and thorough demolition.
April 24, 2020 — 3:54 pm
+1 family, which that man has
April 24, 2020 — 7:09 pm
I know everyone is trying to read deeper into this than what the story is about, but guys come on, there’s no way the UTSB staff would be that petty, right? This is clearly just about SI.
April 24, 2020 — 3:54 pm
Look at me….mostly enjoying at a Billy Haisley article…..anything is possible
April 24, 2020 — 4:08 pm
SouthOfThe Border says:
And it’s short! And Messi not mentioned!
April 25, 2020 — 5:10 pm
Wolf R says:
The weirdest thing was everyone pretending Wahhabism making law partner salary wasn’t super bizarre.
April 25, 2020 — 7:46 pm
Garfield Thelonius Remington III says:
I can’t believe I read this and liked it.
Also, about Grant – SI did him dirty and he did not deserve it, but the canonizing is over the top. Every soccer blogger I know has a story about Grant trying to get them fired or blacklisted in some way, people who were doing it for peanuts or for free who really could have used mentorship or even just friendliness, and instead got a stuffed-up blowhard telling their “bosses” they should be “fired.”
April 24, 2020 — 4:19 pm
April 24, 2020 — 10:23 pm
I wondered why a couple SB Nation soccer blogs were taking shots at me in 2011/12 and asked Chris Mottram what was going on. Certainly never asked for anyone to be fired. Likely wouldn’t do that if it happened today. But that’s it. Still spend a lot of time with young writers:
Thanks for the column, Billy. Realize it’s got “levels.”
April 25, 2020 — 9:43 am
Best of luck to you in everything you do, man.
April 25, 2020 — 2:59 pm
Sounds like someone turned down that G/O editorial director spot.
April 24, 2020 — 4:21 pm
Bloghorn Leghorn says:
Take no prisoners, Billy. Carthago delenda est.
April 24, 2020 — 4:27 pm
This was masterful.
April 24, 2020 — 4:28 pm
Chuck "THE Chuck Modiano" Modiano says:
Ah but you see Billy Haisley, the circumstances of Grant Wahl’s departure are widely misunderstood and have been burdened by a number of misconceptions, which i will enumerate in great detail in an upcoming opus, as soon as I have finished cold-calling the relatives of dead athletes for sizzling quotes about the recent CBA.
April 24, 2020 — 4:31 pm
Mister McGibblets says:
You forgot to finish by pretending you don’t know what scab means and that taking a job from any corporate owner is the same thing.
April 24, 2020 — 6:22 pm
Also forgot to say “the world needs a Sports Illustrated” as if you’re fooling anyone by Scotch-taping a nameplate people actually care about to the door of your rickety horseshit operation.
April 24, 2020 — 6:47 pm
Rickety Horsesit going deeeep in NOTY.
April 25, 2020 — 8:19 am
You can’t put a price on dignity. But if you COULD, my price would be so, so much less than $350,000.00.
April 24, 2020 — 4:38 pm
Hank Scorpio says:
The specter of this blog lingers…
April 24, 2020 — 4:56 pm
Awesome's Razor says:
April 24, 2020 — 4:58 pm
April 24, 2020 — 5:09 pm
Spesse Jector says:
You forgot to talk about how being hypocritical it would be to be proud to join the Sports Illustrated Union while simultaneously being a scab
April 24, 2020 — 5:55 pm
Mister McGibblets says:
Also forgot to clumsily wave his colleagues’ suffering racist and misogynist abuse as a shield against being called a scab.
April 24, 2020 — 6:27 pm
Yeah but the MLS sucks.
April 24, 2020 — 6:47 pm
Gottdamn this post is so richly satisfying. I hate to admit how long I spend looking for a specter of evidence of schadenfreude on the twitter, but this will cure that ache for a good while.
April 24, 2020 — 7:00 pm
Mister McGibblets says:
Actually, he spells it Spector
April 24, 2020 — 7:29 pm
Ciro Immobile says:
April 24, 2020 — 7:27 pm
Fuck Jim Spanfeller!
April 24, 2020 — 7:59 pm
Burney McBurnerface says:
April 24, 2020 — 10:00 pm
Occam’s Gray Area says:
To Sam, with love.
April 25, 2020 — 11:45 am
I’d resubscribe to SI if it meant having access to a weekly column on Gerald Deulofeu
April 24, 2020 — 11:39 pm
Big C says:
Masterful. Absolutely masterful.
April 25, 2020 — 6:26 am
Damn. Billy. This was awesome. Thanks. And even. When sports were present and before the herb and maven did both sites dirty. I rarely ventured to them.
April 25, 2020 — 7:35 pm