Q&A With Will Leitch on Fathers, Sons, Baseball & His New Book

Will Leitch, Sporting News contributor and former head honcho at Deadspin, has a new book out. You should buy it. It's about baseball and sons and fathers and is called Are We Winning. Really, go buy the book. ↵

↵Leitch talked with me on today's episode of On the DL about the book, his upcoming wedding and if he feels he may look back on writing the book in a few years and wish he had waited until he had his own kids. We also talk about everything from Steve Bartman to Ernie Harwell's passing to the use of advanced stats and the concept of a small sample size and how our generation is getting marriage right while our parents' generation got kids right and – would it be trite of me to suggest – everything in between. We cover a lot. ↵

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↵Here are a few excerpts from that conversation. Please click here to listen to the interview. ↵

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↵DL: When you wrote your last book it was Will Leitch, blogger and people knew who you were, but not to the level it is now. Now it's sort of Will Leitch, BFD. Do you feel your profile has changed so much that this book promotion is totally different than the last one? ↵

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↵Leitch: Certainly there are fewer radio stations setting up interview who say, "so seriously, you just it at home and type stuff and it goes on the internet?" There were fewer of those this time, which I actually take as a positive. ↵

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↵It is different. I don't think there's actually a mention of Deadspin in the book. Certainly the spirit of it is there, and it wasn't anything against Deadspin type of thing, but this is a book where I'm trying to do something a little different. I know that, certainly, people have written about fathers and baseball before and I'm certainly not the first person to do anything about that. The marketing is difficult for them in a lot of ways, because the book is really about two different things. The book is about fatherhood. Every chapter in the book starts out with a different person's story about their fathers and baseball…but as you can tell by the subtitle, a large part of the book is about baseball. ↵

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↵People have this idea that baseball is this struggling sport, or a sport that's past its prime and has lost some of its popularity from the 1950s. That's totally not true at all. There are more people watching baseball right now than any time in human history. ↵

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↵DL: You wrote this book at a time in your life where you are starting a new chapter (getting married) and it's a book about fathers and sons. Are you concerned that in five, ten or twenty years, you're going to look back on this and … do you fear that you're going to look back on this book and say "I wish I had written it when I had a son?" ↵

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↵Leitch: Gee, actually, no. In fact, the opposite of that. Almost every one of the books that are written about the father-son experience are written by the father. It's almost just by age. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. ↵

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↵Listen, we all have those friends – I don't know if you're like this – but we all have those friends who when they have a kid, all the sudden the only thing that matters in the world is the kid. And all the stuff that they used to be kinda tough about and they used to really be firm on…all just kind of softens up. ↵

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↵DL: Are you trying to tell me that when I put out tweets about my son's penis issues (he's three weeks old) that's living through him? Really? ↵

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↵Leitch: I'll tell you right now, that's why I'm not happy about my dad being on Twitter. That exact statement. But no, I am getting married in a month, actually, and I’m 34 years old and if I’m going to have a family it's going to happen in the next few years, so I wanted to write the book before I did that. I have so many friends who are writers who, before they have kids, they say "oh, I'm not going to be one of those people who writes about their kids all the time," and of course, as soon as they have a kid, everything stops and all they do is talk about the kid. ↵

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↵That's not to be a criticism, I think people should be proud of their children. But I do think it changes the perspective in a way that I wanted to capture what I'm thinking now without falling into some of those traps when they talk about their kids. ↵

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↵DL: In the book, you do a wonderful job of making Steve Bartman feel like (he could be) any of us, but the one question I've always asked is, what if he's a (jerk)? What if he had no friends to go with because everyone hates him? What if he's bad at his job and didn't care and slacked off? What if he was a hateable and detestable person and we just, sort of, "aw shucks'd" him and maybe that's not fair. ↵

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↵Leitch: One of the things I talk about is the idea that, what is absolutely fascinating about him, and something almost heroic in this day and age, he really did vanish. He really did. At this point, you would have thought, for crying out loud, he'd be on a reality show. He'd have done some interview. He would have done some sort of self-promotional thing. We live in such a self-promotional age. That's just what we do…and he never did that. He's off the grid. It's hard for anyone to be off the grid – it's hard to do that. ↵

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↵You're right, he may be a monstrous human being, but certainly from the evidence that we have to work with, it would be surprising to me if he was. He's not this self-promotional guy. He could have owned this story and become a funny joke out of it. He could have had a pseudo-reality TV career. I mean, they made a Law and Order episode out of the guy. He's been turned into this mythic figure. ↵

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↵DL: He's the goat for the Cubs. He's the real-life animal…that is the goat. ↵

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↵Leitch: And the thing is he's also a ghost. He doesn't exist. He went away. That never…ever…people don't just go away. We don't allow people to go away. There's something weirdly heroic about that, in a way. ↵

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↵There's a lot more to the interview, and obviously, the book. Hopefully you'll check out both. Actually, if you only check out one, make it the book. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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