Magary started a blog a few years ago called Father Knows S---, which chronicled raising his first child. “I had all these jokes in my head,” he says, “and I wanted a place to put them all.”
Kissing Suzy Kolber, his football blog, evolved from comments he posted on Deadspin, which attracted a big following. Down came Father Knows S---, and with other writers, Magary launched KSK in 2006. The blog’s name is a nod to a 2003 mini-scandal in which legendary quarterback Joe Namath, reportedly drunk, made a pass at ESPN’s Suzy Kolber during a sideline interview, saying, “I want to kiss you.”
Magary and his cowriters post four or five times a day, mixing satire, soft porn, oddball news, and football commentary. It’s snarky and raunchy—The Simpsons meets Howard Stern. A video clip of a topless B-list actress might be followed by a rant about the Redskins management.
“Dear God,” a KSK contributor wrote when the Redskins were flirting with trading for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, “somebody barricade Dan Snyder and Vinny ‘Sarge’ Cerrato in a [expletive] mineshaft.”
Magary and the others regularly skewer sports journalists, players, and traditions. Those who work for and orbit the NFL, Magary says, take themselves and the game too seriously.
This past winter, in one of its standing features, “25 Random Things About Me,” KSK zeroed in on Cerrato, the Redskins executive. “1: I never feel more needed than when I fetch Mister Snyder’s slippers after his evening bath. . . . 19: I suffer from halitosis.” The post was alternately funny and sophomoric.
Magary assumes that KSK fans are all young men. Judging from their e-mails, he believes many are surfing the Internet from cubicles in corporate America—an audience similar to what you find tuning in to Pardon the Interruption, ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser/Michael Wilbon shoutfest billed as a talk show.
“I think—or at least I hope—that occasionally there’s some intelligence breaking through in what we do,” Magary says. “It’s stupid, but hopefully it’s got a little bit of knowing to it.”
Magary, who played high-school football and grew up in Minnesota watching the Vikings, is a gridiron fan but doesn’t follow other sports closely. “I think of myself as a comedy writer who happens to work in sports,” he says. As a kid, he listened to tapes of comedian Richard Pryor and watched Animal House and other John Landis gross-out movies. After college, while working in marketing in New York City, he tried standup comedy in local clubs.
“I thought I had good material, but I wasn’t a very good performer,” he says. “I sweated a lot.”
Magary’s posts are aggressively profane. He piles on the expletives, he says, because that’s how his readers talk about sports when they’re at bars or watching games at home. “And frankly, a lot of times it’s just funnier. I don’t know why—it just is.”
Magary says Bissinger and other KSK critics are wedded to old publishing mindsets: “A lot of people hold the published word, the written word, to be very sacred. They think it’s very, very important, that it has weight and authority. But with the Internet, that’s gone.”
KSK’s sensationalism cost one of its contributors his job. Michael Tunison wrote for KSK under the moniker Christmas Ape until last April, when he identified himself as a writer at the Post (a “dying medium,” he called it) and linked to a couple of his stories. He also posted a photo of himself at a bar on Super Bowl Sunday. “It was about 6 hours to kick off,” he wrote, “and I was in fine fettle. In other words, totally [expletive] hammered.”
Post editors reacted swiftly. Tunison says he was forced to resign. A week and a half later, Deborah Howell, then the Post’s ombudsman, called out KSK in her Sunday column for “obscene, sexist, and racist comments.”
KSK legions took to the Internet, eviscerating the Post for fuddy-duddy, old-media standards. KSK readers, Tunison says, understand that the blog’s satires are exaggeration in the service of comedy.
A few weeks after the flap, Tunison got a call from an editor at HarperCollins. A book deal followed. The Football Fan’s Manifesto, which Tunison calls “part satire, part rant,” is due in August.
Old and new media merge with less tension in Dan Steinberg’s D.C. Sports Bog for the Post. Steinberg doesn’t have a sportswriting background—he was a cheese buyer at Whole Foods before getting a job as a Post news aide—but unlike KSK, his blog is reported. He focuses on what sports pages ignore—behind-the-scenes anecdotes, players’ lives and hairstyles, and secondary sports such as indoor football.
At the 2008 Olympics, Steinberg posted about Icelandic handball and the US women’s soccer team’s pregame iPod mix. “The Americans are getting ready to face Brazilian scoring machine Marta by listening to Miley Cyrus?” he wrote.
Sports Bog has become a popular feature on Washingtonpost.com, and Steinberg is a hero in the online world. Gawker, an arbiter of Web coolness, said his 2006 Olympics blog was “like watching a monkey throw feces at the head zookeeper”—high praise.