— When Donovan McNabb’s 4th-down pass fell incomplete (Pass interference? You hush!) last Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, Will Leitch was there to witness it. Leitch, 33, is renowned for being the founder and former editor of Deadspin.
Leitch, who is now a contributing editor at New York magazine, a columnist for The Sporting News and the founder/emeritus at Deadspin, took our call last Thursday to discuss his passions: The Buzzsaw, feature films, ridiculous wagers that get played out on the web and, of course, Erin Andrews.
Will: They got it mostly right. “Milk”, “Frost/Nixon”, “Doubt” and “The Movie With the Implausible Plot that They Got Around By Calling it a Fable” (Slumdog Millionaire). But the last film? “The Reader”? I thought that “Wall-E” or “The Dark Knight” deserved that spot, and I’m not in a minority opinion there.
Will: I would have actually preferred to watch someone read a book.
JW: Which film do you see winning?
Will: It’s hard to find a really good rooting interest. You hear “Slumdog Millionaire”, but no one in Hollywood knows anybody in that movie. I can see “Slumdog” losing to “Milk” for that very reason.
Will: If he’d played the whole movie like Jeff Spiccoli, I would have liked that.
JW: Emile Hirsch was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in it.
Will: I think Josh Brolin (also nominated) is better than he is. He’s the best thing in the entire movie. “Milk” feels less like a biopic than it does a “cause” movie. If you saw the documentary “The Life and Times of Harvey Milk”, that gave you a much better window into who Milk was. “Milk” was a bio the way that “JFK” was a bio.
JW: Not a fan of “JFK”?
Will: The most normal character in that movie is Lee Harvey Oswald. That’s never a good sign.
Will: I kind of thought to myself, Rod, you’re a head football coach in the NFL and your team finished 0-16. There’s nothing writers could have written that’s worse than what actually happened. It’s like Charles Manson complaining about being treated unfairly. “I know I deserve some bad press, but c’mon, guys, stop piling on.”
JW: You are a lifelong fan of, as you call them, “The Buzzsaw that is the Arizona Cardinals.” I’m guessing this dates back to your growing up in central Illinois when they were the St. Louis Cardinals. Do you go back to the Mel Gray-Terry Metcalf era?
Will: I go back to (quarterback) Jim Hart. And Neil Lomax. The most indicative moment of being a fan of The Buzzsaw, I think, would be 1987. We drafted Kelly Stouffer, a quarterback, and he chose to sit out a year rather than play for us. We had an Eli Manning/Elway pulled on us by a guy named Kelly Stouffer.
Will: Yes. It’s one thing when future Hall of Famer John Elway pulls that stunt. But Kelly Stouffer?
Another low point. A few years back (2003), they had the brush fires in San Diego. The Chargers were forced to move their Monday Night Football game against the Dolphins to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, where the Cardinals played. And you know what? It was the first sellout at Sun Devil Stadium in six years. I remember watching on TV, fans had signs that read “Anybody But Cardinals.”
Will: You know what’s funny about that? I was watching “Jerry Maguire” with my girlfriend at the time. When the Cardinals came onscreen she said to me, “I hate it when the NFL doesn’t give out licensing rights and they have to use fake teams and uniforms.”
Will: It’s like, now dogs are rulers of the earth and we bow down before our canine overlords.
JW: Seriously, though, I was watching the inauguration, listening to reporters ask people, “Did you ever think you’d live to see this day?” and hoping someone would reply, “The Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl? No, I never did think I’d live to see that.”
Will: Exactly. And now that we’ve got Robert Goulet as our Vice President things will be great. Have you noticed that? Joe Biden’s got a little bit of Robert Goulet in him. The day after the inauguration Biden made that joke about John Roberts’ memory, and you could visibly see President Obama not change his expression. The anchorman said, “The President did not smile.” Get used to hearing that phrase a lot: the President did not smile.
Will: Yes, and first off, I don’t think any Cardinals fan should be playing the “disrespect” card this next week or so. First, because the fans don’t play. That’s the main reason. But second, because the Buzzsaw hasn’t earned any respect the last six decades.
JW: Did you ever wonder why you remained a Cardinal fan?
Will: Yes. It’s insane and illogical to do this to yourself. Why would you do this to yourself? And it was funny to tailgate there and meet, sure, a lot of bandwagon fans, but there were some actual diehards. People who sat in the upper tier of Sun Devil Stadium all by themselves for a decade or two. It was like, Omigosh, I’m not alone.
JW: How was the atmosphere at the game itself?
Will: It was pretty apparent last Sunday how new this experience is for Buzzsaw fans. First, they were yelling when the Cardinals were on offense. Then, at halftime, they were taunting the Eagles fans. Sure, it was 24-6, but hadn’t they ever seen a Cardinals game before? And then, when the Eagles were mounting their comeback in the third quarter, that’s when they started doing the wave.
JW: Were you “representin’?"
Will: I had my Larry Fitzgerald jersey on. You know, a football jersey doesn’t really work as casual wear. A baseball jersey, you go, Wow, that could double as a shirt. But a football jersey? I was wearing a medium and it went down to my knees.
JW: Where did the term “Buzzsaw” originate?
Will: That all began about 15 years ago. Back when I was writing a newsletter for my fantasy football league. This was before Deadspin, before I even had a job. There were about a dozen guys in my league and of course everyone mocked me for being a Cardinals fan.
So I had the idea to start calling them “The Buzzsaw.” It always struck me as an amusingly vivid word for a sports cliché. I mean, a buzzsaw is violent and horrific. Did they mean to say “carving saw?” Where did that come from? Did Jim Murray write that once and everyone began using it?
Well, I just decided to beat the term to death. Of course, the joke was that the Cardinals were awful and yet I was referring to them as “The Buzzsaw that is the Arizona Cardinals.” But I was relentless. And now, well, I’m quite proud to say that it has become part of the sports lexicon.
Will: I could do a lot worse.