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The Deadspin Awards Show was like the R-rated ESPYs, and about a hundred times funnier

It had "the very pompousness that Deadspin was born to mock."

It was incredibly sweaty, and this was the best shot our photographer could get.
It was incredibly sweaty, and this was the best shot our photographer could get.
Noah Kulwin

On a humid Thursday night, a couple hundred people packed inside a Lower East Side burlesque club to watch a sports blog give out awards to honorees who were not in attendance.

The emcee of the inaugural Deadspin Awards, Drew Magary, was easy to spot in the crowd before the show began. The amiably vulgar writer, who has been at Deadspin for about a decade, was the only one in a tuxedo.

The fact that there was a Deadspin Awards show at all was pretty astonishing. In March, the irreverent sports blog's parent company, Gawker Media, lost a $140 million court case against Hulk Hogan for posting the ex-pro wrestler’s sex tape.

A couple months later, Forbes revealed that the person bankrolling Hogan’s lawsuit, and likely a few others against Gawker, was tech billionaire and Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel. Though the Hogan case is expected to be overturned on appeal, Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton brought the company into bankruptcy protection last month to avoid handing anything over to Hogan or his financier. In mid-August, Gawker Media will be sold to the highest bidder in a bankruptcy auction.

In the sweaty scrum on the show’s "red carpet" (a crimson floor mat with the logo of event sponsor Redd’s Apple Ale), people didn’t appear to dwell on Hogan or Thiel or the bankruptcy at all. There was free booze. There were a lot of sports media people (ESPN, Vice Sports, some Deadspin alums) and a packed crowd of New York media types. The men mostly wore khakis, button-up shirts and sweat.


Ducking away from colleagues for a moment before the show began, Magary told me about his bewilderment at there being a Deadspin Awards show at all, not to mention his being the emcee of it.

"I know that after tonight, people won’t be booking me for, like, Carnegie Hall," Magary said. "My expectations are very rudimentary at this point."

Gawker Media has had some experience with events. In 2012, the company held a "silent disco" at the New York Public Library, and the year before (at the same venue as the Deadspin Awards), Gawker did an "Undead Carnival" promotion for AMC's "The Walking Dead." The Deadspin Awards, as multiple Deadspin staffers put it to me, had been in the works for a long time.

Will Leitch, the founding Deadspin editor who now writes for New York Magazine and Bloomberg Politics, followed up Magary by telling me that he "never imagined Deadspin having an office," let alone an awards show.

"This whole thing [Deadspin] started with me making Woody Allen jokes to 500 bored lawyers," Leitch added.

The show began about an hour after doors opened. Deadspin streamed the whole thing on Facebook Live, a kind of mock-ESPY Awards with multiple camera angles and crowd reaction shots. As of Friday morning, the stream had garnered around 20,000 views.

Magary’s opening monologue began with a close-to-home Peter Thiel joke: "My name’s Drew Magary. I’m your host this evening, until 20 minutes into the program when Peter Thiel’s lawyers repossess the show." He then mentioned some of the site's major accomplishments, like the Manti Te'o story, and the awards-giving got under way with what Leitch described as "the very pompousness that Deadspin was born to mock."

One of the great successes of Deadspin over the course of its existence has been its relentless focus on creating highly specific storylines for the characters of the sports it covers. In the Deadspin universe, for instance, Fox Sports talking heads Jason Whitlock and Colin Cowherd co-host an idiotic debate show called "All Takes Matter." In real life, it’s an idiotic debate show called "Speak For Yourself."

At one point onstage, Leitch dropped that Whitlock — who has called Deadspin a "hipster gang" — once emailed him to ask if Deadspin was hiring.

Virtually all of the Deadspin Awards were completely in line with Deadspin’s shtick. For example, the "Most Offensive Media Personality" award was given to Stephen A. Smith, the ESPN pundit who was once suspended for talking on air about the responsibility women bear for provoking domestic violence. Another was "Most Insane Coach," for which all the nominees (and the winner) were University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh.

Smith, like all of the award winners, "had a prior engagement." So in his stead, like all of the award winners, a Clark the Cub mascot bear with a highly visible dong poking out from under his uniform accepted the prize on Smith’s behalf.

The show was interspersed with highlight reels ("The Year in Bills Fans"), actual sports awards ("Best Highlight") and the expected jabs at well-known sports figures ("Worst Owner").

The biggest surprise of the show arrived when actor Daniel Radcliffe, who recorded a video beforehand, read aloud the candidates for "Worst Tweet." In the end, Harry Potter gave it to ex-pitcher and recently fired baseball pundit Curt Schilling for a dreadful meme that compared Muslims to Nazis.

The awards show lasted about an hour, and Magary wrapped it up by inviting onstage a uniformed marching band to play "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass — the unofficial Deadspin theme song often used to back lowlight reels on the site — as people began filing out of the room and toward the bar.

Outside, current Deadspin Editor in Chief Tim Marchman stood among a pack of smokers by the curb. I asked him how he thought the show went.

"I hope it went well," he said. "I mean, I’d like to think it did."

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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