George Burns/Associated Press/Harpo Productions
Roger Ebert will be on Oprah Winfrey's show today. He had a big day yesterday, too.
Roger Ebert is on a roll. His profile in Esquire was great, the technology used to create a voice for him was recently discussed here at NPR, and today, he's headed for Oprah's couch, along with his wife Chaz.
But the greatest Ebert story in a while came yesterday, when Will Leitch — founder of the sports blog Deadspin — wrote about something for which he clearly has never forgiven himself: namely, acting like a complete jerk to Ebert years ago, after Ebert showed him nothing but kindness and generosity.
Leitch is a really interesting candidate for this tale, because he's generally unapologetic about being a participant in a part of the blog world a lot of people don't like. It was Leitch who sat there on Bob Costas' show in April 2008 while Costas and sportswriter Buzz Bissinger attempted to classify Deadspin — and, in Bissinger's case, every blog in existence — as containing exclusively wicked motives. (No fooling: Bissinger says, "I think that blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they're dedicated to journalistic dishonesty," and then he starts foolishly suggesting Will Leitch doesn't read, which: mistake.) Armed with a sheaf of printouts he intended to use to shame Leitch, Bissinger was weirdly potty-mouthed and abusive in his effort to stand up for civility and dignity, and Leitch sat there and gave no ground.
What I'm saying is this: Will Leitch didn't tell that story on himself with such utter embarrassment and misery because he hasn't made peace long ago with sometimes talking to or about people in ways they don't like. He's heard plenty of nasty things about himself; he lives in a world where people say mean things about each other.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't draw lines, which makes it such an intriguing story. He makes fun of people all the time, but he clearly classifies his treatment of Ebert as something he would never, ever do again. And he felt that way long before the current Rogerssance in which Ebert has reinvigorated his career online.
Would you be able to tell the story of something you feel deeply ashamed about for very, very good reason? Leitch did. And while I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if private correspondence passed between them yesterday, Ebert posted simply this on his Twitter feed last night when he linked to Leitch's piece: "A sweet article by a long time friend who did indeed once bring a wince to my fat face. All is forgiven."