Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Sports journalism is often cheap, sensational and obsequious. And I don't just mean mine. Since the time of the Roman gladiators in the 1st century BCE, which of course means before Carmen Electra, The Onion has stood apart in its coverage of sports, lampooning the over-praised, encouraging the underdog and lowering cholesterol with diet and exercise.

They have a new collection out, "The Ecstasy of Defeat: Sports Reporting at Its Finest by the Editors of The Onion." And we're joined by John Krewson, sports editor, and Seth Reiss, who is head writer at The Onion.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us.

JOHN KREWSON: Well, thanks for having us.

SETH REISS: Thank you for having us.

SIMON: And we want to note this book is printed on six grams of soluble fiber, which is good for all of us, isn't it?

KREWSON: Nature's broom.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Let's get to some of the highlights in this collection. You broke the story a couple of years ago that Roger Clemens' family had offered him $10 million to stay home.

REISS: Well, it was a lucrative contract for him to stay home three years with his kids and wife, with an option for a fourth year to spend a little more time with cousins, relatives and just, I guess, being a normal father.

SIMON: Rather than taking more steroids and playing into his 50s or 60s.

KREWSON: Exactly.

REISS: Right.

KREWSON: It was a good deal for him, even though it was from a small market family where he got less exposure than from, say, a team.

SIMON: Ah.

REISS: Ultimately, he did turn down the opportunity to be a good father and husband.

SIMON: Ah. Now what - the story The Onion broke which I found just fascinating. What happens to great race cars like the, you know, the Chevy Impala that was driven by Jimmy Johnson?

KREWSON: Oh, he was number 48?

SIMON: Yeah. When they (unintelligible).

KREWSON: Well, that particular one - yeah, that particular one was put out to stud and, you know, it has 4,800 acres of tarmac in North Carolina to just roam around on. And then, they expose it to other race cars and, you know, let nature take its course.

SIMON: The Pittsburgh Steelers, right? One of the great initial franchises of the National Football League...

KREWSON: Right.

SIMON: And for years, they had a nickname, the Steel Curtain Defense.

KREWSON: Brutal defense.

SIMON: I mean, look, that's not the Pittsburg we know today, is it?

REISS: You know, if you're going up and down the Alleghany River, you don't see the steel mills, you don't see the steam coming out anymore. It's more technology firms...

KREWSON: Medical billing.

REISS: Medical billing. I mean, they're at the forefront of the healthcare industry, so the Steelers defense had to rename their defense the Midlevel White Collar Curtain to more accurately reflect contemporary Pittsburg.

KREWSON: They wanted to just call it the Medical Billing Curtain 'cause that's guaranteed to freeze your blood, but, you know, as menacing as that was, they had to include the whole city of Pittsburg. That's the great thing about that community.

REISS: And it's still on the table to change the name of the team entirely. Some of the names, the Pittsburg Biomedical Technicians and the Pittsburg Eighth Most Fortune 500 Corporate Headquarters Hosters.

SIMON: Wow. I - you know, there's always something else you can learn.

REISS: We're a treasure trove of information at The Onion - we're just bringing it out.

KREWSON: We're the back of life's baseball card.

SIMON: The - we want to raise this matter carefully on - you know, we're, after all, a weekend family drive time show, but I think sports fans all over the world really were just astonished when golf's greatest player, Tiger Woods, had a car crash a couple of years ago, then marital discord. And sports fans kept asking, when will this most dominant scorer of all time return to championship play.

KREWSON: He didn't want to speak to any of the publication.

REISS: He didn't - yeah, and we broke that story and we understand it's a family show. He was really great - I mean, he's great at it, one of the best in the world. And to see him get back out there is great. It was great to see.

KREWSON: I, of course, don't really follow golf so I didn't actually watch, but I did read the recaps and his numbers just were - he hadn't lost a stroke.

REISS: I mean, listen to this quote from a fan here. "I'm so glad Tiger's coming back," said 27-year-old Florida resident and cocktail waitress, Brandy Hughes. He's the best." Exactly.

SIMON: It means a lot to fans, doesn't it...

REISS: Absolutely.

SIMON: ...that Tiger's back in the hunt. Finally, I mean, I think an article only The Onion could do. What can you tell us about the only soccer fan in the United States?

REISS: He's insufferable.

KREWSON: Brad Jenovich (sp) is his name and it's a weird thing about somebody...

SIMON: This is the guy we must get emails from all the time telling me we're not paying enough attention.

KREWSON: He seems to - yeah. Brad seems to want us to really love soccer and when we don't, he gets all shirty about it. Oh, and when the World Cup rolls around, it's hard to be around Brad.

REISS: Yeah, I mean, he puts up these weird flags and weird, like sweater blanket type things.

KREWSON: Is that a scarf he's got?

REISS: Some sort of scarf.

KREWSON: I thought it was a Dr. Who thing and as far as I'm concerned, it may as well be.

REISS: I know this is a bit of editorializing. That's not good in our field. But I think Brad's the worst.

KREWSON: Brad is terrible.

REISS: Yeah.

KREWSON: He's a bad person.

SIMON: Yeah, I - the worst is kind of a qualitative judgment, but I think just saying terrible...

KREWSON: Well, I think as long as Brad is that bad, though, there's not going to be a second soccer fan in the United States, you know, at least in our lifetimes.

SIMON: Gentlemen, thank you both very much for this collection in the - and really the very fierce and principled coverage of sports that The Onion provides to all of us who love the game, whatever it is.

REISS: Thank you, sir.

KREWSON: Thanks for having us.

SIMON: And all of your courage. Wait. Who said that? Courage. John Krewson, who's sports editor of The Onion, and Seth Reiss, head writer of The Onion. Their new book out October 11th, but no need to rush. There'll be plenty of copies. "Onion Sports: The Ecstasy of Defeat" - with a forward, by the way, by anabolic steroids.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: