This is ridiculous. This is about a hot dog

The Nationals want you to explain what happened, send them an apology, and delete the tweet

This one isn’t so terrible it’s sort of silly to be honest. Maybe later on in the newsletter I’ll get to the really bad stuff but to start here’s a story about something fucking stupid. Hell World isn’t always about suffering and death and violence after all sometimes it’s also about the minor absurd indignities of labor and eating shit and in some cases it’s also about literally eating shit because this bit is about a fucked up controversial hot dog that almost got a guy fired.

It’s also a story about Darren Rovell and if you know who that is you’ve already said that fucking guy to yourself but if you don’t he’s one of the most prominent sports business reporters in the industry. Formerly of ESPN and now involved in some weird betting site where he reportedly just did something sketchy that I don’t really understand and don’t want to know about he’s long focused on the branding and business side of sports. He’s horny for brands is what I can tell you and just a straight up pervert when it comes to counting those beans baby. He’s a man who can take any interaction no matter how human and joyous and slow everything down into a sort of Matrix bullet time where all the money-making potentialities swirl around his brain like a storm of math equations. He’s also just a dink. A dink is a different kind of thing than an asshole or a prick or even a penis it means a guy is a dink and you know what that means when you hear it. Someone says that guy is a dink and you know very specifically what that means.

Here’s something he tweeted regarding the election of Donald Trump.

Deadspin said he “will never put anything that more purely distills his essence online again” about that but this one might be closer to the platonic ideal of a Rovell tweet in my estimation.

Deadspin has also called him “the dimmest human in sports media”, a “sensitive penis” and “a commemorative gift plate from the American Enterprise Institute that somehow talks and writes and uses social media” lol.

Another thing he is is a snitch and a cop and a narc. Here’s the time he responded to the news of a Notre Dame football player sharing a photo of himself with pornstar Lisa Ann by posting the school’s sexual activity code of conduct. And here’s the time he snitched to a student’s school when some kid goofed on him on Twitter.

If you search Rovell and snitch and narc and cop on Twitter there is a lot to choose from but here’s a quick sample:

All of which is taking the long way to say while I cannot as of yet 100% confirm it there is plenty of reason to believe the story below is true because this is what Rovell does. The story is about the time a sports reporter in DC posted a picture of a fancy/disgusting hot dog being served at the Nationals’ ballpark and Rovell called the team and had them demand the reporter take the hot dog photo down because he was supposed to be the one to post it first. It was his hot dog and it’s not fair he said more or less. Those engagement numbers were his and he was going to get them even if it meant some poor schmucks’ ass.

Keeping in line what that theme earlier this week Rovell responded to a picture of a huge winning betting slip posted by Barstool where a guy had won $100,000 betting on the Blues to win the Stanley Cup the fuckers go Bruins.

Rovell apparently was under the impression that he had exclusive rights to the picture of the betting slip and while fuck Barstool for stealing shit all the time like they do it’s one of those situations where there’s no one to root for.

The post reminded Brody Logan a sports anchor who worked in the D.C. market for years and worked until recently in Denver about an interaction he had with Rovell.

I could not think of a more perfect illustration of Rovell being Rovell than that so I called Logan to talk more about what happened and about the business of working in sports news broadcasting. I reached out to Rovell and the Nationals to see what they remembered about the hot beef but have yet to hear back. I also reached out to the second reporter Logan mentioned having a similar interaction like this with Rovell.

Anyway here you go see ya.

I was telling you about the newsletter earlier. The last guy I interviewed was talking about how both of his parents came down with dementia at the same time and how he had to navigate the nightmare of the healthcare system, so this is a little less depressing.

Yeah! It’s a bit of a respite from that.

I like to mix in something a little silly every now and again so people don’t get too depressed. I saw your tweet, and it instantly struck me as the perfect Rovell story, but also thought it could tell us a little something about working in media. Can you tell us about the famous controversial hot dog.

I thought it was a very innocuous thing when it happened, obviously. A viewer clued me in and sent me a picture… You know every team, before the season, they say whatever new ridiculous concoction they have for their concessions. Someone I know got wind of it I guess before it went out, I don’t know, and sent me a picture like, Hey, check this out. It’s kind of the best of the DMV area, the signature food item from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. I was like Hey that’s cool, is it cool if I send this out, and he said no problem. I tweeted out the picture, gave the information, and went on from there.

For whatever reason, that blew up. I guess Darren Rovell had tweeted out something very similar. I didn’t follow him at the time, I had no idea. My tweet kind of took off, probably more than his. I don’t know, these things are so dumb.

I got an email from my boss saying Hey, we have an issue with the Nats. Come into my office when you get in, we gotta talk about this. I was at Fox 5 in D.C. at the time. I was like what is this about? They forwarded me this email. It was like a serious threatening message, saying this was an exclusive. They gave Rovell an exclusive on this food item.

The Nats did? Who was the email from?

It was from their director of PR. I know they’ve had a lot of turnover there, and this was, gosh, three, four years ago. I don’t even know if this person’s there anymore. But it was the head of the head of PR, it wasn’t even some lackey. I guess Rovell had asked them, like, Why the hell are you giving this guy this picture? And they were like We didn’t give it to him. And he said Well you have to do something about this. That’s the gist of it I got. They had been made aware that I had this picture. They didn’t even go to me, they went to my bosses. What I love is that apparently Rovell went to the head of PR for the Nationals. Then they went to the head of my TV station. No one reached out to me. Like, come on man, my DMs are open, shoot me a message.

Were you in good standing at the station? Did you think you were going to get in trouble?

I was in good standing at the station, but, I don’t know if the Nats particularly liked me. That was more my worry. When I went and talked to my boss, part of me was worried. I was like, Are you kidding me with this? It’s never good to get called into your boss’s office. So I went into him, and I was like, Paul, this is ridiculous. This is about a hot dog! We’re having a meeting now, we’re getting threatening emails from the Nationals over a hot dog exclusive. He said My thoughts exactly. And thank goodness, because you never know. Especially when it’s a TV relationship with a Major League Baseball team, you just never know what side they’re going to pick. I was very happy they picked my side.

He said, Listen, I think this is ridiculous, but the Nationals want you to explain what happened, send them an apology, and delete the tweet. I had already deleted it when he sent the email earlier because it was not worth it, any of it. I sent an email to the head of PR and that entire department saying I apologize. I said this is how I got it, from a viewer. I had no idea that this was an exclusive. I had no idea that exclusives on hot dogs existed. It was kind of snarky, but whatever, they deserved that. I said I will be sure to double check any concessions related photos I receive in the future with your PR team. And that was it.

Did they say anything back?

No they never even replied.

You’re confident Rovell snitched on you?

… Yes. There’s a chance he didn’t, but I don’t see how.

Who else would care?

Exactly. They had said they had received a complaint because they gave this as an exclusive to Darren Rovell, which I had no idea about any of that, or that he had even tweeted it out. I haven’t seen correspondence from him to them or any confirmation it was him, but here’s an interesting thing: There’s another reporter in Phoenix, who reports on ballpark food. She had a run in with Rovell, where she tweeted out a picture of ballpark food that was sent to her by a team. I instantly remembered it, so I DM’d her and shared my story, and she said Yes! He did something similar to me, he wrote to the team complaining that they didn’t give him the exclusive instead of me.  

lol. Ok hold on let’s take a step back here. What was on this fancy hot dog sandwich?

If I remember correctly it was a D.C. half-smoke, which is a type of hot dog, with Virginia ham around it, then topped with Maryland crab.

How much was it?

Oh gosh I don’t remember but it must’ve been $15. They might still serve it.

A couple of years ago I wrote this piece about going to Fenway and getting like a $30 lobster roll. It was about how crazy these ballpark sandwiches have gotten. $30 for frozen lobster meat. The whole thing is gross to me. I’m a big Boston sports fan, but I hate going to the games. One part of it to me is the concessions area. I have this visceral disgust for them for some reason. Are you from D.C.? What is your natural city for sports?

No, I’m originally from South Florida, so I like Miami teams. But media being the way it is I’ve lived all over the country.

I have no idea about what your side of the media industry is like. Is it as weird as it seems?

I assume it’s a lot like just about everything else in media, because there are far fewer jobs than people who want to do the jobs. Because of that there ends up being a sort of race to the bottom at times. There’s a cutthroat nature, and a lot of times people in this business will take whatever they can get and kind of get run over. If they don’t, someone else is going to take that job. The thing is though, hopefully it would be a meritocracy, and those that are really good would get rewarded. The business, I don’t know…it’s great. I’ve had real jobs before. It’s definitely not that. It does drag you down at times, but I guess that’s anything.

Are people in broadcast news underpaid as much as we are in the written side?

I’d say the floor is as low or lower but the ceiling can be much higher. There’s such a discrepancy. It’s very interesting because in D.C. I worked at a union shop. We had a set minimum salary, we got paid for working overtime, paid for working six days, things like that. Then where I’ve been working in Denver is not a union shop, and I would talk to my co-workers and the way they would make it sound is like they wouldn’t get paid anything getting asked to work way overtime, and they just had to deal with it. I said it’s not like that everywhere. If you find a union shop hold onto that. I kind of realize that now. It stinks paying those dues but there’s a reason for it. It works in your favor.

And honestly if it was going to be a situation where the Nationals were going to try to take my credentials, then put my job in jeopardy – if I can’t cover the baseball team in town I’m screwed – I would’ve gotten my union and agent involved. But thankfully this hot dog situation did not go that route.

That’s always an awkward thing, when you work for a station that has a partnership with a team. Were there ever any incidences in your career when you felt like you couldn’t criticize a team?

Oh yeah. I had more freedom I think in D.C. My station here has a full partnership with the Denver Broncos, and here the Broncos are the end all and be all and might as well be the only team in town. I would be critical of them, because they haven’t been good, so why would I praise them? And I would get called into meetings like, Oh, hey we received complaints from some of the teams about your coverage. I was like there’s only one team you care about. Only one team that would contact you. I know exactly who you’re talking about.

Every sports market is different, but D.C., what I’ll say for the fans there is they do have a good self-deprecating sense of humor about their teams. They can take a joke about it when they’re bad because they get it. Whereas Denver, I think, the Broncos have had so much success over the past twenty years, they don’t know how to do that. Mediocrity or bad play for the past few years, they don’t know how to deal with it.

May you either be blessed or cursed to get a job here in Boston some day. It’s about as bad as it gets I’d say. Everyone cares, and it’s a big deal, but it can be a hard market I think. So in D.C. did you ever have to handle the controversy over the “Redskins”?

Yeah we did that ad nauseam. The name situation, when it went to court, all of that. There was never any blowback over that, or if there was it didn’t get to me. As far as PR for teams, the Redskins, for the longest time before I was there, always had a horrible reputation because they had the feeling that you need them more than they need you. That’s the way a lot of these teams act. When I was there, they were better than I expected based on the reputation. And then… a run-in with the Nationals where they’re head over heels taking Darren Rovell’s side on a hot dog! But I do know a lot of the PR staff that was there at the time isn’t there anymore. I do feel a little bad. I said it happened years ago so they very well could have changed the way they do things.

And honestly that’s Darren Rovell’s bit. He makes no bones about it. He does these things. It’s terrible, but at least it’s him. I was almost more mad that the Nationals took his side so wholeheartedly over this ridiculous thing.

It’s crazy. How would you describe Rovell? I know who he is, and some of my readers might, but how would you describe him as a dude? Like a weird… kind of fucking.. brand worm is how I would describe him.

Yeah. Brand worm… Business sycophant. I don’t know. Hey, he’s made a seemingly very lucrative career out of “sports business reporting” but it’s kind of devolved into this odd, I guess all news in some way has devolved into what’s the viral bit of the day. And he’s been a huge part of that. I really think that the reason these teams kind of bend to his will is because they think his digital currency of having [two million followers] is really worth something. To a certain extent it is.

He was the first one to start doing this thing where you take someone else’s picture or video, then tweet it out with a caption and just give the laziest attribution ever. Now every major sports media does that. It makes me so mad. If there is some local reporter in… I know a guy in San Francisco who got this really awesome interaction between Klay Thompson and Drake after game three of the Finals, and it started to blow up. Then I saw Bleacher Report, probably Rovell, but I’m blocked so I don’t know, Yahoo, all of them, took his caption and his video and put a little attribution there. But if you just retweet him… that could get him a job down the line. That could put his work in front of the eyeballs of someone at the network level, who knows. But you just taking it and making it your own doesn’t do anything for that person.

I’ve had people send me their interactions with Rovell. He had one where he got in an argument, and the reporter calling him out was in the right. Rovell said Oh look, with my tweet it got 25,000 impressions, your tweet only got 1,500 impressions, it’s even better for you. No it’s not. Having my name there does not do anything. That’s all for you.

It’s a big problem. It’s like setting up a tollbooth in front of someone else’s content. I saw some thing with Rovell and Barstool about a picture of a betting slip or something.  

Yeah that’s what made me think of my story. Honestly, Barstool does the same crap.

Of course I am no fan of Barstool. I saw those two fighting, it was like, Let them fight!

Right. That’s what made me think of my story.

It’s interesting. I think these big media companies need to realize what it can do for someone if they just broadcast the original message in its entirety. It might not lead to anything, but you never know. And you totally take that opportunity away, and you did nothing to generate the information. It’s ridiculous.

Who do you like in tonight’s game?

Ah, I’m gonna say the Warriors. Just because I don’t’ want basketball to end.

Here’s another stupid story about TV news. This one is about a guy named Joe Crain who actually did lose his job. Crain was a popular and trusted meteorologist who worked for years at WICS 20 in Springfield Illinois and one thing Crain didn’t like about his job is how he was forced by management to lie to his viewers. It’s easy to forget these days but that used to be a thing that journalists didn’t like to have to do.

Crain made the mistake of criticizing the place he worked at publicly which is something I certainly know about and bosses tend to not like. His issue in particular was that he was regularly instructed to issue so-called “code red” days in his forecasts by Sinclair Broadcasting the news conglomerate that owns his station is doing more damage to the country than Fox News if you can believe that.

Here’s a quick primer on one part of the horse shit Sinclair gets up to from Media Matters.

Since 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group has been mandating that its local news stations air commentary segments featuring Boris Epshteyn, a former aide to President Donald Trump. Even though there’s essentially no demand for these segments, Sinclair continues to force-feed Epshteyn’s pro-Trump commentary to viewers across the country…

…In his “must-runs,” Epshteyn has defended tear-gassing migrant children and warned of an “attempted invasion”; called former Trump fixer Michael Cohen a “rat”; conducted softball interviews with Trump, Trump administration officials, and Republican candidates for office; argued the “presidents on Mount Rushmore may have to make room” for Trump; and more.

Now that’s just charisma.

Ok back to Crain and the code reds. Code reds in this case are a bullshit branding scheme concocted by Sinclair to gin up anxiety among viewers about impending weather events. The cumulative effect of hearing them over and over was something like the boy who cried wolf viewers said and it made it hard for them to actually trust what they were being told. Being a consummate newsman Crain said fuck it and fuck this and fuck you.

A lot of people were not happy with the code reds Crain said on-air. “That’s evident by the thousands of comments on social media, letters to the editor, frequent calls to local talk-radio shows.”

“As far as the code red name itself goes, we get that, too,” Crain went on. “When you hear ‘code red,’ you think, as they say, ‘the feces is about to hit the fan.’”

“I take my job seriously and my responsibility to the public,” he said. “We want you to know it’s not us. This is a corporate initiative: the code red alert. Behind the scenes, many of us have tried to dissuade it for the last few months.”

“Despite the fact that this facility is owned by a corporation, it’s still licensed under the authority by the Federal Communications Commission to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. You still have a voice. Keep those cards and letters coming.”

Fuck us no fuck you the station said and Crain did not appear on the station again after the segment as he has since been let go. For their part the station says they have heard the complaints loud and clear and will no longer use the term code red but instead what they will do is the exact same thing but this time call it “weather warn” so a lesson learned by all I’d say.

Oh wait one more sort of prominent media story happened this week in that Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced she would be stepping down from her job at the end of the month. Her departure was announced on Twitter yesterday by Donnie Deals who praised the widely loathed no-show job liar for her work.

“After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas....,” Trump tweeted. “She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas - she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!”

Sanders was one of the few remaining holdouts from the inaugural Trump administration. She started out as the Deputy Press Secretary then assumed the head role after the departure of Sean Spicer in July of 2017 and remember that we said haha who could be worse than Spicer and then we found out.

Later on on Thursday she spoke with the president at the White House and the exchange is really depressing but here are some of the highlights. It’s sort of long so skip it if you want to get to the next part but there are a few really choice Trump phrases in here I think you’ll like.

TRUMP: I thought maybe I just take a moment. So, at the White House, and been with me now three and a half years before I won, before the election, is a person, a friend, a woman, a great, great, magnificent person actually named Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And she's very popular. She's very popular.

And she's done an incredible job. We've been through a lot together. And she's tough but she's good. You know, you also have tough and bad, right? She's tough and she's good. She's great.

And she's going to be leaving the service of her country, and she is going to be going, I guess you could say, private sector, but I hope she's going to… she comes from a great state, Arkansas. That was the state I won by a lot, so I like it, right?

But we love Arkansas. And she's going to be going back to Arkansas with her great family, her husband, who's a fantastic guy, and her family. And I don't know, Phil and folks, if we can get her to run for the governor of Arkansas. I think she'll do very well. And I'm trying to get her to do that.

But I just saw her in the room and I really wanted to call her up. She is a special person, a very, very fine woman. She has been so great. She has such heart. She's strong but with great, great heart and I want to thank you for an outstanding job.

SANDERS: I'll try not to get emotional because I know crying can make us look weak sometimes, right?

[LAUGHTER]

SANDERS: This has been the honor of a lifetime, the opportunity of a lifetime. I couldn't be prouder to have had the opportunity to serve my country and particularly to work for this President. He has accomplished so much in these two and a half years and it’s truly been something I will treasure forever. It's one of the greatest jobs I could ever have. I've loved every minute even the hard minutes. I've loved it. I love the president. I love the team that I've had the opportunity to work for. The President is surrounded by some of the most incredible and most talented people you could ever imagine and it's truly the most special experience. The only one I can think of that might top it just a little bit is the fact that I'm a mom. I have three amazing kids. And, I'm going to spend a little more time with them.

And in the meantime I'm going to continue to be one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the president and his agenda and I know he's going to have an incredible six more years and get a whole lot more done like what we're here to celebrate today and I don't want to take away from that. So, I certainly want to get back to the tremendous thing that the people behind me have done. And thank you so much, Mr. President. It's truly an honor.

TRUMP: Great. Great person. Great person. Thank you, Sarah. Great--she's a warrior. You guys know what warriors are, right? Yeah, you're warriors. We're all warriors. We have no choice. We have to be warriors in this world but she's a warrior. Thank you, Sarah very much.

Much of the reporting in the immediate aftermath of Sanders’ departure has made note of her “contentious” or “adversarial” relationship with the press which is another way of saying the media did not particularly relish her constant lying. I was trying to think of some of the lowest moments from her tenure and it was almost impossible it was like when you get way too stoned and think about how many stars there are in the sky and you’re like ahhhh fuuuuckkk. But here are some anyway. This fucking mope.

When she was asked by Jacqueline Alemany of CBS News in 2017 if the then sixteen women who had accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment were lying Sanders said yes of course they are.

“Last week, during a press conference in the Rose Garden, the president called these accusations ‘fake news,’” Alemany said. “Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?”

“Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president’s spoken on it,” Sanders said.

Here’s another thing. Sanders was caught lying outright numerous times in Robert Mueller’s report which we’ve all read and know about. After Trump’s firing of James Comey Sanders attempted to spin the decision in a positive light saying she had heard from “countless members of the FBI” that they had no confidence in him. Later on speaking under oath to Mueller’s team she admitted that the sentiment “was not founded on anything.” When she was called out on it after the lie emerged in the Mueller report she lied once again saying it was a slip of the tongue before going on to blame Democrats for it.

Remember this shit lol. In November of 2016 which was roughly thirty years ago Sanders pissed on Hillary Clinton and her supporters after news of the FBI investigation into her email servers emerged in the run-up to the election. “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing,” she tweeted with doo doo smeared all around her lips and stuck in her teeth presumably just a big mouthful of doo doo.

Whether or not the irony of her saying that dawned on Sanders every time Trump has done just that is unclear but I am going to guess it hasn’t because a person who can work for Trump for this long does not lead an examined life of any kind I think it’s safe to say.

When a member of the US Coast Guard was arrested for plotting what appeared to be acts of terrorism against Democrats and journalists earlier this year yikes that story went away sort of quick didn’t it Sanders was asked whether or not the president’s consistent framing of the media as “the enemy of the people” had contributed to a dangerous environment. Sanders answered that the president hadn’t “done anything but condemn violence against journalists or anyone else” which is of course a lie.

The number of times Trump has called for violence against protestors and alleged criminals and others are too numerous to count. Notable among them was his referencing Greg Gianforte’s 2017 attack on a reporter when he said “any guy who can do a body slam, he is my type!”

Do a body slam.

Sanders’ record of consistent lies was already impressive enough but one wonders how much further she could have gone had she ever even showed up for her job. The day of her announced departure was the 94th in a row without a press briefing making her somehow even lazier than the big wet boy she worked for.

In June of last year as the news of the administration’s policy of separating children from their families came to light Sanders lied once again saying it was a long time policy put in place by Democrats.

“The separation of illegal alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close,” she said. “And these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade. The president is simply enforcing them.”

No such law ever existed!

In the same press briefing she was asked about Jeff Sessions’ claim that separating children from their parents was based in the Bible. Where exactly was that in the bible, Jim Acosta asked her.

“It is very biblical to enforce the law,” Sanders said before insulting Acosta when he tried to follow up. "I know it's hard for you to understand even short sentences,” she said.

Here’s one more then I gotta go chop my own head off.

"Whether it's a real video, the threat is real," Sanders said in November of 2017. "His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security."

She was responding to questions about Trump’s sharing of several videos by the far-right group Britain First the authenticity of which was cast in doubt and the message of which was essentially that Muslims are violent scum.

"I'm not talking about the nature of the video," she said. "The threat is real, what the President is talking about – the need for national security and military spending – those are very real things, there’s nothing fake about that."

It may have been her most unwittingly honest statement ever. In the Trump administration she admitted the truth literally does not matter. 

Ok fuck you see ya later.