It was my great pleasure yesterday to meet my long-time hero King Kaufman, who I name-checked and quoted in the very first post on this blog. King famously described his groundbreaking sports column (or we might say “sports-on-TV” column) as “Like talking to the guy on the next barstool, if the guy on the next barstool were pretty smart and not drunk.”
King was invited to Duke University by the Kenan Institute for Ethics for the last of its four events this academic year on ethics and sports. Yesterday’s event, which I moderated on a bar stool — of course — beside King at Dain’s Place pub in Durham NC, was called PLAYING TO THE CROWD: Sport, Media, and the Spectator.
I think I managed to record the conversation on my iPhone, and hope I can transcribe some quotes in future posts. But for now, allow me to reproduce my introduction of King, which I lifted entirely from a post this past week on the blog What Would Oakley Do?. The anonymous blogger’s introduces an excellent interview with King by describing how he became hooked on King’s Salon column:
The author of most Salon‘s sportswriting was a columnist with the regal sobriquet King Kaufman. He was articulate, well-read, versatile and progressive. And his caricature had a tattoo. Once it became apparent that he was willing, and able, to cover international soccer without the condescension that was de rigueur for virtually every other domestic columnist, well, then I was hooked. His “Sports Daily” became as much a part of my routine as tooth brushing.
While print columnists were still reading tobacco spit Rorschachs and writing paeans to the brave men lining their pockets with our ticket money, Kaufman embraced sabermetrics and demanded that sports consumers be given the best product available, even if that meant breaking tradition. Like another Internet sports columnist gaining popularity at the same time, Kaufman provided a fan’s eye view of sports. The King, perhaps appropriately, lacked the common touch that became the Sports Guy’s oeuvre, but this ultimately was his strength. King wasn’t merely the everyfan, rather he represented the best– or, at least, better-case fan, one who was sober, intellectually curious and possessing a sense of fair play that superseded his desire to see his team win. Most important, his insights were actually insightful in all of the ways that most of us aspire to be when we are pontificating to half-listening friends in a crowded bar while watching the NCAA Tournament or while waiting on line for the men’s room at our tax-dollar built local stadium. He didn’t necessarily write as the everyfan, but he advocated on behalf of the everyfan, and in the years before Fire Joe Morgan, Awful Announcing and Deadspin he was really the only one.