With Leather editor/patriarch Matt Ufford is in Arizona for Super Bowl festivities. He will file daily reports from Arizona until at least Monday, February 4th.
It was 9:00 on Friday night, and I was reading in my hotel room. The remnants of tortilla soup and a chicken sandwich from room service sat on a tray across the room. The prospects for the rest of the evening looked dim — certain friends who I had enlisted to go gambling with me had backed out once they gained entry to fabulous parties where I had no connections, so I was prepared to put on some comfy pajamas, eat a pint of Haagen-Dazs, and watch Grey's Anatomy all night when I decided to give it one more chance: I put a call in to a friend who is friendly with some ESPN people.
"Sure," he said. "C'mon out — the rest of the people I'm staying with are going to other parties." So we met up at the Scottsdale Civic Center — the party was held in an open area between the library and Town Hall — got our tickets, and went in. What was supposed to be a longshot ended up being simple, and what looked to be a quiet night was ruptured by the throbbing bass of Ludacris playing to an eager crowd.
One of my favorite things about the Phoenix area is that everything is really fucking far apart, cabs are expensive, and the police are famously bullish on drunken driving. Fucking sweet. So I was thrilled to hit up the open bar and get a bottle of Aquafina for free. WOOOO PARTYYYY!!!
To be fair, ESPN threw a pretty good party. The evening was chilly, leaving most of the gorgeous, scantily clad women freezing, which in my mind was a way of encouraging them to numb themselves with booze. There was no shortage of muscular badasses that I didn't recognize wearing expensive clothes, so the NFL seemed to be represented well. Hidden away from view was most of the four-letter's on-air talent: I saw Stuart Scott briefly on the red carpet but not again, and I heard reports of Chris Berman rolling in with a blonde on each arm, but I never saw the sweaty swami. I didn't even see Michael David Smith sucking off any ESPN execs, but then I didn't spend much time looking in the bathroom stalls, either.
I did, however, have a couple run-ins with a couple of ESPN writers. Fantasy guru Matthew Berry, for example, was friendly to me, if somewhat terrified that With Leather's editor was wandering around behind friendly lines. I assured him that I wouldn't cause any problems (thanks a lot, sobriety).
Later, I spoke with former SI back-pager and soon-to-be ESPN columnist Rick Reilly. I told him I'd seen him at the Varsity Letters reading in New York a few months back, and complimented his performance. He said, "What the hell were you doing there?" I responded, "I'm part of that blogging crowd." That began a candid conversation that lasted several minutes; Reilly good-naturedly voiced his displeasure with blogs while acknowledging their impact. He didn't like that blogs don't have editors; he felt that this led to bloggers "writing 10,000 words when 800 would do."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I said. "You have no business saying that when you work for the same company as Gregg Easterbrook." He laughed.
He went on, complaining that Deadspin's Will Leitch uses a photo of him in a dress every time he writes a post about Reilly [Not true: more like every other time -Ed.]. I didn't disagree, but I pointed out that Leitch is terrifyingly open with his life, putting all the photos from his private life on his flickr page for all to see. It seemed to earn Leitch a bonus point from Reilly, but he still wasn't pleased that Deadspin ran an item from Every Day Should Be Saturday, where an anonymous tipster claimed that Reilly showed up at an LSU game looking "drunk/stoned," with the anonymous tipster's friend's wife describing Reilly's blonde date as "looking like a stripper."
"Where's the journalistic integrity?" Reilly asked. "He has my email — why didn't he try to verify it?" Indeed, the blonde that "looked like a stripper" accompanied Reilly to the party Friday night, and he confirmed that she's his live-in girlfriend. In my opinion, she's a lovely woman who looks nothing like a stripper. I would be more likely to use the term "cougar"… but since Reilly was so friendly and engaging, I won't.
UP NEXT: After hours with Bill Simmons!