About a year ago, Ann Friedman, a talented and bullshit-free editor I had the pleasure of working with at the American Prospect, revitalized GOOD Magazine. She asked me to write a piece for her inaugural issue as editor, which was an honor, and so I recently pitched her something that was all over the map: a meditation about the left and sports, hinged on the idea that Manny Pacquiao is an athlete unique to a moment concerned with economic justice whom the left should embrace. GOOD just published it. Ann’s team, particularly line editor Maria Russo, whipped the idea into shape.
It’ll be the last piece I write for the magazine.
First, the piece itself. Its thesis:
Sports is one of the great pleasures of civilization, one that naturally inclines enthusiasts to impose grand narratives on simple physical contests. Yet its political consciousness is AWOL during the greatest economic upheaval in almost a century. Athletes by and large ignored Occupy Wall Street, the rare grass-roots movement carving out a mainstream place for the politics of economic justice. Worse, no one found that unusual.
Pacquiao proves that a different politics of sports is possible: The seamless marriage of athletic success to a 99 Percenter agenda. Liberals should be hanging posters of Pacquiao on their bedroom walls. If nothing else, he will make them want to do bicycle-kick crunches.
Now, just as the piece went to the printer, Pac-Man kind of broke my bleeding liberal heart. Pacquaio was quoted saying homosexuals should be put to death. It made me want to puke, not least of which because I was promoting someone who seemed to have said something indefensible. It turns out that Pacquiao was misquoted — flagrantly — but he’s apparently discomfited by homosexuality and reproductive rights, neither of which I can co-sign for. If I had seen any similar quotes from Pacquiao — whose reps didn’t respond to interview requests — I assure you I would have dealt with them prominently in the piece. Inconvenient for my thesis, to say the least.
Beyond that, I won’t write for GOOD anymore.
On Friday, GOOD decided to fire Friedman, along with many of her talented staff, including Cord Jefferson, Tim Fernholz and Amanda Hess. This would be a mistake under any circumstance, since Friedman’s editorship gave the magazine a relevance it had never possessed. But GOOD also fired the team in a classless way — right after throwing a party to celebrate the closing of the new issue.
Friedman rescued GOOD from an insufferably self-satisfied lifestyle liberalism. The typical GOOD reader is something like a mountain climber who plays an electric guitar; the magazine obviously doesn’t know the meaning of dope. But since GOOD loves defining the Good for the less-enlightened, allow me to offer a suggestion. The Good life does not involve jettisoning rigorous, freewheeling journalism and treating employees who upended their lives to move across the country like replaceable commodities. Accordingly, journalists who object to such treatment ought to respond by refusing to write for the post-Friedman GOOD. I’m sure GOOD doesn’t give a shit about one very sporadic freelancer, but hopefully a measure of professional solidarity can alert GOOD to the depths of its mistake.
Photo: Flickr/Cubmundo, under CC