Do yourself a favor. The moment you grab a copy of the new The Ecstasy of Defeat: Sports Reporting at Its Finest by the Editors of the Onion – a collection of the best articles Onion Sports has to offer – flip immediately to the Forward, and then the Acknowledgements.
You’ll have plenty of time for fantastic Onion Sports pieces like “Brett Favre Demands Trade to 1996 Packers,” and “Barry Bonds Took Steroids, Reports Everyone Who Has Ever Watched Baseball” – just make sure you stretch out first with the Forward by Anabolic Steroids. Follow the exhilarating journey of this little performance-enhancer as it conquers the World Series, horse races and little league championships. “They say my time has come and gone, a brief violent explosion of human potential and shattered records, of strained connective tissue and ever-thicker necks, of towering home runs and unstoppable defense linemen,” explains Steroids. “Not a bad career for a simple synthetic hormone with relatively humble aspirations.”
The Ecstasy of Defeat is the first book presented by Onion Sports – and it has been a long time coming explains head writer and associate editor, Seth Reiss. “We’ve been working hard at it for a while,” Reiss says. “And it’s kind of cool to see the content that the editors like – and want to put in – all in one package.”
Reiss actually got his start at The Onion as a writer for Onion Sports. Now, aside from editing riffs on current events, Reiss contributes to McSweeney's, and performs in his sketch comedy group Pangea 3000. (FYI, Pangea 3000 are Sound of Young America alums and Reiss is a loyal donor). As far as The Ecstasy of Defeat goes, Reiss has few qualms about kicking the pedestal out from under major sports figures. “They’re so larger than life that it’s already so silly anyway, so its kind of funny to just bring them down a little bit,” Reiss says. “Even if a sports figure is known for being really nice, it’s funny to make him do really awful things.”
Reiss says he is a sports fan, “[b]ut I feel like my in-depth knowledge ends at about 1998.” Reiss grew up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania – a sports heavy environment just 45 minutes south of Pittsburgh – where football, hockey and high school wrestling were all huge. When asked if he was ever an athlete, Reiss answers, “I played basketball in 9th grade, and I played golf throughout high school, but overall no,” he says with a laugh.
Speaking of back home – Reiss contemplates what Ecstasy of Defeat story his mom might like best, or rather, what he might show off to convince mom her son is a funny human being. Reiss settles on “Kobe Bryant Scores 25 In Holy Shit We Elected A Black President” and maybe “Mr. Met Having Trouble Sleeping in New Home.” With Dad? “It’s even worse – he thinks I’m less funny than my mom,” Reiss says. “Anything that has to do with Pittsburgh or the Steelers he’ll probably like.” Reiss decides upon “Michael Vick Fails To Inspire Team With ‘Great’ Dogfighting Story.”
The sports world is always a whirring beehive of events and scandals, and now Ecstasy of Defeat has been added to the mix. “People are so passionate about their teams and their favorite players that it really is always a good time for sports,” Reiss says. “Because to some people sports is one of the most important things in the world.”
This review and interview was created by intrepid MaxFun reporter Lauren Cusimano.