USA Today senior sports blog editor Chris Chase’s posts, covering the lighter side of sports culture, are typical fare; aggregated news with opinion and commentary. Yet they have acquired a rampant following, generating millions of pageviews and thousands of comments — most of which are about Chase himself rather than a given post. There are Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, at least two Tumblrs, and countless discussion forums dedicated to Chase. Only problem is, they’re all resoundingly negative.
Chris Chase may be the most hated blogger in America.
Chase, now 31, was an elementary school teacher when he started his sports blog in 2004.
“After working with third graders all day, my mind had turned to mush,” he says. The blog made for a nice diversion. By 2008, Yahoo was looking for temporary bloggers to cover the Beijing Olympics. Chase, then a swim coach who followed the sport closely anyway, “promised wall-to-wall Phelps coverage.” The blog was a success, and Chase’s temporary gig became permanent. In 2010, it became full time. Now he’s blogging for USA Today, as the newspaper with the second-highest print circulation in America continues to bulk up its digital-only offerings.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Chase is so popularly unpopular. Chase himself doesn’t know. Sports fans are passionate, both in their love of and hatred for certain teams. As Deadspin’s Drew Magary pointed out in an article filled with some of his most vicious hate mail, they are not shy about expressing their opinions. One Bears fan even gave Magary the ultimate insult: “It’s so God-awful that it makes want to go out and read a Chris Chase ‘article’ and we all know he’s absolutely an abysmal ‘writer’.”
The hatred of Chase goes even beyond the sports world norm. My best guess is it’s a special combination of sports fans’ passionate relationships with their favorite teams and athletes, many of which Chase criticizes as part of his job; Yahoo’s huge reach and audience; the slightly-less-than-savvy Internet user who typically reads the site; and what people tend to expect from a sportswriter (accounts of games, breathless praise of athletic performances) versus what Chase actually writes about (Tim Tebow’s muscles, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s new yacht).
“I think the hate started almost immediately,” Chase says, recalling an early article that cast doubt on the true age of Chinese gymnasts in the 2008 games. It garnered almost 6,000 comments. “Most of them were anti-me,” Chase says.
Once the comment section hatred got rolling, it didn’t stop. “Chris Chase is the Nickelback of sports writers. He is this polarizing force of terribleness that no one can get rid of,” wrote one Chase anti-fan. “That’s better than being the indie band no one’s ever heard of,” Chase replies, although: “I wish they had gone with something less obvious than Nickelback.”
The comparison is apt. Like Nickelback, it seems that no matter what Chase writes, it will be ripped to shreds. Some commenters post within seconds of the article going up. Chase wonders how many of his anti-fans sit at their computers watching their RSS feeds and waiting for his updates.
It makes sense, really. They’re devoted sports fans, and they’ve made hating Chris Chase into another sport. They even play on holidays — on Thanksgiving last year, Chase wrote about Detroit Lions defensive end Ndamukong Suh’s ejection for stomping on an opponent’s arm. Chase posted and went to eat Thanksgiving dinner with his family, during which he received emails from haters who hoped he choked on his turkey.
If the constant outpouring of truly vitriolic attacks—on everything from his writing to his looks, from commenters wishing that he’ll lose his job to commenters hoping he and his entire family will die and rot in hell—bothers Chase, he doesn’t show it. After four years of this, he’s able to take it all in stride (something he admits his mother has had a harder time doing). “As long as my bosses are happy with what is being produced, I tend not to care,” he says. Commenters have accused him of trolling them, writing things solely designed to inflame them and bump up pageviews. Chase denies this. “I don’t write for reaction,” he says, but “I know that if I write a post about Ben Roethlisberger and reference his sordid past, his fans are gonna come out of the woodwork.”