Kyle Scott is showing me Terrell Owens’s penis.
We’re sitting in the upstairs office of the two-bedroom twin Scott shares with his fiancée, on the curve of a cramped cul-de-sac in Horsham. This is the headquarters of Crossing Broad, the sports blog Scott started as a lark five years ago and grew into a full-time gig (and, by his accounting, a six-figure income). It’s also where the biggest local sports story of 2013 was born — the video of Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper spitting out the n-word at a Kenny Chesney concert. Even if you’ve never read a sports blog, you probably saw that clip on the news, or on ESPN, which ran a crawl that credited CrossingBroad.com for the footage and milked the scandal for days. A few hours after Scott posted the video last summer, Cooper held an emotional press conference, saying he felt “ashamed and disgusted.” The aftershocks are still being felt a year later; when the Eagles gave Cooper a new contract and then released fellow receiver and reputed wannabe gangsta DeSean Jackson, comedian Chris Rock tweeted: “So Reilly cooper gets a raise for saying nigger and Desean Jackson gets fired for being a suspected nigga.” From the comfort of his IKEA office chair, with the click of a mouse, Scott launched a blog post heard round the sports world and beyond.
His reward? Offers of dick pics. Lots of them. “After the Cooper thing, I had messages from people saying, ‘I have photos of such-and-such Phillie, do you want to buy them?’” Scott says. The most tempting was a naked photo of a current batsman. Scott explains his thought process as he considered buying it: “Okay, obvious question here — is it impressive? And they said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty darn impressive.’ I thought about it. There would be a ton of page views.”
Scott passed on the snapshot, he says, mostly because the player was single. (“You’re just outing a guy for being a guy.”) Still, as rational and well-mannered as he seems here in his suburban home, Scott is something else online: a cross between a take-no-prisoners sports media critic (sample headlines: “It’s Only A Matter of Time Before Robots Replace Flyers Beat Writers”; a running series titled “Shut Up Wheels”) and a poor man’s Perez Hilton, with the snark turned up to 11 (a photo of a player shopping for clothes is captioned “Seriously, I’m beginning to question his sexuality”).
Which brings us to this moment, as Scott tells me of a photo from an X-rated Skype session with Terrell Owens that had been shopped to TMZ and other sites. Google it and you’ll only find the shirtless ex-Eagle lying down and making weird come-hither faces, but those photos are cropped at the waist.
“I have the full version,” Scott says.
“It’s definitely T.O.?” I ask.
“Yeah,” Scott says with a laugh. “You want to see it?”
He searches through his white iPhone 5. “Don’t want you to think I’m B.S.-ing,” he says. “Here it is.”
I can confirm that Kyle Scott possesses a fully nude photograph of T.O. He hasn’t published it; he says it has no “redeeming quality.” But since Crossing Broad bills itself as “Philly’s most irreverent sports blog,” he’s not above posting back-and-forth emails from beat writers bitching about the teams they cover, or slide shows of more-than-half-naked women, or pics of athletes with beers and babes in hand.
Blogs now influence the way old-school media covers sports and even, to some degree, the way front offices run their franchises. Of all the local sites, none has made a bigger splash than Scott’s. And no one is more loathed by those who cover Philly sports — even by his online peers. When I compare Crossing Broad to the national sports site Deadspin — where dick pics are always de rigueur — rival Philly blogger Enrico Campitelli Jr. of The 700 Level says, “That’s insulting to Deadspin.”
IT’S NOT QUITE 8 A.M. at Wing Bowl in late January, and Kyle Scott is on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center armed with a press credential and his cell-phone camera. Dressed in jeans, navy Pumas and a gray striped hoodie, the slim 30-year-old could still pass for a college student, and is indistinguishable from most of the drunkards who’ve packed the house before sunrise. “I feel like such a perv,” he says. “Just taking pictures of strippers. But it’s instant page views.”
Today’s content loosely fits into Scott’s editorial strategy of covering “all the stuff going on outside the game.” Sometimes that’s a critique of a player (“Ryan Howard is Already Super Defensive About Your Skepticism”) or a reporter (“Hack: Here’s a Really Dumb Tweet by Flyers Beat Writer Sam Carchidi”), or a drift far outside the lines of sports, like a ranking of the best local weatherperson Twitter accounts. Scott says his target audience is broader than the lite-beer-backwash degenerates currently flipping him the bird at Wing Bowl: “I make it for guys in their 20s and 30s like me who were bored at work.”
With an average of 250,000 unique visitors a month, Crossing Broad isn’t successful, loath as his competitors may be to admit it, just thanks to one viral video or snapshots of women in cheap lingerie. Indeed, Scott’s career path reads like a blueprint for success in cyberspace. The Malvern Prep grad majored in communications at Villanova and interned at Comcast SportsNet, then took a sales job with the Inquirer, mistakenly thinking he’d leap from ads to editorial. The gigs that followed — with an online marketing agency, and with GSI Commerce, where he handled Major League Baseball’s e-commerce account, including the Phillies’ online store — taught Scott how to monetize a website, a lesson many Web writers learn the hard way, if at all. He asked another blogger if he wanted to accept an ad that would run on both of their sites. “He said, ‘How would that work? Would I pay them?’ I was like, oh my God.”
Crossing Broad was largely unknown at first, and Scott was the flesh-and-blood blogger stereotype, living at home with his parents in Springfield and posting from their basement. The night the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay in December 2009, Scott made a Facebook fan page for the ace pitcher that drew 10,000 followers in three days — which he then used to drive traffic to his fledgling site. Scott’s first hit was a weekly feature called “Your Morning Carts,” with photos of then-Flyers forward Jeff Carter, usually with a drink in hand and a “douchebag friend” in tow, sometimes posing with girls in bikinis at his usual haunts in Sea Isle City.
“The posts people always talk about, and say they found my site through, are from when I started picking on Jeff Carter,” Scott says. “It wasn’t hard to find pictures of him. I knew it was working when people started sending me pictures — ‘Here’s Carter drunk again and taking shots.’”
Crossing Broad’s traffic jumped, and Scott realized he was not only generating an audience, but having an impact. “Carter’s friends would reach out to me and tell me how much he hated it,” he says. “That was my first holy-shit moment. I never expected this to make it to an athlete’s screen.”
There’s more than a hint of pride and satisfaction as Scott tells me these stories. He enjoys wearing the black hat, though he says it weighs on him at times. “It may read mean-spirited, and sometimes it is,” he admits of his writing, “but I’m very tongue-in-cheek.” His proudest moment came when he helped the police find a high-definition video of the attack on a New York Rangers fan at Geno’s Steaks in 2012, which eventually led to an arrest. “That’s a story I felt good about,” he says. “I don’t always feel good.” Scott has toned down his combative tone and innuendoes a bit, but still takes pride in pushing the envelope. “People think it’s an insult to say ‘You’re the TMZ of Philly sports,’” he explains, referring to himself as a “publisher,” not a blogger. “I think, ‘That’s awesome. TMZ is doing really well.’”
Crossing Broad’s biggest scoop was actually something of a fluke. On a Monday last July, Scott heard from two guys who claimed to have video of Cooper, the Eagles wideout, at a concert, shouting at a security guard and threatening to “fight every nigger here.” The pair had already contacted talk-radio host Mike Missanelli, who discussed the clip with his bosses at The Fanatic and feared it could end Cooper’s career. “We thought it was more of Crossing Broad material, something salacious,” says Missanelli, who suggested they take it to Scott. The video peddlers wanted thousands of dollars for the footage — and one of them made it clear he wasn’t a fan of the site for all its Sixers bashing. Scott talked them down to $150, and on Wednesday, the video went up.
In five days, Crossing Broad tallied 800,000 hits — nearly as many as it usually earned in a month. And had Scott hosted the clip himself, rather than posting it on YouTube, where it’s been viewed more than five million times, his numbers would have been even greater. “I thought it would be a local story, someone would ask him about it, and he’d apologize,” Scott says, noting that Cooper was a marginal player at that time. “I didn’t expect that three hours after it posted, it would be on SportsCenter.”
SCOTT ADMITS HIS TRAFFIC drifted back to Earth after the Cooper controversy died down, putting Crossing Broad more in line with the rest of the Philly sports blogs, which fall into two very basic categories. Most are sites for casual fans, ranging from quirky pages like Zoo With Roy and The Fightins, which mix analysis with goofy GIFs, humor and random thoughts, to Crossing Broad and its top rival, The 700 Level.
Launched in 2004 with a post about Donovan McNabb’s “4th-and-26th” game, The 700 Level began as a hobby for Enrico Campitelli Jr., who worked as an IT consultant by day. Friendly shout-outs from WIP and links by Deadspin and Philly.com grew Campitelli’s site, which he describes as written in “the voice of a fan,” without Scott’s vicious snark. Just as Campitelli was thinking The 700 Level could be a full-time job, Comcast SportsNet approached him with an offer; in March 2010, CSN acquired the site and hired Campitelli to run it. As further proof that old media is paying attention to the success of this model, Philly.com now has “Pattison Ave.,” with a staff of eight bloggers who are essentially following Scott and Campitelli’s playbook. The teams themselves have adapted, too — all four have an online presence, churning out content straight from the sports complex to your screen.
Then there are the analytics sites, like Beerleaguer (Phillies), Liberty Ballers (Sixers), Broad Street Hockey (Flyers) and Birds 24/7 (an Eagles blog owned by Philadelphia magazine). They examine teams with a Moneyball eye for stats and trends and mock drafts. While the Inquirer and Daily News haven’t taken to posting photos of drunken athletes at the Shore — at least not yet — their coverage has been influenced by the popularity of number-geek sites. To wit: The Inquirer’s lead Eagles writer, Jeff McLane, started a column last season with a focus on film of the previous week’s game, routes, schemes and assignments.
You’d figure the analytics guys would dislike Scott’s gossipy style, and most of them do. But so do the casual-fan-site webmasters, some of whom refused to discuss Crossing Broad on the record. (One sports media source said writing about Scott would cheapen this column.) Their beefs arise from the sense that Scott, the guy in Malvern, is actually not much different from the cocky, aggressive voice of Crossing Broad. There’s also the notion that no headline or topic hangs too low for Scott to grab in hopes of attracting page views or a mention on talk radio. “You go to a Phillies game, and there are smart fans, and there are fans who are blackout drunk by the fourth inning,” says Campitelli. “Those people will find the content they’re looking for. I like to write for fans I’d want to talk Phillies with.”
Most of Scott’s allies are found on the radio, at both WIP and The Fanatic, where the ability to stir up controversy and a hey-look-at-me temperament are job requirements. Scott’s peers resent the way he trolls other media on Twitter, but his methods get results. When Scott called out ESPN analyst Cris Carter for claiming he was sober when Eagles coach Buddy Ryan released him back in the ’80s (“You’re so full of shit,” Scott tweeted to him, showing typical restraint), WIP’s Al Morganti mentioned Crossing Broad’s shot on the air minutes later.
Sports beat writers used to be the opposite of sports-radio hosts — plugging away in relative anonymity. Now, thanks to Crossing Broad, the guys with the notepads are stories themselves. So Scott wrote about the time Les Bowen of the Daily News punched the Inquirer’s McLane at the Eagles training facility, and chronicled the beef between John Gonzalez, then an Inquirer columnist, and Daily News scribe David Murphy.
Scott is particularly tough on the Flyers beat corps, which he calls “among the laziest, most unimaginative and out-of-touch in the business.” In one post, he published a series of tweets in which the reporters were incensed that the Flyers announced the season’s starting goaltender via Instagram — a move that marked a shift away from old media to the world in which Scott thrives. (One writer threatened to pull coverage of the team’s charity carnival in retaliation.) Scott also jousted with Randy Miller, then with the Courier-Post, in an epic Twitter exchange, including this ink-stained-finger-wag from Miller: “It’s hilarious how this kid knows the pulse of the dressing room … by reading quotes that myself and other people who actually cover the team get.”
Tensions in the Daily News and Inquirer newsrooms over Crossing Broad were high, and Flyers beat writer Frank Seravalli was presumed to be Scott’s inside source — a claim Seravalli denies, pointing to smackdowns he’s received from the site. At 26, Seravalli is the youngest beat writer in town, and admits he sees his work — and blogs like Crossing Broad — differently than his peers in the press box might. “As journalists, the nature of our job is to hold players and coaches accountable,” he says. “We’re not above being held accountable, too. Crossing Broad is like the sports media watchdog, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t know Kyle Scott, but he’s got a successful thing going, and I don’t see it going away.”
BACK IN SCOTT’S OFFICE, Phillies pennants hang from the wall above his desk, where sports books, a Jimmy Buffett bio and a Chase Utley bobblehead line the shelves. He shows me the glare-reducing glasses he wears to protect his eyes from long days of staring at his two computer screens and his phone. For a guy one sports media insider calls “an egotistical prick,” he’s particularly friendly and well-mannered — apologizing when his Lab mix, Hayley, jumps up to say hello, offering water or a beer, and laying out a box of Philly Soft Pretzel Bites.
Scott says his goals are fairly modest — he plans to hire a full-time writer, then build a small staff, including an ad sales specialist. That, he hopes, will free him up to write longer reported stories, à la the website Grantland. He’s also looking to buy a house with a little more space; he’s getting married this month and hopes to start a family. The Kyle Scott talking about his honeymoon in Mexico looks and sounds exactly like the kind of guy who’d live in a suburban cul-de-sac with a sensible car and a patch of grass to cut. But if you’re a pro athlete photographed playing beer pong, or a beat writer exchanging f-bombs, he’s more like Larry Flynt — an agitator of the lowest denominator.
To the latter crowd, Scott says: Lighten up. “Sports is entertainment,” he tells me. “When you get the Riley Cooper stuff, it’s real life. But you have rich people doing stuff for the entertainment of others. Why not make it fun? Let’s talk about how awful the post-game show is, or how great an announcer is. Be entertained. There’s so much else about the sports experience that’s not on the field.”
Originally published as “The Score: Hating Kyle Scott” in the June 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.