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How Justin Gimelstob = Gilbert Arenas


(AP Photo)

"People with a platform, they have a responsibility--and this doesn't mean you always have to write puff pieces--but you have a responsibility to at least do your homework," Justin Gimelstob said one afternoon this week outside a U Street pub. "That's why it kills me, some people that are on TV. Like, I think Skip Bayless is the absolute biggest travesty in history. When I get to the point where I'm at that level, I will absolutely destroy him. I will tear him apart....Nobody goes backwards and holds him accountable. That guy has made a living out of being a contrarian, not by being good at what he does. And that's why I would destroy that guy on live television based on my ability to process information quicker and in a wittier way than he could."

Intentionally or not, this immediately splashed Gimelstob--who will play for World Team Tennis's Washington Kastles this summer-- into the pool of blog-friendly D.C. athletes. For one thing, the national sports blogging community has few pet peeves larger or noisier than ESPN's Bayless. For another, it was the same Bayless who inspired the legendary 3,500-word "It's all entertainment" Mission Statement on Gilbert Arenas's blog. Now all that was required for Gimelstob to achieve full blogger approval was a random, unprompted critique of longtime blogging foil Chris Berman.

"I think Chris Berman destroyed the U.S. Open in the first two days," Gimelstob said, unprompted, a few moments later. "I think he made it hard to watch."

Sounds like a blogger, frankly. Gimelstob, of course, has been writing on the Internet longer than Gilbert or any of the other come-lately D.C. sports bloggers; his regular "Gimel Takes All" column on SI.com is nearly three years old, was originally called "Gimel's Blog" and has furrowed the occasional athletic brow. When he wrote that Serena Williams's appearance in the 2007 Aussie Open Final after a long layoff meant that women's tennis was "in a very weak and desperate state," it prompted an on-court confrontation with Serena, who is now his Kastles teammate.

"She let me have it pretty good," he said. "Oh yeah, she had at me. But I much prefer that than having to hear about her being upset behind my back and being passive aggressive about it. In that regard, I really appreciate the fact that we had it out."

Gimelstob has since transitioned into a second career, working as a television tennis analyst and hosting a four-hour show on Fox Sports Radio during the last four days of Wimbledon. That media personality is partly built on his candor and his reputation as someone with a "more entertaining, humanistic connection with the fans," he said, fans who "love to hate me or hate that they love me."

Gimelstob looks down on athlete blogs that are more personal diary than well-constructed thought, but he drips with blogworthy tales. His current girlfriend, for example, is not famous, which he attributes in part to pal Dustin Hoffman. "He gave me some of the best advice I've ever gotten," Gimelstob related. "He said, 'Justin, you're living in L.A. now, you'll meet tons of beautiful women here. Half of them are gonna be actresses.' He goes, 'Do whatever you want with them, but do NOT marry an actress.' "

He doesn't consider himself a blogger--although he regularly reads sites like Deadspin and Fire Joe Morgan--but it's largely a matter of semantics. He still associates blogs with Tursonov Tales, the ATP-sponsored blog of tennis pro Dmitri Tursonov, whom Gimelstob considers both "a very good player" and a "jackoff."

"We actually got into a wrestling match at the Legg Mason tournament at 1 in the morning after a doubles match," Gimelstob noted. "It started off pushing, and it ended up being wrestling." Were they serious? "Completely," he said.

(Is it worth pointing out here that Gilbert has previously bragged about his locker room wrestling sessions? Sure, why not.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 18, 2008; 6:28 PM ET
Categories:  Tennis  
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