Editor’s note: When we launched the Ringer newsletter, the boss kicked things off by revealing the story behind the site’s name.
We spent 10 solid weeks batting around names before finally settling on www.theringer.com.
The Ringer. Easy to spell. Easy to say. Easy to remember. It frightened us for only two reasons:
1. A whopping total of zero websites have succeeded after using the same name as a failed Johnny Knoxville comedy about the Special Olympics.
2. If you look at theringer.com too fast, it looks like a Santa Barbara wine called Theringer.
Then again, “The Ringer” worked way better than other names we were considering. Sean Fennessey liked “Klique,” which sounds like Kanye’s ill-fated answer to Tidal. Chris Ryan pushed for “Klaxon,” which sounds like a new fiber cereal that might blow out your colon. I liked “Watershed,” which sounds like a financial-planning service that might advertise on my podcast. Eventually, I pivoted to “Heat Check,” then “Channel 33,” then “Chase the Night” — which I’ve loved ever since overhearing Worldwide Wes tell a young NBA player to go home instead of a strip joint because “you can’t chase the night.” What does this have to do with a website? I have no freaking idea.
But that’s what happens when you write a bunch of dumb names on a whiteboard and stare at them for hours on end. “The Intrepid”? (Sounds like a boat.) “Rational Confidence”? (Sounds like a failed college band.) “The Rafters”? (Sounds like a sports bar.) “Upper Echelon”? (Sounds like a hedge fund.) “Barnstorm”? (Sounds like a horse that would be favored to win the Kentucky Derby.) “Side Two”? (Too insider.) “Grantworld”? (Too ludicrous.) “Fuck Off, ESPN”? (Too easy.)
We wrote off “The Curve,” “Dauntless,” “Parachute,” “The Route,” “Corners,” “Fathom” and “The Hot Hand,” but left their letter corpses up on that board for black comedy’s sake. A few promising names, including “The Hook” and “Upside,” were already taken. I had two different late-night “revelations” — “Brainwreck” and “Binge Mode” — that bombed badly and became running jokes (especially after everyone found out that I own www.bingemode.com). As the days passed, the whiteboard paralyzed Juliet Litman and Mallory Rubin, and they stopped suggesting anything new. They just kept staring at the board with the Chris Christie “I Can’t Believe I Sold Out to Trump” Face going.
Then, finally, progress! We all liked “The Leap.” www.theleap.com. Done. Finished. Well, right until our trademark lawyers swatted us, Mutombo style. No way. Can’t do it. Leap somewhere else. We found ourselves drifting back to “The Ringer,” partly because we liked it and partly out of pure, unadulterated desperation. Come on, did anyone REALLY remember that Knoxville movie? Even Knoxville didn’t remember it by that point. We took the plunge and felt a little better about it every day.
When we announced The Ringer last month, we braced for the ensuing barrage of Knoxville jokes, but something weird happened: People actually liked the name. I mean, as much as the Internet likes anything. Now we have a sports/tech/pop-culture website (coming within three to 37 months), a podcast network, a newsletter, a Twitter handle (@ringer), a Facebook page (facebook.com/ringer), an Instagram account (@ringer), a promising HBO Now relationship (stay tuned for news on our first project, coming imminently), more than 20 staffers and writers (some of whom we announced today) and our own L.A. office, which has meshed beautifully with everyone from my HBO show (also coming within three to 37 months). We’ve come a looooong way from that dumb whiteboard. Here, look:
Isn’t it depressing? Imagine staring at that thing for weeks.
But we made it. Thank God. I’m pouring myself a bowl of Klaxon and heading over to Klique to find Rational Confidence’s first album. Enjoy The Ringer.
This piece originally appeared in the March 14, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.