Were sports more fun before “the world went viral”? That was the question posed by “Real Sports”‘ host Bryant Gumbel at the conclusion of last night’s broadcast —and who brings to the pure joy of fandom more than the effervescent, not grumpy-in-the-slightest Gumbel? — the middle portion of which concerned the rise of Deadspin in the post-WIll Leitch era. Andrea Kremer grilled editor A.J. Daulerio and Gawker Media publisher NIck Denton, with the dynamic duo’s recent (commercial) success stories about Rex Ryan and Brett Favre receiving prominent notice.

Alas, not every cock pic enthusiast has an 8-figure salary (and the protection of the NFL) to fall back on. Serial creep Sean Salisbury — shown looking extremely haggard — claimed Deadspin had essentially destroyed his career with a “3 1/2 year” campaign of bullying. Such was Deadspin’s heartless pursuit of the former ESPN analyst, one of his kids was reduced to begging Daulerio to lay off.

Daulerio and Denton were portrayed as a smug, sleazy couple, nearly oblivious to the “collateral damage” Kremer claimed they were inflicting on REAL HUMANS W/ FAMILIES & PUPPIES. “I couldn’t help but notice,” mused a disapproving Gumbel, “that all of the Deadspin guys were young. Do you think they’ll change as they have families?” Presumably, Deadspin’s envelope-pushing tactics would be curtailed if, say, A.J. had to return to his 3 bedroom home in Greenwich, CT and explain to his children over the dinner table that he is the monstrous person who made Sean Salisbury cry on television. You know, the same Sean Salisbury whose routine abuse of John Clayton was all in good, wholesome fun.

That Nick Denton’s lust for traffic is considered unseemly is a bit rich coming from “Real Sports” ; TMZ.com is wholly owned by the same company that pays Gumbel and Kremer. Efforts to launch a TMZ Sports site have yet to take over the internet and at the very least, should have been mentioned during Kremer’s piece. Denton didn’t invent this style of reportage, he’s merely surrounded himself with people who are very good at it and/or have a better understanding of the readership’s tastes & prejudices.

It was also telling that Deadspin’s squash-jobs on sports celebs a-list and otherwise weren’t thought to have any legit news value (sole exception being former Deadspin-baiter Buzz Bissenger, who defended the Favre story before admitting he didn’t approve of off the record correspondence being used). For anyone with half a brain, the Favre and Salisbury stories weren’t simply about naming and shaming the horny, they also had something or other to do with workplace harassment and the sort of indignities routinely foisted upon women in the sports industry. Salisbury’s case in particular came on the heels of other zipper-related horror stores emanating from ESPN — and other have followed. Full credit then, to Steve Phillips for not going on HBO, holding up a family snapshot and sobbing, “see what you’ve cost me, A.J.? WAS IT WORTH IT?”

That said, if you’re waiting for “Real Sports” to do a story on the modern day Peyton Place otherwise known as Bristol, CT, don’t hold your breath. For all their recent notoriety, Daulerio and Denton are much safer targets. Air time that could’ve been used to ask Roger Goodell how he in good conscience could allow Favre to escape meaningful discipline was instead devoted to making sports journalists far less decorated than Kremer and Gumbel look like weasels.

And then, they segued into a cuddly profile of a convicted rapist.