In 2001, Brooks Melchior was living in Los Angeles, working for Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio after a string of years calling minor- and major-league baseball games in the Midwest and the South. The Kansas City, Missouri, native had worked his way up and paid his dues, but now he felt stuck.
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“Doing play-by-play, there are certain parameters you’ve gotta work in: I’ve got to give you the score, I’ve got to give you balls and strikes,” he tells me one night at Red Rock on Sunset. “But I was more interested in the people and what was going on off the field, or the little things that meant something to me but were generally ignored.”
The desire to find an outlet for those “little things” inspired Sports by Brooks, Melchior’s self-owned and -operated gossip-and-news Web site, which specializes in dude-style wisecracks about ego-crazed athletes, moronic team owners and the preening sports-media figures who cover them. When he started SbB seven years ago, Melchior, desperate to generate Web traffic, hit upon the idea of walking around Sunset to recruit beautiful women to appear at sports-trivia-quiz games he would host at local bars.
Melchior knows how that sounds. “You always hear stories about the guy at the mall who picks somebody up under the auspices of being an agent and chops her up and puts her in a pail in the backyard,” he says. “But I was legitimate. I had an event: ‘Here’s my card. You come Tuesday night, we’ll give you a [SbB] shirt, you’ll get paid.’”
Those same women — often extraordinarily busty and blessed with girl-next-door hotness as opposed to the distant beauty of airbrushed fashion models — also adorn SbB’s pages, and help to distinguish Melchior’s brainchild from the many other sports sites that have sprung up in the last few years. Before a layout redesign 18 months ago, the parade of smiling female faces and unfathomable cleavage was conspicuously present on the SbB home page, interspersed with Melchior’s and his writers’ irreverent musings about everyone from evil Clippers owner Donald Sterling to former USC quarterback (and full-time mimbo) Matt Leinart. (Referencing a January news item about his possible hookup with former Laguna Beach star Kristin Cavallari, the site opined, “Leinart’s latest lovelife [sic] foray could put him in the same tabloid category as [NFL stars] Tony Romo & Tom Brady — except Matt hasn’t actually won any games.”)
Aided immensely by the “SbB Girls,” all photographed by Melchior on beaches in SoCal and Maui, SbB quickly became the frat-house Internet equivalent to watching SportsCenter with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue in your lap.
According to Melchior, who in person resembles a mix of Kevin Nealon and a long-lost member of the Wilson clan, SbB currently enjoys more than a million unique users a month. And when he talks about the close friendship he shares with many of the women he’s photographed, his warm vibe convinces you that he’s telling the truth. In his late 30s, single and robbed of a social life because of the site’s demands, Melchior understands that SbB’s pictorial content is a large draw, but recently, he’s been trying to emphasize the editorial end of things, moving the ladies to their own separate page.
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It bugs him when people accuse him of lasciviousness and lechery. “There’s no implied nudity on our site,” he says, with pride. “There are no thongs. There’s no sexualization of the photos. I’ve had so many advertisers come to me and say, [disapprovingly] ‘Wow, you’ve got the girls on there,’ and I’ll go, ‘Have you seen Sports Illustrated? Have you walked into a 7-Eleven lately and looked at the displays? Now go [try to] find implied nudity on my site. You won’t.’”
Melchior shakes his head. “Mymom and dadlook at the site.”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon