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Kalyn Kahler Is Leaving Us, But We’ll Keep The Memories And Her Jawbones

5th January 1950: A group of Irish folk dancers giving a display at the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Regent's Park, London. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
L–R: Kalyn, Kalyn, Kalyn, and Kalyn
Keystone/Getty Images

Today marks the final day of Kalyn Kahler’s eventful tenure at Defector, as she leaves us for a publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner. Who could forget Kalyn’s gross jaw blog, her weird Irish Dance blogs, and her insane vaccine blog, among many others? We will miss her, but we will also roast her ass.

Ray Ratto

Rather than wait for Comrade Kahler to explain herself in the preferred idiom of her new employer, we have decided to jump the gun and tell you (wind-up monkey bashing tiny cymbals together fanfare here) Why She Joined The [publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner].

Of course, she did it for the money, for the access to players and coaches she was losing at her old shop, and for the money. But more to the point, she did it so she could explain why this is her new dream job, as opposed to her previous dream jobs in an industry that is increasingly removing dreams as a potential condition of employment. Her devotion to the stories that don’t get told enough in the charnel house of the National Football League made her a must-get at The [publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner], which went after her as an acknowledgement that it still wishes to be taken seriously as a sports outlet. That she agreed to do so rather than remain with this malformed pack of social misfits is between her and her maker.

To wish her good luck is required but hardly necessary. She has made her own luck with her talent and creativity, and it is to her credit that she’s been able to cash in on it. But she will learn, as they all do, that football rots the soul and owners meetings rot the soul absolutely. She should start to drink earlier and more often, because as she is about to learn there is nothing more inherently terrifying that the sentence, “I’m getting a one-on-one interview with Rob Walton’s second yacht’s third vault.”

Lauren Theisen

Kalyn was an incredible reporter at Defector, as well as a delightful co-worker and devoted fan of The Bangles. Without her here, we will all be left like this:

Luis Paez-Pumar

“Marshawn Lunch.”

When I think of Kalyn, I want to think of her incredible reporting skills. Or her Irish dance blog. Or the massive amount of work and preparation she put into making QB2 as good as it could be in its short existence. Or our excited Yellowjackets chats (buzz buzz!). Or even her pioneering usage of emoji reactions in Slack, something we mostly shied away from before she got here.

But no. I will think first and foremost of her typos. Her ability to send a typo in every other message in Slack always delighted me, but not nearly as much as “Marshawn Lunch.” For context, Kalyn was hosting Defector Thursday Night Trivia, and one of her answers was Marshawn Lynch and, of course, she typed it as “Marshawn Lunch.”

I hope Kalyn brings as much joy to The [publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner] with her rampant keyboard mishaps as she has brought me personally. 

Maitreyi Anantharaman

Kalyn once misspelled “RT.” Going to dinner with her is a completely insane experience. The last time I was in Chicago, she invited me to choose between three different reservations she had made long before she knew I was going to be in town, one for 4:45, one for 9:30, and one for the wrong day entirely. Eventually, we ended up at a restaurant recommended to her by Mitch Trubisky.

Kelsey McKinney

Kalyn is completely unpredictable. She teaches Irish dance and is outraged if you are unacquainted with classic Irish traditions, such as some kind of fish-eating party on Fridays during Lent. (I am sorry, Kalyn, but I forgot what this is called). This is fine, but Kalyn is NOT IRISH. As far as I can tell, she just adopted Irish culture as an appreciator and is now basically Dave McKenna. 

She has no amount of self-consciousness that a normal person might have. For example, I might have hidden that I tried to do a TikTok dance to “W.A.P.”, tore my hamstring so badly that part of my muscle separated from the bone, and then refused to go to P.T. for months. But Kalyn didn’t. She just told all of this without any warning at all. 

When Kalyn got jaw surgery, I texted her while I knew she was still under anesthesia. Kalyn and I are both (rationally! Reasonably!!!) terribly afraid of anesthesia and surgery, so I waited until she was under the knife so I wouldn’t add to her stress. Did she text me back a few days later to tell me everything had gone fine? Did she simply thumbs up the text from her co-worker? No. At midnight, she sent this:

I was very happy to receive this text, because I was glad to know that my friend was alive but also because LOOK AT HER. Icon of surviving surgery. Absolute psycho. 

The next few days, while Kalyn was stuck in the hospital, we texted a little bit. Here is a screenshot of what it is like to be friends with Kalyn: 

So first we have Kalyn trying to explain to me (a Texan) that she made a typo and instead of saying “yee haw” she typed “yee jaw,” a funny joke because her jaw was all fucked up by the surgery. If you do not speak Kalyn, though, I imagine that string of texts is a little hard to read because basically every single message Kalyn sends has four typos in it. This is very jarring, because she is a great writer and reporter. It is also funny. 

The next text is a little more concerning. At this point, she had been in the hospital for a day, I think. This text, as you can see, had no context. There were a full three hours between these top texts and the bottom ones. You will see that I remained calm. This is because it was equally possible that Kalyn was going rogue, ignoring her doctors, and breaking out against all reasonable advice; or that she was right to break out. I assumed she would later explain once she had finished dodging nurses and security guards. It later turned out that by “breaking out of the hospital,” Kalyn meant that she had been released from the hospital by her doctors. 

Kalyn brings this energy to everything. She brings it to DDR and gossiping, and all of that is fun for me. She also brings it to her reporting. She can turn on a flack faster and sharper than any reporter I’ve ever seen, and she cares more for sources than reporters with decades more experience. Hearing updates from when she is on reporting trips is inspiring and heartening to me. If I had a story that was hard to tell, I would trust Kalyn with it, but she is also the person I would call if I needed to do a crime. I will miss that terrifying duality. I hope she does not forget us amongst her other 783 friends. 

Billy Haisley

Kayln Khaler ist he bset. SHe is aa tenaciois reproter, a nengagdd co- wrker, nad a fun presno tob e arround, as evidneced by hr travlling posse of 82 cloose persnoal freinds. Im’ sad to los eher, but i Do beileve tht if teh [publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner] superoor resouces alow hera ccess to autocrorect, theere is no lmiit to waht sje can accomp;ish .

Giri Nathan

Klayn is a birllaitn reprorte iwth a knakc fro niuque scopos taht siuted us prefetcly. Teh jaw bolg — an isntatn calssic. She si also veyr fun and hsa lost of frendis. Gopdspede to ehr coyp eitord at Teh [publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner].

Sabrina Imbler

I never got a chance to meet Kalyn in person but after seeing a photo of her excised jaw bones, laid out on a strip of gauze against a white ruler, I feel as if I know Kalyn on a deeply personal level, more so than I know any other of my friends. (I challenge them to send me pics of their excised jawbones!) But from my remote perspective, Kalyn is kind of an icon—famous for typos and a deep knowledge of Eurovision history and having 18 friends. I am excited for Kalyn to pwn the Bengals with her fancy new press credentials and, in her honor, celebrate Fork Friday, where I also eat with a fork, unofficially, likely for the rest of my life.

Drew Magary

Kalyn is the first writer or editor to leave Defector since its inception. We like to think of ourselves as a family here at Defector, which is why every new hire here takes a blood oath once they enter into this family. Should they leave (betray) us, that oath is considered violated, and retribution must be swift. 

To that end, I regret to inform Kalyn that while she can join The [publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner] if she chooses, she cannot bring her new jaw with her. Defector will now take that jaw back and affix it to our robot butler, Clive, who will use it to munch on all of the empty Gross Gas canisters lying about our Brooklyn office. Those cans will give Clive the energy he requires to remain operational, so that he might send faxes to our legal counsel as needed. But good luck to the traitorous Kalyn, and our hope is that she might one day learn the value of loyalty. As Clive has.

Barry Petchesky

Kalyn is a Slack terrorist. At least twice weekly I would step away from the computer for like five minutes to use the bathroom or make a sandwich and come back to have a heart attack when I see that I have 16 DMs. This is panic-inducing: Nobody messages you that many times unless someone killed someone and we need to figure out how to make it look like an accident. But no, it would be Kalyn, sharing a single thought somehow broken up across 16 different messages. At least four of those 16 would be her correcting her own typos, sometimes with further typos.

Do you want to know the truly baffling thing about this? I edit Kalyn, and the copy she files is pristine. She knows how to type and to spell! She just chooses not to.

Anyway, the fact that she types with her elbows belies the fact that Kalyn is as ruthless and dogged and organized a reporter as they come. I fear her. (Once, an athlete blew her off during a stakeout in a hotel lobby. She raged in Slack about it, calling him a “FUCKING NOBDY.”) And yet she is ridiculously nice and cheerful, somehow; I guess a person doesn’t have 18 friends for no reason. As a well-adjusted human being with a rich life outside of work, it’s no wonder she couldn’t stay here.

Dave McKenna

Kalyn is the most Irish person on the staff. When she showed up at Defector, I assumed from her surname and Wisconsin upbringing that her roots are in Germany, that rare European country not to have invaded and occupied Ireland yet. (Though Hitler supposedly planned a takeover, too.) And I was probably right. But soon enough she let on that she’d traveled the world Irish Dancing, and through that fell for all things Ireland. I’m a sap for all that stuff, too. So whenever I needed to gush about a Gaelic football match or, more recently, mock the floundering monarchy, I’ve gone to Kalyn, knowing she’s not only going to humor my boring old ass but also update me on a monster Irish vacation she’s been planning for a couple years. I’m envious of that voyage and her excitement about it, as I am of her abilities and niceness. I have nothing in common with her, is what I’m saying. Except for liking Irish stuff. I’m gonna miss her.

Dan McQuade

The nicest thing I can say about Kalyn is that she’s so good at her job you can’t even tell she went to Northwestern.

Samer Kalaf

I’ll never forget all the fun I had with my colleague Kalyn. We laughed, we cried, she often did both in a convenient emoji reaction. But on a more sincere note: Kalyn was the most upbeat person at Defector, and that attitude was evident in her work. I witnessed her persistence firsthand as she would wrangle guests for QB2 and update me daily on how likely they were to show up, and everyone witnessed it when she published her search for the MLB player who paid his teammates to get vaccinated. Kalyn mostly covers the NFL and yet all of her skills were on display in that wonderful baseball blog. Obviously, her NFL coverage was fantastic, too: She was willing to go through 32 coaching staffs, name by name, and tally up the nepotism within the NFL coaching ranks. Everyone knew there was a coach’s son on this team or that team, but she actually followed through on finding all those sons and turned it into a great article. Kalyn is relentless, cheerful, and can convince 18 of her friends to go to a Chicago Sky game with her. That kind of organizational skill can’t be taught. I’ll miss working with her.

Now, on a less sincere note: I have never seen someone misspell so many words, and in so many innovative ways, as Kalyn did in Slack on a daily basis. She essentially created a new language without trying. I think she types with her feet.

Chris Thompson

I will miss Kalyn a lot. She’s a delightful person to work with, on top of being a really incredibly talented reporter and writer. I read her entire jaw blog aloud to my wife, not just because it’s a fascinating story told beautifully, but because I can barely even wrap my head around the guts it takes to unflinchingly share something like that, gruesome photos and all. 

I know that she’ll catch a lot of shit in here for her wacky Slack messages, but frankly I have always found those difficulties overrated. Just the other day she DM’d me to say “ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthuhlu R’Lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn*,” and so naturally I responded with “Y’ai’ng’ngah, Yog-Sothoth h’ee—l’geb f’ai throdog uaaah.”* Perfectly plain and comprehensible to those of us who are “in the know,” so to speak. If more of the people of Defector bothered to study ancient languages from spheres and dimensions apart from ours, maybe Kalyn wouldn’t be seeking a more enriching and enlightened set of colleagues!

Kalyn, best of luck at The [publication we cannot name because it requires writers to announce their new jobs in a specific and coordinated manner]! You’ll do great! S’uhn-ngh athg li’hee orr’e syha’h!

*Note: Kalyn was attempting to engage in a conversation about Chargers rookie linebacker Chris Rumph, and did not in any way intend to summon any cosmic deities.

Patrick Redford

I don’t know if the exact clause was “injured my knee doing TikTok dances” and I don’t know much I want to laugh at someone who, again, injured their knee doing TikTok dances, so all I will say is that I hope Kalyn Kahler is all healed up from injuring her knee doing TikTok dances and I thank her for introducing the clause “injured my knee doing TikTok dances” into my lexicon.

She’s as fun to hang out with (fun!) as she is talented as a journalist (mega!), and I hope to never become her enemy in any endeavor, because I know she would destroy me. Goodybe Kalny! My only regret is that we did not get to enjoy the Aces walloping the Sky in the Finals. If only you’d brought more friends. 

Diana Moskovitz

My guess is by now everything that needs to be said about Kalyn will have been said. The inability to spell check herself before hitting “enter” in any chat. The dedication to coming onto Slack two hours after a conversation and giving everything a reaction emoji (I’ll never look at 😂 and 😮 and ❤️ the same again). Her refusal to let anything get in the way of getting a story, not weddings, not car rides, not jaw surgery—well, except for Irish Dance class; that is on Tuesdays and she is never responding to your messages while teaching Irish Dance class. Deal with it. 

Beyond those jokes, though, I don’t really have much else roast material about Kalyn, which is deeply annoying. How rude of her to be so good at breaking stories! How dare she just show up and be a pleasure to work with! Why must she force me to concede that, OK, fine, maybe sometimes those Medill grads do know what they are doing! (I married a Medill grad, this joke is fine.) 

So this concludes my very short attempt at roasting Kalyn Kahler. It is an absolute failure of the art form, so pathetic that Comrade Ratto should suggest I get fired for it. 

Tom Ley

When Kalyn was still mulling over our offer to work here, she called me to ask a few clarifying questions. One of them was, “Is it OK if I prefer not to cuss in my headlines?” and the other was, “What if I’m not funny?”

I assured her that no, she didn’t need to cuss in her headlines if she didn’t want to, and that she shouldn’t worry about being funny. I told her that the editors here wouldn’t let her publish anything unfunny, and that seemed to assuage her fears. 

They were smart questions to ask, and I found them endearing. In hindsight, they are hysterical. Kalyn cusses all the time—my favorite work-related text message that I’ve ever received from her just says “PILE OF SHIT”—and she’s probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.

I’ve worked and still work with a lot of extremely funny people, but the edge Kalyn has on all of them is that she never really has to try at it. When she was recovering from jaw surgery earlier this year, I eagerly awaited the daily updates she’d share on her Instagram account because each one would make me belly laugh. The rest of us spend a lot of time trying to create perfect jokes or riffs to share in Slack, but Kalyn trumps us all with a few rapid-fire lines of text featuring some truly psychedelic typos:

Who can compete with that?

Albert Burneko

I don’t have anything to roast Kalyn with! Her Irish Dance blog is one of my favorite blogs we’ve had on this website and I’m sorry to see her go. She should have tried being much more of a big-time jerk in Slack so that I could have more material to roast her with. I guess some of us don’t believe in a little thing called “pulling your own dang weight around here.”

Laura Wagner

Godobye to Kalyn who usurped mea s typo lor d. Long may s he reign.

David Roth

Like every good reporter, Kalyn can be frightening. This reveals itself in jarring, even chilling little moments in what are otherwise spotlessly cheerful and pleasant conversations. We would be talking about a story, working through issues or frustrations, and it would dawn on me that someone who had spent a few weeks on a practice squad would either have to answer his phone or spend the rest of his life dodging Kalyn’s wrath, or anyway her efforts to get a comment. Her personal life is, even more than those of my more overtly abnormal coworkers, a mystery. Four or five dinner reservations scattered across various buzzy Chicago venues on the same night; a night out at a WNBA game with 22 people, all of whom are somehow her close friends; a grievous injury suffered doing a TikTok dance; periodically having to dip out of an edit so that she can teach Irish Dance to a bunch of Chicagoland tweens. What passes for normal here at the website—we use the term “normle” to describe that standard—is something of a sliding scale, and while Kalyn tested it, that was probably the most normal/normle part of working with her; she shreds some tendons trying to do the WAP dance or carpet-bombs the Slack with cry-laughing emojis while surveying the scrollback, and you can only say, “well, that’s her beliefs.” She is a great reporter and a cool lady and I want nothing but good things for her. If she ever needs to call me, for any reason, I will answer it, and not just because I know she won’t stop until I do.