Hi everybody, and welcome to part two of A Season In Review. Last week I spent some time talking about my experiences covering the 2010 Ohio State football team from a semi-professional standpoint; not quite a fan, but not quite a legitimate member of the established media, I feel that that particular vantage point provides myself and the other writers for Eleven Warriors with a unique perspective on college football.
Sports in general are interesting because they illuminate core connections that on some level I think everyone can relate to, athlete or not. Triumph. Brotherhood. Guilt. Community. Perseverance. Anger. We've all experienced these things in our lives, and to see them played out on a grand stage and simplified to an act as simple as catching a ball or making a tackle somehow makes them more powerful to witness.
And really what these two posts are about are the relationships that I observed throughout the season. The first part focused heavily on the relationship between the media and the players, but this time I want to talk more about you and me. That is to say, the sports fans who read our website, and the dorky guy who less than a year ago was making jokes about Evan Turner sounding like Kermit the Frog in the comments section and using the handle "BupBupBup."
Origin Of The Species
A couple of months ago somebody asked me why I went by that ridiculous moniker, and the honest truth is that it was just some random nonsense I typed in the "Name" field because I never thought I'd be posting here again. I'm kind of a luddite, and the idea of a website harboring any kind of community is still weird to me. I'm coming around to the idea (and we'll get to that later), but Eleven Warriors was just a random website I thought I'd make a stop to every so often, and then move on with my life. But of course I didn't, and now every week I find myself trying to figure out what in the hell I am going to talk about that will interest even a tiny percentage of the thousands of people who visit this site every day.
It's hard to say what constitutes a successful post, except that reader reaction is generally the most important factor. Feedback from readers is a big deal, because when you're writing about something as intricate as football can get, you're almost certainly going to miss an angle that you wish you had written about, and you, the readers, are the people we rely on to let me know what we missed. For instance, one of the first things I wrote was a preview of potential offensive and defensive captains for the football team last year. A number of you rightly pointed out that Juniors were almost never made captain, and on the offensive side of the ball I listed two Juniors as potential captains and only one senior. I even left out Sanzenbacher, who would eventually be both a captain and team MVP.
When something like this happens, part of my brain goes "whatever, sue me" but a larger, angrier part of my brain goes "what is wrong with you, idiot?" When you guys are right, you're right, and we always try and read as many of your comments as we can and learn from them. Oftentimes, I'll write a post that I may not care about so much, but that I think might be interesting to you all and could spark discussion.
Of course, sometimes I just do not give a damn, and end up writing things like an extended riff about Jim Tressel collecting his thoughts at midseason by reading through A Confederacy Of Dunces (which I maintain is the best thing I have ever written or will ever write). Or a weird, blatantly fake series of profiles about the completely made up hobbies of some of the players in the Big Ten. Or whatever the hell this was.
Other posts, like this one about Brian Rolle, I had been kicking around in my brain for a long time, and felt were important to share no matter what the interest might've been. In any case, sometimes I think a possible fleeting moment of inspired writing worth the risk to say "screw it" and just hope that whatever I end up writing won't eventually be used against me if I ever have to prove my sanity in a court of law.
"Dude, why aren't you on Twitter?"
"Because it is going to be the downfall of civilization" I thought but did not type to fellow 11W writer Luke during an IM conversation. It's not that I hated Twitter, it's just that I saw zero utility in telling people how many eye boogers I had on a given morning. Luke, however, knew better. Twitter is absolutely 100% critical for the dissemination of information between sports writers now, and is a huge part of blogging culture. @11wJohnny may not be hugely popular as of yet, but I'm pretty happy with what I've been able to do so far on Twitter. Granted, most of the time it's still about making lame jokes (which is also fun as hell), but the connections you can form, in real time, with readers and other writers astounds me.
This can be good or bad. Over Christmas, a ridiculous rumor exploded about Jim Tressel retiring that without Twitter and other social networking sites would've died on the obscure webpage it was spawned on. Still, the fact that Twitter has allowed me to converse with sports writers and bloggers who I greatly respect makes the other nonsense totally worth it.
Not ready for prime time Player
The next two mass media experiences happened in relatively short order: first, I ended up appearing on an online sports tv show, which was utterly terrifying. I don't really consider myself to be an expert in anything, but when a someone calls you a "football expert" in front of potentially tens of people, you had better act like it. I'm not sure how well I acquitted myself via Skype video chat, but the important thing is that I didn't throw up.
Secondly, after riding a wave made up of delusions of grandeur for several days, I suggested to Luke that we start an Eleven Warriors podcast. Eventually the terrifying reality set in that I would now have to talk to people I didn't know on a regular basis, but all in all I'd say it's worked out extremely well, mostly due to the insane amount of work Luke puts in scheduling guests, editing, and writing e-mails to make sure everything is going smoothly.
What I've tried to express today is that overall I'm probably not all that great at this blogging stuff. I'm a decent writer, but as the other writers here on Eleven Warriors and elsewhere have taught me, communicating stories about sports to people is about much more than writing something and then sitting back on your laurels. Either through the comments section, or Twitter, or Facebook, or any number of other means, sports writing is unique in that the relationship between writer and reader is much, much closer than in other mediums. With that said, it still surprises me that anyone really cares all that much about what I've written or said, so while it's taken me some time to figure out the need for sharing a bit more of myself with other people, I'm going to keep on pushing to get better at it.
Because when we learn about something that can connect you, the reader, to the universal emotions or feeling that sports can convey, we have a responsibility to report it, and you have a right to know about it. And as long as you want to keep reading (and watching, and listening), we'll be here to provide the goods.
Thanks for your support.