Tonight marks the beginning of our ten-day, six-league, 23-game elimination odyssey. It's the best time of the year, when joy and pain and resignation to the fates are at their most heightened and concentrated levels. The sight of brackets is also the first signal that the season is speeding towards an end. The first "lasts" occur. Thoughts of reflection take over idle moments.
On balance, it's been a good regular season, these 116 and ever-dwindling days. We've accomplished more than 50 percent of what we set out to do. But most of all, TMM has been able to focus on Our Game. The site has stayed relatively insulated from the moronic drone-world of "sports culture," or sportz, or ESPN over-consumption. Sportz fans have achieved such a high level of expertise in regards to every game that they've transcended the joys of observed competition, and as such need something more from the experience -- remixed pop culture references, media criticism, armchair morality, and tits.
Full immunity has been impossible, however, and it always is. There was that one time in January when our photo of the Purdue-Calumet Peregrines (NAIA) logo was re-tweeted by some snarky blogger and got us avalanched with "takes," clever combinations of movie references and classic football moments, frat-house outbursts and Bill Simmons impersonations. Hundreds of them. And then there was this sportz website that wouldn't leave us alone.
Having a small problem with this being up on your page as its coming up when potential partners look me up on google etc, and was wondering if you would take it down. I understand that you want nothing to do with us, you're not first and wont be the last. That being said, your statements imply inaccuracies about our business and I would appreciate the removal of them from your mailbag archives as they have now become a problem for me. Regardless of whether you plan to remove the entry or not, please get back to me to let me know what you're going to do as I'd like to stop worrying about such a minor and inconvenient issue. Thank you for your understanding.
- Tom F.
The Big Lead. Where should I start. I guess it all started about four years ago, when I saw a trend-piece blog post on The Big Lead about bloggers being brought on as contributors at major media websites. Later in the summer, there was another one. Neither of them mentioned me, so I worked up a quick e-mail.
My name is Kyle. Four years ago, I was a project manager a software company that I had helped found a decade beforehand. Three years ago, I started a blog about college basketball called "The Mid-Majority." Two years ago, I was brought on as a frequent contributor to ESPN.com's college hoops coverage. They treat me very well, and allow me to travel around the country to 100+ games a season.
I mention this not because I'm looking for a gratuitous shout-out in TBL (I've made a career out of laying low) or an addendum to your "bloggers getting real paid" post of a couple days ago, but you guys are writing the "history book" of this exciting chapter of sports journalism's history, and I want to make sure I'm still included somewhere in that conversation. I am a blogger who got a mainstream sports media gig, and I pride myself on being one of the very first to take that route.
Did I mention that I love your site and read every single post? Even the babe shots in the morning. I was lucky to live in Philly while WIP was pioneering the 80% sports-20% "guy stuff" formula, and I thought they had made a crucial tactical error: they were aiming at the fraternity-age comprehension level later stripmined by the Best Damns. By refusing to insult your readers' intelligence, you, my friends, are hitting some serious demographic gold.
Wow, gawd, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to post that. I was so young then. And so whiny! Much kinder and less cranky, too. Definitely a better liar, as displayed in that last part (I read it once a week, mostly for the Lost updates). I guess I thought back then that there were two sides to this sports media war: big guys and little guys, and I didn't want to lose my roots. I was trying to make friends with those who were operating the hand-crank printing presses and fighting the good fight, because that's where I came from too.
TMM regulars know the rest of the story: in 2009, I was zoinked for criticizing sports culture on this site after a round of budget cutbacks. My strategy was to take the so-called "high road," say as little as possible about it, and speak in vague and general terms. I learned an important lesson from that process: if you don't tell your own story, people will fill in the blanks themselves. The Big Lead asked me for a statement, I didn't give one, and the site proprietor ran a bunch of unsourced stuff from somebody in the Bristol cubicle matrix who heard rumors about it, and framed the issue as a gigantic gaffe on my part. Seriously, what kind of clown f__ks up a free lunch like that? This site and The Form™ was besieged by trolls with spelling and grammar worse than mine, for about a week. The traffic knocked the site offline for a short time, until I redirected all inbound hits from TBL to a RickRoll YouTube.
It was as if some guy went on the national radio airwaves and told everybody, "go visit this site. now." It became a "problem" for me, at an inopportune time during which I had plenty of real ones to choose from.
I'd forgotten all about The Big Lead until I saw that it got "bought" last summer. Good for them, I thought, and good for the Sportz Bubble. Hoped that capital investment would become profitable somehow, and not end up like Pets.com or something. But then, in the fall, once the deal was complete, came aggressive Form™ inquiries about opportunities related to "advertising and marketing." I told Tom Fink no. Then I told Tom Fink no again. And again. But it turns out that there was indeed an inaccuracy: all TBL wanted to do was give me a job! And not just any job -- a part-time editor job!
Kyle - My research assistant, Tom Fink, said he emailed you to see if you might be interested in working with us but you declined and then posted his email to you on your site. We're actually looking to hire a college basketball writer and you were one of the names that was recommended to us so I was hoping to follow up with you to see if you would be interested in a part-time editor job with Big Lead Sports. We are launching a new portal site that pulls the best sports information from around our network (sites we own and sites we represent) and we're looking for some additional staff and editors. Look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks.
- Clay W.
Squee! Really? Me?I get a shoulder tap from above? That's the farthest thing from a cosmic insult I can think of! Does this position come with future opportunities? I'm looking at the front page of the site now, and there's a story about a baseball player getting arrested, a total of three items involving police, and a link to a story about a spring training dugout brawl. Could that really be me someday, writing about super-sensational stuff like that? Could I become so successful at TBL that I'd never have to worry about actual games ever again? And would I ever have to leave my couch for this?
So many questions. Where do I send my résumé? And this pays real American money, not Groupons? How much, how much?
Thanks for the quick response. Let me talk to the guys at The Big Lead and get some specifics on what they are looking for. Wouldn't interrupt anything you're doing with your current site.
- Clay W.
Yeah, never mind. I was just hoping to hear the specifics, so I could post them here and have a good laugh. And it's not like I spend upwards of 10 non-profit hours a day during the season on TMM, or run other sites, or have other contribution gigs elsewhere, or anything like that. But anyway, for anybody interested, The Big Lead appears to be expanding and hiring. So there's some information for you.
I've already sold out once, and I'm not really ready to do it again. This feels a lot like getting forcibly f___ed in the ass and being sent flowers... out of the blue, two years later. It's almost as funny as the SportsNation Site We Like incident from a year ago. In a lot of ways, working with The Big Lead would be worse than working with ESPN. At least the DNA of the Worldwide Leader, buried and faint as it is now, has a love of the game stamped into it. It was never a gossip channel. It was simply bought out by an entertainment giant that doesn't care about sports, and so things go. And today's revolutionaries tend to be tomorrow's dictators, no? If you take down ESPN, another ESPN will rise in its place. What a depressing thought.
But back to the top. I won't remove anything from TMM. We are, after all, stubbornly uncorrupted and unbeholden. Anything that comes into me through any of my sites becomes my property, and I can do whatever I want with it. If that becomes a problem, and prospective partners ask a few extra questions about the way a business is run, that's the American web and long may it wave. Any disagreements with any public opinion can be refuted publicly. TBL has at least 100,000 times the number of readers The Mid-Majority does, and we will inevitably lose any "blog fight." They can knock us off the web with one link, as they have in the past. So passive-aggressive censorship is kind of a weird way of going about things. You know?
I hope that anybody wanting to do business of any kind with The Big Lead asks plenty of tough questions. But if there are acceptable answers to those, well played. Then again, I hope that ESPN collapses under its own overhead, as I'm sure it will someday. If I've figured anything out in the last seven years of doing this, it's that you don't have to pick a side. That's the advice I'd give to anyone who want to start putting words about sports on the web in 2011.
Higher denominators are much less common and can get really lonely sometimes, and might require extreme logistical innovation for success or just a break-even break. But your work will be better, you'll have quality audiences instead of disposable quantities, and you'll wake up from full nights of sleep with no virtual male pubic hairs between your teeth. Call it selling out, buying in, or anything else -- as soon as you value the conversation over the journey, you're just another clone.
Utah Valley at New Jersey Tech (Great West) Fleisher Athletic Center - Newark, NJ 7:30 EST
The Great West won't be getting an automatic bid anytime soon. The theoretical earliest date it could meet all the NCAA's qualifications was recently moved back from 2020 to 2024, with recently stated intents for removal (with, for instance, current men's basketball champs South Dakota leaving for the Badlands this fall). This conference might not even exist as a basketball league in a couple of years, so please enjoy Great West hoops while you can.
What we have here tonight is a battle between the top two teams in the non-qualifying league that's both great in size and west... of Europe. In fact, the outright league regular season title is on the line. Utah Valley (née State) is 10-1 in the GWC (18-10 overall) and carries a four game win streak into Newark tonight. It's a team that gets a lot of rebounds (56.7 percent of availables, tenth nationally), but they do play the 344th and second-easiest schedule of anyone. However, Dick Hunsaker's team is one of the best teams in Hoops Nation in the one statistic that doesn't need tempo-free or statistical adjusting of any kind: free-throw percentage (76.7 percent, also tenth in Division I). The Wolverines have also figured out how to do something most of the rest of the conference could only dream of thinking about: win on the road. They've won four out of five away from Orem, with the only loss coming at South Dakota's DakotaDome. The conference tourney is going to be at their place anyway, as UVU is the predetermined host. They're 10-1 overall there, so this may be your GWC double-champion here. The prize is a guaranteed spot in the CollegeInsider.Com tournament.
Other than the no-bid thing, the Great West is just like any other conference: standings, end-of-season awards, that tourney in Orem (presented by Pepsi!), and even preseason picks. Before the 2010-11 grind began, the coaches selected NJIT to finish first in the league. Quite a compliment for a team that finished 4-8 in the regular season in 2009-10 and collected just 16 overall wins in its first three years of Division I play. But the Highlanders are indeed on the way up, making everyone look like geniuses, with a 14-13 (8-2) record so far this season. It's a hard-nosed defensive team that overcomes its talent deficiencies with intensity -- we certainly saw that for ourselves on our recent visit, an eight-point win over those South Dakotans. Plus, they survived a tough road trip to Texas and the Dakotas with a 3-1 record. But what of Jim Engles and his Highlanders in the long run... what happens after the Great West's inevitable implosion? Perhaps the NEC would take them in.