I’ve seen you before. Once upon a time, in a previous life, I was that guy working a middling retail job on the weekends. I was the 21-year-old in a suit standing with my hands clasped at the waist pretending to give a shit about the seasonal sale going on around me, when in reality all I wanted was to be at a football game with my friends. I was that guy who stared you down and silently searched for any semblance of life, any hint of vigor, all while wordlessly pleading with you to GET OUT NOW.
I would have killed to be in your shoes back then. Weekends to myself, the freedom to do whatever I pleased, the ability to park my ass on a couch for eight straight hours and watch grown men beat the living piss out of each other, one quarter at a time. I wanted your life. Until I saw your face. Until I looked in your eyes.
You will spend your Monday reading about the Sunday performances of real-life NFL teams, led by real-life NFL players, coached by real-life NFL coaches. You will consume and digest information about coverage schemes, reads, options, read-options, all of it. You will nod and you will agree with what you’ve taken in, not knowing what it all truly means. And then you will head on over to ESPN or Yahoo or NFL.com or CBS, log in, and check your fantasy team for the seventy-fifth time in the past three days.
This is reality. There was once a time many years ago when fantasy football was the sports equivalent of Dungeons and Dragons, a guilty pleasure that bordered on hidden obsession, the counterpart to viewing porn for hours on end. You played it, sure. But you didn’t talk about it with anyone you knew. Your leagues were limited to random counterparts across the broad spectrum of the world wide web or your very closest friends, no one else. And god forbid you got caught checking your team. Checking your team on any day, at any hour, differed in no way from adjusting your testicles in public. It looked all sorts of weird, awkward, and offensive, simultaneously. So silently, you played.
Once again we find ourselves in the twilight of August, that special time of year when the weather starts to cool, the leaves begin to turn, and the school year begins anew. For those of you headed off to college, this can be a confusing time. Adapting to college is never easy, and while you could spend your time reading how-to books on the best way to become a functioning member of university society, the best way to learn anything is via experience.
That said, before you consume all that college entails, I’d like to give you just a few tidbits of advice that may improve the overall experience you plan to live. My credentials? I spent six years as an undergraduate and have significant loan debt, so I might just be the ideal how-not-to candidate. I’ve since rebounded to maintain a real-life salaried job (a real, real one!) while occasionally updating this here website in my down time. As such, I can give you all my wrongs and hope you’ll use them to make many, many rights. Or if not all my wrongs, at least five of them.
1. Use your reproductive parts liberally.
The biggest regret non-promiscuous college students have is the fact that they weren’t going around humping like jackrabbits during their school days. If you were committed to monogamy in college like I was, you know all about those regrets. And why do those regrets exist? Three reasons.
I was 14 when my parents finally agreed to let us get a family dog. We had grown up with two cats in the house, both of whom had passed away within the year. Not that my brother, Cameron, and I were rooting for the cats to die or anything (I swear, we weren’t), but the clause in the unwritten contract stated that no dog could reside in our home until these two aging felines, both in their late-teens, moved on to that litterbox in the sky. When Rover first passed, and then later Butchie — my dad named the cats, so, yeah — Cameron and I diligently dug graves for each of them and stood in solemn vigil throughout the mini-funerals that accompanied their terminal rest. And then sneakily in the weeks that followed, we began dropping hints about that dog we had all talked about one day getting.
My mom began researching breeds (It was 1999 and we had just gotten the internet!) and decided we’d embark on a quest to find a German Shorthaired Pointer, commonly known as a bird-hunting dog. Never mind the fact that my parents didn’t even own a gun, let alone hunt, this was the breed of dog we’d be getting. And so it was that a search began.
A short while ago, Doug Pacey of the Tacoma News-Tribune wrote this article on fans’ “nastiness” during the recruiting process. The piece could not have been more precise in explaining the ever-narrowing gap between fans and prospective college athletes, a divide that has been lessened with the rise of the internet age.
While college recruiting has always been a sleazy industry, hardcore fanatics have only really been brought into the fold over the past decade, as sites like Rivals.com and Scout.com (host to our very own Dawgman.com) have made prep athletics — and all which that entails; namely, recruiting — their primary focus. At the same time, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have given fans direct access to the recruits themselves, a caustic union akin to mixing Tim McGraw and Nelly (every time I hear Over and Over, I’m quite positive a child in a third-world country is stricken with malaria).
I love Twitter. Which is also why I hate it so much. It’s like cocaine for media whores. Every time you think you can go a day, an hour, a minute without it, you start scratching your neck funny and you’re back on the rock before you know it. It’s absolutely dangerous.
There are any number of things I loathe about Twitter. Not so much the things we all know about already — like the fact that many athletes are uneducated morons, for one — but rather the things that have come to dictate our social behaviors as a result of 140-character status updates.
Take, for example, the fact that Twitter gives us a false sense of surrounding at all times. Think about it. If you’re alone or even feel for a second that you could be alone (ex. party wallflower syndrome), you can grab your phone and peruse your Twitter feed. You can tune out from the real world and tune into a universe that accepts you for the two or three sentences you, or others like you, might be able to cram into a text box. That’s a powerful distraction, one that rivals drugs and alcohol in its ability to divert the discomfort of a situation.
When I was in middle school, I suffered the misfortune of enduring a horizontal growth spurt, rather than a vertical one. My grandma called it “a phase,” which was fairly accurate, except the “phase” ended up lasting four years. During that time, there was no denying that I was what one might call husky. Or, to put it more bluntly, chubby. So chubby, in fact, that I claimed former University of Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin — who was also quite rotund — as my favorite basketball player.
The association with El-Amin only paid dividends one time in my entire life. I was in seventh grade, sitting in Spanish class working on some sort of group project, when the girl I had a huge crush on asked me if I knew the name of UConn’s portly little superstar. I looked around first to make sure she wasn’t talking to someone else, then picked my jaw up off the ground and managed to stutter, “Uh, you mean, uh, Khalid El-Amin?”
I was standing outside CenturyLink field on Saturday with three of my closest friends (Matt, Mikey, and Jen, all of whom I’ve really only “known” known for the past year-and-a-half) at a tailgate hosted by my buddy Jason Puckett (yes, Jason Puckett the notorious WSU alum of Sports Radio KJR infamy), when a Husky fan by the name of Jeff walked over and told me he enjoyed my work. I was caught off guard. I never know what to say to someone in that type of situation. I wish I had some profound message to deliver, but mostly I stutter, try to get the person’s name, and express as much gratitude as I can in a one-minute interaction.
Jeff walked away and my friends giggled a little bit (in a very distinguished way…perhaps “giggled” was the wrong word), while Puckett shook his head and muttered something about my standing in the community, I’d imagine.
Three nights before that, I was out with my friend Ryan Divish — who writes for the Tacoma News-Tribune and who I’ve known for almost two years — and Erin Hawksworth — a sports anchor at Q13 TV who has been the gracious recipient of my not-so-smooth online courting for the past few weeks — for an impromptu get-together dubbed by some in the Seattle media as “Elimidate.” It was classier than it sounds. More or less. Anyway, later in the evening we were sitting in a bar when a horrible rendition of Ginuwine’s My Pony was blasted through a karaoke mic onto the eardrums of dozens of patrons, including the three of us. We cringed until the song came to its merciful end. Shortly after the shrieking stopped, who walks up but the crooner himself, my pal Josh Sabrowsky.
“That was you?” I asked.
“It was,” he replied.
“Are you drunk?” I inquired.
“I am,” he responded. And then he staged his own Occupy Elimidate movement for the next half-hour.
I first met Josh when I was in college. We used to play basketball together at the IMA, the University of Washington’s student gym. Josh wore a pink headband and antagonized our opponents with verbal taunts. I, on the other hand, tried to pacify the uprising, break up fights, and issue apologies after the fact. It was more fun than you’d think. Regardless, after our freshman year, we didn’t see each other again until 2010, when Josh contacted me on Facebook about joining the Ian Furness Show on KJR — the place I’d ultimately get to know Puckett — to talk sports.
After a few formalities, Josh reminded me that he was the dude who I used to play ball with six years prior, the douchebag that got into trouble from time to time. I had completely forgotten who this guy was until I remembered the pink headband. That was all it took. We’ve been friends ever since.
About fifteen months ago I met Jerry Brewer. A lot of people know him as a columnist for The Seattle Times. He also wrote a book a few years back, Gloria’s Miracle. Jerry’s a sportswriter, but the book is the hallmark of his career-to-date. In it, he tells the story of Gloria Strauss, a young girl with an ultimately-incurable form of cancer, who changes the lives of many with an effervescent personality and determined resolve throughout her fight against the disease. At the same time, Jerry juxtaposes the lives of the members of the Strauss family with his own personal self-discovery, a journey that is jump-started by a drive home in which he breaks down and questions his own purpose in life.
Having read the story, and now having befriended the person behind the words, the message resonates with me stronger than it might for your average reader. I know how Jerry felt. I’ve often found myself in the same position, questioning what really matters and wondering what it all means. It’s a precarious place to be, made even more unique by the fact that in media, one is subjected to a personal vulnerability that isn’t necessarily experienced by someone who isn’t tasked with sharing their words on a regular basis. When you broadcast your thoughts to the masses, you just never know how everyone will react. Media is a business that can have you feeling great one minute and horrible the next.
Many media members would have you believe that they’re invincible, but in reality we’re probably more insecure about ourselves than most people. We hide behind bombast and driving critiques of our subject matter. We create public personas to deflect the bullets fired our way. We separate ourselves into two different people: the media self, and the real self. We try to protect the real self from our audience. But there’s something distinctly unfulfilling about that.
I’ve used sports as a vehicle for my life. Sports are what I like to talk about, but they’re only a small part of my existence. I started this website thinking I’d just discuss sports, but then it dawned on me that I can do more than that. This is my thing. Why shouldn’t I dictate it? I’m not doing this because it’s my career and I have to. So why limit my vulnerability? When you expose yourself with nothing to lose, you can only gain from it.
I was 24 years old when I created Seattle Sportsnet. I had lofty goals for what this site would ultimately become. The goals I had were far too ambitious for any 24-year-old to legitimately make. And yet at the time, they gave me the foundation upon which to build a structure for my writing.
Over the course of the past three years, I’ve written more and more about things that matter to me, personally, than perhaps those things that appeal to the typical sports fan. I’ve strayed from the box scores and the recaps and started using my investment into this domain name as my own journey towards self-discovery. I’ve tried to be as honest as I can about who I am when I write. I’ve always felt that that’s something that gets neglected in journalism, but happens to be a part of the equation that both writer and reader value. Professional scribes are taught to remove themselves from the equation. And yet we haven’t replaced our writers with robots, so how important can omniscience really be?
On top of that, in my 27 years of life I’ve fallen under the impression that we might be going about interacting all wrong. Despite my humble stature, I’ve tried to change that a little bit. You see, we always find ourselves getting to know people we meet by asking them what they do, where they’re from, who they know. We want the CliffsNotes version of your life, and chances are as soon as you answer our questions, we’ll forget all about your responses. I don’t like that. You can be a carpenter from Spokane who happens to be the cousin of the guy hosting this party and no one will care. I’ve learned nothing about you of substance. What really matters to me, you, and everyone else is what you love.
What do you love? What is it that gives you reason to wake up every morning? It can be a person, a place, a thing, an idea, a hobby, anything. There is something that is keeping your spirit alive, that you care about more than anything in the whole world. And we’d rather hear about your location or profession. No offense to all the jobs out there (mine included), but work does not define us. No one has ever sat on their deathbed and started worrying about an Excel spreadsheet (at least I hope not). You want to exit this world doing what you love with who you love by your side. It’s how we all want to go.
I think about the interactions we make on a daily basis and question why it can be so difficult for people, in the most general sense, to get along. You may be an accountant, he may be a construction worker, she may be a doctor, and if that’s all you happen to know about each other, you’ll probably never see eye-to-eye on much of anything. The idea of a job or a social status defining who we are only divides us. If we were to ask an accountant, construction worker, and doctor what they love, however, we might find that they have something in common that unites them. It’s that which we fail to capitalize on.
And so since the day I created this thing — it’ll always just be a thing to me — my lofty goals have gone by the wayside and more rewarding objectives have replaced those previously sky-high intentions. I’ve stripped the site of all the ads and sponsorships it used to possess — I don’t really need the extra money. I’ve asked you to give to two charities that mean a lot to me — and I thank you for that. I’ve abandoned a traditional sports blog format — I have no desire to compete with mainstream media. And I’ve tried to do one thing above all else: bring people together.
Matt, Mikey, Jen, Jeff, Jason, Ryan, Erin, Josh, and Jerry are just examples. I probably wouldn’t have shared my interactions with them if it weren’t for what I love, if it weren’t for this passion I have for writing. None of them got to know me on the grounds of what I did or where I was from (account manager, Bellevue). It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Instead, we were united by this thing that I happen to care so much about.
And so I’ve seen the power behind what it is that I’m passionate about. And I’ve started to enjoy the successes of this website, provided we can all agree that success is the achievement of a goal. It is the mission I’ve been on, the guiding light at the end of this tunnel that has allowed me to take steps towards finding out who I am. I’m not who I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. The same can be said for the writing; it isn’t where it needs to be yet, but it’s on its way.
I have other goals. I have other missions. I still have loftier ambitions that any 27-year-old may not be qualified to legitimately make. But I’m achieving one goal, one mission, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.
We are defined by our love. It sounds kind of ridiculous, I know. But it is that idea that has already brought people together through a stupid sports blog. If that doesn’t give you reason to believe, then I don’t know what would.
In closing, I leave you with this quote from the late Jim Valvano. He spoke these words at the 1993 ESPY Awards. The video of his moving speech — given while in the final stages of his fight against cancer — is included below, in its entirety. Amongst all the other advice that he left behind as part of his legacy, I choose to focus on these two stanzas from Valvano’s memorable night:
It’s so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.
I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm,” to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.
It’s almost not fair. Why should we have to make concessions for them? They are the ones who suck. They are the incompetent ne’er-do-wells who can’t do their jobs. They are the malcontents who draw our ire. And yet like a giant traipsing among a crowd of midgets, we’re the ones constantly tiptoeing around their shortcomings. Where’s the justice in that?
For every ill-advised whistle, every hastily-thrown flag, every muddled attempt at an explanation, every boo-inducing, venom-inciting, vein-popping, mind-boggling, dumb-shit-effing-mother-crapping-what-the-hell-was-that-are-you-KIDDING-ME?! call they make, we acquiesce. It’s a manic, unhealthy experience having to deal with these morons. We flip out at their utter asininity one moment, then are forced to bring ourselves back down to earth seconds later when the game resumes. Every time they screw up, we’re left reluctantly rolling over in the wake of their ineptitude.
Why don’t we care about the lockout? It seems like we should, right? Wrong. There are just so many reasons why we shouldn’t. And I’m here to give you all of them.
In no particular order, here we go.
There are no heroes
We make mistakes, we err, we’re judged by our flaws, and we overcome adversity that serves to remind us that we are only human. In the end, we reach an equally imperfect outcome and, ironically, are remembered in death for all the good we’ve done. We celebrate life only once its ended. While we’re breathing, however, we disregard such achievement, striving instead to find perfection.
Perfection. It is something that does not exist. Knowing full well we’ll never find it, we search for it anyway. All the while we remain blissfully ignorant to what it really is that we’re searching for.
Perfection is impossible. We demand the impossible from one another. We look for the impossible in our spare time. We do everything we can to become the best versions of ourselves, never thinking for a minute that the best versions of ourselves might not be that hard to attain. We’re never satisfied. We’re rarely pacified. We can’t accept failure. We reject disappointment. We are, in a word, foolish.
Between games of Swashbuckler, Word Munchers, and Sticky Bear, I somehow learned to write on that thing. I would type anything and everything: nonsense, stories, I even made greeting cards with Print Shop (seriously). For lack of anything better to do, I kept myself occupied with that computer. I didn’t have video games. So this my outlet when it was raining outside and no one wanted to play.
One week ago, my boss asked everyone in our company to come up with three things we do well at work. It was a simple task, but as the week wore on, those three things kept looming in the distance. Coming up with a trio of positives should not have been this difficult. Yet somehow, it was.
I’m not a bad worker. Not by any means. But I’d never actually sat down and thought about what I was proud of, related to work or otherwise. Fact is, we never take time to acknowledge those things that give us a great deal of pride. We’re so consumed by negativity in our everyday lives that we rarely focus on the good. We’re conditioned to believe that perfection is our goal and we can only improve. And yet there’s so much we have to celebrate, to be thankful for, to enjoy.
I hate refs. Hate them. I have never felt more passionate disdain for a certain species — and refs are arguably the lowest species on the face of the earth, just below amoebas — than that of which I feel for those devils in stripes.
My god. Did you see what they did to the Husky football team on Saturday? Did you see that? That was the true definition of injustice. Granted, there were other things the Huskies could have done to ensure victory — like play a little defense and cleanly field kickoffs, for starters — but there is absolutely no denying that the referees impacted the outcome of Nebraska’s victory over Washington.
Credit the Cornhuskers for taking advantage of afforded opportunities. Every time your opponent gets dicked by poor officiating, it’s up to you to capitalize on the moment. The refs opened the door for Big Red, and Big Red responded by walking right in.
It started with a simple thought when I was in the bathroom. I’ve found that most simple thoughts originate there. The bathroom has never inspired great debate, analytical dissemination, or even philosophical discussion. The bathroom, as it turns out, is perfect for simple thoughts.