I was watching the Mariners this weekend when a thought crossed my mind. I had just written a column that more or less bashed the team, yet found myself sitting in front of the TV in love with the club I was watching. The whole situation reeked of hypocrisy and for a minute I was disgusted with myself.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much of a dilemma I’d created for myself. In the throes of one moment, I despised these Mariners; in the heat of another, I adored them. Both feelings were real. Both legitimate, both passionate. But only one was universally accepted, while the other more hush-hush.
That’s when I understood the moment for what it was: a microcosm of my own reality.
My love for the Mariners is deep. I’ve sported their colors since I was little (evidence at right), been infatuated with everything about the franchise since Alvin Davis was trotting out to first base on a daily basis. I’ve lived and died with them. They’ve been the one true love in my life from childhood until now. And here I was on Friday night, sitting amongst friends, watching this team play and forgetting all the cynicism that I’d helped perpetuate, instead caught up in the glory of victory — however fleeting that glory may end up being. I was tempted to write an article about all the positives that could possibly come from this season, based solely on my emotions of that evening…but I didn’t.
I didn’t do it. Because it wasn’t safe. I knew if I wrote that article, however heartfelt it may be, that the reaction could very well be negative. I’d look like a fool when this team started losing ballgames (and we all know they’ve been projected to lose many), I might lose readers, I might lose credibility (the few shreds of it that I possess), and it wouldn’t be good for my brand, for my persona.
At that point, I wanted to punch myself in the face.
The harsh reality of my own situation is that this brand, this persona, has overtaken my heart and soul. And it f**kin’ sucks. Because I never wanted it to be that way. I never wanted to get to a point where I could anticipate the reaction to every single article I write or every single thing I say. And while everything that you read on these pages may be original and may seem outlandish or completely sideways at times, it’s all carefully scripted. It is. My words are manicured to perfection, as silly as that may sound. I know what to say and how to say it in such a way that it will achieve a desired outcome. I imagine most writers are the same way. Geoff Baker, for instance, knows what to type to piss off the casually optimistic M’s fan. Bill Simmons, for another, knows exactly what to reference to make a reader giggle. And likewise, I can tell you what you want to hear — or what you don’t want to hear — and know how it will make you feel. It’s a game that any good communicator plays.
I read some of the other upstart blogs in this town and I know they don’t do what I do. I’m not blind. I see it. I see what they’re doing and I try to do something completely different. Likewise, I’m sure they know what I’m doing and try to be unique in their own right. No one wants to be a part of the crowd when they can stand out. And the truth is, in media, you have to stand out. Or else you’ll just be another nameless, faceless voice trying to figure out why no one gives a damn about your sh*t. There are so many of those people in this business. So many people who just don’t get it. They’re nothing more than words on a page and they can’t understand why that happens to be the case. Obviously, I’m still right there with them in some form or fashion. Or else I’d be doing something incredible right now.
That said, I’ve gone to great lengths to make my words different. I’m not just shooting from the hip. The sentences are thought out to some degree. Lately, though, they’ve been more thought out than usual. The words have been coming more from my head and less from my heart. Writing is my heart and soul, just like the Mariners were my heart and soul as a kid. Rather than trust my heart and soul, I’ve been relying on my head to inflate my persona. I’ve been successful with it, too. But it’s not sustainable. Like a balloon, a persona — an ego, really — can only inflate so much before it pops.
I’m not as big of a dick as the persona that is Seattle Sportsnet. At least I wasn’t. But that’s starting to change. I’m becoming that and it blows. The thing is, a lot of people like it. They tell me they like it, they respond positively to it, and in turn it fuels the fire. On top of that, I surround myself with people who embrace the persona, to the point where I feel obligated to be that. In reality, that’s just not who I am. I feel like I’ve been letting people down in not being that, however. It sounds stupid. It probably makes no sense if you don’t know me. It’s incredibly self-effacing that I’m even writing this. But it’s an internal struggle I’ve been dealing with as this site, and in turn me, have started to blow up.
Unlike most people in media, I work for me. I’m not affiliated with a company in any way. I’m my own boss. I represent myself. So I can do what I want, and in turn there’s no one to put the clamps on me when I’m out of line. It’s a dangerous place to be. I have nothing to lose in speaking my mind on these pages, only everything to gain.
The truth is, I’ve created this brand and this persona to be a certain way and the more successful it becomes, the less of a personality I possess. To the point where this brand and this persona are, in fact, me. And that’s frightening and weird all at the same time. Because it’s not who I am. It’s just a game I’ve been playing to help my own fledgling media career. I could ignore it and let it keep blossoming, I could acknowledge it and continue using it to my advantage, or I could acknowledge it and let you know how I really feel. And I’ve always tried to keep it real, so why stop now?
I guess the whole point in writing this is three-fold.
One, I wanted to let you know that I’m aware. I’m aware of my actions and my words and I’m not so oblivious to everything that I’ll let this persona keep consuming everything I do. It’s gotten to the point where it disgusts me a little bit. And I can’t live with that.
Two, I need to start writing from my heart again. I haven’t written much of substance lately. Just lazy sh*t I pumped out in a half-hour of free time. I’ve been selling everyone short with that garbage. It’ll get better.
Three, I wanted to give you some insight on this place I’m at in my life. I don’t really know what the future holds for me, but I do know that right now the audience is still intimate enough that I can put my heart in print and entrust the crowd with it. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have this following of readers who embrace what I do. You guys give me the confidence to dream big when I never had those aspirations in the past. The way I’m living my life now, with this audience, is unlike anything anyone can prepare you for. And I have to start handling that with some responsibility. Even if responsibility isn’t exactly the theme of this website. Or anywhere close to it.
I know as soon as I hit “Publish” I’ll probably feel like Jerry Maguire the morning after he printed his mission statement. But it needs to be said. Can’t legitimize a practice of calling others out if you’re not willing to do it to yourself, too. Someone will read this article and never come back. Someone else will get their first impression of this page off these words and choose to return. That’s okay. I’ve long since stopped quantifying the value of one article. It is what it is. In the end, we’re all just people. We react to one another in different ways. And no matter the vehicle for one’s success — or lack thereof — we’re nothing in the end without each other.