*Editor’s note: I have no good opening line, so let me just say this. This is a piece by my good friend Jerry Brewer. You’re probably more familiar with his work in The Seattle Times or on The Brewery blog. We’ll be trading material here and there over the next few weeks, months, years, however long this can carry on. You might also see some other guest spots from my pals in the media every now and then, as well. The goal is to give you, the readers, a different voice, while simultaneously allowing these very funny individuals to branch out from their mainstream confines. Check it out and let us know what you think.
By Jerry Brewer
What the hell am I doing here?
Alex Akita? Love that guy. Love his passion, his humor and his ability to be inappropriate and endearing at the same time. Love that when you talk to him in person you’re amazed that such brilliantly irreverent writing can come from a man so laid back.
He didn’t force me to write that opening paragraph, either. I’m a polite person, but I’m not effusively polite without merit. I think Alex is a great voice for this market, and I hope that he can make money off this site in the future.
But I have a confession: I ignored Alex the entire time he worked at The Seattle Times.
It led to the most awkward e-mail conversation a year ago.
Me: I love your writing.
Alex: I actually used to work at the Times, man. Sports clerk, worked nights. I can’t believe we never met. I enjoy reading your stuff.
Me: (After having deleted various excuses that were flat-out lies) This is embarrassing. I really need to go into the office at night, huh?
One of the many luxuries of my sports columnist gig is that I don’t have to work out of the office; I’m normally there just one day a week. The negative? I wind up being the jerk who doesn’t know all of his co-workers.
(Quick aside: This reminds me of Walter Jones’ hilarious retirement press conference. Teammates used to joke that Big Walt didn’t know the names of all the guys on the team. Jones countered, “I knew the guys that I needed to know.”)
The lesson? Don’t be oblivious, fool. There are good people around you.
It’s simple, but it’s searing.
And it’s the long way of explaining what the hell I’m doing here at SSN.
We’ll talk about sports the next time I visit here, but first, you need to understand what’s going on.
I convinced Alex on an idea recently: frequent crossovers between his site and my piece of Seattle Times’ real estate, The Brewery. I think we can both help each other, and about two beers (maybe three) into our discussion, Alex agreed.
The concept is to get different voices on our blogs. So every so often (once a week, maybe once every two weeks), we’ll pretty much re-enact the movie “Trading Places.” I’m the Eddie Murphy in this. Alex is the Dan Aykroyd. Actually, Alex is probably more Eddie-like and I’m probably more Aykroyd-like, but I’ve got to represent the brothas, even when making an innocuous comparison.
You remember “Trading Places,” right? Billy Ray and Louis Winthrop III? If you haven’t, take the pacifier out of your mouth and order it on Netflix. It’s a classic movie.
Anyway, Alex and I talk a lot about The Biz. In fact, his recent post “The Biz,” in which he talks about a dude named Larry … well, I’m Larry. Alex is the untrained, free-flowing sportswriter who expresses fan passion like no one I currently read. I’m the dude who was basically sent to a journalism lab at age 15 and learned every nuance of the business even before college, but for all the training that I have, I fear that this polish will make me too robotic to write the good stuff that consistently resonates with the average person.
So, we’re two different people with different backgrounds who have one common goal: We want to advance the game, so to speak. We want to improve the quality and diversity of the sports conversation in Seattle. We want to inspire people to express themselves with the written word and ensure they understand that it doesn’t matter what their style is, as long as it’s interesting.
I consider my writing style smooth and thoughtful, with a heavy emphasis on humanity. I consider Alex’s style a combination of inspirational messages and irascible rants, with a heavy emphasis on humor and self-deprecation. We appeal to very different audiences — mine a little older, his a little younger — but there’s plenty of crossover within those audiences.
It’s a scary but exciting time in media. Many traditional journalists fear this era because we’re losing some of our clout as we struggle to find a new business model. But the demand for information and insight has never been greater, and non-traditional journalists (bloggers, etc.) have diversified the competition, and people are doing some inspired work, partly because the uncertainty of The Biz is turning it into a grand hustle for respect and credibility. You have to earn your spot all over again, and while I wish newspapers had more financial security, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have to prove yourself.
So, we’re going to give this content swap a try. He’s going to challenge me to write more loosely when I visit SSN. I’m going to challenge him to tighten things up, particularly the language, to appeal to the broad Seattle Times audience. It’s an interesting experiment, and we’re hoping we’ll both be better because of it.
I’m just hoping that Alex doesn’t do the ignoring this time now that we’re co-workers again.
Jerry Brewer is The Truth, dating back to 1993. Give it up, Paul Pierce. Recognize. I’m the original one.