The Five-Year Plan

The five-year anniversary of the day I started this website came and went on Tuesday, November 12th, and as those 24 hours marking a half-decade elapsed, I tried to piece together the exact right words to explain what it all meant. The words are harder and harder to come by with each passing year. These moments of reflection aren’t just about the 12 months preceding a birthdate, if you will, but also about the bigger picture of this very thing that has come to define a significant portion of my life.

For starters, when I first launched the site in 2008, I really didn’t think I’d still be doing this in 2013. I figured by now I’d be consumed by a career, by a job that took my attention away from this hobby I partake in. In fact, that has occurred, at least somewhat. If you visit with any kind of regularity, you know I don’t write nearly as often as I once did. I have excuses – finding the requisite passion and energy to do any extracurricular activity is occasionally sapped by the reality of work, for one – but mostly it just sucks that I can’t write as much as I’d like. Writing makes me happy and who doesn’t want to do things that evoke happiness? At the same time, writing and the frequency with which I’ve done it in the past has entered the realm of rec sports and partying and all that other crap we leave behind as we quote-unquote grow up.

But the act of transcribing one’s thoughts is cathartic, to say the very least. And in experiencing all of this first-hand, I’ve come to realize how beneficial the brainstorming, the whispering, and the typing can be. Thinking, then speaking aloud, then tapping plastic squares on a laptop is more meaningful to me than almost anything else. I could never give it up. I need it.

This rambling nonsense leads me to my peers. From the very beginning until the present, I’ve been intrigued by the paths taken by my counterparts in the local blogging world. I’m acutely aware of the things they say, the things they do, and I use that as a barometer for what I say and do, myself. I realize it’s somewhat taboo to acknowledge the fact that other writers exist, but whatever. Insulting a readership by pretending that all the other stuff they could be reading just isn’t there is foolish. So I’d like to go ahead and point out two people, two bloggers, who I don’t know personally, who each write about Seattle sports in their own way, who have had a profound impact on the things I’ve done with this site both in the past and certainly continuing on into the future.

The first is Lookout Landing’s Jeff Sullivan, who bequeathed his popular Mariners-related website unto a protégé, Scott Weber, earlier this year. Jeff was one of the first local bloggers I read who augmented his intellect with a healthy dose of humor. When I started writing, I knew I could be funny (in my own mind, at least) and I knew I could talk sports and wanted to talk about sports. But until I saw Jeff pull an audience by doing both those things, I wasn’t sure I could successfully achieve that unique hybrid.

Jeff’s style impacted me. Likewise, his decision to pass along a product of his own creation to another was just as impactful. He seemingly grew out of his site similar to how I’ve found myself growing out of Seattle Sportsnet. Instead of trashing a product that didn’t need to be left curbside, Jeff found a capable successor in Scott Weber, transcending the legacy of something that otherwise would have been sorely missed. In the world of blogging, that transfer of power was unprecedented. Blogs rarely last more than a few months as it is. When they expire, they usually do so having been nurtured by the hands of a lone individual. To have multiple people craft the works of a single set of pages is special. More than that, it’s made me reconsider how I operate this product of my own.

The second blogger that bears mentioning is Johnny Peel from Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard. Much like with Jeff Sullivan and Lookout Landing, Johnny’s work, punctuated by a distinct personal flair, long ago influenced how this very site behaves. Upon reading Johnny’s articles for the first time, I realized he had a knack for doing exactly what I hoped to do: blending unique life experiences with more worldly discourse about Seattle sports. I took that to heart when I launched SSN.

A few months back, Johnny tweaked the fare of his site ever so slightly, peppering his usual Seahawks talk with an even greater depth of experiential discussion. Johnny, a man of thirty-some-odd years, embarked on a transition into life as a female. The resulting posts on Johnny’s venture into becoming “Johnnie,” something many of us probably cannot relate to, were a profound look into personal discovery — something to which we can all relate.

I’ve frequently struggled with just how much personal insight should be intermingled with sports talk and other grab-ass commentary on this site. Seeing Johnnie reveal herself and come to fruition so openly before our very eyes was both liberating and comforting for those like myself who consumed the words on what would otherwise be deemed a football blog. For me, it gave credence to the fact that there really is no limit to what we do in this blogospheric world of our own creation. In writing within a framework we craft, about a subject matter we determine, we are bound by virtually nothing and no one. To that end, we can say whatever it is we need to say without having to worry about how our words will be perceived – if we choose to absolve ourselves of that apprehension, of course. The reality is much more complicated than that, which is why Johnnie’s courageous efforts were of such resounding significance.

That reality, that cold reality, is that we probably care too much about what we say, what it all means, how it will be interpreted, and how that will lead others to judge us. That goes for everyone. The thing about those who share their words publicly, however, is that we go back and forth between a state of impenetrable thick-skinnedness and an antithetical, ever-so-porous state of being thin-skinned, all while dealing with that precarious question – “But what will everyone think?” – on a much grander scale than our non-sharing constituents. One minute we’re renegade badasses producing a rapid-fire flurry of sexy, exotic words unto the World Wide Web, the next minute we’re incompetent brooders, trying and failing to overcome frustration, to muster the confidence we so desperately need to say exactly what it is we want to say, what we need to say to attain that level of catharsis. In writing, the filter and the ego work in tandem to prevent the best work from ever coming to the surface, from ever reaching the screens of interested onlookers. And in knowing that, we are limited by our own audacity.

There was a mission once. This site had a mission – it has a mission, I suppose, since nothing’s changed in that regard. I wanted to bring people together. I want to bring people together. That’s it, that’s all. It’s a very high-level mission, the type that a Fortune 500 company might tack onto an office wall at corporate headquarters for all to see. And it’s very much true. When I started the site, Seattle sports fans were my target audience and I wanted to write things that would make those people happy, make them think, make them talk to one another, make them feel emotion that wasn’t decidedly negative. Negativity permeated the Seattle sports scene, as it so often has, and we didn’t need more of that garbage. So I wanted to be different, I wanted to provide something other than staid accounts of sports misery.

As time has gone by, that mission has had a greater impact than I ever thought it would. I had every intention of bringing people together in a very general sense. But through writing, I have been privileged enough to bring people to me. From people I love, to people I’ve become good friends with, to people I talk to on a regular basis, to people who inspire me, to people I play basketball with, to those I might just say hi to at a game. There are people everywhere who would never have become a part of my life if it weren’t for words I opted to share with the internet.

I say a lot of stupid things. I am not the most well-versed in knowing when to shut up. But for every stupid thing I’ve ever said, there are maybe one or two less-stupid things I’ve scribed or uttered that made all the screw-ups worth it. I’ve had five years of doing this thing that will dictate the rest of my life. Five years of doing a thing that has forever changed who I am and what I will be. There are a number of people who I’m very grateful to have with me along this journey. Many of them have been presented to you in writing over the past half-decade. Instead of calling each and every one of them out like they so deserve (my apologies for not doing that), I’ve opted to acknowledge two people I don’t know, who don’t know me, who have added value to this experience I’ve enjoyed. They are writers, I suppose, or bloggers if you prefer, but they are not defined by those titles. We are people, all of us, who have been brought together for reasons we cannot necessarily explain, but who have been made better by our very togetherness.

Thanks to all of you for giving me five years of indulgence and for making me better.

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