Writing For Them Asses, er, The Masses

Yesterday, I received an email message, alerting me that a column I wrote almost three full years ago for an online sports publication called Bleacher Report just received its 2,000th read.  I’m not boasting; that and the regular price of a cup of coffee may actually get me a cup of coffee. Whether or not I want one…


In fact, writing for Bleacher Report—a very popular site that is, for all intents and purposes, open source—has been a mixed bag. I won’t vouch for the quality of the site, yet I wish there was something like this when I was in high school or college. The quality, such as I can judge these things, is spotty at best, but it’s an attractive-looking site with some genuine gems among the rubble. There is the occasional piece, distinguished more by its depth of research than by its superlative writing, that (seemingly) can only be found there.


This brings me to why I write for them—because I haven’t made a dime from these articles. I started writing for Bleacher Report mostly because I’m a diehard sports fan who thinks that I have something interesting to say about the games we play, their personalities and what it all means (if anything). It evolved into an enduring habit and stopped just short of an obsession. Since writing for them, I have written (some for pay, and some for visibility—“Branding” seems too pretentious for this sentence) sports columns for a variety of other sources, such as Jewocity.com and philly2philly.com, and many of my columns have been picked up by various additional sources.


Still, there is an enormous gap between what I feel is the value of my writing and how it has been remunerated thus far: a huge gap, but one that I am very interested in, and working on, closing. SOON. It’s not lost on me that BR has made lots of money off my articles, and the editing of them (with a few exceptions) has been so poor that I’ve had to go back in and re-edit some, when I had the chance.


Adding to some of my ambivalence about this site, I have seen and heard several expressions that I’ve coined and published there used by others without permission or credit. Two such examples were (my) calling the Phillies pitching rotation of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt “H2O”; no, I didn’t copyright it or have anything to do with the tee-shirts.


On another evening, I wrote a recap of a Phillies-Padres game—a contest in which the Phillies (as I recall) had trouble hitting a then-Padres pitcher named Mat Latos. I referred to our favorite squad as being Latos-intolerant. It just came to me, and I heard the term cracked on SportsCenter a few nights late. Yes, they gave credit to…someone (or maybe a San Diego TV station) who I’m sure saw the piece and decided to use it.


There’s visibility and then there’s visible invisibility…maybe, at times, I’m Chicago’s Mr. Cellophane (I probably should credit some combination of John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse for that reference), although at least somebody’s reading my words—if not always respecting my byline.


So, with all that written, why do I write, even if I’m not sure I’m going to continue to write for BR. The easy answer is this: Sports writing, by its very definition, combines two of my greatest passions. And when I can add humor, and sometimes participate in an intelligent dialogue about what I have written, that only furthers my addictive interest.


Whether paid or unpaid, or read by many thousands or just a few people, I first try to respect my own byline. My goal is to write each column as if millions may associate my name (and sometimes, [oy]…my face) with my words and ideas. I endeavor to write as if I am getting paid my worth (and maybe more?) each and every time.


Yes, it seems a bit silly to be ambling up a soapbox to categorize my sports writing, but I do take these things seriously. Even, or especially, the humor I (mostly, effortlessly) throw in. But even in the world of sports, there are much more serious issues that permeate our arenas, so I have also felt the need to talk about everything from racism and anti-Semitism to the Michael Vick situation and the horrific scandal at Penn State. When doing so, I try to be fair to all parties and still provide a compelling point-of-view. If I don’t have a strong opinion, or anything to add to the dialogue, I’ll leave it alone. I have no desire for my words to be superfluous.


Between all of the levity and gravity, I have been able to produce a portfolio on Bleacher Report that I am very proud of; that pride (misplaced or not) far outweighs what I think of that site as a whole…


…which brings us to yesterday’s email alert. It is nice to know that somebody is reading what I write, and I have gotten many private emails over the years from readers who have been amused, informed or greatly entertained by a piece. I have long since learned not to confuse the number of reads or comments with the quality of the piece. Still, each time I pen a quality piece (hopefully, that's each and every time), I like it to be rewarded with lots of reads and comments. I won’t bait them with false hype or indefensible opinions; there is a big difference.


One of my most recent pieces for BR is the one that has received the most reads. While I stand by it—my ranking of the 15 Greatest Players in NBA History—it’s far from my best work. But yes, it is nice to see that some of those who have commented have done so with intelligence and insight. As for the ones who disagreed with my rankings? Just kidding.


And so it was yesterday, that a piece I had mostly forgotten popped into my consciousness via my inbox.Two of the people that are featured in this fake interview—New York Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan and (for now) backup quarterback Mark Sanchez—were in the news again, which must have been the reason that a few people were led to this old piece.


I won’t lie. This is among my favorite satirical pieces, and I tried to find angles and lines here that nobody else did. If I can’t be original, then what’s the point. So, if you want a laugh (and you can remember the situation from three years ago that inspired this), then by all means, give it a read.


It combines three of those great passions of mine—sports, writing and humor. I’m forever hoping that people will seek out my work for a smile or laugh, or just enough wisdom.


And now, it’s just about continuing that passion and getting some real money for it.  That part’s coming. I can feel it.


Featured Image courtesy of clker.com


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