On luck and logging off

If you’re reading this, you already know. This blog is going dormant. For me, it’s just time.

I started this back in 2008 without a real plan and no idea where it would go. It was just something I wanted to do. I wanted to write about the team that I followed, that I cared about deeply. It was a way to vent, a way to make an argument… an outlet.

It wasn’t meant to be a catalyst for change, or a means to make a name as a serious journalist. It just seemed like a fun thing to do. The name itself should’ve made that point. I was in college, a sports management major, and writing was fun. Making fun of people was fun. Making a point was fun.

But things evolve. This form of media exploded. The blogs that were once an alternative viewpoint are now blurring the lines of what’s mainstream. And for me, this brought opportunity.

Thanks to the Buffalo Sabres’ progressive acceptance of what blogs can do for team coverage, that blurred line of what’s mainstream and what isn’t, left an opening for me and every other blogger to get access. Access to the press box, to the locker room, to the coaches. For me, who is admittedly just some asshole with a WordPress and a twitter account, I was given the keys to help tell the story.

From the first time I stepped in the locker room after a game a couple years ago, all the way through last night, it was completely surreal. I grew up obsessed with the team, became a season ticket holder at 18 and all of a sudden, I was standing in front of players with the opportunity to ask them anything.

But I didn’t. I never asked a question. Not to a coach, not to a player. I never interviewed anyone. I listened. I observed. And I got to see things beyond any answer I could’ve hoped for. Whether that was seeing a player who some called soft stewing furiously in his locker after a bad loss, or watching guys messing with other players while they’re getting interviewed, or seeing a star player giggling hysterically while John Scott crashes a postgame interview. Things that you don’t get to see. Things that don’t make the paper or the postgame show. It wasn’t about the news. It was about the context.

I’m well aware of a lot of the criticism thrown my way over the years. I tend not to hold back, and never really cared about upsetting anyone. I was more concerned with being right. With making a strong point, whether it was reinforcing something someone else said or going against the grain. A lot of things I started talking about weren’t really that important to the majority of who might be reading. I never really considered what people wanted to hear. I never cared much how many people read my work. I just wanted to make observations. It was cathartic. Moving the needle wasn’t the endgame. It was just about putting it out there and being confident in it.

That said, I know people got upset with what I wrote sometimes. When I was critical of team employees, or departments, or local media, it often got taken personally. I was usually aware if it might. All that made me do is reinforce my arguments. I pissed a lot of people off, and it was never the goal for me. I just wanted to make a good point. I feel like, for the most part, I always did.

But now the time has come for me to move on. I’m not sick of doing this. I’ve been given an opportunity outside of Buffalo that I’m very excited for and it’s best to let this go.

Since I started doing this, there’s been a fluctuating group of other bloggers that focused on the team that have all come and gone. The number has dwindled as the team has struggled and the spectrum of what the blogs brought to the table has widened. It’s disappointing to see because having alternative viewpoints is not only refreshing, it’s needed. Relying on local media is fine, because often they’ll go to great lengths to stay “objective,” but everyone has their own perspective.

After seeing “how the sausage is made” when it comes to covering the team, I’m more convinced that good bloggers can add more than we as a group have been. Everyone has their own niche, and finding your voice is important, but there’s just a general lack of that. If I can plead for anything, it’s for more people to create a WordPress, and put something out there. Add to the discourse. The cream will rise to the top. And the good arguments will make a difference. I saw it first hand. The internet is a wonderful thing because anyone could read. And if you can change one person’s mind, that might change how things are done. It works.

It’s not about buying twitter followers (which is the dumbest thing ever), or pretending to be a sports news site when you have people who can’t write well. It’s about quality. If something needs to be said, say it, say why and say why you aren’t wrong. Criticizing people can be ok if you can back it up. Content is king, in blogging, and in life. Be honest and be right.

There’s no way in hell I’d have been able to be in a spot where you’re even reading this if things were said without reason. Expect better of yourself and demand better from your peers and authority.

Back in 2007, when days were better, there was a feature article in Sports Illustrated about Chris Drury. One line stuck out to me, and still does.

“In some ways it’s already been decided,” Drury says. “Mentally and physically, if you’re prepared and you make your move, you make what you think is a good shot. If it doesn’t go in, it wasn’t meant to be. There’s not much sense in fearing that.”

The article is still a joy to read years later, even knowing what has happened here. But the message is important.

Much of what I push for from the Sabres is for them to do everything in the best possible way. I mean everything. And it goes back to some of that article. If you do everything right, do it better, your odds of succeeding will increase. It’s like blackjack. You play by the book, and if you do everything right, your odds increase. It guarantees you nothing besides a greater chance of success. There’s still luck involved. You may still lose, but doing things right minimizes the risk.

I want to see them succeed. We all do. But you can’t expect to get what you want by half-assing it or letting people who have influence on that success do that either. You make your own luck. This is why I’m pro-tank. It’s not about winning the lottery. It’s about putting yourself in the best possible position to win. Good things happen when you set yourself up for success. But if it doesn’t go your way, it’s a lot easier to sleep at night when you know it’s out of your hands.

I feel like whether or not changes I’ve argued for over the years get implemented, I made the best case I could. Letting go of this blog is easy because I feel like I didn’t waste the opportunity. It’s just time to move on.

I’m privileged to have been able to use this outlet. Not just to see things get better, but for me. Seeing them change something in game presentation is great, but selfishly, I got so much more out of this than the greater good. I went to hundreds of games, practices, morning skates and press conferences. I was in the room when Darcy Regier announced he fired Lindy Ruff, and when Darcy himself got replaced. I got to shake Ryan Miller’s hand and wish him good luck when he was traded away. I got to experience a lot of things for free, just because of this little blog, that some fans get a glimpse at after winning contests and charity auctions. It remains surreal that I got the opportunity to do all this. I consider myself incredibly lucky.

I’d like to thank Ian Ott, Kevin Snow, Chris Bandura, Brian Duff and Chris Ryndak at the Sabres for not only being helpful and sociable, but for being good people that I’d call friends.

Thanks to Ted Black for taking the time to talk at both the blogger summits and one-on-one, and to Brent Rossi for giving me the time to argue about the team’s marketing.

Thanks to all the interns and other staff that were hospitable to that one asshole blogger.

Thanks to Leilon Duff and Kelsey Schneider in game presentation for being willing to listen to me. It’s not unappreciated.

Thanks to all the other media, mainstream or not. John Vogl, Joe Yerdon, Bill Hoppe, Mike Harrington (even you, Mike!), Pat Malacaro, Paul Hamilton and anyone else I may be forgetting for being fun to talk to. I’ll even throw in a thank you to friend-of-the-blog Mark Byrnes for being a past contributor.

Thanks to all the other bloggers, especially my man Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box (despicable name, IMO) for doing the podcasts together and being a good dude. Ryan Nagelhout at Goose’s Roost, all those endearing assholes at Dear God Why Us?, Ryan Wolfe and Brayton Wilson at Sabres Hockey Central, Bill O’Hare at The Herd Report, everyone at Black & Blue & Gold… keep on doing what you’re doing.

And to everyone on “Sabres twitter” who make sports more fun than they already are, and everyone that followed along, thanks. I’m not dying. I’ll just be quietly following along from out of town.

Speak soon. Stay lucky.

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Posted on February 6, 2015, in Sabres/NHL. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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