Saturday, August 27, 2011

When It Rains A Lot...

I always reach for surprisingly muscular guitar jams from surpassingly fey British dudes with drug problems. I have listened to this song many times today.

You May Have Heard About Weather

This is obviously preemptive, but fuck this.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Department of Verbose Explanations

Things are still happening. Day turns into night. The Mets look thwarted and nervous. Various deadlines stack up on the other side of the weekend, anxious to get up into my personal space when the bell rings Monday morning (Sunday night, really). Young white dudes tool around the Upper East Side in fancy sedans, reggae on blast inna Middlebury College stylee. And the Great Classical Money Grub of 2011 -- you remember -- steams along apace. As I write this, we just crossed $20,000 after six or so days on Kickstarter, and it's great in that we're doing well and still weird insofar as it is always weird asking the internet for money.

And it is strange, too, talking about it and thinking about it and also having to do other things. I'm going to need to get used to all that internal multitasking, of course -- if this works out, I'm going to have a barely-compensated full-time gig working on The Classical and will also need to be doing all those other deadlined things currently straining at the velvet rope. That's a lot, but it's what I want, and I hope I get it. But explaining all of it, to myself and my wife and anyone else who asks what we're trying to do and why, is not easy. I wouldn't say that I exactly make it look easy in this interview I did with Spencer Lund of SportsGrid about The Classical, but it does at least answer some questions about the (notional) website and what we aspire to do with it. Whether it explains me wheedling you for money is really up to you. But if you were curious:

SG: What was the impetus behind The Classical website? Did someone come up with the idea and pitch it around to everyone else? Were you all just drinking at a bar complaining about executives getting in the way of what you wanted to write about?

Roth: I’ve actually never met any of the people on the masthead in person. But I think all of us, in different bars at different times, have come up with this idea. And by “all of us” I don’t just mean the people on The Classical’s Kickstarter page — I mean everyone who tries to write in an intelligent, slightly off-kilter way about sports. The NBA Playoff blog we did at GQ was kind of a dry-run for this in a sense — Tom Scharpling wrote for it, and so did Lang Whitaker and Eric’s Nusbaum and Freeman; Nathaniel and I were more regular contributors. It was fun and it worked and that experience made the prospect of doing it bigger and for real something that was a lot less barroom bullshit and more something that could actually happen. But before that, the actual impetus for The Classical, I think, was Shoals (and almost everyone else) getting laid-off at FanHouse. He started calling different people, talking to people who understand business and people like me, who habitually overuse adjectives. We all did the same, and are still doing it — that’s kind of the most fun (or at least the least-harrowing) part for the time being, is thinking about writers we want to write for us, and asking them to do it.

Speaking for myself, with very rare exceptions I’ve never been all that frustrated with higher-ups, but I’ve been lucky to write for some really great editors at the mainstream-y places I’ve worked for, and also to write for webbier venues like The Awl and Can’t Stop The Bleeding, which gave me a lot of room and trust to do what I wanted. But yeah, there’s some “Let’s just do it ourselves” behind what we want to do; that’s a big part of why we’re using Kickstarter, too. The sports conversation is kind of narrowly proscribed, even with all the opening-up that the internet has offered, and I think I speak for the rest of the team in saying I’d love to help change that. We aren’t going to be turning away pitches because they’re too abstruse or obscure or hard-to-sell-ads-against, I promise.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I've Felt Better In My Life, or "Donations Please"

There are a lot of reasons why I wouldn't want to be in the House of Representatives. Sharing a bathroom with Paul Broun or Louie Gohmert ranks pretty high on that list -- because you know those guys don't know how to/choose-not-to-remember-how-to use a bathroom. Being expected to care about what Politico thinks would definitely be on that list. But having to call people all the time in order to solicit campaign donations -- for shameful television commercials that everyone hates, for dishonest mailers, for politician-grade hairstyling -- is the thing I'd dread the most. No one likes asking other people for money, I guess, but it has always, always been one of my least favorite things. Shaking down editors over small freelance checks is basically as bleak and demeaning a thing as I've had to do for work (well, almost), and I do it all the freaking time. It's the worst. So: why would I be asking you, or anyone else, for $25 as part of a (freaking) Kickstarter campaign?

Good question. The short answer is that it's because I'm going to be starting a literary-ish sports website with a bunch of really talented people, and because the business folk we talked to suggested that we'd need to have some serious-ish money to get through the first year, before things get self-sustaining. A little over two days into the fundraising process, we've raised more than 25 percent of what we need -- which is a lot of money, both in terms of what's raised and what's left to raise -- and the experience has been... well, awe-ing in terms of the amount of goodwill and generosity and graciousness. But also harrowing in that we're basically asking the internet for money in exchange for trinkets and digressive prose TK. It's weirder than anything I've done in this game, and I wrote like five articles for a trade magazine called Dermatology Business Management.

The great Tim Marchman, who is working on the project, sums up the thinking and anxiety behind this task very well at his own blog, and most of the other questions surrounding the endeavor are answered pretty well inna posse-cut stylee in this Q&A on the project at The Village Voice. And that is what I am working on, at least in part. Or what I'm working on in addition to all the other things I'm working on, which are the usual things. The good news is that if we can get this done, and get the site up and popping, it will be great. The bad news is that I'll probably be sort of a wreck over this for a little while. But yeah, then: if you have donated, thanks very much. If you haven't, you could always choose to do so. And if you were curious why I seemed on-edge and weird and clammier than usual: here you go.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Arise, Ye Punt Returners

There's not necessarily too much to say about this one. My piece in this week's issue of New York Magazine isn't the first time I've written about NFL semioto-economic weirdness or its plutocratic creepery -- not by a longshot, actually, or even the first time in the last seven days. But this is the first time I've written about it for New York Magazine, and it's the first time I've tied it into the NBA lockout and written about it at an economic length and honestly this whole "it needs to be the first time" thing of yours is weird. I like the piece. Just go with it for once, okay? Thanks. Jeez. Like pulling teeth with you sometimes.

Reader's Guide

Oh hi. If you were thinking of reading my most recent Vice column -- and why wouldn't you do this, it's pretty okay! -- why not do yourself a favor and read this paragraph first. It fell off the draft, but it really helps with understanding what I was trying to do:

To get to where it is always happy hour, you first have to go where it's always 4:51 AM and you're transitioning into that brutal, my-body-is-inside-out half-sober hangover, aka the bus ride to Atlantic City. And even before that there’s Gate One at Port Authority—fluorescent lights buzzing eight or so inches overhead, buses coming and going on only the faintest approximations of their schedule (“Load and go, baby, load and go” the bus line guy says when asked why the 10 AM bus left 20 minutes early), a clucking and confused line of flat-affect South Asians and pleasant, chatty retirees and Russians, so many Russians. The line is full of poker faces, even if most are going down there to sit dead-eyed in front of the slots until hopping a late bus back, but even if they are poker players, they are assuredly not doing is going to Atlantic City to play a sport.

Okay, good, now go here and keep reading. Keep reading until you get to the anonymous commenters making rape jokes or whatever. Then you're done.