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.

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