This is my last post for this website. The Big Lead was something to do while I found a real job. The site grew. I got paid more. That process was put off far longer than anyone anticipated. I arrived with residual baby fat and hemp necklaces. I leave, nine years later, with gray hair, bills, and responsibilities.
The main privilege of writing here was the latitude to pontificate on a myriad of topics both great and trifling. Everyone had thoughts. Other people had to read mine. I’m not sure where, when, or if I will write for a living again. But, before I’m booted from WordPress, I offer some closing thoughts.
Advice for young journalists: Figure out the business model. The media world has been rife with buzzwords. It has witnessed more than its share of “disruption.” Smoke, mirrors, aggressive autoplay videos, catchy headlines, and fading print legacies are not the foundation for a future thriving industry. Donald Trump won’t be around forever. More importantly, do nothing that will get old journalists yammering about advice for young journalists on Twitter.
Words are wonderful. The English language is a rich amalgam of overlapping influences. There are esoteric Latinate terms. There are curt, guttural, and satisfying Anglo-Saxon ones. I employed a prodigious vocabulary. I will not repent. Read a book.
Few things that happen are “epic” or “legendary.” I understand. I won’t win the fight over overblown language. “Noteworthy” does not get people to click. But, find new words to describe a great occurrence. Our descendants will not be telling mythic tales about Kawhi Leonard’s performance in a first-round playoff game.
Basketball players dive and flop more than soccer players. Soccer players embellish fouls. You view this in slow motion from a variety of close-up angles. The intended audience is one referee, in real time, 20-30 yards away. The NBA, with three referees in a confined space, is a theater of the absurd. Consider the force required to send LeBron James, 6’8″ and 250 pounds of solid muscle, hurtling backward when he’s at rest, let alone moving forward at full speed. Basketball’s ultimate “hustle play” is scurrying underneath someone doing something interesting, planting your feet, and falling like someone shot you at close range with an elephant gun.
ESPN is an entertainment network. ESPN has done and will do stellar journalism. But, the journalism is a vanity project. ESPN, ultimately, is an entertainment entity. They show things people want to watch and profit from it. With times getting leaner, ESPN will revert back toward entertainment. Why is Stephen A. Smith sitting on a fat contract that could fund scores of respectable journalists? Viewers watch and the company makes money. It stinks, but revisit my first point.
Cord-cutting is not political. Politics may be dragging on ESPN’s ratings. But, what’s affecting profit margins is non-ESPN watchers canceling their cable subscriptions. Cable is expensive. There’s better content on streaming services. Young people don’t watch it or need it. The only reason to have cable is live sports. Even that won’t be the case much longer. If people could get high-speed Internet without going through a cable provider, cable–as constituted–would be dead or close to it.
College athletes should be paid: The money pouring into major college athletics is incredible. Almost every big program keeps a large staff, pays unseemly salaries, and has elaborate sport-specific facilities built for non-revenue sports. Schools have had to invent things to spend money on, such as $10,000 lockers. It’s long past time to pay the labor force beyond the scholarship amount, or at least let them be paid by the outside companies making money off them.
New York pizza is overrated: I lived in NYC for six years. I have dear friends who live a short walk from Roberta’s. Combining bread, cheese, sauce, and toppings is not abstruse sorcery that can’t be done west of the Hudson. New York pizza is not bad. It just struggles to find the right balance between gross cardboard and over-fetishization. No bite ever beat that point where the cheese crisps against the side of the pan on a Detroit-style pizza. I miss Noodle Bar. I miss Pok Pok. I don’t miss the pizza.
Observe proper automotive turning protocol: I’m bringing a child into the world in a few months. This permits me to be extra righteous about personal pet peeves with a tangential relationship to safety. You do not need to swing the car to the left before making a right turn. There are two lanes in a Michigan left for turning into the outside and inside lanes. When the sign says “No Turns,” do not turn. Use your turn signal when changing lanes or, you know, turning.
A hot dog is a sandwich: Eating meat or peanut butter and jelly with one’s hands can get messy, which is inconvenient for multitasking. Bread facilitates that process. Inserting the meat and toppings between two bread halves is the operative point, not that the two bread halves are connected at the back for yet further convenience. A hot dog is neither a pie nor some unique concept that requires its own phylum. It is a sandwich.