Submitted for Your Approval: Why I Do What I Do

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IMay 13, 2009

(This is a submission as part of my application to be a CBS correspondent for the Raiders)

Lately, there has been much debate about the state of Bleacher Report.  I wanted to take time to continue the important debates on needed changes.

As a gesture of good faith, I removed my following three articles: The Truth about the New England Patriots and Racist Idiots, Why Tom Brady Is a Dirtbag, and Memo to New England Patriot Fans.

Though I make no bones about my passions behind my thoughts, I was willing to make those gestures to extend the olive branch. I would much rather bury the hatchet with the critics of those articles.

When I wrote The Truth of Victory and Tangents on Trivial Things, for instance, it went largely ignored by The Bleacher Report, and so I realized then that I had to stir debates rather than focus on the quality of writing.  Thus, I would appreciate it if people read that article and left comments.

In some ways, the current criterion for ranking a writer on B/R will deterministically create tensions, because really the only way to be recognized is to jab people.  I hope though that I have not damaged my credibility or viability as a writer, irreparably.  Though we must self-promote as everyone in life must do the same, it does not necessarily change the veracity of our journalism.

Being caustic and egoclastic in my criticisms has only made me feel egotistical and paranoid by the idea that I PO-ed the wrong person, or that I have been blacklisted, or on the losing end of a "gentleman's agreement."

I don't want pity.  All I want is another chance at life.

The First Letter of my Last Name

Let me make this absolutely clear for all my critics, I do not claim to know everything.  I however, would rather ask questions from my mind's eye, rather than regurgitate groupthink and call it objectivity. 

To steal by borrowing a phrase from Roger Ebert's recent articles on his views on science and God: I'm content with questions.  I always persist though in order to get others to ask questions rather than believe that they know everything.  Often times, that comes off as being pedantic or ostentatious in order to impugn what that person thinks they know. 

Most people seem to think that intelligence is merely a choice and that smart people aren't real or that intelligence must be quantified by a test, yet I believe that in order to achieve true intelligence you have to endure tediousness at some point, which some people just cannot do or refuse to do.  It's like asking someone to watch B&W movies after being conditioned by color.  Smart people aren't just figments in the imaginations of dumb people.

The questions can lead to dead-ends or just be fruitless, but I do believe that it will strengthen the mind more than it would to plug-in to the torrents of human spin -- spin is something that every person does, not just politicians.

The truth behind every true process is, the willingness to go to failure. 

No pain, no gain.

Some Just Don't Know the Road Less Followed

That's why it's better to follow what the great minds in history did: From Thomas Aquinas to Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes -- take in as much information from the world around you and then draw your theories and conclusions from that (induct then deduct).

"Well, I could never be at their level," -- well, you'll never know, unless you try.  To me that was the whole purpose of college: have the confidence to ask a question and find the answer.  I figured that out when I was 15; perhaps though, I had an unfair advantage by fact that I was able to converse with a former professor from Ohio State, Bruce Maiman, over emails.  Even though I was accepted to UCLA, I was jaded by the idea of college by then, and gave priority to a host of medical issues and the job... that I would lose as an expense of those ailments.

I do enjoy mocking celebrities.  Have I earned that right?  Probably not, but since that is a completely subjective idea, then I would rather do what feels natural to me, and that is to sound like Don Rickles.

I always preferred to listen to people older than me, because it seemed like they had experience, whereas people my age were still searching.  With that said: Isn't everyone still searching?  Maybe that's why my dad had me read The Old Man and The Sea when I was 13 while on the school bus, because it reminded him of his dad. 

Bottom line is I have an inner child that will listen to an inner old man who likes yell the metaphorical, "Get off my lawn" at celebrities and sports stars.  Whether that makes sense, I don't know ... but it works for me.  I cannot say that my view works for everyone, but that's what has worked for me.

Where Brevity Dies and Nouns Become Verbs

Since the age of 15 in 1998, I have seen the internet as a unique opportunity to learn, so long as I was honest with myself about the research.  With that said, the most difficult task with the internet is to find quality information, so I mostly stuck with free newspapers (AP Wire on AOL, BBC) and encyclopedias (before the advent of Wikipedia).

I also careened the websites of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Dave Leip’s Political Atlas, American Film Institute, Roger Ebert's site amongst other sites which provided *cornucopias* of information.  I think I *overdosed* on information when I went so far as to read the review for Freddie Got Fingered.

Without going into superfluous details as to where my trek on the information super highway took me where I did it my way, I simplify it by saying that I wanted to be influenced by the contemporary and the classic.  It was enough to impress and bewilder teachers in high school, and enough to graduate with several honors.

I believed that all contemporaneous artists, writers, and so forth had been influenced by those that came before them.  Thus, I wanted to avoid the feeling that my creativity would be like a degenerated copy of a copy of a copy of a copy -- even though as Robert Plant once said of musicians: we're just a band of thieves stealing from each other.

The internet was just more convenient than the public library system, but I still appreciate books.  Until I had a PC though, I had to pester my mom in order to go between libraries where I'd spend hours reading about this, that and the other.  With the internet, I had a world of information at my fingertips and just had to avoid 'what some nerd thinks about Star Trek.'  I was able to ask a question and search for the answer without the pains of all the logistics.

It also does offend me when people denigrate the internet, because I needed it for I had to endure various medical ailments that made me a teenage shut-in, and that have been corrected only recently by a series of six surgeries and the expense of my job.  I prefer to not detail them, only to say that they were very embarrassing and hinder-some to having a normal teenage era and the networking I needed to build social confidence and opportunities.

The other thing about the internet was that, I was tired of being ignored by teachers in school.  I never knew why, but I did have a "last in line" complex by virtue of my last name starting with X.  Generally speaking, I knew my place was at the back of the line, back of the class-room, and more or less, behind everyone else.  Well, except Y and Z, but I never knew a Y while the V's, W's and Z's would usually give-up and leave.  I always persisted though, and even Bruce Maiman (who now works at KFBK) would once say, "You know what I like about you?  You keep trying."

Yet, with the internet, I did not have to worry about that unfair system.  I was free to do my own thing.  Even if, the fact that I had to face unfair systems outside my zone and which led me to some harmless yet strange and inappropriate over-striding in order to force myself to the front of some opportunities (so to speak).

Finally, to answer that question which is surely on your mind: Who is this guy, where did he come from, what is he talking about, and what gives him the right?

Simply put the willingness to try to pursue a unique opportunity such as The Bleacher Report in hopes that someone will recognize the quality of my work and extend an opportunity regardless of meaningless stats.  The willingness to believe that greatness is in the process not the product.

You always have to try, even if it is different.  Just hope you do not burn every bridge in the process, or hope that others afford you the chance to live it down.

Say what you will about me, but you cannot ignore the pure and simple fact that I keep trying.

The Bleacher Report Is a-Changin'

I have realized that intentionally stirring the pot can be negative (though I stand by my criticisms of Roger Goodell), so I think it would be very beneficial to the Bleacher Report community to recognize writers for quality, not just quantity. 

I would like to see an option where a writer can be upgraded by review.  As it stands, B/R has favored quantity more than quality—in that, more activity in comments and edits is favored over the quality of an article.  I put a lot time into an article, which is why I have less time to comment on the articles of others.  

It does seem that the quality of an article is judged by how much activity it has created, which can be good and bad (the rankings, though, remind me of the BCS poll).  That is also one reason I like to stick it to Patriot fans (or "Patsies"), because it stirs debate. 

Attention goes to those with alliances—the predictions, contradictions, and, "Who ya got?”  In some ways, that is nothing more than yellow journalism.

Bleacher Report should have a panel that discusses whether a writer should be upgraded—a governing body, if you will, in this community of writers, that has checks and balances in order to ensure that everyone is represented.

They could create quantitative thresholds—for instance, a writer must have X amount of articles, X amount of edits to others, and X number of comments, and the referral of at least five other writers. I use the number five, because a sample of five is considered statistically normal.

Alternatively, I think the spell-checker program is in need of an upgrade. It will flag abbreviations and modifiers like "-ed," or "-ve," and other seemingly random things. The spell-checker is also unable to learn new words or names. 

Try spelling Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Osi Umenyiora, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, or Nnamdi Asomugha—and the program will scream at you, and make it difficult to discern where the real errors lie.

Perhaps, then, Bleacher Report could implement a program that efficiently checks an article for grade level, like Microsoft Word does with "Readability Statistics.”  In other words, I would like the program to also check grammar. 

By having a program that grades spelling and grammar, that would give the readers of Bleacher Report an idea of where the best quality is, and would free up writers to focus on insight and discovery, not just the fundamentals.

We writers like to fixate on player statistics in order to grade their value to the team, so it does seem only fair that we writers should be held to a similar standard. 

With that said, quality is not within the statistics alone but also the insight and creativity, but, like buoys to a swimmer, we writers still need to strengthen our intuition within limits. Otherwise, "extreme creativity" will just turn into drivel...or a Tom Green movie.

I would also like to see changes in the template.  As it stands, you can only include one photo on a standard article, while the slideshows are meant for lists.

I would like to be able to add mini photos, graphs, and charts within an article in order to explain things. I think by allowing more information that will organically raise the quality of the articles because it will force the writers to think more and put more effort into their work.

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

I have believed that the state of sports has been at a crossroads, and that too many people have been in denial as to the fraudulence of those branded as great, which is why I believe that we writers need to challenge each other in order to produce insightful work. 

I do not believe that a generation of frauds can destroy the sports they play—it is the writers that make the history and whom can change the direction of the sports that they cover. 

Writers should have known that steroids would be a problem when they began to refer to a 6'2", 290-pound offensive-lineman as "smallish.”  I do not know about you, but I wouldn't want to meet that guy in a dark alley.

It is time to downplay the stats and emphasize storytelling and struggles.  Stats don't make a winner—just ask Dan Marino.

In an aside, I truly do believe that an obsession over statistics is just sublimated bigotry.  Winners get denigrated while losers get glorified with excuses.

It does seem to me that when a Mexican-American from East San Jose named Jim Plunkett, an African-American named Doug Williams and an eccentric punk named Jim McMahon led their respective teams to Super Bowl victories in the 1980s without much statistical flash—that is when writers, executives, and fans began to fixate like fiends on the stats of Dan Marino and Dan Fouts, in order to denigrate the victories of non-trad quarterbacks, even to the detriment of Phil Simms.

A lack of statistical flash was okay when Terry Bradshaw won, but not when Plunkett or Williams won.  Just ask Rush Limbaugh—an obsession over stats is what led to his warped mentality about quarterbacks.)

I'm as competitive as the next person, which is why I strive to improve my writer ranking, but I want to do so with works that emphasize discovery, even if I have to impugn the trees within a forest (i.e. celebrities). 

I say discovery, because I distrust the word "original.”  More often than not, something original is not insightful or interesting, while something cliché is able to provide some discovery.

Thus, I like to think that we writers can pursue both—produce insightful work, stir debate, and create something that has been built on work that came before it.

We all want recognition for the time we put into these free articles.  We are not paid for them, so when they go largely ignored after meticulous effort to detail, prose, and intelligence—it is a let down. 

I like to believe that Bleacher Report can provide a unique opportunity not only to sports-nicks but also to aspiring writers such as I. HA-HA!  (Sarcasm.)  I would like to believe that Bleacher Report could be a launch pad to bigger and better opportunities for those who take it seriously such as jobs in sports TV, even script writing, because I see most sports in terms of stories (movies), not in terms of just stats.

I see things in terms of art and athletics, and that those two things are not mutually exclusive.

Here is a writing of mine that encompasses my general approach to writing:


Twenty-feet wide and a furlong high

I'll sail this ship 'til the day I die

Whether on board or through mind's great sea

With never a-shore to welcome me



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