There comes a time every now and then when you have to step back, take look around, and realize that things have changed.
Change can be a funny thing.
Sometimes it happens with a bang and before you are ready you're forced to deal with it.
But other times it happens slowly, so slowly that you don't even recognize it is happening. But when you realize it, you begin to see it happening before your eyes.
Over the last few days, I noticed the change in our College Football Community.
I joined B/R around this time last year. I had never given any thought to writing about sports, but like a lot of people who visit this site, simply stumbled upon B/R while looking for any tidbit on my beloved Buckeyes and the upcoming college football season.
After visiting the site for only a few weeks I started to realize that this wasn't like other sports sites. The comment sections weren't filled with nasty messages, but instead with honest criticism or intelligent debate. Something that was truly refreshing.
I found myself being drawn to certain writers and their work inspired me to give writing a try.
The work of Lisa Horne inspired me to be reach for the masses and to be as honest as I knew how to be.
The work of BabyTate inspired me to learn more about the history of my favorite game and to never stop learning.
And they all inspired me to make an effort to become a part of this community.
And I did. Within a couple of months I was an Ohio State Community Leader and a month after that the Big Ten Community Leader. (None of which would have been possible without the support and encouragement of BabyTate, to whom I am truly grateful.)
But it was something that BT said to me after I got the Big Ten C/L position that has stuck with me to this day.
"Take care of all of them, even Michigan!"
It was then that I truly understood what this community was all about and over the course of the season I saw that community in action.
From a personal standpoint, I never thought I would see the day that Georgia fans and Florida fans would collaborate on an article—but I've seen it here.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a Michigan fan would ever stick up for an Ohio State fan—but it has happened here.
There have always been heated debates on B/R. There have been controversies, disagreements, and arguments over conference superiority, but the sense of community never seemed in question.
As a newbie, it didn't take me long to see who the leaders of this community were. I mentioned how each of them inspired me in their own way.
But times have changed and so has this community.
The leadership is no longer so clear or accessible. It isn't anyone's fault. It just happened—times have changed.
I have no doubt that this community will continue to thrive, but we must get back to what made this community so special in the first place.
So just as BT, GG, Justin, and Lisa inspired and challenged me, I now challenge you.
I challenge you to engage in honest and civil debate.
I challenge you to give new writers a chance.
I challenge you to be the bigger man and to not respond to hostility with hostility.
But, more than all of that, I challenge you to challenge yourself.
Challenge yourself to never stop learning, to be as honest as you know how to be, to think outside of the box, and to be a better person.
It isn't always easy as I have recently learned, but it is worth it. Our community is worth it.
Who am I to ask this of you? Nobody really. Just someone who loves this Community and this site, and all of its nuances. That's all.
As my friend Gray Ghost once said, "the sum total of who we are is the little bits and pieces of those who have crossed our path and invested themselves in us. Life is like a continuous assembly line, and we are actually being built as we live. We add to each other. We are completing each other. We need each other."
Bleacher Report is a very special place. There is nothing else quite like it on the Internet and I, for one, feel extremely blessed to play a small part in it.
I'm sure you do too.