What I Learned During the Most Bizarre Week of My Life

As many of you know, I wrote a blog post earlier this week that created a little bit of controversy.

Apparently, White Sox 1st round draft pick Jared Mitchell did not appreciate me comparing him to former White Sox CF Mike Cameron, calling it a “pathetic” and “cowardly” comparison made by a lazy “42-year old blogger living in his mother’s basement in Wrigleyville.” Mitchell went on to say that if he was white I never would have compared him to Cameron.

Well, duh Jared.

Actually, the truth is that…well, if you actually read this blog, or any blog for that matter, I’m sure you know the truth. A baseball player did call me “pathetic”, “cowardly”, and make false accusations about my age and living arrangements, but it was not Jared Mitchell. In fact, I think Mitchell would have been quite pleased by my post-draft profile of him. At least I hope so.

Of course, I never thought I would be vilified for speculating that Raul Ibanez, like all major leaguers, might using steroids when I originally wanted to disprove speculation that he might be using steroids. So what the hell do I know?

And that is the purpose of this post.

I don’t know a whole hell of a lot, but I feel like did learn a lot this week. This was easily the most bizarre week of my life (and I use the term “bizarre” with the most positive connotations possible) and if I sailed through it without picking up a few useful lessons along the way, I’d consider it pretty lame on my part.

So here we go. In no particular order (expect the last one being the most important), here is a hodge podge of things that I learned and realized during this wild and crazy week.

1 – I have learned that people, including professional writers and journalists, do not like to (or cannot) read. However, this does not stop them from commenting, nor does it stop people from making judgments and forming opinions based on their comments.

2 – I have realized that this can lead to misunderstandings that sometimes explode into completely unnecessary and surprising stories into which the principal players get swept up, even if it soon thereafter ceases being about the specific individuals but rather what the individuals are purported to represent.

3 – I have quite happily learned that such situations can drive a ton of traffic.

4 – I have realized that since Blogs With Balls occurred during the tail end of my 14:59 minutes of fame, and I foolishly did not attend, I quite possibly missed out on a great opportunity to parlay my “fame” into getting some quality ass…whoopings by any Philly fans, mainstream media members, and other bloggers already sick of “Jerod Morris” who happened to be in attendance.

5 – I have also realized that I am 100% comfortable with everything I have written and said, but not 100% comfortable with such broad notoriety. It’s a mind trip that is simultaneously still sinking in as it fades away.

6 – And I’ve further realized that my self-consciousness at the notoriety stems from a feeling of guilt. There are plenty of better and more established blogs than MSF, plenty of better writers than me, and there were even other posts speculating about Raul Ibanez and steroids before I wrote mine.

7 – However, I have learned that asking the question “Why me?” (mind you, without a hint of regret nor complaint) is becoming exceedingly rhetorical.

8 – Although, there is one last thing I’ve learned about the kind of random and viral notoriety that has come my way this week: by starting a blog, publishing regularly, and pouring your heart and soul into genuine and honest posts, you are thereby purchasing a figurative lottery ticket. And sometimes the mainstream media picks your numbers, even though you have the same ticket and odds as everyone else. That’s what happened to me and Midwest Sports Fans this week.

9 – And I’ve learned that I am grateful for it, but that the true relevance of Midwest Sports Fans will be defined by what we write and where we go from here, not the particulars of the Raul Ibanez controversy that got us here.

10 – I just learned that at halftime of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Stan Van Gundy thinks that the Orlando Magic will win the game.

11 – And I realized that I disagree with him based on what Jeff Van Gundy said about Kobe Bryant playing out of his mind immediately after they returned from the shot inside the Magic locker room.

12 – I learned this week that the passion of Philadelphia fans is everything that it is cracked up to be.

13 – I realized that many Philly fans live up to their oft-discussed reputation for being vulgar and combative.

14 – However, I also realized that stereotyping a fan because he/she is from Philly is a mistake; many are in fact objective, level-headed, and fair while never compromising the passion they have for their team.

15 – Overall, I learned that I respect Philadelphia fans as a whole and that Shay Roddy is right at the top of the list.

16 – I learned that the sports blogosphere is a tight-knit group that will rally around a fellow member whom they feel is being unfairly attacked. My appreciation for this fact goes beyond any words I am capable of writing.

17 – I realized that a divisive canyon still exists between some in the mainstream media and their blogging counterparts.

18 – I also learned that this canyon often manifests itself in the completely unnecessary and arrogant practice perpetrated by many in the mainstream media who will discuss a blog post that is thought- and/or controversy-provoking (and take advantage of it to drive traffic to their sites) yet feel empowered to say things like “…this week a post by a blogger who we will not name, lest we lend him any credence or relevance…”

19 – And I learned that in the same post they will mischaracterize what you say without providing a link so people can read it and decide for themselves.

20 – And I realized that though not many things truly make me angry, the haughty hypocricy of such actions pisses me off to no end.

21 – I also realized that, like Philadelphia fans, stereotyping mainstream media members can also be a mistake. Though much of this week’s debating has revolved around mainstream media members who I and many others believe are unfair to bloggers, there are just as many in the MSM — if not more — who are accepting and inclusive of blogs and blogging.

22 – I learned that Joe Posnanski continues to rock.

23 – I am realizing as I write this that my statements about being careful not to stereotype Philly fans and MSMers seems to fly in the face of my stated belief that it’s okay to stereotype baseball players as possible PED users. And the way I reconcile it is this: it is okay to speculate about baseball players being PED users because such general suspicions already rightfully exist based on historical evidence and anecdotes; but, just as I hope to be wrong about Raul Ibanez, speculating always carries the inherent risk of proving to be misguided and erroneous. That’s why it’s called speculating and not accusing nor claiming. One is open-minded and inquisitive while the other is closed-minded and definitive. It is my personal mission to always be the former and never the latter, whether it’s steroids in baseball, fans from Philadelphia, the mainstream media, or anything else.

24 – However, I learned a long time ago that there are at least two things about which I am and will always be unapologetically closed-minded and definitive: the Cubs suck and Purdue swallows.

25 – I learned that Twitter, for all of its over-hype and potential to be a time drain, is a great way to begin developing real relationships in the blogging community.

26 – However, I realized that in five minutes at Blogs With Balls (had I gone) I could have accomplished the same level of networking as I’ve accomplished in all of the time I’ve spent on Twitter.

27 – I realized that I am grateful for Scott Reister and his Anchor’s Desk column because we needed an opposing viewpoint to the Raul Ibanez story here at MSF and he provided a great one that is based upon his real-world (i.e. non-basement) experience.

28 – I learned that Raul Ibanez thinks I’m 42 years old, that Daulerio thinks I’m a “kid”, and that to the majority of the world who was interested in this story I am just “that pale Midwest blogger.”

29 – And I realized that each of those is infinitely better than being called “the freaky guy on the left.

30 – I learned that it is always a good idea to write and edit your posts with the expectation that each part could be excerpted by a major news source and that tens of thousands of people could end up reading it.

31 – And I realized that had I done this before publishing the Ibanez post, I would have changed what will forever go down in my mind as the single most inaccurate, erroneous, and ripe-for-criticism brain fart of a phrase I’ve ever written — “…unstated speculation…” — especially in a piece of content that I am, overall, very proud to have had my name attached to.

32 – Yet I learned that there will be no shortage of people who will point mistakes like these out to me.

33 – And I realized that I appreciate it because such constructive criticism, as provided by Rob Neyer for instance, will make me a better writer.

34 – Because I learned that bloggers do not have to immediately become defensive when they are attacked or critiqued by mainstream media members, and that the opposite is also true. Many mainstream media members, though sometimes misguided and often arrogant, do sometimes offers bloggers bits of information that can help us become better at what we do. If we as bloggers forget who the messenger is and parse the message carefully, we can find nuggets of wisdom that can make us better.

35 – I realized that one of those nuggets of wisdom that I found was offered up in perhaps the most scathing critique of me and my article that I stumbled upon this week. I give the writer — I won’t mention his name because I’m reluctant to give him his 15 minutes — credit for being honest in his opinion, no matter how misguided I thought some of it was. Here is the aforementioned nugget: “…be prepared to defend your reputation in any forum.”

36 – I’ve realized this week that as blogs gain more more relevance and exposure, the veil of anonymity and relative invisibility that the majority of blogs once operated within is quickly being pulled back no matter how “new”, “irrelevant”, or “under the rader” you think your site is. And this is a good thing, so long as we write what we genuinely believe and understand that we may very well be called to the matt in a forum fare more public than our own comment section to defend the positions we take.

37 – I’ve learned that if we write just to drive traffic or for any reason other than expressing a genuine opinion — sports or otherwise — such a defense of our position could prove difficult. If we write what we honestly believe, and have genuine and open conversations with our readers consistently, then defending our positions is easy and more traffic will come in the long-term anyway.

37 – I also realized that I do not believe in the “eye-for-an-eye” theory of retribution and that instead of stooping to the level of certain MSMers, who will ride bloggers thoughts and posts for their own benefit without attribution, I will attribute the above nugget of knowledge to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times in the lengthy piece he wrote about this week’s Raul Ibanez story.

38 – I did, however, realize I absolutely do agree with one more thing Baker said. Actually, it was more of a question, and I believe it’s a question that all bloggers should ask themselves before hitting publish: can you look somebody in the eye? And by somebody, Baker meant the subject of your piece. As bloggers, we do not often have the access to look the subjects of our posts in the eye, but we certainly should be able to believe in our hearts that we would if we could.

39 – I’ve realized that the #1 reason why I absolutely do not regret publishing the now-famous (and in some circles infamous) post about Raul Ibanez is that I would absolutely look him in the eye and defend my post, while also unequivocally being able to tell him that I think he’s clean, hope he’s clean, and count myself among his fans (and admittedly, this week has helped to develop that). In fact, this is still a conversation that I’m hoping to — and trying to — one day have with Ibanez.

40 – And, finally, I have learned that even though incredible confluences of events can occur like what occurred this week, and it can completely turn your life upside down and inside out in ways that you never imagined — in this case, almost all of them good — the most cherished opinions can actually be the opinions of those who do not judge you at all.

And to wrap up this post and this final lesson I feel I’ve learned, I would like to pay tribute to a special individual whose love and support I cherish, and who has never said one thing nor cared about Midwest Sports Fans, Raul Ibanez, Outside the Lines, bloggers versus the mainstream media, or any of the other topics that many of us spent so much time analyzing this week.

If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you may have an idea of exactly who I am referring to: my dog Rebel.

On Wednesday I fulfilled a life’s dream by appearing on ESPN. And it wasn’t in a crowd shot, it wasn’t in Blog Buzz (though that’s always awesome too!), and it wasn’t through some type of Sports Nation comment. I was asked to come on ESPN to analyze and provide my opinion on an important sports topic. Just typing that sentence is still somewhat unbelievable to me.

Over the next 72 hours, I kind of ceased being just “Jerod Morris”, even to my friends and family, and nearly every conversation I had felt as if it revolved totally around the Raul Ibanez story. And in so many ways — nearly every way — this was great.

Although it was never an explicit goal when I started Midwest Sports Fans, I think all serious bloggers would probably agree that somewhere in the back or even in the front of our minds we all aspire to get caught up in something like what I got caught up in this week. As I said above, for reasons primarily related to happenstance, I just happened to win the lottery and get to have this experience.

But when I drove home Wednesday night, and every night for the balance of the week — always excited but usually exhausted from the whirlwind of attention — I knew that Rebel was waiting for me, ecstatic about my arrival home, and interested in my presence and what I had to say for no other reason than just because it was me. He didn’t have an opinion on the Ibanez post, nor any idea about ESPN, nor any clue that every five minutes a new Google Alert on “Jerod Morris” or “Midwest Sports Fans” was hitting my inbox. He was just there, with his tail wagging and his adoring eyes following my every move as I walked in the door, with one thought on his mind: take me for a walk.

I can’t really put it into words, but when I came home that Wednesday night Rebel put everything into perspective for me, as he often does. And because I know I won’t find the right words to express the feeling, I won’t even try to speculate on the best way to define it. Hence, that point I will leave as unstated speculation.

Unfortunately, when I came home tonight Rebel wasn’t here to greet me. He’s currently at the vet, sedated with an IV in his little leg, awaiting a serious and risky surgery that will take place tomorrow to remove his infected gallbladder. Without the surgery, his infectious energy and perpetual smile likely would not be long for this world. With the surgery his prognosis is good, and the expectation is that everything will go well and he’ll be back to normal in a few weeks. But, as I’m sure anyone who has a dog can relate, it’s still somewhat disconcerting knowing what my boy faces tomorrow and being powerless to do anything more to help him but show up at 8:00 am and sign the papers.

The vet who is taking care of him is fantastic though, and the surgeon is highly recommended, so even though scary and unwanted thoughts pop up I am not finding it difficult to fend them off.

The truth is, in addition to trying to espouse whatever wisdom I feel I’ve gained this week, the real purpose of this blog post has been to distract me from the silence and isolation of my new apartment, which just isn’t the same without its happiest and most spirited tenant. I know that he’ll be okay, that tomorrow’s surgery will be a success, and that he’ll be hopping up on the couch again, and demanding walks again, in no time…but I miss the little guy, even if just for tonight and the next few while he recovers.

While my short and fleeting bout with notoriety and recognition has been exciting, and has been the product of a controversial post that I do not regret writing, there is at least one issue of immediate importance for me that, without hesitation, would make me retroactively delete the Ibanez post before ever hitting “publish”, thus erasing all of its myriad and mostly positive impact before it ever got started: a simple guarantee that tomorrow’s surgery for Rebel will be a success.

Because while this past week taught me a lot, nothing has taught me more than the last 36 hours at the emergency pet clinic. And what I’ve learned is that it’s oftentimes the little things in life, not the big ones, that make it worthwhile, that sustain us in purpose and optimism from day to day, and that provide real fulfillment long-term.

And there’s no more important little thing in my life than my boy Rebel.

Keep on fighting little buddy, and come home soon.

Rebel - the greatest miniature pinscher ever

(And I swear, if anyone picks on him for being small I will bust out some of the lessons I learned this week from the Philly commenters and emailers who showed, shall we say, less decorum.

You’ve been warned.)



About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.

Comments

  1. Jerod, my respect for you went from none to a lot this week as well. You represented yourself well, though I still think you made a bit of a mistake. Just too bad they picked you as the whipping boy, because you’re a real smart and good guy.

    • @Shay Roddy, I certainly respect your ability to disagree in regards to the original post, but unlike you so many you were open-minded and gave me a forum to explain myself to your readers, which I appreciated greatly. You alone cast doubt on a lot of the preconceived notions I had of Philly fans, without having had much fist-hand experience with them.

      And thanks for the kind words…right back at you. I’m looking forward to seeing where your blog goes because you’d got the passion, intelligence, and drive to take it a long way.

      Just do me one favor: if you ever add Ibanez to your growing list of interviews, tell him I’ve been trying to get a hold of him and slip him my email address and perhaps he and I can have an overdue conversation one of these days.

  2. There are 2 things I hate about baseball after all the steroid hubbub – One: That career years are called into question, and Two: That these questions are more or less valid.

    It’s funny how mainstream media misread your Ibanez post, and then used it to rip on sports bloggers while simultaneously using it to create some news for their own (faltering) print media.

    Well, nice talking to you. I have to get back to my mother’s basement. She’s making hot pockets for me and I don’t want to miss that.

    • @Tug Haines, I agree. The most important part I’ve wanted to express all along is how sad it is that a guy like Raul Ibanez gets dragged into the whole steroid conversation, but that it’s impossible not to wonder. And it’s not an indictment of him, but the league he plays in.

      I never miss mom’s hot pockets. They’re the best. Do you usually blog from a beanbag chair in the basement or have you upgraded to a desk yet?

  3. Cracker Jack Menardi says:

    I have learned that you are an attention whore and your dog is a cowardly little bitch.

    • @Cracker Jack Menardi, thank you Cracker Jack. When he gets out of his surgery today I’ll be sure to inform him of your uplifting words.

  4. I hope you learned your lesson! If nothing else came out of this, I picked up a new blogger to read. I give you props for backing up what you write about and standing up to the criticism, however unwarranted it may have been.

    • @Kevin M, I appreciate it Kevin. That’s something I should have added to the list above. Thanks to all of the great people who have emailed and commented, I’ve found out about so many more great blogs that are out there writing thought-provoking and interesting articles every day. It’s amazing how much the advent of blogs has empowered sports fan. I agree with those who say it comes with a responsibility…but the responsibility is to be honest and genuine and talk with readers, not at them.

      As long as we can hit publish and believe in what we’re saying, and be accountable for it, there is no reason to write in fear. Besides, if you can’t take a little backlash and criticism from time to time, writing may not be the best gig for you.

  5. Tug you can’t even throw hotpockets in the microwave?

    Great post Jerod. And I think we are all still waiting for the MSM to jump all over their own colleagues that have written nearly identical pieces to yours.

  6. J.D. Shaver says:

    Great stuff Jerod, well said…and here’s hoping Rebel comes home soon too.

  7. What people like Ken Rosenthal don’t realize is that jobs in mainstream media are hard to come by. People with plenty of qualifications and talent write for blogs because they can’t get jobs with ESPN or some fancy newspaper. He just seems arrogant.

  8. Well, looks like you learned quite a bit. Really, what is life for than to experience everything you can? Just think when in the future you can point your grandkids to the “Ibanez flap”. Sure, it’s not like our grandparents storming Normandy, but you’ve done a more interesting thing than I have come close to.

    And I hope Rebel is ok.

  9. Jared — <a href=”http://www.opensports.com/community/user/blog_entry/52/74742fed-4a95-4770-9b95-877a5a951c7c wrote this immeadiately after watching the OTL segment … think you did a great job. Your assessments above are 100 percent correct — glad you were able to survive.

  10. I don’t feel sorry for Ibanez or any of the other hundreds of silent accomplices (teammates, coaches, managers and even league officials)to the cheapening of all great MLB accomplishments. If any of these idiots would have had a stitch of integrity they would have cleaned the game themselves years ago. But no, they all play stupid and stay silent while we all hear the lies and alibis and sometimes, finally, the truth.

    The baseball media has been useless as far as PEDs and our sport is concerned. Invisible, except for Jose Conseco, he’s our most reliable source of truth in ALL of baseball concerning the subject and its a damned shame!

    Raul, your denials sound just like every other players denials because you all sound the same. Unfortunatly their lies sound just like your truths, imagine that! Not our fault, it’s your fault. Same song and dance man.

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