|Posted by Connor Huchton on November 26, 2011 at 6:20 PM||comments (2)|
|Posted by Connor Huchton on July 25, 2011 at 10:13 AM||comments (1)|
This was Vernon’s spot. Vernon had come here on the day the bench had been built 30 years ago, screwed to the ground as part of the Park’s modernization remodel. Since then, Vernon had fervently protected the bench against all comers on a daily basis. He came to the park every day (weather allowing) at 4 PM, found the bench, and left promptly at 6 PM. People would occasionally walk by and glance interestedly towards Vernon and his bench, but they always moved on upon Vernon’s angry returning gaze. Vernon was proud of his prized possession, an 8-foot green bench with receding paint. This is my bench, Vernon thought. He took comfort in something being firmly his.
The spot hadn’t been public domain from 4 to 6 PM for two decades, and Vernon had no interest in that changing, especially for the disheveled man that stood before him. He grimaced at the man, desperate to submit him to his will and retain his sole possession of the bench.
The man gazed intently towards the elderly man on the bench. He seemed undaunted by the unyielding stare of the old man. Silently, he glided towards Vernon and his bench, his feet drifting gracefully over the sidewalk pavement, as if in control of the ground’s texture. The man emanated a sense of belonging, as if he held just as much of a right to the bench as Vernon did. Vernon attempted to cover the bench with his legs as a last-ditch effort to persuade the man away from his pursuits, but the man slowly sat down on the other edge of the bench. The man made no eye contact with Vernon as he moved.
Vernon didn’t know how to respond to the man, because there was little precedent for his resolve. Other people who had bravely sat next to Vernon in the past had soon moved away. Uncertainty soon surged through Vernon, and this uncertainty quickly turned to anger.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Vernon asked the man, attempting to seem as gruff as possible.
“Sitting,” responded the man as he looked away.
“Who said you could sit here?” Vernon could feel the irritation rising with him. Lately he had felt his emotions seeping away from him, but they were sharply returning upon this intrusion into what he considered, “Vernon’s personal space”.
“No one. No one needs to. This is a public bench, and it’s a nice day. Who said you could sit here?” The man pointedly turned towards Vernon as he spoke.
The anger and irritation that had been brewing within Vernon continued to stir, as if looking for a place to escape.
“How dare you? This is my bench,” Vernon was annoyed by the man’s seeming disinterest in paying heed to Vernon.
“I must have missed the sign somewhere. Can we just enjoy this beautiful day and stop arguing?” At this the man took out a paper sack from the backpack he had been wearing. He removed a sandwich from the sack and began happily chewing on what seemed like a ham and cheese combination.
“Why do you have to sit on this bench? Look at all of the benches around us with no one sitting on them!” Vernon persisted.
“This bench looked really comfortable, and I thought you could use some company,” the man replied with a slight smile.
For a moment, Vernon could think of nothing to say in protest to the man’s indifference. He was tempted to continue his ranting, but so far that method had proven generally ineffective. Vernon decided to try and reason with the man to get him to move.
“What’s your name?” Vernon asked, attempting to seem genuinely interested in the answer.
“My friends call me Jimmy,” the man continued to look away stoically from Vernon.
“What are you doing here today, Jimmy?” Vernon pressed.
“I live near the park, and I’ve heard only nice things about it. Thought I’d check it out on a nice day like this. Not a bad idea, dontcha think?” Jimmy now seemed more interested in the conversation.
“It’s not that nice of a day,” Vernon responded. He couldn’t stand the man’s cheeriness.
“So you say. What’s your name, anyway?” Jimmy retorted.
“I don’t think it’s any of your business, but my name is Vernon.” Vernon didn’t enjoy the focus being turned on him.
“Nice meeting you, Vernon,” Jimmy turned away from Vernon once again, as if he now knew all he needed to. Vernon remembered that knowing look. He remembered it playing across his own face, so many years ago. I remember too much, Vernon thought, and I don’t want to remember. Preservation and remembrance go hand-in-hand, and Vernon was determined to keep his hand in his pocket. He didn’t want to know anything, except the blindness of solitude.
Jimmy was still eating his lunch. Jimmy was an interesting person to take in all at once, especially physically. He was one of those people who always seemed to blend into their surroundings and immediately become the focus of said surroundings. He fit the curvature of the bench’s backing, but he also dominated its form. He wasn’t an especially large man, probably around 6-foot and not especially heavy, but his frame was distinct. He had a dark, powerful beard, one that would usually be too ambitious for most men. His body belonged to him, and nature acquiesced to this belonging. Vernon watched as birds chirped and trees rustled close to Jimmy. Everything seemed alive near Jimmy. Vernon believed for an instant that he recognized Jimmy, but quickly he pushed those thoughts away. He didn’t want to associate anything with Jimmy. He didn’t want anything to do with Jimmy, Vernon reminded himself.
“You not gonna talk anymore?” Jimmy startled Vernon back to attention.
“Don’t have anything to say, I guess,” Vernon felt more resigned than anything else.
“Come on, Vernon. You don’t get tired of just sitting here?” Jimmy’s smile seemed ever-present.
“How do you know I just sit here? Maybe I just don’t like sitting here with you,” Vernon retorted.
“I’ve been watching you for the last week, Vernon. You never get up from this bench. You never walk around. You hardly move at all,” Jimmy explained to Vernon, almost wistfully.
“You’ve been…watching me?” Vernon sputtered, taken aback by Jimmy’s forwardness.
“Sure thing, Vernon. I actually visited for the first time in months three days ago. That’s when I noticed you. I decided that I would come talk to you today,”’ Jimmy claimed, his smile now turning wry.
“Why would you be interested in me? You said yourself that I don’t do anything. Of all the people that come to this park, why would you watch me?” Vernon felt an unsure feeling he hadn’t known in years.
“That’s what interests me so much, Vernon. You do nothing, but you do it so well. You must come here every day. And you just sit, sit, sit, and then leave. I’ve never seen you leave that bench. I’ve never seen you talk to anyone. Hell, I’ve never seen you look at anyone directly,” Jimmy’s concentration now seemed fully focused on Vernon.
“You……you don’t know that! You don’t know anything about me!” Vernon wasn’t used to being faced with answering questions.
“You’re right, actually. I don’t know anything about your past or what you do outside the park. But what you do inside the park is fascinating in its own way. Tell me more about you, Vernon,” Jimmy continued.
“What if I don’t want to talk to you about me?” Vernon had an odd sensation seize his body in a way he vaguely remembered. And then he realized: I feel vulnerable. I feel afraid. I don’t want to talk about me.
“That matters very little. I’m interested in you, and I’m sure you’ll eventually come around to my thinking. So, Vernon how long have you been coming here?” There was a certain bright-eyed optimism in Jimmy’s speech that Vernon found difficult to ignore.
They sat there for a moment, each gazing forwards at the bush that lay about ten yards in front of them. Vernon’s mind was torn. Part of him screamed out to answer Jimmy, to tell him everything, to pour out his secrets, his troubles, his anger, his sadness, and his questions like an open sieve. The other part of him screamed out for the seclusion he had so long known and protected. It was an unhappy part of him, but one that had taken hold for so long that it was impossible to ignore. Jimmy sat completely unaware of the struggle occurring deep within the old, withered man directly to his left.
“You gonna ignore me, Vernon? I thought we were making some progress!” Jimmy looked confused as Vernon uninterestedly made eye contact with him. Still, Vernon was not ready to answer. A minute passed. Then two more minutes. And then three more minutes.
“Vernon? You still with me?” Vernon heard Jimmy’s voice ringing out in the background, insistent upon receiving an answer from the quiet and immovable Vernon.
“Yes. I’m thinking. Haven’t you seen anyone think before? Now, what was your question? Spit it out,” Vernon felt comfortable once again. He was back to his demanding self.
“You’re a funny guy, Vernon. I’m sure people have told you that. I asked how long you had been coming here,” Jimmy looked expectantly at Vernon as he asked.
“A long time. Years. A lot of them. It’s none of your business how many exactly,” Vernon gruffly answered. “I’ll take it,” Jimmy talked on, “why do you like coming here so much? You must like coming here if you keep coming back. What makes this bench and this park so special?”
“I don’t know. It’s my park, and it’s my bench. I don’t care about the flowers, or the plants, or even that new fancy playground. I just like that it’s mine,” said Vernon. At this Vernon stared intently down at his hands. Each day these hands grow a new wrinkle, thought Vernon.
“But why come here every day and ignore everyone and everything?” With each question, Jimmy leaned in more and more, his eyes widening with inquisitiveness.
“I come here every day because it’s quiet. The middle school where I work gets out at 3:30, so I come here after it ends. Why do I ignore everyone? Because I can ignore people, and I want to ignore them. I have no business with people, and I have no business with things,” For the first time since he had begun his conversation with Jimmy, Vernon felt comfortable with his answer.
He could see the bright light that had shone within Jimmy’s eyes just a moment earlier dim for an instant, though it soon returned. Vernon had long felt vindicated in his cynicism and indifference, and this mode validated his attitude. Vernon almost felt the urge to smile, but he soon quelled that with the self-reminder that “Smiling is for the weak and ignorant.”
“That’s a pretty grim philosophy you got there, Vernon,” Jimmy’s smile had returned, “Where does that attitude come from?”
“My life is none of your business,” Vernon sensed his nerves bristling at the idea of self-revelation.
“I know you don’t think it is. That won’t stop me from asking. Come on, Vernon. We both know you have no interest in moving, since this is your bench, so why not talk to me? I’m interested in you, and I’m determined to find answers,” Jimmy pressed on with his questions.
“Fine. Where does that attitude come from? Look at you, Jimmy. You walk around like you understand everything that’s happening, but you don’t. I don’t claim to either, but I know what I’ve seen. And there was a day that came when I finally couldn’t take dealing with the things I felt anymore. That was the day I came to the park. I didn’t see anything terrible here, Jimmy. I saw nothing, and wished to see nothing. I didn’t want to hear people and their stories and their sadness, and I still don’t. I’m done with that. I’ve lived enough of those moments. So I’ve come to this bench for the last thirty years, and sat. I’ve sat, sat, and sat some more, and that’s been just fine with me. Not once has this bench ever caused me grief and I refuse for that to change with you or anyone else in this damned park!” Vernon’s voice rose as the sentence came to a close. Vernon looked down at his hands again. They were shaking, overcome by the unfamiliar nature of Vernon’s intensity.
The smile previously only lightly threatened that had waited on Jimmy’s face was now gone completely. His brow was furrowed as he looked downwards. For a brief moment it appeared that Vernon had finally succeeded in breaking Jimmy’s interest in understanding him. The chirping of the birds that had been incessant since the beginning of their encounter seemed to vanish almost instantly. Jimmy reached down for the comfort of his lunch sack but removed nothing from inside its confines.
Vernon had once again turned his attention to nothing, choosing to simply stare forwards contently. His hands had stopped shaking. Suddenly, a smile returned to Jimmy’s face.
“You know, Vernon, you think that’ll scare me away, but it only makes me more interested in you. That outburst was the most human thing I’ve seen you do,” Jimmy said. Vernon chose not to respond.
“Anyway, Vernon, I still have a few questions for you. If you answer them, I’ll leave you alone forever. If you don’t, I’ll come back to this bench every single day and sit with you,” explained Jimmy.
“I’ll answer one question, but that’s it. One question,” sternly warned Vernon.
“Deal. I’d rather not upset you anymore. I just want to know what happened in your life that made you believe everyone was shit?” Jimmy questioned.
“Everyone is shit. Even you,” Vernon murmured.
“Come on, Vernon, that isn’t fair. I’m probably not just shit. It seems to me that you’re ignoring the good side of people. Why?” Jimmy’s earnest tone was buried with his smile, but it persisted.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Jimmy,” Vernon said this with a vehemence he couldn’t understand. Why did he even care what Jimmy had to say?
“I get it, Vernon. You don’t like people, they suck, blah blah blah. That’s not what I’m asking, though I’m sure you’re well aware of that. You know what I intend to ask, and yet you sidestep it with talk of the depravity of mankind as a whole. Today, I don’t care about mankind as a whole, Vernon. I care about you,” Jimmy pointedly explained. Vernon decided to answer the young man’s question once-and-for-all. He wanted his quiet again. He demanded his quiet again.
“You want to know what happened to me, Jimmy?” There was a certain wryness to Vernon’s question that seemed out of place.
“I couldn’t want to know anything more,” Jimmy stated.
“Fine. I’ll explain. Pay attention,” Vernon commanded, and then began. “I used to be like you. Most people are like you at some point during their lives, Jimmy, but I was the most fervent example you ever could have seen. I met the woman I loved when I was twenty-five. I married her when I was twenty-six. I had my first kid, a boy, when I was twenty-eight. It’s hard for me to remember those years now, and not only because of the passage of time. It’s so difficult to look back on a time of constant happiness and remember the details. Happiness swallowed me up, and I never thought it would spit me back out. Like anyone else, I had problems. But they never controlled me, because I had no interest in dwelling on the negative. There was too much positive in my life to notice anything else. I worked at the factory in our local town for a few years and eventually was promoted to manager. And then it was all gone,” Vernon became quiet. He didn’t want to continue.
“What happened?” Jimmy whispered fearfully.
“I happened. Everything fell apart, and there was nothing I could do. There was an accident. A terrible accident,” Vernon was sprinting through his words now.
“The factory where I worked was built by a company called Venerable Steel, over twenty years before I became director of the plant. On July 1st of 1978, an inspector told me that the building had serious structural flaws and needed to have immediate improvements made, or else it would need to be evacuated within the next two months. The inspector was my friend, so he believed me when I assured him we’d have the problems fixed immediately. He told me that he’d sign off on the papers until his next inspection in 5 years, trusting me to start having the necessary improvements made within the week. I didn’t want to shut down production. If we did well enough in our production count for that calendar year, I would be able to get a bonus. I kept telling myself that we’d get it fixed as soon as the calendar year ended, as soon as I got my bonus. On September 17, 1978, the factory building collapsed. The steel foundation built below the building had slowly been crumbling.
I had scheduled the building to finally be checked on January 2nd of the next year. I can’t forget that date. I can’t forget anything,” Tears poured down Vernon’s wrinkled face as he spoke, “I wish I had been there that day. I deserved to die too. They didn’t. I remember every single one of their names. Scott, Joe, Mike, Dave, Aaron, Sammy, Romario, Chris, Wesley, John, Eric, Damon, Sanjay, Greg, and Anthony. Many of them were my friends. A few of them were like sons to me, especially Anthony. Anthony had a kid on the way. He never got to see that kid born. The saddest day in town history began in that moment. And I didn’t even have the decency to be in the factory with him when the building collapsed. I was on one-week vacation.
For the next year, I hid. My wife tried to talk to me during every single one of those days, but I couldn’t hear anything she said. I told her I didn’t want to be around anyone, that I was dangerous to others. In my mind, I had killed those men with my bare hands. She took me to every known psychiatrist in the state, but I refused the help. My sons were ignored at school, and cried out in loneliness every day. On the 366th day of my insulation, my wife explained that she was moving back to her hometown with the kids, to live at her mother’s house. She told me that she loved me still, but she couldn’t have the kids around me anymore. As she turned to leave, her bags already packed and the car running, I whispered, “Ok.” It was the most I could muster as my wife sobbed, shook her head, and walked out the door.
When I finally snapped out of shock, the full realization of everything I had lost confronted me. I didn’t leave the house for the next few months. I ordered my food and ignored the door when the families of the dead workers came to console me, or scream at me. I couldn’t face any of it,” Vernon was now sobbing, his words breaking through his tears only through great exertion. But he continued on as Jimmy sat next to him, stony-faced.
“When I finally left my house, I was served with papers. They described a civil suit that had been filed against the inspector, the steel company, and myself by the families of the victims killed in the accident. The factory had been long closed. I felt a grim satisfaction upon realizing I would lose everything at the hands of the lawsuit, though I regretted the inclusion of the inspector. I had broken his trust as well, and his life would now be ruined. I didn't deserve a damn thing, I told myself. I was present at the trial, but I had no wish to protest the claims against me. I ended up losing my house and the majority of my savings. With what I had left, I rented out a small, gray apartment downtown, and managed to get a job as the janitor at the local middle school. I was determined not to leave the city, not to outrun my problems. I wanted to revel in the legacy my tragedy had spawned.
People gave me angry stares as I walked to school, at least when they recognized my face from the papers. I did nothing to rebuff them. What could I say? My mistake had seemed unimportant, before it cost 15 men their lives. So I walked by quietly, resolutely. For a long time, I almost enjoyed their hate, if only because of how much I hated myself. Eventually their hate turned to apathy or non-recognition, and so did mine. I fell into a pattern of feeling nothing. It was easy to live life like a zombie when there was no reason to live. I only survived on my determination to not take the easy way out. Taking my own life would have been a final insult to those men who died in the factory, and so I moved on. The years have passed quickly, and nothing has changed. I am a shell, a zombie. That is why I come to this park, and say nothing, look at nothing. And that is all I know, “ Vernon finally looked up at Jimmy as his voice cracked with emotion. Jimmy seemed unable to comprehend what he had just heard. His eyes darted back and forth. His lips mouthed words, but no sound escaped.
“Jimmy? Jimmy?” Vernon desperately asked.
“I didn’t want you to be real,” Jimmy whispered.
“What do you mean real?” Vernon said.
“I’ve seen pictures of you before. I’ve been told all of the stories about what happened. When I first noticed you a few days ago, I couldn’t walk away and forget. I tried, but I couldn’t. So I came back the next day and checked at the same time. You were still here, and I couldn’t help but think, He looks like the pictures. So I decided to find out for certain, to convince myself that my mind wasn’t playing tricks. But it wasn’t. You’ re the man who killed my father Anthony; there is no doubt about that. He died on that September day, though I had never known him. In my younger days, I hated you. Maybe I still hate you, but I cannot truly feel my hatred burn now,” Jimmy put his head in his hands and cried rhythmically. Vernon gazed at Jimmy as his Adam’s apple contracted violently, with tears pouring down his face.
“What should I say? What can I do?” Vernon desperately asked Jimmy.
“Nothing,” his response came, “There is nothing to say. You were a good man who made the worst mistake he could. You robbed me of my father and 14 other men’s lives. You can’t erase that. I can’t say, “Everybody makes mistakes, it’s ok!” and just dismiss it entirely. It happened, and it wasn’t ok. But you sitting on a bench for 30 more years will solve nothing. You’ll just die without improving the lives of anyone.”
“What could I possibly say or do to help anyone now?” Vernon questioned.
“You could tell me about my father. My mom could never really bring herself to talk about him and what he was really like. I need to know more.”
“I remember him. Vividly.” Vernon’s eyes darted towards Jimmy.
“Explain to me the man that my father was,” Jimmy’s demanded.
“I will. I will,” Vernon agreed, now resolute.
“Let’s start today,” Jimmy fervently stated.
A slight smile played across Vernon’s lips. He remembered that voice. He remembered that tone. Soon Jimmy would understand it too.
|Posted by Connor Huchton on June 30, 2011 at 5:22 AM||comments (0)|
I'm up late at night frequently (I'm the kind of guy who stays up until 5 AM but complains about having to take a minute to brush his teeth), surfing the Internet, and there's always a quietness when a certain time is reached. The barren nature of the activity on Twitter or any web page in front of me always seems to almost perfectly align with the stillness I physically and mentally sense in the immediate world. I want to continue to discuss, argue, and make stupid jokes about breakfast food items with the Internet world, but no one is around to hear and respond, and that seems fitting. It feels like a welcome break from pointless dialogue and overt self-interest (at least for a moment). But then I get bored. I search for some random tweet to dissect and discuss. For some reason, someone always seems to be there to respond.
But with an NBA lockout looming, everyone seems to be bracing themselves. Many "The Calm Before The Storm!"-type articles that have been written lately by respected bloggers, and they accurately place the mood in their own right. No one wants to see Twitter reduced to sarcastic live-tweeting of generic TNT dramas (shout-out to all the Franklin and Bash bros, you know who you are) and pondering thoughts about what the lockout really means, man. I want things to happen in the NBA, and I want it now. I'd rather hear read a story about what kind of contract Aaron Gray might get (It better include a marketing campaign entitled, "Have A Better Gray!" or a section of fans called the "Gray-beards") than one about what David Stern might be thinking when he wakes up in the morning.
What scares me most about the possibility of an NBA lockout is not the existence of depressing news but the infinitely terrifying prospect of a void with no way to be filled by a graveyard market. The first month of a potential lockout and negotiations don't scare me on as deep level, because I'm confident news will at least be frequent and somewhat focused. I'm worried about a second month in which the owners won't budge and the players can't. I'm worried about a third month in which progress can't be made because of long-term goals and pride. I'm worried about a fourth month where negotiations begin to take a backseat in the headlines and the public becomes tired of the issue. I'm worried about a series of months in which there is no season and an eventual, "Ok, you win owners. You have billions of dollars and power and control our livelihood." from the players' union. It's a sad prospect, and one that I fervently hope won't come to fruition.
But we all hope there won't be a shortened season, or (*gasps, runs around in circles, finds solace in Landry Fields' poster) no season at all. No one wants to have to spend time doing "actual things" and "going outside" to see "people". We want the NBA. We want something to grasp at, call ours, and devote our time to. The feeling constantly manifests itself in life for all of us, and often times in sports. There is no group of people more lively, engaged, and devoted to their sport than the NBA blogosphere, Twitter, and online community are with the game of basketball. I'm part of that group, I think, and the thought of its vibrancy waning saddens me.
Do I know what will happen with the lockout today and going forward? No. No one does, except maybe the squid that bets on World Cup matches (horrible, possibly incorrect reference, I know. I'm grasping for desperate straws here. And to be clear, I'm desperate, not the straws.) But at least the temporary future holds hope and focus. With so little currently quantifiable about the situation, it's justifiable for me to hope a fair agreement will be made somewhat soon.
But the indefinable is so much more terrifying than the obvious. Three months from now, no progress could easily have been made. Moods may sour, and NBA news may cower behind other sports with no momentum in tow. And that's what I can't to see. I don't want to see the NBA fan community fade and lose steam. I don't want to see jilted fans and a dearth in spending time. I don't want to see one more year of Brian Cardinal's prime go to waste. I don't want to see "Larry Crowne", though that seems inconsequential now. I want to know what's going on, I want the talks between the players and owners to be in full swing and energized, and I want to believe there's a chance the CBA will be temporarily extended and then revised. Something positive may very well happen soon, and all my impending gloom could be lifted and replaced with an orthodontist-approved smile. And for the short-term of a month or so, I have that luxury of hope. In the second and continuing month(s), I may not. I worry there may be no clear hope. I worry there may only be murkiness and stagnation. I worry for NBA employees, writers, and anyone else whose livelihood could be affected by a lockout, and that worry should be and is much greater than my own selfish interest.
I worry there may be no one to respond to my inane NBA drivel at 5 AM, and nothing is more worrying than that as a fan.
|Posted by Connor Huchton on June 13, 2011 at 4:26 AM||comments (0)|
This is the first edition of a new feature on CHKE, Tweets of the Week (everything looks way cooler when written in bold). In this feature, I'll finally be putting the obsessive amount of time that I spend on Twitter to good use. Each week, I'll be using my tweet-gathering skills to find the best tweets of the week, at least in my sphere of Twitter (basketball, sports, comedy, entertainment, etc.). If you have suggestions to make this list, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Keen Observation from the film Gattaca:
@NickFlynt: Jeez, Ethan Hawke, no need to scrub yourself clean nude on the beach.
On the tragedy that lies within an especially terrible film:
@mrmattwalsh: " I had the urge to murder my grandchildren after watching "The Love Guru". A world with that film in it is evil."- Wayne Dyer
Language Jokes FTW:
@mikeleffingwell: I never learned what "c'est la vie" means. But hey, that's life.
@giancasimiro: Twilight promotions in an MMA event. You really know your demographic, Showtime.
Getting Right to the Point:
@RIC_THE_LEGEND: I AM AWESOME
Though I only chose 5 tweets this week (due to time constraints), I expect to find 10 for next week's edition.
|Posted by Connor Huchton on June 10, 2011 at 5:26 PM||comments (0)|
Sometimes I wonder who people are, deep in their heart of hearts. How do they feel about KFC? Are they more of a "Popeye's guy"? Do they wish Colonel Sanders would just leave them alone? How do they feel about the growing problem in the housing market? Do they know what love is, and what life is all about? Are they in "it" for the money? Will they be my friend?
These questions have been frequently coming up as I watch the NBA Finals. Certain players intrigue my interested sensibilities. I have so many questions, and yet so few answers are available. Will I ever find my true self? Is DeShawn Stevenson the key to unlocking my inner happiness? Maybe I'll begin to understand someday when visiting a tattoo parlor. But until then, I ask these open questions to intriguing NBA players.
|Posted by Connor Huchton on June 8, 2011 at 6:02 PM||comments (1)|
As I write this sentence, I have another browser window open. It's a window that I constantly leave open, a constant standby that I check all too frequently. It's a safety net for boredom foremost, but it's equally as much a way to feel involved. As the title of this article may give away, the social networking site Twitter is running in this window.
The Internet is an interesting place, as I'm sure you don't need to be told. Many members of the current generation of consumers spend inordinate amounts of time on this vast extension of technology, generally looking for entertainment in some form. I don't know exactly how time is apportioned on the Internet, and I'm not really interested in knowing. I'm more interested in understanding the results that are achieved on the Internet by some, or vice versa. A keen example of this lies in Twitter, an ever-growing home for intelligent bloggers.
More than any other site, the nature of Twitter confuses me (not a difficult task, to be fair). Over the last year, Twitter has been growing at a rapid rate, and for good reason. It's a site that allows real-time discussion with users of your choice (those that you have chosen to "follow") and the promotion of ideas and content. It's a great idea, and naturally, countless millions of people love it. I love it.
But the mystery of Twitter doesn't lie in its purpose, it lies in how people are affected by that purpose. A natural goal for Twitter users is to accrue more followers as time goes on, their voice expanding to encompass the Internet ears of many. Websites like Klout.com have attempted to track the measure of one's Twitter voice, but any method is imperfect. Everyone wants to be heard in real life, and that is only exemplified on Twitter. Personally, gaining or losing a follower, especially one whom I respect, can feel like an important highlight of my day.
I don't want to come across as saying the central goal of a Twitter user is to gain popularity and attention. Discussion and commentary are the focus of "tweeting", but the feeling that is taken away from tweeting often lies in personal validation or a lack thereof. In this validation, Twitter success may possibly lie. When someone spends a large portion of their day doing an activity, it is human nature for them to hinge their success on whether they receive feedback.
We all want to be doing well. We all want to be met with interest. On Twitter, the apathy of others can feel like the sharpest retort to your opinion. An argument or a complete disagreement with your commentary is always more preferable than complete disregard.
For me, the most difficult concept to understand about Twitter is what leads to success, but a clear blueprint does seem to exist, if you have a certain skill set. It isn't easy to reach for every "tweeter", but it does exist. Some of the known archetypes that exist for gaining Twitter followers include*:
*Note: If someone is categorized as a certain type of tweeter, that does not mean they (or their tweets) are exclusively limited to that category. The chosen category simply represents them best.
|Posted by Connor Huchton on June 3, 2011 at 5:23 AM||comments (1)|
These are the unedited, unintelligent thoughts I have at approximately 4:00 AM. Take them as you will, or don't take them. I wouldn't want to impose.
20. There are many signs indicating that I'm beginning to feel tired. One reason that stands out is my growing interest in trying to turn off the lamp next to me with my toe. Also, I need to cut my toenails. Long toenails are unchill.
19. It's fair to say that long toenails are unchill, right? It's fair to have opinions. I'm guessing that at least 98% of the population doesn't enjoy long toenails. What would it mean to "enjoy" a toenail? Good question, Connor. Good question.
18. Is it bad to talk to yourself at 4 AM? I feel like it's generally odd to talk to yourself for long periods of time, but it's somewhat acceptable past 3 AM. Even the Internet isn't interested in talking to you past 3 AM.
17. If I was going to be a supernatural animal, I think I'd want to be a werewolf. Werewolfs generally seem to be handsome when in human form, and I doubt I would struggle to grow facial hair if I was a werewolf.
16. Actually, I'd probably still struggle to grow facial hair if I was a werewolf.
15. My back itches, but I don't think that I'll reach to scratch it. This is probably a sign of laziness or great self-control. Yeah, I'm lazy.
14. I don't want to sound crazy, but I think the invention of electricity was pretty cool.
13. I'm perpetually disappointed when I see a picture of myself. I doubt Matthew McConaughey has this problem, and I also think he knows how to surf. You're a jerk, Matthew McConaughey.
12. The best secret handshakes are the ones that no one else is aware of (because they're so secret).
11. If I say that I cried tears of joy, am I considered more masculine than someone who says they cried tears of sadness? I feel like that person should actually be considered more masculine, because the notion of sadness feels like a more legitimate reason to cry. Crying because of joy just seems kind of lame, when you think about it.
10. I really wish that snowboarding was a more accessible sport. It's difficult to not look cool when snowboarding.
9. I'm quietly contemplating. Is it possible to loudly contemplate? I feel like that would be the best of both worlds.
8. I really wish we heard more about the least interesting man in the world.
7. I think I would lift weights and exercise more if awesome 80's montage music was always playing in the background at the gym.
6. If more people were awake at this time, would McGriddle sales rise or fall at McDonalds?
5. I have the inkling to listen to Celine Dion music, or at least to find out what "Celine Dion music" is.
4. It's almost 5 AM now, but I have no plans to change the title of this article.
3. The only sport in which my skill level has remained the same throughout my life (and probably always will) is miniature golf. I would think that'd be the case for most people.
2. I want to give an inspirational speech to a group of random people in a crowded elevator. There's very little risk, and so much possible reward.
1. Coming up with a good conclusive statement to a series of random thoughts is a difficult task, so this sentence is what I decided upon.
Have a good day, everyone.
|Posted by Connor Huchton on June 2, 2011 at 8:14 PM||comments (0)|
I wasn't in Miami before Game 2 of the NBA Finals began, so I wasn't able to interview any players or chill with Tim Legler. However, I do have a computer with keys to type on. As a result, here are some notable fake quotes (which weren't said) from Thursday's pregame.
"Basically, I have to step up tonight. With this team, I'm always expected to carry a sizable weight, and that's no different tonight. It's time to towel-wave, bro."- Brian Cardinal
"We weren't invited, but we're here anyway! We might even lower the baskets! Who knows?! WE ARE BREAKING ALL OF THE RULES, BUT IN THE MOST CHARMING FASHION POSSIBLE!"- Franklin and Bash
"I feel like I need to tone down my play tonight. I've been too essential to this team's offense thus far, and I feel like I should let Juwan Howard get some reps."- Mike Bibby
"I'm just trying to be realistic right now. For me, calmness has always taken precedence. I mean, when you think about it...OMG GO MAVS GO MAVS WE GOT THIS!" - Mark Cuban
"I just want to chill, honestly."- Jamaal Magloire
"Let's talk some more about my importance in this game. Eddie House is getting tired of being the only one excited about Eddie House."- Eddie House
"I'm starting my own monocle line soon. We're going to call it "DeShawn's Monocle Store That Sells Monocles". I came up with the name myself."- DeShawn Stevenson
"I won the spelling bee today, but do I get any praise?"- Chris Bosh
"I haven't slept in the last 48 hours. We need to cover LeBron James."- Rick Carlisle
"I'm doing this for J.J. Hickson."- LeBron James
"I'm a beard-wrapped enigma. Swag."- Peja Stojakovic
Stay tuned for more nonexistent, fake updates!
|Posted by Connor Huchton on May 31, 2011 at 4:27 PM||comments (0)|
As a fan, containing enthusiasm can be a nearly impossible task. When "your team" is actively successful at the present time, one cannot help but hope and often, expect, the best to occur.
The seed of hope is a difficult thing to control, once it has entered the psyche of a fan. It controls your actions, your opinions, and even your thoughts. What makes hope so difficult to confront as a fan is its tendency to overproduce in large quantities. Once hope has entered the mind, it uses its host to reproduce like a virus. Nothing can stop its progress except the presence of harsh reality.
Because of the existence of harsh reality, I have always attempted to control my hope as a fan. I seek to bridle my hope, because I know there is often an unpleasant future in the distance. I've always viewed this as the only way to save myself from a complete emotional reversal when the eventuality of losing occurs.
Ever since a certain 2006 debacle, it has seemed like the best method possible.
It seems fitting that now, in 2011, I have released that control. It was never my choice, really. The 2011 Mavericks have simply been too much, especially in these playoffs. I've believed this team would win the championship since December, but never did I think my prediction would have the chance to become valid. It felt like a fleeting attempt at hoping for the best but expecting the typical.
Of course, the playoff run of the 2011 Mavericks has been anything but typical, especially to the outside world. If you've turned on ESPN at any point during the last few weeks, you've seen an ESPN anchor or analyst gushing about Dirk Nowitzki's play as if they were seeing him play basketball for the first time. Contrary to what many believed for the last 5 years, Dirk did not return to Europe following the Mavericks 2007 playoff exit. He's stayed, resolute and determined. In 2011, he's been as determined as I've ever seen him. His team has followed suit.
Now, only one obstacle, the Miami Heat, remains in the path of the triumph of my hope and the hope of countless Dallas Mavericks' fans. It is a mighty obstacle, an obstacle to destroy all other obstacles. It is considered by many NBA experts to be an unstoppable obstacle. I've tried to reconcile myself with the possibility of a crushing loss, but I can't.
I don't have the power to contain my hope. For every fan, this moment must come. A moment when the heart must live and die with every moment, while the mind looks on helplessly. It is an unavoidable moment, but it must be embraced. The acceptance of this hope is merely a product of fate.
And it is fate that will lead the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA championship.
|Posted by Connor Huchton on May 29, 2011 at 3:50 AM||comments (1)|
We live in a harsh, cold, judgmental Internet world. It's a frustrating place, a place where blogs are born and then die in an instant. The progression of a blogger is often consistent in its beginnings, but its end varies infinitely and unavoidably. Finding a niche that hasn't yet been completely fleshed out by an older, wiser blogger can seem like an impossible task. Even when you believe you have a "fresh take" on a story or subject, you probably don't.
The difficulty that exists in creating a self-sustaining, interesting blog isn't entirely impossible to overcome. The key to creating something that is both high-quality and widely read is creating a viewpoint that is different (to even the slightest extent) from the other writers in your field.
A clear example of mass content lies in the ever-growing world of sports blogging. Every tweeter and their mother (Well, not always their mother) has their own WordPress blog or Tumblr. The number of opinions that exist during any given significant moment in sports is incalculably large. The same "news" is reported on hundreds of blogs at once. The formulaic nature of these stories blocks many smaller, non-established blogs from creating any kind of interest in the sports blogging community.
When you glance at the sports "blogosphere" (I really wish that wasn't a term), only a few blogs exist that are fully established as news-reporting sites. A key component of these blogs is the presence of numerous (or at least multiple) writers. For many of these blogs (*cough Big Lead *cough), the production of copious amounts of content seems to be the primary goal. More content, more link clicks, more page views, more advertising, more money, and so on.
A different path taken to garner interest in the sports blogging community is the use of a nuanced, unique, and usually "edgy" view. Prime examples of this method include the sports blogs Kissing Suzy Kolber and Deadspin. Sites like these aren't scared to use "fuck" in a sentence, or post alleged pictures of a veteran quarterback's genitalia. KSK (as Kissing Suzy Kolber is referred to) is a clever, funny site, but its uniqueness often stems from its ability to delve into issues (and speak directly about them) in a way that a more corporate blog like ESPN couldn't.
If I completely understood what makes a blog ultimately achieve success, I wouldn't tell you. I can say that I'm not doing it right. In fact, my blog may be a prime example of one poorly constructed to achieve success.
My lack of success doesn't necessarily stem from the quality or humor of my writing, though that may be part of it. My lack of success largely stems from my inability to fully commit to developing the site to be a source of frequent opinion. Occasionally I might post a blog that's slightly funny or a podcast that's somewhat decent, but my lack of frequency or multiple viewpoints dooms me. I may have nailed the "nuance" part of blog success, but I've completely failed to explore it to its full degree. Two blog posts a week will not pique the interest of the common reader. In order for a blog to reach its full potential (based on the quality of its insight), multiple, rapid viewpoints have to exist, and possess the capacity to react at any moment.
It's also important for a sports blog to have a consistent tone, even if many writers with differing writing styles are featured on the site. A cohesive collective must exist. When I visit Deadspin, I expect the latest "dirt" (I hate describing it that way, but that seems like the most applicable term) about athletes, ESPN, or the tactics of the key policy makers in the sports world. When I go to KSK, I expect to read an article disparaging a Peter King column in a (frequently hilarious) vulgar way. When I visit ESPN, I expect to read a high-profile writer's take or a generic news report. When I visit SB Nation, I expect to read about a specific team from a fellow intelligent, knowledgeable fan or expert. When I read Bleacher Report, I expect to cry.
The key to creating a following that continues to return to your content is to make them expect your specific brand of content to always be delivered, and delivered with frequency. If I visited Deadspin and read three bland news reports about "LeBron's great 32 point game!", the site would lose its relevancy to me. If I visited Deadspin and read the headline "Delonte West visits home of Lebron!", I would feel unsurprised and satisfied with the direction that the site had chosen to take.
What ultimately interests me about the rise and fall of countless sports blogs is that the quality of content is not the most important factor in producing popularity. Methodology wins out, as it always does.
When the formula to success of sports blogs is perceived from a distance, it appears to be almost too simple. Get a couple of like-minded writers together, produce content at a constant rate, and hope for the best . However, that simplistic view leaves out a key component to maximizing the previously mentioned factors: Appeal. And this appeal lies in the creation of a nuance or style that interests a demographic consistently.
The Big Lead, Deadspin, SB Nation, KSK, and any other successful sports blog do have one thing in common: They can only be created and achieve success in their unique manner once. Though new successful sites often springboard from a facet of a previously existing site, their success only continues to a large degree if their content is delivered in a different way. Only so many sites can succeed in the fashion of the SB Nation or Fan Sided blog network-style, unless they are delivered from a different perspective.
So, in my inexperienced view, how can a sports blog find success?
The most problematic issue with combining these factors together is the commitment of time, and often money. Overcoming the above problems is only doable if you spend time consistently creating content and establishing a blog. It may take months or years to create a large following, but it's entirely possible if you're able to be undaunted by the problems that come with searching for success with a sports blog.