Monday, May 30, 2016

We Are The Fans: Best of the Blogs Book Proposal

Several years ago, back when sports blogging was "the thing to do", I had a grand idea. I wanted to collect the best in sports blog writing and publish it. I had a title ("We Are The Fans: The Best of Sports Blogs"), a 17-page proposal, and dozens of selected examples.

Unfortunately, not one literary agent or publisher was interested. Although everyone said it was a great idea, there was the dilemma of copyright and compensation. How would I pay each of these bloggers who originally published their work for free? What about bloggers who were more established than others? What about blogs on sites such as ESPN or Deadspin? What would be the qualifications for a blogger to be featured: published, never-been-published, laid-off but still writing?

(Speaking of Deadspin, if I had somehow gotten a deal, I really wanted former Deadspin editor Will Leitch to write the foreword. He would have been perfect as most sports blogs acknowledged him as sort of the "godfather" of sports blogs.)

Now, nearly six years later, sports blogging as a "thing" is pretty much dead. Most bloggers have let their websites die and moved their voices to twitter and other social media platforms. Or they have joined bigger platforms that allow anyone to post and pay a pittance. A small percentage of the bloggers I wanted to feature have actually turned their writing into a career.

Also dead is my hope for this project. Therefore, I've decided to post parts of the proposal here. I'll eventually post links to the stories that are still online, so you will have what I thought were the Best of the Blogs here, instead of in a nice hardcover book on you coffee table.

I guess you can print them out and staple them together, if printers and staplers are still a "thing".

We Are The Fans: The Best of Sports Blogs

Proposal by: Michael Lortz



During the past five years, the sports media landscape has drastically changed. Fans who used to be at the mercy of the ESPN monopoly of national sports reporting now express themselves through sports blogs and other interactive media. These online venues have given average fans ways to broadcast their own opinions and engage in conversation with other fans with similar views.

The creative freedom of blogging has opened doors for fans to showcase their skills in a number of different ways. Some have used their blogs as daily diaries, writing about their favorite team and chronicling their views on each game, score, or transaction. Others have used their corner of the internet for general sports musings, usually providing commentary on news from throughout the sports world. Yet another group has used their forum to fill gaps in mainstream reporting, filling statistical niches and focusing on deeper analysis.  Lastly, a fourth group of fans have published insightful, well-written posts that could compare to any mainstream editorial or feature piece.

Unfortunately, due to the cacophony of the blogosphere, the best independent blogging voices are often only heard by a select few. Although members of the sports blogosphere generally promote each other and share admired work, the best blogged sports writing is barely read by a fraction of the audience held by the mainstream sports media outlets. To illustrate, the most read sports blog,, receives an average of approximately 8 million readers per month. By comparison, receives a much greater average of 20 million readers per month.

By showcasing the best and most creative entries of the sports blogosphere, We Are The Fans introduces readers to a new group of voices. Voices that speak much like their own, think as they think, laugh as they laugh, and cheer (or boo) as they cheer. We Are The Fans is not only a collection of essays, musings, and commentary, it is the voice of real sports fans.

Chapter Outline

  1. Nostalgic – Past Events: Among the freedoms of bloggers is the ability to chronicle those moments that meant so much to them. This chapter will highlight blog entries in which authors recall their special sports moments.

  2. Satire: Quite a few sports bloggers use satire as a way to highlight and poke fun at hot sports topics. This chapter will be comprised of posts from those bloggers who skewer their intended targets with over-the-top hyperbole and often create humorous caricatures of athletes.

  3. New Media versus Old Media: This chapter will highlight some of the best posts on the subject of the evolution of communication in sports writing and the effect the advent of sports blogging has had on sports media.

  4. Race and Gender in Sports: Race and Gender are as much an issue in sports as in any other aspect of society. This chapter will highlight some of the best writing by bloggers of both sexes and various ethnicities on the subject of race, gender, and equality in sports.

  5. Live Blog: One of the biggest advantages of the blogging medium is the ability to update work and react immediately to an event. This chapter will feature some of the best live blogs in the sports blogosphere during the biggest events.

  6. Reflective – Current event: Similar to the chapter on past events, this chapter will sample the best blog writing on current events that affected the writer. Among the possible examples are a long-awaited championship, death of a favorite athlete, or anything thing else that moved the blogger to write.

  7. Analytical/ Statistical: Bloggers often fill the gaps in mainstream reporting with extensive analytical research. Without the pressure of deadlines, bloggers are able to look deeper into the statistics of sports and shed light on the nuances of the games. This chapter will gather the best of these analyses.

  8. International: Many sports bloggers come from different ethnicities and bring these international perspectives to their blogs. These fans look at sports from a non-American viewpoint. This chapter will highlight the best international sports perspectives.

  9. Top 10 Lists: Many sports bloggers have taken their queue from late night talk show hosts and gotten laughs through top ten lists. This chapter will list the best of the sports blogosphere’s top 10 lists.

  10. Pop culture comparisons: Proving that the analogy part of the SAT test never dies, many sports bloggers use the familiar if X is to Y, then A is to B formula to compare sports entities to popular culture figures. This chapter will feature the best of these posts.

  11. Comedy/Humor: As fans, many bloggers are able to take an outside look at sports and approach their posts from a humorous, light-hearted perspective. This chapter will highlight the best and funniest of these posts.

  12. Insightful: This chapter will feature those posts that discuss sports, athletes, or events in an insightful, non-conventional way. Many of these posts are longer, well-written pieces that give insight to a perspective that most fans might not think about.

  13. Miscellaneous: The final chapter will collate all posts that do not fit in the above categories. This chapter may discuss elements such as sporting equipment, memorabilia, or sports businesses.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The problem with student loans and poor guidance

There were two very interesting, very different stories about college graduates written last week.

The first, written in the FSView & Florida Flambeau (which I used to write for), tells the story of recent FSU grad Giovanni Rocco. According to the FSView, Rocco is the poster child for the horrible plague of student loans and increasing college costs. The FSView writes that Rocco now owes $42,000 for a dual degree in Political Science and Communications.

The same day, posted an article on Michael Vaudreuil, a 54-year old father of three who graduated after working as a janitor at Worchester Polytechnic University for eight years. According to NBCNews, Vaudreuil graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in mechanical engineering with a minor in psychology. He took advantage of the university's policy of free tuition for employees and completed one to two classes per semester.

In the big picture, this is what is wrong with our university systems. They push the idea that students have to complete undergrad programs in 4 to 5 years and that they have to do these programs immediately after high school.

College administrations need to do better.

Yes, college costs have risen. Yes, student loan rates have risen. But students make their schedule. Vaudreuil took an adult approach to his education. He saw his resources and applied them to his situation, figuring as long as he maintained the course, he would reach his goals.

I don't mean to pick on a younger Seminole, but Rocco did everything college students shouldn't do.
  • He knew he didn't have the funds, but took loans anyway.

  • He majored in a program that leads to low paying entry level jobs.

  • He participated in student clubs instead of working.
“I decided that it was more important for me to get a quality education and not focus so much on how to pay for it,” Rocco says. “If you’re only thinking about how to pay for it and not what you’re going to get from it, that might cheat you out of a good opportunity.”
This is what college students need to be talked out of. Opportunities are great, but maturity means balancing opportunities with cost.  The typical student is already facing enough learning experiences in college. They are learning their capacities in social relationships, academics, group involvement, and time management. They should not be left to flounder in financial management.

By the simple fact they barely out of their teen years, most college students do not think about long-term risks. Most also don't think about long-term financials. They need to be given better information on how their debt will grow. They should also be given realistic plans that incorporate not only their academic needs, but also their financial budget. College student loan counselors need to work better with academic advisors in crafted plans for each individual student.

And if the case calls, counselors need to tell kids to stop taking on debt. Even if that means delaying their education.

Of course, Vaudreuil faces his own challenges now. According to US News, people over 50 face increase challenges finding new employment. The workforce is getting younger, faster, and more fluid and Vaudreuil needs to compete with his new skills against many young workers half his age. As a mechanical engineer, he might never make senior management. Time might have passed him by for a lengthy career in the field.

But he is still debt free. And in the big picture of taking care of his family, an entry level job in mechanical engineering should pay more than his current job as a janitor. In the long run, he and his family can look forward to improving their status in life.

Meanwhile, Rocco will be saddled with debt for most of his working life. He will struggle to pay off the balance as the interest on his loans begins to accumulate. When he buys a house or a new car, his personal debt will continue to grow.

From an employers' perspective, the fact that these two stories are public, we can make some judgement on the personal traits of each. Hiring managers will look up Rocco's name and read about a student that while intelligent, made poor financial decisions and didn't think long-term. He might also be more likely to jump to higher paying opportunities sooner, turning off hiring managers at organizations that might not pay as much.

For Vaudreuil, hiring managers will see someone with determination. The right company will see someone they can plug right into their corporation and get maturity and someone who plots a goal, understands the risks, and is dedicated.

As someone who enlisted in the military so I could get the GI Bill to pay for college, re-enlisted in the National Guard to pay for my first graduate degree, then put aside money made in Afghanistan to pay for my second master's degree, trust me, there is nothing wrong with taking your time to get through college.

If college takes 10 years to graduate, then it takes 10 years. A career path is not a race.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review of Hip-Hop & Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason

A few months ago, I picked up the book "Hip-Hop & Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason". Published in 2005, the book explores the ideas in hip-hop culture and music and compares them to ideas and concepts in classical and modern philosophy. It attempts to bring academia to pop culture as it discusses the social and impact and messages in hip-hop culture and music.

Overall, I thought the book was pretty good. Especially when it covered what is now "conscious hip-hop" - songs with social lyrics. Also interesting were chapters on the use of the words "nigga" and "bitch" and their impact on listeners. Also covered is an exploration in the messages of inner city struggle and how hip-hop is a vessel for communication, a motivating message, and vent for frustration.

Hip-hop has always been a culture with two sides: a playful, party minded side, where MC and DJ entertain and try to captivate the crowd with wicked wordplay and a blend of beats that keeps folks dancing, and a serious side, where urban story tellers broadcast stories of the streets. What these two sides celebrate or denounce is widely covered in Hip-Hop & Philosophy. For example, the book attempts to answer why lawlessness is often celebrated in hip-hop crime songs. Are these stories fantasy or a reflection of a broken social contract between the artist's environment and his/her society?

The cited works in Hip-Hop & Philosophy is a who's who of lyrical talents. The works of Public Enemy, Nas, Common, Ice Cube, and Dead Prez are often quoted as examples of hip-hop taking a social stand. Meanwhile, quotes by 50 Cent, Nelly, and several others show hip-hop's non-socially conscious and often not socially acceptable side.

My biggest critique with Hip-Hop & Philosophy is in the opening essays. Too often the authors in the beginning of the book try to hard to inject hip-hop slang into the text. For example, Derrick Darby in an attempt to question the power of God, writes how God would be challenged to roll a blunt too big for Him to smoke or how God couldn't create a glock too big for Him to wield. Surely, Darby could have found better examples. Darby also injects far too much slang in his essay, making it almost unreadable.

Co-editor Tommie Shelbie is almost as bad as Darby in his essay on love. With quotes such as "Socrates rocks the mic with heavy doses of logic, irony, and aggression", Shelbie also panders to hip-hop ignorance. Older readers know Socrates never rocked a mic in Ancient Greece and younger readers should be taught honestly Socrates method of communication. It is perfectly acceptable to say he preached or spoke his word to the masses in the manner he did. The point is to make the comparison between modern hip-hop and the ancient philosophers, not to lose readers by making Socrates "hip".

Ten years after its publication, the messages discussed in Hip-Hop & Philosophy are still relevant, perhaps even moreso. There is no doubt this book can help those who don't understand the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of the messages of the movement are spoken in hip-hop and discussed in the book. Of course, also still relevant are the negative elements in hip-hop - the idea that women are "bitches and hoes" and the goal is to make money or acquire power by any means necessary. I wonder what Hip-Hop & Philosophy would say about "trap rap", southern rap, and other sub-genres that have created several culture clashes within hip-hop.

Overall, Hip-Hop & Philosophy wasn't a bad read. It is not a bad book to keep between my philosophy classics and books on African-American culture such as Soul on Ice, Soledad Brother, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Would I read it again? Maybe not cover to cover, but I might reference it at some point when writing about modern social movements.

Overall Grade: B