Monday, November 7, 2011

Higher Ground - Season 8 of the Mid Majority



If you are a dedicated reader of this site, you know that I am long time admirer of Kyle Whelliston's Mid Majority site.  For seven years, Kyle has written about mid major conference teams, otherwise known as "The Other 24".  Kyle has made it his goal to attend 100 live games every year and write about them.  Along the way every year, he writes essays, or as I like to think, short novels about life, basketball and the world around us.

I have often been amazed at how Kyle has been able to accomplish this for seven years.  Yes, it's through donors like you and me that allow Kyle to be able to write about college basketball.  But we are just his enablers.  The rest is all Kyle in his literary brilliance.  An example of his literary brilliance is the following two paragraphs describing loneliness from his prologue to begin Season Eight of the Mid Majority.
"It doesn't get much lonelier than sitting alone in an enclosed, locked, metal container in the middle of American Nowhere. It's a feeling that encourages a perspective of the universe as viewed through the spectral prism of one's navel. It helps reinforce the ridiculous illusion of the Self as a singular, special, unique entity on a planet of billions, a "me" adrift amongst an invisible "them." 
None of the colleges I visited offered classes in Loneliness Studies, and none ever advertised a Bachelor's or Master's degree in that or any related discipline. But there's no understating the power of loneliness as an unstoppable primal force. Our efforts to escape it explain just about everything we do. To stop running from loneliness is to face skull-crushing existential self-absorption, to confront the little-g god inside."
Kyle's wonderfully written stories are truly honest and once in a while tinged with sadness.  These stories have convinced me that I can never be a full time college basketball beat writer until at least my children are fully grown up (and out of college).  I would miss them and my wife too much being on the road all the time. Plus I dealt with a great amount of loneliness growing up from childhood all the way up through my early college years.  I like to think I am past those years of loneliness, and I don't ever want to go back to them.

And about a year ago, I wrote an article on my site called "Deadlines and Committments vs the 24 Hours of College Basketball".   I consider that one of my favorite articles I have ever written.  In it, I talked about the choices I made in life, none that I will ever regret.  I also talked about the future of my site by saying "if the time comes due to greater priorities where I don't have the time or commitment to write this blog, it will end."

And this is true, I do see a time where it will be very difficult to maintain this site due to spending time following my children's activities.  Also, I have tried and failed miserably to maintain a baseball site called "Ninety Feet from Home", which is sad because there are some very good pieces on that site about baseball and road trips (I never said I was modest).  Plus, as much as I love major league baseball, it's not as fun as writing about live college basketball.

And that's the core foundation of this site; seeing live college basketball games and writing about them.  I learned that from Kyle. So for as long as I can, I will continue to run "Against the Wind" and keep writing about live college basketball games for as long as my life's commitments let me.

And that's what brings us to Season Eight of the Mid Majority and also a new chapter for my site.  Kyle has made season eight "The 800 Games Project".  With the help of his friend, who will be the editor for the site, the Mid Majority's loyal readers will be writing all the articles for the site this season.  The goal is to write at least 800 live game summaries.  Meaning, if you are attending a game, you will be writing a summary of at least 400 words (child's play for my site).

Kyle did several "practice runs" of the 800 Games Played Project last season and I wrote a live game summary for the one of the weekly practice runs.  It was a honor that Kyle chose my live game summary on the James Madison - Hofstra contest, another thrilling overtime game in the history of that series, for that week.

And these summaries have guidelines.  Here are two of the guidelines from the Mid Majority site that best describe how the summaries should be written;
5. A lot of us grew up believing that there were "right ways" to do sports journalism: dry Associated Press game recaps, super-inspiring athlete feature stories, clich√©-ridden "expert" sportz analysis.Zzzzzzzz.  Screw all of those. Your perspective, from your seat, means everything.  Tell us how you got to the game, what it's like at the gym, introduce us to the person next to you and the people in your section, talk about how the experience felt. Weave in season context, team history, whatever seems appropriate. It's up to you to make that interesting, but play-by-play and ESPN catchphrases are inherently boring. So you have a head start on that crap. 
6.This is college, dammit.Tap into something bigger.Literary references, history and philosophy citations, and general academic posturing are encouraged and welcomed. It's okay to be smart. When people tell you that you're "pretentious," what they're really saying is "I didn't pay attention in class." The occasional music and film quotes are okay too -- however, remember the economies of scale inherent in referential humor. Popular selections play to the teeming many, but obscure ones impact a quality few more meaningfully. 
A lot of the site's supporters have signed up for the project. Over six hundred games have been wish-listed by the members, many of which are current college students. This means that they have pledged to write live game summaries for over six hundred games. That's a good start, but we have to follow through on that.

And that brings this to my site.  It's undergoing a slight change.  I will be writing mostly for the Mid Majority's 800 Games Played Project this year.  However, thanks to Kyle granting a Creative Commons License, I can and will post the recaps on my site as well.

However, this means my style of writing about live games (mostly Hofstra's home games) will be somewhat different from past years.   It's even more about talking about the surroundings of the live game itself, whether it's the Lions' Den with creative chants, or talking about Bruiser Flint at his foot stomping finest or trying to bring life the Bob Carpenter Arena barbecue concessions. This is what  I usually write about on this site, but it will be more focused towards that.  I have a goal to see and write about over fifty mid major games this season. I think if all works out well, I can accomplish this goal, probably for one of the last times that I can with my children getting older.  Last season I attended over 40 games, so this isn't that far of a stretch.

My first game is tentatively the LIU-Hofstra game for Friday, November 11.  This will also be a first for me. I am going to write two stories on the game.  One for will be the 800 Games Played Project from a LIU perspective.  The other will be a Hofstra based perspective for this site. Both will be posted on this site by sometime Saturday, November 12.  It's a challenge, but I am looking forward to it.

Now I have a challenge for you.  Are you a mid major college basketball fan?  Do you have a mid major college team you root for and would like to write about them?  Why not join the 800 Games Played Project (which you can follow on Twitter @800GP.  If you are not a Bally Club member of the Mid Majority site already, but want to join to write about the site, contact Kyle via the form here to get a free code.  But make sure to give a good reason why you want to write about live mid major college basketball games.

Kyle has offered all of us a challenge.  That all of us is greater than each of us and the Mid Majority faithful can join together and write eight hundred plus live summary games. If the project succeeds, it will then likely be how the Mid Majority site works from now on.   And think about that, a forum for college students to become budding young writers or college basketball loving alums to write about their mid major teams.  I don't think there is any other site like that.  

It's this idea of a great college basketball collective writing stories about mid major teams that don't get the press the power conference teams have in their corner.   Eight hundred games.  It's a goal that the Mid Majority readers, and now writers, can attain.  That time starts tonight as college basketball season begins.

It's time to reach for higher ground.



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