In my mind, there exists a Baseball Bloggers Hall of Fame. Because the good Lord above knows we’re not getting into Cooperstown. Nobody knows exactly where it — the Baseball Bloggers Hall Of Fame — is located. It could be anywhere; that’s the anonymous beauty of it.
The magical Baseball Bloggers Hall of Fame is, of course, a basement, and only a basement. A team of elderly mothers and grandmothers operate the joint. They lead you downstairs, and serve you free orange and apple juice. Sometimes, when they’re extra surly, they leave the refreshments at the top of the stairs. Visiting is an authentic experience.
Keyboards hang from the ceiling. In some cases, entire workstations have been preserved. It’s the goal of the Baseball Bloggers Hall of Fame to showcase, for the entire world to see, the baseball blogger’s natural habitat.
A committee of nine — David Appelman, Dave Cameron, Carson Cistulli, Joe Posnanski, Kevin Kaduk, Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer, Craig Calcaterra, and Keith Law — are judge and jury. They hold the keys to the Baseball Bloggers Hall of Fame, and decide the fate of the millions upon millions of baseball blogs that exist today.
Up for induction in 2011: The Fightins. May the blog rest in peace.
Inspired by my esteemed colleague Eno Sarris’ Media eInterviews, I decided to reach out to Mike Meech, whom you might know as meechone, purveyor of The Fightins, to find out more about one of the most popular Philadelphia Phillies blogs to ever call the Internet home.
Navin Vaswani: When did The Fightins begin?
Mike Meech: I started The Fightins the Friday before Memorial Day weekend in 2008.
That wasn’t where my “blogging career” began, however. In late 2006, one of my e-friends that I knew from a hip-hop message board told me he wanted to start a baseball blog with a writer for each team. Since I always talked about Philadelphia sports (and was rather opinionated about it), he figured I’d be a perfect candidate for the Phillies position. Back then I barely knew what a blog was, but I gave it a shot anyway. I somehow acquired a half-decent following (well, not *somehow* — consistent links from The 700 Level & Deadspin helped tremendously) and decided to team up with one of my favorite Deadspin commenters, Chamomiles Davis, and branch off to start our own brand of Phillies humor with The Fightins.
Chamo was/is hilarious, but the readers who didn’t appreciate his particular style of creative writing were extremely vocal, and I think that eventually bummed him out so much that he bailed. Then I grabbed a few more writers (Tug Haines, LONG DRIVE, Dash Treyhorn, Dan McQuade, FTM & Petzrawr) to help me keep the site going.
In November 2010, without so much as a goodbye, I decided to kill it.
Navin Vaswani: In the beginning, in terms of blogging, and writing about your favorite team, and your favorite sport, was there any one moment of inspiration?
Mike Meech: I don’t even think it was about the writing for me. I never looked at myself as a good writer (half-decent would be more accurate), so I did whatever I could to mask that deficiency with funny screengrabs, videos, and .gifs. Plus, I didn’t volunteer or ask to be a blogger. It was more of a coaxing.
But if there was one “moment of inspiration” that I can recall, it was during a Spring Training game in 2007, and Pat Burrell gave the middle finger to his old manager Terry Francona, who was managing the Red Sox in the other dugout. I took a picture of my buddy’s TV, posted it on Bugs & Cranks, and had my first monster post that was picked up on a million different sites. To this day, if you Google “pat burrell middle finger,” the first image result is a pic my friend’s TV with the DVR paused.
Navin Vaswani: Did the success of The Fightins — the comments, the community, the t-shirt sales — take you by surprise?
Mike Meech: You know, it was so gradual, and I was never really concerned with page views (so I hardly checked them), that I didn’t even notice how big it got. When I step back now and look at it, I can’t help but be proud of what we accomplished as an independent site with no discernible skill.
In the end though, that might have actually been the death of the site. Sometime during the 2009 season, it got to the point where readers would get angry if the site wasn’t updated enough to their liking, and I found myself rushing posts on the site just to shut them up. On top of that, the MLBPA started sending us unfriendly cease and desist letters for our t-shirts, and it kind of took some of the fun out of blogging.
But we won Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly 2010” in the sports blog category, a bracket tournament consisting of 65 Phillies blogs, had Matt effing Stairs call us to send him a couple cases of the t-shirts that we made about him, broke news about the Toronto series being moved to Philly, saw Jayson Werth on the post-game show being interviewed in the Chooch shirt we made — AND WE’RE COMPLETE IDIOTS. If anything, that’s the impressive part.
Navin Vaswani: The Phillies won the World Series in 2008. They played for the World Series trophy again in 2009, and lost in the NLCS last year. There was Roy Halladay’s perfect game. And his no-hitter in last year’s division series. So much of why we’re fans, and why we blog, is about the journey. You and your crew documented it all. How much of a factor was the Phillies’ success in leading to your blogging retirement? In letting go?
Mike Meech: I don’t think the success of the Phillies led to my retirement so much as the success of the Phillies led to the success of The Fightins. (Did that make sense?)
Listen, I’m not delusional — if we were in another era and the Phillies were a horrible team when I decided to blog about them, the public interest just wouldn’t be there to make us popular. In my opinion, most of the success we had as a website we owe to the Phillies for being so damn good the past four years.
But you’re right, the journey of the season — and documenting it during a championship season — can’t be duplicated. It did make the walking away part somewhat easier.
Navin Vaswani: Did it ever feel like work? Or did it come down to time management, in terms of your day job, and your family? You know, real life.
Mike Meech: The only time it ever felt like work was when I’d be asked to write something on deadline for another site. When I was doing The Fightins it was me doing whatever I felt like doing at whatever time I felt like doing it. I looked forward to that time after I put the kids to bed when I could just sit and construct a blog post. It was sort of therapeutic.
The reason I stopped — the ONLY reason — is because I don’t have enough time anymore to dedicate to the site. Sure, I could keep it around and update it a few times a week, but I’d rather go out on top then become some run-of-the-mill Phillies blog that has seen its better days.
I’ve got a full-time job, a beautiful wife, two insane boys, and another kid on the way. I just made the decision that the rare free-time I do have would be better spent with them. I know, I’m a dummy.
Navin Vaswani: Twitter’s changed the game. Personally speaking, it’s affected my writing. I simply don’t blog as much as I used to, and instead choose to waste my time on Twitter. Your personal account — @meechone — has over 3,200 followers. The Fightins‘ account still has over 3,400 followers. Did Twitter play a role in the death of The Fightins?
Mike Meech: I think of Twitter as a way to get my stupid opinions out there with nary a repercussion. I have no idea how/why that many people follow me (guesstimate: 65% spam bots), but there’s nothing like the instant gratification that Twitter provides. Say you write a hilarious (in your own opinion) blog post with one killer line/reference, you almost have to pray that people read that far, recognize it, and give you props in the comments section. On Twitter, you only use your funniest line, and 10 seconds later it’s being retweeted by people with ‘lololol’ attached. INSTANT GRATIFICATION.
Plus, it’s a killer way to get news. If someone tries to “break” some bullsh*t story to me, chances are I saw it on Twitter about three hours prior. As a matter of fact, it has gotten to the point where bloggers can just sit on Twitter all day long and nitpick what they want to blog about without doing a thing. I remember when finding the obscure story used to be a blogger skill; Twitter evened the playing field.
Navin Vaswani: Now that you’re out of the game, what baseball blogs, if any, and other than NotGraphs, of course, do you read today? And what makes a good baseball blog?
Mike Meech: With the recent retirement of the Walkoff Walk fellas (R.I.P.), I’m down to just one baseball-only blog that I check multiple times a day, and that’s Big League Stew. He’s my boy and all, so my opinion might be a bit biased, but Kevin Kaduk is the most consistent blogger around. And to write as well as he does while simultaneously dealing with the wack-o’s in the Yahoo! comments section is quite an impressive feat. Oh yeah, and Larry Granillo from Wezen-Ball kills it on a consistent basis. Zoo With Roy, too.
I read a ton others, as well, but the rest are mostly from links I see floating around. And I wouldn’t say there’s a blueprint for a good baseball blog. You just need some sort of angle/voice that is unique and makes people want to come back.
Navin Vaswani: Do you miss it, blogging, especially as another season is about to begin?
Mike Meech: **** yeah, I do.
Don’t think I haven’t sat in front of the computer when I come home drunk and tried to enter my credit card information to re-activate the site. Because I have.
Navin Vaswani: I’ve just received word from the committee. You’re the first inductee into the Baseball Bloggers Hall of Fame. Congratulations. Any words of wisdom for young bloggers out there looking to get into the game?
Mike Meech: Nobody gave me any advice. Figure it out for yourself, hotshot.
A hearty congratulations to Mike Meech on his induction into the Baseball Bloggers Hall of Fame. And a hearty thank you to him for answering my questions, and sending over the image you saw once upon a time, all the way at the top of this post.
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