Remember When You Used to Write for NotGraphs?*

B-Phillips Sits

Remember when you used to write for NotGraphs? Remember when you first started — when you were first “hired”?

When Carson Cistulli called you on that October day, to talk about your new future at NotGraphs, you walked right out of work (it was the middle of the day), walked all the way home, talking to him, sat in your back yard talking to him about baseball (duh) and also about poetry — which poets you knew, which players you loved, what sort of approach you might take expressing that love on NotGraphs. Dongs were not yet a thing that you mentioned to exasperate Carson; “Baumann!” was not yet a thing Carson uttered with equal parts puritanical exasperation and resigned exclamation. But those would becomes things that you enjoyed, the unspoken benefits of this thing you loved: baseball.

And then you started writing; at first you spent hours on your posts, and so they seemed forced and trite. You hated those posts even then, hate them more now, but your motivation had not yet been beaten out of you, your obsession with baseball still trumped the awareness of your posts’ potentially crippling shittiness.

And anyway, eventually you made a decent post — an idea that just popped in there, one that you didn’t overplan. You just wrote some weird shit, and not everyone who read it liked it, of course, but those who did like it said so, and they liked it a lot, and that made you feel good. Eventually, you started to make posts like that more often, and the feeling that those posts gave you and the feedback they received was more than enough to keep you going, to get you through the inevitable and still all-too-common shitty posts.

You met Carson soon after that, too; you met Dayn Perry, and Patrick Dubuque, and Kyle Davis — felt like part of a community, felt like you’d made some real friends. You had made friends. (Not that making friends has ever been particularly difficult for you, just that making a new friend — someone you can actually call a friend — is one of the greatest joys you have known in life.) You volleyed tweets with people you barely knew, and that felt good, too. All thanks to NotGraphs; all thanks to baseball.

Then you started making more and more Photoshop posts and GIF posts, and these are usually fun, and people enjoy them, but they felt cheap to you — or it felt cheap to only or mostly make these kinds of posts — you did them too often, anyway, you felt — this was not why you were hired, this was not the body of work you wanted to create on NotGraphs, on the internets, among these talented new friends. You wanted to be a writer. You wanted to be considered for “more serious” baseball writing jobs one day.

But you were not diligent; you did not work very hard at all, in fact; you allowed the daily mental grind of shitty posts — of posts that did not meet your own paltry standards — to outweigh your love of baseball, your need to write (however shittily), your sense of community. And maybe no one noticed your absence, and maybe it wasn’t very long, but you will have to work hard now to make sure that absence is actually over. You have to remember why you were even inclined to send NotGraphs your underwhelming “résumé” in the first place: because you fucking love baseball, and you want to learn more about it every day.

What you love about baseball, Baumann, is that baseball, like science, is whatever you want it to be. It is organized and quantifiable; it is unpredictable, irrational, emotional — in the ways it is managed and played, in the ways it is documented, and in the ways it is consumed; it has cadence; it is full of personalities at its core and at its peripheries; it brings people together. From snapshots of baseball, you can project lives and universes in your minds and in your dumb posts. In the mechanics of a hitter’s swing or a pitcher’s delivery you can see the laws and the mysteries of the universe, which is to say you can see yourself, your own perfect imperfections, your own clichéd existence that is, to you, so special. You see, in those mechanics, reason for awe and criticism; you see reason to love your neighbor or to hate yourself, and vice versa. You see war; you see how society has fucked you up. You see that somehow, somehow, christjesus, somehow there is still fucking hope — not much, but some. You see that humanity is not yet mathematically eliminated. You are not even sure that hope is a “good” thing, and you love that, too.

In baseball you see a great baldness, Baumann: human experience peeled and raw, waiting for you to shape it with your own nuanced, fucked up sense of humor, your own juvenile aesthetics. Just remember that. Just remember: fuck you: baseball rules.

*Asked of the author by his beloved, Golden Jersey Sparklepants, this very morn’.

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Why is the ! crossed out?