Three Years And Change

Somewhere back there, The Classical turned three years old. We are getting older, and newer.
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Classical wallpaper by Jacob Weinstein

Pete sent me some stickers a couple weeks ago, the last of the ones from the Kickstarter campaign that made this site possible—or, more correctly, through which something like a thousand of you made possible with donations of various sizes—more than three years ago. If you're in New York City, you can still see these stickers in a few bar bathrooms; it might be that there are some others in bar bathrooms elsewhere across this great nation, and that's nice to think about. There's one on my computer, over the Apple logo, and it sort of lights up and glows orange when the computer's on, which is about the most futuristic effect that we've ever managed here, give or take an app.

Mostly, though, I have not seen these stickers. There were some that I put up in the bathrooms of bars that have since closed; this happens a lot to bars I like, which is probably something I should look into. The rest went out to you, and I don't know what you've done with them, or if you've done anything with them at all. They're just stickers, and lord knows I cannot tell you what I've done with all the stickers I've been given—in authentic gestures of goodwill, by people who know I have little use for stickers—over the years. And also three years is a long time to do something like this, or anything else. Things get painted or papered over, or razored up or otherwise obscured; everything else just sort of accrues, and then one day the view is different. This isn't bad or good. It's just what happens.

It helps, and certainly has helped, that we haven't been doing the same thing for these three years. Whatever the site was going to be—and this is the part I remember least, beyond the fact that the whole run-up seemed to be happening during a sort of shared manic phase after which we all woke up and realized we needed to 1) find out how to get a bunch of hoodies made, and 2) make/do a website—it was only briefly and barely ever that. Our co-founders faded away or left, again not for bad reasons or good reasons but just because that's what happens with the passage of time.

This is a shame, in one sense, because the people with which I co-founded all this are some of the very smartest and best people I've ever met. But whatever the site we made was supposed to be—and I can say now that I'm not sure that any three of us, at any point, had the same idea of what that was—it was not to be. This was always going to happen, just because we didn't know how to make money and dramatically overestimated what even a large group of committed people could or would want to do on their bathroom breaks from their other jobs. The only baseline consensus was that we should make a website, because it would be fun and because it could be good, and that is the only part of it we actually did, let alone got right.

What replaced those founders and those hazy and grandiose original ideas, and what the site wound up being, was mostly a reflection of you, as opposed to us. You gave us the money to make the site, and then you just kept on giving us the site, by writing things for us and helping and caring and otherwise making this all your own; you've made it so much better and more interesting than it would otherwise have been had you not done so. Your ideas are stranger and better than ours; you write in surprising and strange ways, and certainly in ways I can't write about things I'd never even thought about. That's us, now, and it's great.

Day-to-day, we are just what we are—a website that functions a lot of the time but not all of the time; the internet's premiere destination for weird sportswriting; one of the many fortified reserves in which a portion of the world's strategic #sporps reserve can be found at any given time. In the broader sense, which matters to more or less no one but me, The Classical's story is that of a long recession from a site with (not totally ill-founded) delusions of authority into something more anarchic and pluralistic.

I don't know if that's better. I don't know what it could have been, and I never fully grasped what it was supposed to have been. I only know it as the thing that I've worked on more or less every day for the last three years, and so I am more than biased. This is something like my life's work, in a very real sense, and so I can't be objective about it. Of course I love it. Of course I am dizzy and dazzled every day by the fact that there are smart, strange, talented, obsessive people out there I don't know and may never meet who nonetheless care enough to want to make the site over, again and again, every day.

Given that, what else could I feel but this heady opioid fuzz of anxiety and exhaustion and excitement and gratitude and awe? It's not a rhetorical question. I barely remember what my life was like before it.

***

So of course we will keep going, because it would be a shame to stop while it's still fun, and while the site is still interesting and good. But also, because it would be nice if the site stayed interesting and good, we're going to change some things. That's going to start with me.

Our founders are everywhere, and doing great things—Tom Scharpling is saving radio, again; Tim Marchman is running a fairly successful sports web concern; Lang is on TV and Shoals is Shoals and everyone else is working and producing and going on. Without them here, though, most everything has gone through me. This is all great, at least insofar as I have never ever been wrong or lazy or overwrought in my understanding of sports and writing-about-sports. But also I've worried that it has narrowed the site in a way that's unhelpful—obviously, when I'm saying yes or no to pitches, and editing most everything that goes up, what you see are things that I like, which I've then edited to be even more the way I would like them to be.

I've taken more joy in that work than I have in just about any other work I've ever done, but it's both tiring for me and limiting for the site. My fear is that the site would wind up repeating itself, or come to feel burnt-out or backward-looking. My bigger fear is that it would become tiresome, as I became more tired.

The new editorial core of The Classical is going to be made up of people that have written for the site many times, and who seem to me to understand both what we value and how to do the work that gives the site what value it has. Nick Bond has been with us from more or less the very beginning in a sort of all-purpose editorial role; he stuffed t-shirts into envelopes for our Kickstarter fulfillment, and has never left. Colin McGowan, Holly Wendt, Evan Hall, and Mike Piellucci have all written multiple things for the site and the magazine; they are very good writers, nice people, and have a diversity of opinion and perspective that seemed essential to opening the site back up. They are going to introduce themselves soon, and will tell you how to pitch them. Which you should do. The site is still yours, after all.

I'm going to stay on in a role that I haven't bothered to name. All the titles seem sort of grandiose and inapt. I'm still going to edit and probably write the odd piece, although I now do that as part of my job at Vice Sports, and so will do less of it here. I'll still help out with editorial stuff and am going to do some thinking on how to retool The Classical Magazine. I'm going to go to bed a little earlier, and I'm going to watch and read as The Classical evolves again—not into what it was once supposed to be, whatever that was, but into the stranger and better thing it has always been becoming over these last three years. Whatever that is, I look forward to reading it. Thank you for getting us this far, and thanks in advance for taking us wherever we go next.

 


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