Summer Recap 2015

Sunday, when I returned to Syracuse from Maine, I stepped off the bus and felt thoroughly too cold. It was jarring. When I left Friday, Syracuse was balmy, too hot even. A sweltering 93 degrees on day. This was more my speed. I know this Syracuse.

But putting on sweatpants for a trek downtown signaled to me that summer is over. I’d been ignoring the signs for weeks, but I now I have to give up.

So in homage to summer, here are some of the adventures I traveled on since May:

It all started when I got the Esquire gig.

Before I left campus, I had to illegally stream a boring boxing match and found out why boxing is dead. In more realizations before New York, I tracked Bill Simmons’ saga right after leaving ESPN for Part I and then in Part II the one month later fallout was dissected.

Then I got to New York and THINGS STARTED HAPPENING.

I saw Bartolo Colon, Least Likeliest Major Leaguer to Hit a Double, hit a double.

I saw an unbelievable baseball game in Yankee Stadium featuring a crazy comeback in the ninth inning that a friend of mine wanted to skedaddle early from.

After that, history in Belmont Park as American Pharoah raced to the Triple Crown. I was totally under dressed and under duress.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, a train ride away, was the site of summer’s greatest moment: The Hot Dog Eating Contest, and the summer’s greatest man: George Shea.

I also got time this summer to write a story about Strafford, New Hampshire’s own, Bobby Wegner, he of the 7-foot-8 stature.

Then I started wandering around Harlem. First, I went to historic basketball court, Rucker Park.

Then I realized Harlem represents the struggle baseball and basketball are having for national attention.

It struck me, through my friend Joey, that relationships are like saving baseball games…everyone will blow some every once in a while, just have the confidence to come back out and pitch.

Lastly, and most dreadfully, I spent a lot of time at Citi Field and sort of fell in love with the New York Mets. I’m sorry, everyone.

Then I came home. And after subjecting me to a summer of dreadful offense and atrocious pitching, the Red Sox did a nice thing for me.

(End note: This is a list of me getting very lucky and being in the right place at the right time. I feel #blessed to have been able to do all this. Thanks so much to my family and my friend Sam Blum, who made many of these adventures possible.)

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

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The Jubilant (and Strange) Scene at the Belmont Stakes

Getty Images/Rob Carr

Getty Images/Rob Carr

ELMONT, N.Y. – As American Pharoah rounded the third turn and pulled away from the field, the man in the navy blazer turned and – to no one in particular – screamed, “BRING ME MY MOTHERF*CKING MONEY!”

He seemed not to care about the Coors Light slopping from the glass in his right hand onto his white shirt and khakis.

As the horse grew closer, men jumped up and down, shaking the bleachers and slapping one another’s backs. A woman – who said she’d traveled globally for horse racing – stopped screaming as her voice caught. Three girls popped small champagne bottles and the corks flew over the raised hands.

Even Navy Blazer’s continued bellows were drowned out by the crowd as the horse neared the finish line. I am not a horse racing fan – this was my first time at the track – but suddenly, I felt caught up. Numbly, I felt myself cheer wildly and high-five strangers.

American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown horse in 37 years.

Sitting at breakfast, my friend Sam asked me to come to Belmont with him, which he was covering. I agreed begrudgingly because the ticket was $10 and there was an outside chance at history.

After buying the ticket, I realized my error. For breakfast, I had thrown on thrice-worn board shorts and an old, stained, The Office-themed “Scott’s Tots” t-shirt. That would not do for one of the only sporting events in the country where the dress is as much a competition as what happens on the field. But I didn’t have time to go home.

Of the 90,000-plus in attendance Saturday, I saw one other man without a collar.

Wanting a better view of some of the earlier races, I slipped into the “Club section” – credit my mother’s lesson about always assuming an air of belonging – where my ugly-duckling complex worsened.

There, an usher grimaced at me. She asked me politely to leave – though it may have had more to do with my absence of a green club wristband than the presence of a t-shirt. As I turned to go, a hand grabbed my shoulder.

A stumbling, well-dressed blond man seized hold of me and shouted at the usher that I belonged. I must’ve misplaced my bracelet. (The same usher had just evicted this man from the reserved seats, perhaps prompting his rebellion.)

“Hey!” he shouted. “Stop disturbing my friend, uh…” – a glance at my shirt – “Scott! He’s with us. We love Scott.”

Already frayed from his earlier belligerent protests, the usher harrumphed and left. The pinstriped, straw-hatted man guffawed and stuck his hand out.

Jesse, a “former frat star” at Lehigh, was rolling with his frat pack. The four of them smelled of liquor and smoke. Right then, that smelled like victory.

After a few races, Jesse & Co. went to the bar. I met up with Sam. We didn’t really know how to bet the horses, but we picked the ones with middle-of-the-road odds. Consulting an elderly woman, she explained what the numbers on the slip meant (which is almost nothing). But we really learned the meaning of gambling by playing and, of course, losing.

Sam left to keep working and I sat for a while, attempting to conceal my non-club-level clothing and taking a rest. (We arrived at 11 a.m., the big race post time was 6:50 p.m.)

Women wearing colorful dresses and ludicrously-shaped hats strutted in heels higher than Jesse. Men in loud suits bought expensive champagne and tallboys, carrying them back to the seats.

Benches facing the five televisions with racing coverage filled with men furiously scribbling in notebooks and, sometimes, shouting at the screens, at a horse, to run faster. Sweaty men tore up betting slips in line to wager more. Later outside, one man, sitting at the top of section 308, launched into a rage as the horses came out from the tunnel for the race preceding the actual Belmont.

“Are you f*cking joking?” he yelled as he grabbed his head. “My horse is overweight! She’s got fat legs! My horse has fat legs!”  (The horse finished a close second.)

Before, the Belmont was relaxed, even abuzz with nervous energy; waiting on history. Not a hint of Hunter S. Thompson’s purported decadence or depravity.

But after, with a rush on the ticket offices to claim the winners, the scene was madness: Inebriated patrons in bizarre clothing stumbled in a mass of cacophonous voices towards the little windows. It seemed like a disorienting, non-childproofed version of a Mad Hatter tea party.

Despite the excitement and the energy, it felt strange watching. A man clutching two champagne glasses dozed off on a bench. An announcer shouted over the TV, “That’s why this is the greatest sport in the world!” The owner of the horse accepted the Triple Crown hardware on TV and said he’s never felt prouder of a horse.

But I thought: What does that horse care? He’s going to go back to his paddock tonight and cruise for sugar cubes like any other night. He doesn’t know what he’s just won.

I thought of the words that a man had said to me while waiting for the race to start.

“Your first race, huh?” he said. “Sh*t, if Pharoah wins today, you might never need to go to another one.”

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York City. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com.

Life After Simmons: What will become of Grantland?

 Everyone is worried about Bill Simmons.

Simmons, possibly today’s most popular sports media persona, will undoubtedly find work. Whether he flips to another network – Vox’s SB Nation, Fox Sports and Turner Sports/TNT (because of the NBA licenses) have been rumored – or starts his own platform is inconsequential. (Deadspin wrote a guide on how to employ Simmons, then eliminated itself from contention with one post.) With brash opinions, a large following and cross-media accessibility, I’m sure Simmons won’t fade.

But the more interesting question is: What will ESPN do?

It has a hugely-popular web site featuring a team with a collective greatness that hasn’t been seen since Ocean’s 11. (Movie references in a sports column? Must involve Simmons.)

Two questions loom for ESPN execs: What will become of Grantland? And, what will become of the slew of stars?

To the former: ESPN president John Skipper says the site will be unaffected.

To the latter point, it seems illogical to think that Grantland will lose writers simply because of Simmons’ departure. After all, writers still get paid. There’s no concrete figure floating around on the web, but a senior writer for Deadspin (a Gawker site) said he earned roughly $72,000 annually. This Business Insider article estimates Grantland writers out-earn Gawker employees by double. Lucrative deals hard to come by elsewhere.

But the thing which made Grantland so attractive for writers: Simmons shielded his staff from generating posts designed purely for web traffic, or any reader stat-based pieces. They were allowed to spend time developing and searching for thoughtful pieces. Whomever ESPN hires to replace Simmons will presumably affect Grantland writers’ decision whether or not to stay, but the continued freedom of piece’s subject and timeline may end up being the decisive factor.

By “those writers” I don’t mean Simmons himself, who may be the worst writer Grantland employs. Jack Hamilton of Slate thinks Simmons’ departure is the best thing for his career, and I agree with his hypothesis. Simmons’ columns possibly suffer because of obligations to his podcasts and television appearances – both of which he does extremely well. But the columns… They are novellas. They are out-of-focus and incoherent and sometimes seem as if he’s insistent on dropping every name in a really-not-that-related anecdote. I’m being much nicer than this Deadpsin take-down:

SimmonsDeadspinTakeDown

by Albert Burneko, Deadspin

By “those writers” I mean the genius of Zach Lowe, Bill Barnwell and the like, who offer analysis of basketball and football, respectively, that I’ve never read before. I feel as if I’m getting smarter by reading them and they write as if they were explaining it to me, sitting next to me on my couch. Grantland put them on an accessible platform, bringing them into the spotlight from the bowels of a high school classroom and Pro Football Focus. Bryan Curtis, Rembert Browne and Brian Phillips write brilliant pieces I wouldn’t think of otherwise, like the media vs. Oklahoma City Thunder think piece by Curtis. I’m not a huge fan of the site’s culture section (I don’t watch Game of Thrones or Mad Men) but a movie-junkie friend of mine says Wesley Morris and Andy Greenwald are the best there is.

The reason why Grantland could afford to let its writers have a lengthy leash – and not produce oodles of lists and slideshows and GIFs – is because Grantland complements a traffic giant in ESPN. Let the content be good on Grantland and not dictated by readers statistics was the strategy. Places like Deadspin can be sometimes with some of its more ridiculous stories, like a guide to volunteering at your kid’s school. Or, some sites like Bleacher Report, is only lists and slideshows. A lot of sites need those to increase clicks to increase readership and inflate ad rates, but not Grantland up until now.

SimilarWeb says Grantland attracted 13 million visitors in April 2015, its best month yet, according to a farewell email Simmons sent to an employee. That’s also good for the 1500th most-trafficked site in the U.S. during that time.

In April, Deadspin attracted 17.7 million; SB Nation, 26 million; Bleacher Report, 48.8 million; ESPN itself, nearly 200 million. Deadspin and Bleacher Report had similar bounce rates (55 percent) and average page visit time (a little over three minutes) to Grantland. It will be interesting to read Grantland’s June 2015 statistics because that will be the first month without any content produced by Simmons. As the year progresses, we’ll be able to differentiate how much traffic Grantland generates opposed to how much Simmons brought in.

That’ll be an interesting study because the site sought to carve out a place for long-form journalism on the web. Critics say Grantland isn’t journalism. Blog posts regularly surpass 2,000 words and, the Columbia Journalism Review says, the site is the “Manhattan Project of navel-gazing.” The Big Lead, a USA Today product, studied Grantland’s content in 2013 and found that, between May 29 and June 4, only one post out of 125 included a scene with a person that didn’t include the writer.

While the question of who is more responsible, Simmons or the content, will be interesting to see for casual viewers, employees don’t have that luxury. They have to decide, soon, whether or not they’ll stay. This site protected “Writers from being search-engine-optimized into near-oblivion,” the Columbia Journalism Review wrote.

But if the site was really built for Simmons to keep him happy at ESPN, like he always said it was, then we know what will happen: It will be gone. If Simmons is gone, there’s no reason to keep him happy with it. When Simmons is gone, why should ESPN care about what he leaves behind? Other writers neither drive traffic like Simmons nor have his profile. If the best writers leave, then quality declines. If quality declines, then why would readers visit the site? If readers don’t visit, why would ESPN continue to fund an abandoned, unloved site?

Grantland could be the next The National. Simmons said Grantland was molded in the former daily sports newspaper’s image.

Good news for Simmons: Frank Deford, The National’s editor-in-chief, walked away from the paper’s rubble and continued his historic, legendary career.

Bad news for Grantland: The National died a quick death.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

Question I’m wondering but didn’t work into the article: What does this mean for Jason Whitlock’s site, The Undefeated, a struggling, demanding, ESPN-backed start-up aimed as “the black Grantland”?

The NFL Draft Prospect You Wish You Knew, Were

There are can’t-miss prospects, and then there are prospects who are all miss.

Shaquille Green-Thompson was both at different points in his life. The linebacker out of Washington is a near-lock to be drafted in the first-round  of the NFL Draft this year, but there was a time he couldn’t hit.

In 2012, as an 18-year-old playing for the Boston Red Sox in the Gulf Coast League, he registered 39 bats and struck-out 37 times. (To his credit, he also earned eight walks.)

The Red Sox had took the 6-foot-2, 220-pound hyper-athletic prospect in the 18th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft based on defense alone. He played 13 games. Deadspin chronicled his mis-adventures throughout the summer and Green-Thompson became a hackneyed punchline on the Internet.

Mercifully, his season ended early because Green-Thompson decided to honor his commitment to Washington as one of the top safety recruits in the country. He shipped off to Washington, started going by the simpler Shaq Thompson and never returned.

***
Notes: Part of me wants to laugh at Thompson because he played baseball and was really bad at it, but a few things stop me:
1. He played pro baseball and I never will.
2. He proactively took at-bats from other prospects my favorite team could’ve been developing.
3. Thompson’s plan was my plan. When I was seven-years-old and the best at every sport I played, I knew that someday I’d be drafted by the Red Sox and play for them. I never got nervous either, because if that didn’t work out I could be drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots and play for them.
3.5. That was my plan, but this guy IS ACTUALLY DOING IT.  I’m super jealous.
4. He could probably definitely beat me up.

Sam Fortier recommends this more in-depth piece by Emily Kaplan of Monday Morning Quarterback for more information on Shaq Thompson. He also wants Shaq to know, if he reads this, Sam’s only slightly mad that Thompson denied his interview request. It’s OK, he guesses. You can read Sam here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

100 Weeks of “Purely For Sport”

PurelyForSportLogo2

One snowy night last February, nearly 14 months after I started Purely For Sport, I sat on the blue- and white-striped cushions of the couch in my bedroom with my head in my hands. I couldn’t stop smiling.

My phone buzzed incessantly, lying on the couch next to me. Moments previous, scrolling through my Twitter feed, a notification popped up from ESPN the Magazine columnist Chris Jones.

Earlier that day, I had sent Jones my post, which I wrote based off his “Point After” column in the Mag. He tweeted back at me. Not only that, he liked my writing.

He tweeted my link to his 20,000 followers and my notifications filled up with people saying incredibly nice things about my work. They weren’t the first people compliment my writing, but parents, teachers, and friends are supposed to be nice.

The post climbed to 1,000 viewers that night. I alternated between sitting on my couch, shaking my head in wonder, and pacing around my room trying to expend some of this adrenaline energy. At one point, I did my best Kevin Garnett impression by thumping my chest and bellowing in happiness. I think. I don’t remember everything, but I do recall I was so loud my sister came downstairs to make sure everything was alright.

But back then, in my state of delirium, I didn’t know that it was only the beginning.

The best was yet to come.

***

Back up even further…Christmas Eve 2012.

Sitting on the leather sectional in my living room, I anxiously put the final touches on the “Pilot” for this blog.

The goal: Practice writing columns in preparation for what I hoped to be a career in sports journalism.

I began timidly, not writing anything too controversial. The first foray into gray was a declaration that the Celtics were primed for a playoff push (they lost in the first round). Then I critically blasted the 2013 Boston Red Sox off-season signings by Ben Cherrington (they went on to win the World Series).

I am never  seldom  oftentimes wrong in my predictions, but that takes nothing away from the writing itself.

Days, weeks, months passed. I kept writing for Purely For Sport. I continued to inundate my friend’s Facebooks with shameless self-promotions because I wanted people to read, to comment, to talk with me about sports because, as an English teacher told me once, “Fortier, you can read and discuss sports  ad nauseum.”

As the posts began to pile up, I tried to take new angles and write about things that weren’t included in the regular coverage of a news story.

As a small blog with few professional contacts, it’s impossible to deliver breaking news updates. Also, because I’m uninterested in opinion-based arguments like “Top 5 NBA Point Guards,” I commented on issues larger than just the game, like marijuana legalization, college athlete compensation, and the true meaning of Fantasy sports.

***

My first break-through came when my Nana referred the editor of The Houlton Pioneer Times to my blog. He liked it and eventually published me. Seeing my byline and words in ink … I remember the feeling: Elation mixed with satisfaction. I loved it. I needed to chase that feeling.

Over the next year, the blog led me to pursue other passions. I announced games and became a reporter for the local paper on behalf of an independent high school football team in my area.

I never allowed complacency to set in. I kept expanding, reaching higher. Bigger markets, more words. In mid-December of 2013, many inquiries led to two job shadows; one with the television station New England Sports Network (NESN) and another with WEEI, Boston sports-talk. I eventually was offered an internship with WEEI.

This opportunity invigorated me and I doubled-down on my writing. Two months later, I wrote the article about Chris Jones, and that was another success.

The Dennis and Callahan Show, which is where I worked at WEEI, started production at 5:30 A.M. daily. This meant I had to be out of my house in New Hampshire at 3 A.M. every Monday and Tuesday morning throughout the whole summer. It was a great deal of driving on such little sleep, but the experience showed me what it’s like to work in a large, competitive market.

Everything your teachers tell you about a real job is true, starting with the fact that no one cares about your self-esteem. You’ll get yelled at if you make a mistake. You’ll get short deadlines. You’ll be asked to talk about things you know nothing about. You’ll drive across town to get a coffee order – and drive back when you mess it up.  By the way, if you can’t speak Starbucks – it turns out a “grande” is only a medium – then you should learn before you become an intern.

Three years of high school Spanish taught me a little...

Three years of high school Spanish taught me a little…

Even now, I’m sitting in my dorm room at Syracuse University, where I am fortunate enough to be attending one of the best journalism institutions in the country in the Newhouse School of Public Communications.

My blog was one of the things that got me here.

I don’t know how much of a factor actually having a blog was in admission, but I know with absolute certainty that my every Monday commitment has improved my writing to the point where I was admitted.

At the beginning of SU’s semester, I went to a general interest meeting for one of the media outlets on campus where I tried to impress one of the managing heads with the total views I’ve received on the blog. Admittedly, I came across as a little arrogant, though I certainly didn’t intend to.

“Honestly, man,” he said. “No one here gives a s*** about what you did in high school.”

The guy was only half-right.

He may not have cared about my blog itself, but the skills I have – the skills I learned through blogging – is what he cares about. So either way the blog only helps.

And the writing really has drastically improved. (For proof, read the Pilot.) I’ve become clearer, more organized, and more creative. By committing to this practice every week, it has done so many positive things for me.

I say all this not to brag – and I hope it does not come across that way – but to show people how they can work towards what they want to achieve.

***

Being at Syracuse has given me so many opportunities, but the best chances have come from working at The Daily Orange, the campus newspaper.

Two weeks ago, I got to travel with the newspaper crew down to Clemson. I chronicled the adventures here.

ClemsonWeekend 123

You always hear that southern culture is all about barbecue, sweet tea, and football, but you don’t truly understand until you go there. I didn’t truly understand how much they loved football until my story blew up.

A notification buzzed across my phone from the WordPress mobile app, “Wow! Your stats are booming!”

Puzzled, I went to look. It had been three days since I’d posted a story, I couldn’t quite figure where the hits were coming from. There had been 300 unique visitors in an hour, then 458, then 537. It kept climbing.

I sat down in the chair at my desk and watched the counter tick upwards. At some point around 1,500 unique visitors in a single day, I called my friend Alex into the room. I jumped up and down, unintelligibly yelling. He shook his head, seemingly unable to believe what he saw.

Somewhere around 2,000 I fell asleep. I woke up and saw that October 27th had brought 3,295 unique visitors to Purely For Sport.

To put that in perspective: In the 22 months I’d been writing on the blog before I posted the Clemson blog, I had brought in just over 5,500 viewers.

The views didn’t stop coming.

I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from until my friend Chandler, who goes to Clemson, called.

“Hey man,” he said. “Notice anything with the views on your blog?”

Uh, yes. I had.

It turns out he had posted the article in the Clemson Class of 2018 Facebook page, which garnered attention and then was shared around. Then, TigerNet.com – a Clemson fan-site with over 120,000 active users – posted it on its front page. From there it was shared to ClemsonInsider.com, another CU fan site, and MaxPreps, a recruiting web site.

ClemsonPFS

In five days the post had received over 10,000 visitors. It still hasn’t stopped, just about 20 or so people still find it every day, over two weeks after it was originally posted.

If you needed any more proof that Southerners love their football, take the fact that a Syracuse fan wrote some nice things about being at their game and it received 10,000 hits. Their zealous generosity and desire to share everything creates such a sense of community.

A friend of mine said later, “That’s crazy. You’re so lucky!”

But I like to think it wasn’t luck. Of course, none of this would’ve happened without Chandler sharing it – and he has my never-ending thanks – but I believe that if you work hard enough and long enough at something, then you’ll write the right thing at the right time.  You just need to do it often enough to give yourself that chance.

***

In preparation for this article I’ve gone back and done a lot of reading over the articles I wrote within the first few months of publishing. In a way, it’s like reading someone else’s work.

The paragraphs are painfully long, ditto to the sentence structure. If I used the same word in close proximity, I’d head over to the trusty Thesaurus.com and plug in the word to find another. Reading through, I see words like “cannikin” and “agglutinate” which I’m not sure I could define for you now.

It got pretty bad...

It got pretty bad…

I used to, as one person said to me, “pull out the SAT booklet every time I sat down to write” but nowadays I sit down the keyboard and go. I’m happier with the results.

Something else I’ve found: One of the best ways to improve your writing is reading. This thought has been echoed by many professional writers that I’ve talked to. Autobiographies by Frank Deford and Robert Lipsyte, as well as every edition of The Best American Sports Writing, are sources of great lessons as well as entertainment.

Another great way is to make plenty of mistakes, which I certainly have throughout writing here.

Starting to write too late at night, starting a post without an ending in mind, and not fully fact-checking are just a few of the things that I’ve learned not to do through this process. Some of those mistakes you only make once.

***

As I write about the things I’ve been fortunate enough to experience, I remember all the help I received to get here.

Chris Jones, the entire The Daily Orange staff, the professional staff at WEEI and NESN, and the newspapers I’ve worked at have given me indispensable advice that I’ve used to help improve myself as a writer. The editing of some family and a few of my teachers throughout the past two years has also been incredibly valuable.

I also appreciate my mother, Mary, and sister, Sarah, who’ve supported me throughout the process and gave me time when I needed to write and come home early from things so I can finish a post. My girlfriend, Gabrielle, has been equally as supportive and understanding.

You, the reader, also have all my gratitude for making this such a wonderful experience. As of today, 16,631 unique viewers have navigated to this site and for that I am so thankful. Anytime anyone takes their time to read something I have written I appreciate it. I write partly for myself, but also partly for the reader. I love receiving feedback on my work, enjoying the compliments and taking not of the criticism.

From the Clemson article, a woman emailed me to tell me how much she liked the piece.

“Y’all come back now, ya hear?” the woman wrote. “Signed, Granny Wilson.”

How awesome is that?

Deserving of the most thanks, though, is undoubtedly my first editor, my father. He’s taken his time to read my work, put up with my complaints at his notes, and steered me away from clichés the past 100 weeks. He’s been a constant, honest sounding board for my ideas and thoughts who I can never thank enough.

***

99 Mondays later, nearly 700 days after I first pressed “Publish” for the first time, here we are.

Since then I’ve written features about people I’ve been lucky enough to meet, complaints of an exasperated arm-chair quarterback, and even made things up for satirical articles.

I love writing every Monday. This blog has allowed me opportunities for things I never expected, ranging from the professional (an internship) to the personal (connecting with Clemson fans).

Sometimes it’s taken me until late at night to finish the posts, sometimes it’s a slow news week and I don’t know what to write about. But overall, this is what I love to do. I am lucky enough to know now, at my age, what I want to do for the rest of my life. That’s why every Monday for the past 100 weeks, you’ve been able to find me here practicing what I love, pursuing my dream.

And I cannot wait to keep going.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York as a freshman at Syracuse University. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter, Kanye West, and using the word “wicked.” He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

“When I Was A Boy…”

“When I was a boy…”

I remember this phrase distinctly. My dad would say it all the time to me when I complained of kid problems, such as rain preventing me from playing baseball or having a single assignment for homework. He would say it, then quickly follow-up with a ridiculous thing he allegedly did as a child.

“When I was a boy, we had to walk to school – uphill both ways!” or, the more original of the two was from his winters in northern Maine, “When I was a boy, I baked a potato, carried it to school, holding it to keep my hands warm, then ate it at lunch and walked home cold!” He seemed so old then.

I didn’t really think about it until a few weeks ago, when I explained to my sister, who is now a Freshman in High School, that when my first “girlfriend” – that 7th-grade term connotes sitting together at lunch – and I broke up, I had to call her on the phone. “When I was a boy, we didn’t have texting!” This was the first time I’d ever used the phrase. I caught myself in the midst of saying it, but finished anyway, because it was true. She seemed relatively shocked that there was no texting when I was 12. Now, I’m 18. It seems that the Age of Information was all there ever was, and how could anything be any different? What did we do before?

It’s the same way with games. I love baseball; if I wasn’t playing it, I was either reading about it or playing a baseball video game. MVP Baseball 2005 – the best baseball video game of all-time – was one my friends and I played tirelessly. When I played it by myself, I was weird in the way that I hated using good teams, and preferred to set-up a team and sim. I didn’t like playing the actual game. I’d select a woeful franchise and pick someone like the Kansas City Royals or the Detroit Tigers (they were terrible back then) and try to trade and draft them into relevance. As computers became faster and able to handle bigger data, I discovered a whole genre of games called “baseball sims”. Recently, I bought the fantastic baseball simulation game “Out of the Park Baseball ’15”. It’s a lot of fun, and I enjoy it a lot, but it lacked something. On their Twitter account, they recently proclaimed that, had the 1994 baseball season not stopped due to labor discord, then the ill-destined Montreal Expos would have captured the World Series crown.

“How can they know that?” I wondered. Obviously they run a simulation something like 1000 times and see what the average is, or what happens most of the time, but how do they know? I just didn’t get the sense they accounted for any luck. If Bucky Bleepin’ Dent, he of the 40 career home-runs over a 12-year career, can hit a home-run when the Yankees needed it the most because it’s against the Sox, then luck needs to be pulled into it.

And there was one game that blended managerial strategy, baseball acumen, real-life performance, and luck, it was Strat-O-Matic. Truly the greatest baseball game – regardless of genre – ever.

(How curmudgeonly can I get? I’m ripping computers while purporting an old dice-and-card game. “When I was a boy…”)

As a child, I can very vividly recall sitting down to the old, wooden table in my Aunt’s kitchen where my Uncle and I would shuffle the cards, create line-ups, and roll dice to play this great tribute to the great American past-time.

What brings this all on is that today, just a few hours ago exactly, I attended my first college class ever. It makes me feel old. It makes me slightly sad that those games I played with my Uncle and my friends isn’t played as much anymore. Maybe in 30 years, with the hipsters of that generation, it can make a come-back as retro, but for now I believe it has been forgotten, and disappointingly so.

-By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve wistfully looked back at the past, you can check out my thoughts on childhood heroes here.-

Pre College 195But at the same time, the game won’t be forgotten by those who have been able to play it, because they know how much fun it is. Another reason I decided to write this post is because my good friend Andy agreed to sit down and play with me for one, final time before we both headed off to college. Even the teams we used were old, the 2006 squads of the Marlins and Red Sox. (Jonathan Papelbon was still trying to become a Starting Pitcher for the BoSox and Miguel Cabrera was just 24, not yet the beast he is today.)

We split two games, and then work prevented us from a tie-breaker, which is kind of symbolic, showing how we’ve grown up. We can’t devote entire afternoons to playing out a series. We’re not boys anymore. But as we were playing, and eventually tying the series (my least favorite outcome in any sports game ever), I had a really good time. It was so nice to, if only for an hour, go back and remember what it was like to be a kid.

So even though we can’t be kids anymore, and even though Strat-O-Matic is fading out of popularity, it was still enjoyable to go back. And every once in a while, I know I can go back, sit down, roll the dice, and re-live “When I was a boy…”

Sam Fortier is a Freshman Journalism Major at Syracuse University. He enjoys kayaking, writing, and eating bratwurst. However, he does not like Pina Coladas (or being caught in the rain). You can read him here every Monday.

 

And You Get a Podcast, And You Get a Podcast!

Well, here we are. I promised you five weeks ago that I would start a podcast talking sports with some of the best I know and here it is!

Now over at iTunes you can listen to some great pods, including Curt Hogg on the Milwuakee Brewers’ season, Jacob Gedetsis on LeBron’s homecoming, and Tim Scott about the strategy for the Red Sox at the trade deadline.

Thus far into the process (six pods) I’ve learned a lot. It’s annoying to say “Yep!” or “Right” a lot when talking on a podcast, because on the listen back it’s not so pleasant. Research is vital and planning it out ahead of time with the guest keeps you both prepared. I’ve had experiences I wouldn’t have had without this podcast – like calling and talking to my roommate before move-in. Podcasting is a great exercise.

Sam Fortier is a Freshman Orangeman at Syracuse University studying Broadcast Journalism. Likes: Baseball, Carlos Gomez fights, good columns. Dislikes: Flopping and the Spanish Inquisition.