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Friday Forum: When everything is unmoored

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In case you weren’t aware, the new normal isn’t great.

Surfers cant resist the waves at Surfers Point at Seaside Park in the City of Ventura Wednesday morning as the sunshine and warm temperatures brought people to the beach despite warnings about the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

I woke up this Friday to both of my feet being swollen and a dull ache in my lower back. A day after an orthopedist heard my complaints of nearly a month of pain down my left side and saw my inability to fully straighten my left leg and told me he suspected sciatica, and after a third straight night of sleeping sitting up on a couch, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by that.

And I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by Vox Media, the parent company of — and media empire that began with — SB Nation, deciding to make some cuts in our time of deeply declining ad revenue related to the halting of many things thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by so many of those cuts coming to SB Nation — in particular, the immensely talented college football apparatus that SB Nation has been privileged to employ — either. Sports are on hold right now. Advertising related to sports is similarly scarce.

But I am — and I’m disappointed, too, mostly that Vox heard a union of employees say they would take pay cuts and chose to furlough those people instead. A profitable media company — which Vox says it was in 2019 — was a rarity in these times even before it became an impossibility in 2020, and that company can only exist because of what its workers produce. Ignoring or hearing but opting against those workers’ wants is not a recipe for happy, healthy workers, no matter whether a pandemic is rising or not.

And I’m one of those workers — but only sort of. I’m not a full- or part-time employee of Vox Media — though, disclosure, I have been a part-timer in multiple roles in the past and was once offered full-time employment — and work currently as part of the mass of contracted SB Nation freelancers, the vast group of workers Deadspin often scrutinized. I’m not part of the Vox Union; I only get to express my solidarity with friends and bosses who are now out of work via a public tweet or a private email.

I’m also acutely aware that what I receive as compensation for my work could fit in the pay cuts that some of the Vox higher-ups are taking — and I don’t mean the executives — and also aware that having posted very sparingly here while dealing with this pain shooting up my side and still getting my monthly stipend is a privilege.

And, crucially, I’m not being furloughed — at least, not yet.

So I’m in a bizarre space, wherein writing things for the benefit of Vox Media on a day when Vox Media made a difficult decision that leaves friends and longtime coworkers unmoored feels very strange. But not writing about all of this would feel weirder.

SB Nation, led by the fantastic basketball desk, has been running stories of the best teams to not win titles over the past week, and we — and I mean we, not just me! — have some of those posts coming in the next few days. One of Twitter’s finest Gators has one going up shortly, Sam’s writing another for Saturday, and I’ll have something on Sunday.

There was/is a theme for next week, too, and as I — hopefully — start recovering from this sciatica, I’ll be better able to physically perform the act of writing words on a laptop. (You wouldn’t believe how many positions are currently painful or inadvisable.) I’ll be around here, and doing my part to help keep the ship afloat, hoping a rising tide is coming.

But we’re at sea right now, unmoored and uncertain. And I would be remiss if I didn’t at least note that.