I’ve been writing for SB Nation longer than I’ve written for and managed Alligator Army. I passed 11 years of getting checks for words about sports from Sports Blogs, Inc. or Vox Media at some point this year — it’s been long enough since the first one that I don’t remember the month off the top of my head. (The above picture is closer to my first check than 2015 — the first season for Florida’s previous football coach, for perspective — is to today. That much I know.)
I’ve also been around writing about sports on the Internet for long enough that I can link to a hybrid news piece and column about Tim Tebow getting concussed at Kentucky in 2009 as one of the first significant things I wrote, but would need to explain what The Sporting Blog was to explain why it’s on the SBN platform.
The point — other than me almost being antediluvian, when it comes to this profession-slash-avocation — is that I remember a time when things were different. I remember, specifically, taking SB Nation’s long-retired public slogan of “Fan perspective, pro quality” to heart, so much so that I cited it back when I was halfway out the door.
But I got it wrong then, because I actually wrote it as the reverse: “Pro quality, fan perspective.” And maybe I’ve gotten it wrong in application here, because I’ve always tried to keep quality front of mind when it comes to Alligator Army: I want to write and publish good writing, reasoned arguments, sourced and sound reporting, all with the level of polish and effort that I think readers have come to expect.
This fall, I want to flip the order of those words, at least on occasion.
That, I think, is going to mean publishing some more emotional and knee-jerk reactions to Florida football. It’s going to mean engaging with college football in the ways that I most enjoy engaging with it, rather than the ways that are proven to draw traffic or play into ESPN’s preferred narratives. And, importantly, I want it to mean being honest about my perspective and about how I truly feel as a fan — not just of the Gators, but of a sport clinging to the veneer of amateurism as if it means anything in 2021, of a program managing the challenges of maintaining relevance in an increasingly, of human beings still dealing with an unprecedented pandemic and the multiplying domino effects of it.
Being honest about that perspective also means knowing its limits, and trying to measure the pulse of Gator Nation by checking more than one or two. And my degree in sociology from the University of Florida came with the knowledge that the findings of any survey can be skewed by its sample, so I want to reiterate for the umpteenth time that I am still very much looking for contributors who can enrich all of us by sharing their perspectives.
I won’t lose site of the “pro quality” part. You know me well enough to know that.
But I do want to return to the roots of why we root for the Gators, and how we do, and who we’re rooting for, and so forth. I think SB Nation’s “come fan with us” slogan is, frankly, too-cute if not stupid.
Rooting, however, is what we do — and it’s going to be a focus here this fall.