On the Topic Of: The Future of Blogging

There’s a lot of times I sit around and wonder why my writing and podcasting never caught on with a bigger audience and why I never got offered something from a bigger conglomerate. A lot of that self-doubt contributed to my long layoffs and overall dissatisfaction with writing and talking. The talking part has been revitalized and with the recent happenings at SB Nation, kinda dodged a bullet on that front.

If you didn’t know, you can check Awful Announcing, Posting and Toasting, or anyone of the uniformed posts that the SBN NHL sites put up for more details. In talking with FOHS co-host JonnyP, he noted that this is the beginning and it’s going to get worst before it gets better.

Blogging is a vicious cycle. You start off independently and work hard to get any kind of notoriety from it because you think it’ll lead to bigger things. Some times it does and some times it doesn’t. If it doesn’t happen, a bit of confidence is lost and you adjust and adapt your goals. If it does, you get a bigger audience and more notoriety, but not necessarily the money you’d think you’d be making. So, you work harder thinking that the amount you churn out, the more higher-ups will notice and will pay you more or at all. Yet, in this case, we see that even if you work your heart out and give the best content you think you can put out there– it’s still not enough.

I’ve been lucky to get paid for blogging for a season, which was a daily thing for FHM Online back in 2005-06. Then FHM got bought out and I was out of a job. Never got much of a notification, it just happened and it’s done with. Luckily, I was 22 and life goes on and maybe thought it could happen again. But then life happens and you don’t invest in yourself because you have a family and you have to make a living in something concrete rather than in hopes of making it bigger and better.

While it sucks that people are losing their jobs, that’s the nature of how things are going– especially with sites that exploit writers and their content for the exposure brass ring they dangle out there. It’s going to get worse before it gets better as more states catch onto these stunts. A lot of contributors will be out of their regular gigs because of it and will have to find spots elsewhere, on their own, or just leave the writing scene altogether.

That’s the shitty part. Good people with good insight will lose gigs because they aren’t getting the payment they feel they deserve. So, if a writer you like has some kind of tip jar, maybe toss them a couple bucks and help them out because they’re the technological starving artist out there.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Photo via GoMustangSports.com

This week on Chesapeake Hockey Week, I mentioned that the Stevenson University Mustangs Women’s team will be using their Saturday game against Neumann University as their Mental Health Awareness game. All the processes from the attendance goes toward the National Alliance of Mental Illness or NAMI for short. The game will have raffles, silent auctions, and a meet-and-greet with the players after the game.

So, let’s talk about mental health because the stigma is still strong and as many Bell Let’s Talk campaigns and as many HASHTAG Sick Not Weak things go around– there’s still things about mental health some people are not putting out there– rightly or wrongly.

I am someone who suffers from mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and a form of Bipolar Disorder. It is rough to live every day of my life in a “normal” manner, but that’s part of the high functioning part of this disease– you deal with it when it hits you, but even then– you shrug it off until it consumes you.

For all the things going around, for all the people who support the mental health initiative when it comes around, there still is a stigma to it. Whether it be people who think they are just stronger than the disease or people who don’t want to burden other with what’s going it– the epidemic is real and needs to be addressed in a strong fashion. The stigma around mental health is something that, while there is support for it, is also one of the most taboo things to talk about.

According to NAMI, 43.8 million adults suffer from mental health issues. In that, 9.8 million people suffer from a serious mental health issue that interferes with the life they live. Even with all of this data, people seem to push it by the wayside purposely or not. This effects work life and social life due to the crippling effects it create in people.

Yet, even after all this…it seems like something people deal with for a day or two and then it falls by the wayside, rightly or wrongly.

In hockey, there is a bigger situation. Obviously the story of Robin Lehner that’s going on is something that is huge. An active player with struggles of mental health that lead to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as suicidal thoughts. Patrik Berglund is another higher profile player who walked away from the NHL because of his mental state, mostly because he lost the drive he once had for the game he loved. With the losses of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak— the NHL has seemed to turn their tone on mental health awareness; but is it enough??

Yes, in the last link dump– I put my old work in there (ESPECIALLY THE RYPIEN PIECE), but it still holds true today. The fact we still have to have these talks is enough to realize– shit’s fucked up. We aren’t getting the mental health we deserve, whether it be because of pride or because of fear or because of any excuse you can think of. The reality of the situation is that if you’re not feeling great mentally, it shouldn’t be any different than if you’re feeling poor physically.

Look, if you’re feeling poor mentally– you’re pain is valid. There’s no reason why you should feel remorse or regret for not being able to perform mentally. While people shouldn’t abuse it– there are still people who do, which makes it harder to break a stigma because it’s hard to judge the reality of hurt and the need to get out of work. It’s not like a broken or sprained limb– it’s something deeper and more neurological than that.

Will there ever be a situation where the stigma is gone?? Maybe not, but you can keep pushing. There be a feeling of burden, there may be a feeling of vulnerability– but it’s okay. No one can be strong all the time. It’s not possible and if you think it is, maybe take a step back and see if you’re true in your convictions or if you’re saying/doing it because you’ve been told to be like that.

Forty-three point eight MILLION is a hard number to dispute against. It’s a hard number to hide. And odds are it’s higher just because of people who don’t feel like taking about what they’re going through or admitting their mental state matters. It does. It’s the starting block to all of your health. If your brain isn’t great, the odds that your body isn’t great are much higher.

In 1952’s “Viva Zapata,” the character Fernando said, “Cut the head off the snake and the body will die.” I feel that’s a correct quote when it comes to mental health because once your head is in a whirlwind, it affects other aspects of your bodily health. Many forget how vital mental health is to everyday life. The brain can play tricks on you and could lead you to rash decisions or comments– trust me, I know.

At the end of the day– when I say, “Take care of yourself and someone else,” it really is a way of life. Make sure you put yourself first– it’s not selfish, it’s preservation. And you hate to do it alone– so take care of someone else who you can trust and you hope can trust you.

Personally, my life in my head sucks and is very self-destructive to me. That’s why I’m re-entering therapy because it’s affecting my career, my relationships with people, and I still don’t know what direction to go in my life. You’d think by this time, nearing 36-years-old, I would– but I don’t…and that’s okay. Regardless of our age or experience, we need a little help. It’s hard to ask for it because you don’t want to be a burden, but it’s good to get another perspective on things since a lot of people are very set in our ways.

But here’s the Stevenson University Women’s hockey team for doing an event like this and hopefully, people will go out to the event in Reisterstown, Maryland on February 9th and donate to a noble and worthy cause.

Summer Reading: Fanatics, the NHL, and Merchandising Monopolies

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In October of 2016, the NHL had announced that Fanatics would be the exclusive apparel outfitter for the NHL starting in the 2017-18 season and that it was a long-term (16 years) agreement between the two companies. They would pretty much be in charge of everything, aside from the authentic, on-ice gear– which Adidas would be in charge of. After the first year of Fanatics, it’s been something of a roller coaster for them, especially when you look at their first hack at the Stanley Cup champion turnaround gear.

Many Caps fans have been keen to point out the mistakes that were made with their orders from Fanatics following the Caps Stanley Cup win, as well as the timing for their “fast turnaround” for their Conference Championship gear to be sent out. Not only that the integrity of the products have been called into question (check out that whole thread– it’s a riot), as well– which sucks for the amount of money they are charging for it.

It’s almost the old adage of it’s better to get it right than get it first. It’s not just for journalism, but it’s for any facet of life. Benefit of the doubt, though, as it is their first year doing this and Fanatics may not have been prepared for the onslaught of orders they were going to get from the Capitals faithful. But when the selling point of this deal was the “quick turnaround” aspect of Fanatics, this is a major black mark on this 16-year deal.

(Personally– the stuff I’ve gotten hasn’t been off at all that I saw. Fanatics seems to really excel on autographs, plaques, that kind of not-wearable stuff. The shirts are okay and the sizing is somewhat on-point, but nothing to write home about; the hats seem okay, though pricy as hell; and it doesn’t seem like Fanatics likes to do many second-run items on special events– which is something I encountered with a hat I liked, but they told me once they were gone, that’s it. Luckily I did find it elsewhere. Demand does not mean you will get the supply, apparently.)

Fanatics has a monopoly on sporting merchandise, with the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, and NASCAR to compliment their NHL deal. However, their customer service leaves something to be desired and their products are….decent, at best. Design wise, many may enjoy that– but the actual put together pieces aren’t anything to write home about when it comes to quality; especially with their price point being what it is. It pretty much kills any competition and despite the low-grade apparel, fans seem to be pretty much stuck with the limited choices out there now because of this deal.

However, when it comes to teams and players– does the deal make sense?? While it’s not known how things are divvied up, it was exposed how the NASCAR deal works out with Fanatics when it comes to teams and drivers. Of course, there’s some kind of different with the travelling side show of NASCAR, the percentages were quite eye-opening when you look at it– especially when you see the cut the driver’s get. Plus, it allows some lower series drivers to actually create merch for their fans to buy, which they’d NEVER get through NASCAR.com or at the tracks through Fanatics. There’s something to say about the folk-hero driver or player.

NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck revealed last summer that Fanatics takes 75% of the revenue from the merchandise they make in NASCAR. Of course, there’s plenty of overhead and travelling costs– but my god– that’s a lot. Teams get 9% of the revenue, with their drivers each getting a percentage of that in their contracts. The sanctioning body of NASCAR as a whole gets 1%. But, the fans hated the experience of the big tents they set up that Fanatics had to totally revamp their “superstore” because people didn’t know about it. However, it’s well known that NASCAR doesn’t have a marketing department because if they did– they’d know how to do justice to their sport and gauge fans interest…but that’s another story for another post.

Obviously, the NHL is probably much different with the league getting a bigger cut and then cutting the teams into that percentage, but with how much they have to dish out– what’s the overhead for Fanatics in different arenas or do they only take from the NHL exclusive events like outdoor games the playoffs?? How much does the NHLPA get a cut for the shirts and replica jerseys sold with their players names on it and are they getting as screwed over as NASCAR drivers have been??

Or will the NHLPA go on the route some NASCAR drivers have by creating their own website to sell merchandise and thus getting a bigger cut of the profit?? Names like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson have been selling their wears on Driver Direct Apparel, which seems to give a bigger cut to the drivers that they wouldn’t get from Fanatics.

It’s also very much akin to what independent wrestlers do thanks to Pro Wrestling Tees, which has the profits for each wrestler’s merchandise going right to the wrestler. Don’t know if the NHLPA would do something like that– especially since they probably would have to get over the hurdle of getting the rights to use the NHL club logos on their merch– but that’s for bigger people to figure out legalities.

In the end, it was a rough first year for Fanatics. They’ve got 15 more years to go, but they need to learn from their first year mistakes and hope to not make it a second time.

The State of Wazz Address

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The State is Maryland….always has been, always will be.

In any case, it’s a new NHL season today since contracts for players only go to July 1st, really screwing over the broadcasters who have to cover this event in Canada on their Independence Day– but that’s the NHL for you. However, with a new year– probably time to give some kind of update about what will happen this upcoming season with regards to blogging, podcasting, and the like. New year, new me, right??

BLOGGING

Okay, so I took some kind of break because there’s not much to write about and there’s only so much John Tavares content people can bear. It’s been a fun time with the Capitals playoff run, but it won’t all be about the Caps and Maryland Black Bears– it’ll be a very heavy influence; but as the season goes on, I’ll get back to all the Tepid Takes and other “feature-esque” work that I’ve done in the past. It may be a little slow in the summer months (as it always is), but it’ll pick up from there I hope.

There’s a possibility I’ll do some minor league stories, but to be honest– I fell out of love with minor league hockey. It was something to try and reinvent myself for a bit and it worked for a while. Then things changed and I lost the passion for it. Maybe the bug will come back, but I really don’t think it’d be the same as it was during the FOHS Farm Report/The Sin Bin time. Interests changes, things happens, and you have to move on from something you’ve lost interest in if it’s completely a by-the-numbers role you’re playing.

There’s an off chance that there could be more NASCAR coverage, so if you’re into that– awesome; if not– that’s cool, too, but don’t get annoyed if it does happen. I mean, I do co-host a NASCAR podcast so….

PODCASTING

There’s not going to be major changes in the substance of the podcasts– let that be known. It’s just a matter for us as a whole to be better with the promoting and things like that. Expect Face Off Hockey Show and The Soderstrom Bubble to be more active promoting things overall. If we want to leave any kind of mark where we can’t be denied about our participation in big NHL events, this is the way to do it. We will hope that you help in that process for promoting stuff you like about our Media Faction. Even if it is talking about our Patreon to others to help offset costs and things like that for the show.

That said, there could be a new Untitled Podcast coming your way from the FOHSMF– that just depends on time, effort, and actually doing it. Stay tuned around early September for a decision on that.

In The Draft Show with Wilson and Wazz will continue on as normal– which I know you’re all happy about. Or not. I really don’t know the feeling about my readers and NASCAR.

OTHER LIFE THINGS

Aside from the whole “try to eat better and workout more” and other usually January 1st resolutions….there’s a project I’ve been collecting things for. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, but just keep putting off and doubting myself in terms of what the response would be from it. It’s really just a matter of actually doing it– as it goes with most projects– so I’m going to try and be better with actually making that come to life.

And be a little more present in life and actually thriving in the moment. Yeah, it’s zen BS, but it’s my zen BS.

…and that’s what’s up. It’s the update you didn’t know you wanted and probably still don’t care much for. Such as life and it’s an outlook on what you can expect from me this summer and moving forward.

Caps By The Numbers: STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS

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It wasn’t easy….but why would it be for the Capitals?? After exchanging leads thanks to Caps goals by Jakub Vrana and Alex Ovechkin, the Caps were down to start the 3rd 3-2 thanks to goals from Vegas’ Reilly Smith, David Perron, and former Capital Nate Schmidt– the Caps got their puck luck back. Brooks Orpik kept a puck in the zone, threw it at the net where it was deflected to Devante Smith-Pelly, who dove and scored the tying goal. Minutes later, Lars Eller picked up the rebound that squeaked through Marc-Andre Fleury’s legs to get the eventual game-winner as the Caps took Game 5 and the Stanley Cup.

Alex Ovechkin was the Conn Smythe trophy winner as Playoff MVP with 15 goals and 27 points.

The Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup Champions….which is still great, but odd to say. And because of it….the Road to Gus is over.

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Bengt Gustafsson will forever be my all-time favorite player. It wasn’t because he was one of the first European players to have an edge to him. It wasn’t because of the five-goals he scored on the Flyers in a game in 1984. It wasn’t because of his six 20+ goal seasons. It was because of my first game and the impact he had on me in that moment.

It was February 3rd, 1989– my first live Caps game. My dad had gotten tickets for the game in order for me to see it live because he always encouraged me when I got into new things. Working where he did– he was able to get some tickets from the people around the Capital Centre and got us in. It was a giveaway night to boot– player shirt night. It was the precursor to the overpriced shirseys we see today– but they were just giving them away.

The Caps played the Hartford Whalers in their majestic all kelly green uniforms. They had Mike Liut in net, while Pete Peeters was in the Caps net. It wasn’t the most exciting of games, but it was a live game I never thought I’d be able to see in my little five-year-old life. During the first intermission, I asked my dad to look at the giveaway shirt and it had the #16 on it with Gustafsson above it. It was almost like the player’s jersey with red shoulders, the logo with the stars across, but the jerseys didn’t have a car dealership below the number. I didn’t want to put it on just yet– for some reason.

However, once the second period started, I wanted to put it on about 90 seconds into the period. That’s because the guy who had his name on the shirt given away had scored it. Bengt Gustafsson got the goal on a pass from Mike Gartner and I felt a kinship with this player who I’ve never met (then or even now) nor was it due to his past accomplishments– it was because he scored the first– and only goal– of my first live game. He was my guy. Of course, that would be his last season before he returned to Sweden and finished his career in Europe before taking over as coach for the Swedish national team. But even then– he was my guy.

There’s something to be said about going to a live hockey game, there’s even more to be said about a connection fans have to players because of something that happened at that live hockey game. Because a player who was on the giveaway shirt scored the goal– he instantly became my favorite player. It wasn’t until I was older when I was able to appreciate his feats before I was a fan.

With that– this rounds out the Caps by the Numbers series for 2018.

My Life As a Caps Fan

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Photo via CapsJerseys.com

This story is unique, but not. Many Caps fans have a similar tale– one of hope, heartbreak, despair, and faith. This is just mine.

My first Caps game I remember seeing on TV was on WDCA Channel 20 when the Caps played the New York Rangers in 1987 or 88. I knew the game of hockey because I had saw two wooden souvenir sticks in my bedroom, I believe a gift from my Godfather. They were red with blue lettering “Washington Capitals” with the Caps logo on it. I also had Fisher-Price roller skates with bells on it– so when I saw the game and wanted to imitate that– my mom and dad were reluctant about it. Not because of the game itself, it was mostly because of the ringing.

The first Caps game I attended was in February of 1989 (a story that I’ll hopefully get to tell at the end of the playoffs). I was instantly hooked, not with hockey– but with the Capitals. They were my local(ish) team, even though the Baltimore Skipjacks were a few miles from me– my dad had some connections at the Capital Centre that allowed us to see many games together until they left for the then MCI Center.

Through it all, this is the team I hung my hat on. From the days of never getting out of the Patrick Division until 1990 or the times going up three games to one in a series, only to lose. From the miraculous run in 1998 until the Cup Final to the Jaromir Jagr trade, which always left a bad taste in my mouth. From all the rebuild, which included Matt Yeats as a goalie to now in this era of Caps hockey that’s great and scary all in one. This is a team that always gave me the highest of highs and lowest of lows in sports fandom.

It also provided a community. Because of the Caps, I got into local hockey– first at Benfield Pines and then Piney Orchard– which happened to be the Caps practice facility. Through youth hockey, I have some of my closest friends, who have all come together through the wonders of social media to enjoy this series, as well as relive moments from our own glory days of travel hockey.

For many, the Caps are more than just a team (not to be confused with the 1989-90 team video), but it’s something that bound us together through our formidable years. We won’t be watching the Cup Final from our assistant coach’s sun room (shoutout Coach Gary), but we’re all in-tune with this. Especially since this is not something that’s supposed to happen. The window for this team was closed after they went all-in with Kevin Shattenkirk. But they kept it open enough to have the breeze roll in and keep the hope alive. Keep this whole thing going, as improbable as it has been.

And I won’t kid anyone in saying that this all seems like a fever dream. The Caps have had the odds against them and it seems like it’s all going to come to an end in typical Caps fashion so many times….but it hasn’t. We’ve prepared for the worst, but the best has been happening. It’s atypical in so many ways– especially with who they’re playing in this Cup Final.

Seemingly, all the playoff ghosts have been vanquished– beating the Penguins, winning a Game 7– save for three: Marc-Andre Fleury (22-12-2 regular season, 8-6 postseason vs. Caps), George McPhee (former Caps GM, now Vegas GM), and Lord Stanley (The Cup). If there was a time to flip the script and eliminate them all– it’s now.

For now…time to face the next game and hope that these past 30 years as a fan of this team that many love (despite them seemingly not wanting to love us back) continues to be all worth it. I’m not ready to use the “B” word when it comes to this team. Maybe if they get four more wins, I can admit to myself– it’s okay. It’s all okay.

Reboot: Version….I Don’t Know, 97??

For those who have followed me in the past however many years, you know how disjointed I can get. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, I get a writing bug time and time again only to fade away from the whole thing.

So, what is this thing going to do for me?? Who knows, but I think it’s time to maybe condense all my things into one area. I’ll keep the other places up, but maybe this is the place to have the one-stop for my work or new stuff that comes along.

Thanks for sticking with me. Another ride begins.