I knew, surely as I knew that I drew breath or that the sun would rise in the morning, that Barry Sanders was a better running back than Emmitt Smith. Teenaged me would insist everybody should just watch them run throughout the 1990s, thinking the disparities between their talent and their opportunities were obvious.
But back then, most football discussions started and stopped with whoever had The Most. Most rings, most wins, most yards. Emmitt had more than Barry, so Emmitt was better. Even the most basic attempt to capture how Barry did more with less--like dividing the yards they'd each gained by the number of times they'd each run--would be dismissed as witchery, spooky numbers concocted by nerds who hadn't been given enough swirlies.
Imagine my joy when twenty-something me discovered Football Outsiders. Founded by Aaron Schatz and staffed by many future peers, colleagues, and friends, FO has been teasing "The Hidden Game Of Football" out of the box score with math, passion, film review, and opinions well informed by all of the above for the last 20 years.
Yesterday, Schatz resigned as Editor-in-Chief.
He didn't say so in his statement, but it's reasonable to assume it's because FO parent company Champion Gaming has been stiffing freelancers for months' worth of published work. When those contributors went public this spring, Defector found out Champion Gaming is millions in the red--partially due to buying EdjSports, the company Schatz had actually sold his site to in 2018. Yesterday, Awful Announcing revealed that Champion's latest financial statement is bathed in more red than a Saw movie, and the company's life expectancy is relatedly short.
I can't quantify, or even describe, the scope of FO's success and influence. Like how great football coaches spawn a "coaching tree," Schatz has edited, published, and mentored dozens of writers, many of whom are now giants in their own right.
The site--and sometimes, generously, Schatz himself--was an indispensable resource for me as an indie Lions blogger, as a national NFL columnist, and as a regular contributor to the premier data-journalism outlet on the planet.
But most remarkably to me, Schatz raised and parented his digital-media baby through multiple tech and business cycles. Starting it as An World Wide Web Site in 2003, he soon partnered with major legacy outlets--who'd found themselves unable to fulfill a sudden audience demand for deeper analysis (which he'd helped foster). FO published books, offered premium fantasy services and searchable databases, and eventually direct subscriptions. Even as seven-, eight-, nine-, and ten-digit media companies were repeatedly launching, growing, pivoting, and failing around him, Schatz and his staff kept making money with smart content.
A lot of writers aren't great with math, and a lot of math guys don't know football, and most of the people who are great at even two of those three tend not to be savvy businesspeople. But Schatz's sometimes-cantankerous way of doing things the right way has kept FO on top.
If FO were going out like Emmitt Smith, running for three yards a carry in the wrong uniform on a terrible team, it might make sense. But even after 20 years, this still feels like Barry retiring the morning of training camp: greatness being taken from us.
Like Defector, Remap Radio (née Waypoint), and several other outlets I've loved, it sounds like most of Football Outsiders will be reborn while the corporate-owned corpse bearing its name shambles on. I'm truly glad for that.
But it's yet another brick in a towering wall of failure for stupid money men buying good things they don't understand, ruining them in the name of money, utterly failing to make money, and bowing out. How high will the wall get before we knock it down? How many entrepreneurial creatives will spend years doing literally everything right, only to have what they built by hand demolished in months by ham-fisted capitalists?
Just look at how wrong this is, I'll keep insisting to everyone who'll listen, thinking the solution--regulation of venture capital--is obvious.
Of course, all anyone on Twitter can talk about these days is the year-long Death of Twitter--or, failing that, the new replacements popping up in its wake.
Very writery, queer, and shitpost-y, the invite-only Bluesky beta has incredible energy and some scaling problems. The menu of many (and custom!) algorithms is a game-changer, and the rapid iteration of discussions and in-jokes feels breathtakingly like Twitter at its best. But the core users' intent to keep out right-wing agitators seems directly opposed to the company's open-Internet ethos--and many Black users have been disillusioned by both the community and company's lack of safeguarding.
Very visual, queer, and positive, the invite-only Spill beta has incredible energy (and is probably going to have some scaling problems). Pitched directly to Black, queer, and other marginalized creators, it's a .gif-y, meme-y, 90-character party. The Black ex-Twitter employees who founded and built the app have already implemented the earning-clout-earns-cryptocurrency backbone I've always believed has been Elon's goal for Twitter; it's an intentional response to the days of white writers getting paid to write stub articles around Black people's Tweets.
I'm not going on Threads. Meta has enough of my personal info, and the vibes are reportedly cursed. Forklifting the Instagram following/followed lists and engagement algorithm onto a text-driven platform seems like it's going to be hell for both IG influencers and Twitter power users.
It's been a feeeeeeeeeew weeks since the last "weekly" Gimme Schalter, for reasons both typical and a-. Several big life events both gave me INCREDIBLE column material and made it impossible for me to write those columns, social media kept reinventing itself faster than I could blog about it, and I've been continuing the #TyNoWriPro momentum on CODEX 17 that Futurescapes afforded me.
I've also started a new podcast project that I cannot wait to show you all!
So, I can't possibly hope to make up for all of that lost time in a single Everything Awesome--but I shall endeavor. Oh, and I am officially changing my house style of always linking to creators' Twitter accounts, to their homepage/Linktree/Carrd (or Twitter, whatever seems like the best options):
Hibachi-style restaurants are like close-up magic for hungry people. I love the performance, but moreso getting to directly appreciate someone showing off their well-practiced cooking skills while cooking for me.
I've never been to a Benihana, but I've been to indie places with varying degrees of the uncomfortable Orientalism/racism Saxena unpacks here. This is phenomenal writing, unpacking a semi-universal American experience from two different perspectives at once: her personal story, and the other side of the grill.
Not to hit this theme too hard in one issue, but the collapse of digital media is all around us, impacting everything we do. Chan, a freelance writer, reporter, and critic, talked to many of the writers and editors impacted by the last round of games-media layoffs--and found an infuriating lack of rhyme or reason to why a bunch of good people doing great work had to hit the skids.
Years ago, when my younger sister-in-law Emily lived in Massachusetts, she got my wife hooked on Polar. This became a problem, because it did not exist anywhere near here. Now, due to Adderall, I have had to replace caffeinated pop with seltzer--and Polar is available at my usual Meijer. Gondelman, an awesome comedian and TV writer (#WGAStrong!), nails both what makes Polar special, and what it's like to see your hometown's hometown specialty actually be certified as better than everybody else's.
I've been hooked Friends At the Table, an actual-play RPG podcast that freaking rules, for a couple of years now. This very intense one-off episode was already becoming my favorite to show people the incredible levels the cast is working on, and @NinevehGames (who goes by Willfor on Bandcamp) dropped this phenomenal fan animation of the entire thing!
I'll let FatT host/GM Austin Walker introduce it:
This is SO good. For people who haven't heard the full @Friends_Table episode w/ the setup and explanation, we used Inhuman Conditions (a game inspired by Blade Runner's Voight-Kampff test) to play out a series of (anti-)occult border crossing/immigration interviews.
As I said above, I'm still working with some of my Futurescapes crit partners to revise CODEX 17 into its final form. As of right now, I've got about the first 15,000 words in final status, and cranking 'em out pretty good. The goal is to finish and start querying by Halloween.