United States, born 1978
paint on canvas, I think
Its first post having been made on November 10, 2010, “NotGraphs, The Blog,” lasted just under four years. It began with four regular contributors: Carson Cistulli (also the editor, duh), Jack Moore, Eno Sarris, and Leo Martin. Since then, 42 people have posted here at least once, with 19 contributors posting at least 20 pieces. They weren’t all great pieces, but then, look who the editor was.
David Appelman, in his introductory post, expected that NotGraphs would provide “a place to put things that would otherwise not have a place on FanGraphs, that we find interesting and we think you would also find interesting” and that The Blog would “let us broaden our horizons a bit by looking at a wide variety of additional baseball subjects.”
I cannot, in good conscience, say, “Mission accomplished.” It’s not my place to say that anyway. What I can say: NotGraphs quickly became a place for the silly, whimsical, and absurd. It also became a place for hot GIF action. Occasionally, it was a repository for the literary, the earnest, and the pensive. By my taste, there were some truly great things that happened “in these electronic pages” (Banknotes Harper appears to think so, too). There were many other great things that happened in my life because of these electronic pages.
Not least among these blessings are the somewhat regular quasi-existentialist g-chats that I have with Patrick Dubuque, one of which eventually led to A NotGraphs Fireside Chat, which had very little to do with baseball. (Such hardly-baseballing posts happened with some regularity.) Having met Patrick IRL in Seattle—whereabouts he lives and where we consumed several beers before going to a Mariners-Angels game at Safeco Field—I now count him as a real friend. A couple of weeks before I left Milwaukee with my wife to move to California, I received the above painting from Patrick along with several other baseball goodies. Patrick keeps me thinking about writing and its place in this electronic world, and that means a lot to me.
At the same time that I met Patrick IRL, I met his fellow Seattleite Kyle Davis, with whom I’d struck up a g-chat relationship after he won my Who Is the MLB Krampus? contest by nominating Marge Schott. The meeting helped spawn another friendship that I hope to maintain for life. (Earlier this year, when I was in Seattle again, Kyle allowed me to sully his guest room for a night.)
As a prize for the MLB Krampus contest, I sent Kyle a hand-crafted baseball card of Schott-as-Krampus, which he wrote about for his now-retired and wonderfully named baseball blog, The Trance of Waiting. In that piece, Kyle turned a phrase that’s quite applicable, from my vantage, to NotGraphs: “Proving that the Internet’s absurd strangeness can be used for good instead of pure evil from time to time….”
Kyle didn’t write for NotGraphs (though I think he should have), but he has something of a rapport with a number of its contributors, and I think he’s not the only one. If I’ve gained at least four good friends from this thing, and if I don’t consider myself special (and I don’t), then I should assume that others have made similar connections, or at least been affected in similarly positive ways.
Back when I first applied to the FanGraphs umbrella—they were hiring for RotoGraphs and NotGraphs at the same time—I really wanted to write for RotoGraphs, and the only writing sample I submitted was a fantasy-related piece. But, somehow, my cover email prompted Carson to dig deeper into my résumé, which revealed my creative writing background. (DM me for a copy of my very good master’s thesis in fiction!)
Now’s a good time—my last chance, really—to reveal that Carson had a significant role in my continually developing obsession with baseball. In 2009, before I really even knew who he was, Carson wrote a post about Mark Bellhorn. It is written in that indelibly Cistullian voice; it was equal parts analytical insight and gushing adoration of a player. In a dumb blogpost of my own, I whimpered, “This article makes me feel ok as a human being, and I guess that is worth crying about.” In that post, I had referred to baseball as my “one of my many interests,” where as now it is much more than that. After reading Carson’s Bellhorn article, I would return to FanGraphs on a daily basis, which in turn set me off on a very fun, years-long reading spree on baseball analytics. The subsequent launching of NotGraphs then created a bridge between my hunger for the analytical and my love of the absurd.
This is a post about how NotGraphs has made my life better, and I feel like I have seen what has meant to others, too—readers and contributors alike. But I didn’t want to speak for everyone else, so I asked other writers for reflections on the NotGraphs Experience™ to share here.
When I was young I always felt like to be a capital-W Writer I would have to write a novel or a newspaper column. I didn’t want to do either. NotGraphs taught me to abandon that, abandon convention, abandon the concept of Being a Writer at all or even being recognizable. The site’s very lack of success, based on how success is usually determined in sportswriting, is what made it so dear to me: it wasn’t beholden to anything except our own limitations, and the occasional flash of man-nudity. Without it I’d still be writing like someone else.
NotGraphs was utter creative liberation for me at a time when I needed nothing more or less. Despite the occasional “Removed by Administrator” bit of workflow, I barfed up whatever I wanted — so, so, so much of it stupid. This is, to be sure, a reflection of the free-range editorial ethos, but it also flows from the stalwart NotGraphs commenters, whom I declare to be The Only Reasonable People on the Internet. Their appetite for lovingly crafted nonsense is something I wish I could take with me and infect others with. I’m as likely to grow wings and become a sandwich. I am sincere when I say that I will miss them. This was an “open mic night” of baseball writing, and these few beautiful Internetters listened and clapped politely every time. Bless their hearts and sex organs.
In writing about baseball for a half decade now, I’ve been called an idiot, been ignored, been ridiculed. The low point was a period where some commenters called for my suicide. But the NotGraphs community—the readers and writers—have always given me the courage to write, to put some of my vulnerable self out there in poetry or story or picture. The best writers on earth don’t even get that kind of community.
Without NotGraphs, I’d have fewer friends, fewer Twitter followers, fewer instances of fun over the last three years. I’d never have drunkenly strolled the streets of Chicago with Carson and Dayn (nor taken that epic shit/nap in a Chicago dive bar)—a truly saddening thought. I’d never have published Dayn’s chapbook, which, I can’t even tell you how fun and rewarding that was for me, and I didn’t even write it! Thanks so much to everyone who bought one, wrote a review, tweeted pics of it next to beers and wholesome, nutritious cigarettes, got excited about it.
Without NotGraphs, I might have stopped writing altogether. I might never have believed that there was a reader/commenter base on the internet that wasn’t irreparably tainted by snark. I’d never have discovered Dale Thayer. I’d never have read so many fun things. So…
Thanks, NotGraphs contributors; I’d hang with y’all anytime; I’d go into more and more debt buying y’all drinks and beef jerkies all night. If you’re in the Santa Barbara area anytime in the next five years, please look me up.
Thanks, NotGraphs readers and commenters; I’d hang with y’all anytime; you were as much a part of this as the writers were—the more integral part, in fact. The better part. I love you.
Thanks, David Appelman, for allowing this wonderfully weird thing to happen. And for paying me monies. I can’t believe you did that. Rest assured, I spent it foolishly.
Thanks, Carson Cistulli, for thinking that because I was a “published poet” I might have something of worth to offer NotGraphs. In the end, I think, I did. It was my dong.
So, good night, sweet weblog, you stupid hunk of code and soul. I’ll miss you.
In honor of your strangeness, then:
My NotGraphs Numbers, for the Enjoyment of Said
NotGraphs Posts: 307 (two rescinded)
Dollars Made Through NotGraphs Posts: 3070
Total Comments on All NotGraphs Posts: 2303 (and counting, maybe)
Hours Spent Creating NotGraphs Posts: 1000 (approx.)
Posts for Which I Was Threatened With Legal Action: 2
Times Randomly Recognized in Public as Being a NotGraphs Writer: 1
Twitter Followers Gained Because of NotGraphs: 300+ (approx.)
Number of People I Invited to My Wedding Because of NotGraphs: 3
Number of Fine Arts Paintings Received Because of NotGraphs: 1
1. This includes time spent Photoshopping and GIF-making, but in general I fretted over posts—however trite, short, or plain dumb they may have been—and often spent well over three hours creating a post. I don’t tell y’all this to impress you; rather, to disappoint you, one last time.
2. Received a free drink at a very nice cocktail joint in Cincinnati, July 2013.
3. Only one was able to attend: Dayn Perry showed up in time to miss the ceremony but eat the pizza and drink the booze. He left in time to avoid the celebratory jiggling.
Hire Robert J. Baumann to live-blog your next birthday party, family reunion, or corporate event. You will not want to forget it soon.