Today is my birthday, and I’m pleased to report that I have lots of things to be happy about. Two of those things will have an effect on this site, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.
The first happy thing is that ESPN gave me an early birthday present last week, in the form of a two-year contract that will increase my level of responsibility at Page 2. The other thing is that a personal situation has come up that will require more of my attention. I’d rather not get into specifics, but I assure you it’s a very positive development (translation: I’m not sick, nobody in my family is sick, my name didn’t turn up in any of Elliot Spitzer’s e-mails, nothing like that).
Both of these developments will place some new demands on my time, and that in turn has led me to make some decisions about the site — decisions I had already been pondering anyway. Don’t worry, Uni Watch isn’t disappearing. But after nearly two years of posting new material on a near-daily basis (plus coordinating all the advertising, raffles, membership details, keeping up with the flood of e-mails and comments, whipping those slacker interns into shape, etc.), I realize I’ve created a monster. The site’s growth has been phenomenal, and I’m extremely proud of it, but it’s reached the point where Uni Watch has become the tail that wags the dog of my life, and that was never what I’d intended.
So here are some new policies, effective pronto:
• Unless there’s breaking uni-related news, I will no longer be posting a main entry on days when I have an ESPN column running. I may still run a Ticker on these days, or maybe just a placeholder photo (like on weekends), or maybe just a “See you over on ESPN today” note. Commenting will be fully enabled, so the discussion can continue as usual.
• There may also be occasional days when I simply close up shop and turn off the commenting function, as I did last Friday when I was in Seattle. Call it a mental health day, call me lazy, call it whatever you like. This won’t happen frequently, but I assure you it will happen. I’d like everyone — myself included — to get used to the idea that a day without Uni Watch isn’t the end of the world (although it’s certainly close).
• When I go on vacation — something I’ve done exactly once since the site debuted 22 months ago — the site will go on hiatus too. Case in point: I’m gonna be in New Orleans during the week of April 28th (attending the mighty Ponderosa Stomp, among other fun stuff). Instead of stockpiling material in advance to post while I’m away, as I did during last summer’s vacation, I plan to post a “Uni Watch is taking a break this week” note and turn off the comments. I realize this may create a gaping lifestyle void for some of you, but I have faith in your ability to persevere during my absence.
• When I created the membership program last year, the idea was to generate extra revenue. It’s been a huge success, both financially and creatively — seriously, I can’t thank you all enough. But my new ESPN contract has provided me with a much higher level of security, and it’s no longer necessary or fair for me to ask for outside support. My initial thought was to shut down the program completely, but then I thought that everyone seems to enjoy the membership cards. So starting now, there will be only one membership level, and its only benefit will be the membership card itself. Enrollment will cost $15 (a fair price for the labor of designing and producing the cards) and will last forever, or until you decide you want a new card design, which will cost another $15.
Allow me to anticipate a few of your questions:
That sucked when you turned off the comments last Friday. If you need to take a day off now and then, or go on vacation, that’s fine, but why can’t you leave the commenting on for the rest of us while you’re recharging your batteries?
If the comments section is live, it’s not a day off, because the comments have to be monitored for abusive posts, childish spats, spam filter problems, etc. And even if Bryan handles all of those things, as he does on weekends, I still have to catch up on about 200 comments when the day is over. (Yeah, I know, I could just ignore them, but of course I’m way too obsessive to do that.) If I shut down the site for a day, it means I don’t even want to think about Uni Watch that day. I realize the site has become part of the daily routine for many of you — believe me, I take a lot of pride in that. But there are days when you’ll just have to learn to live without it. Think of it as a way for me to stop being your enabler (and, in turn, for you to stop being mine).
I’m one of your current or potential advertisers. What happens to my ad when you shut down the site to go on vacation?
I’ll pro-rate your ad charges to reflect time when I’m vacationing.
Haven’t you always had a contract with ESPN?
No. Up until now, I’ve been contributing, and being paid, on an article-by-article basis — no security, no guarantees. Under our new arrangement, I’ll be paid a flat annual stipend for a variety of services (primarily writing my column, but also a few other things). This doesn’t mean I’m an employee — I’m still technically a freelancer, still have to pay for my own health insurance, etc. — but now I know my column will still be running for at least the next two years, and the stipend is much more generous than what I was getting paid before.
Does the contract place any restrictions on the blog?
No. In fact, the contract specifically gives me permission to keep doing the blog. The new policies I’m announcing here today are strictly of my own volition and have nothing to do with any requests or stipulations from ESPN.
What are these new responsibilities you’ll have at ESPN?
Some of them won’t be all that visible — contributing to group projects that won’t have my name on them, stuff like that. In terms of my byline, I’ll probably be doing a few more non-uni-related pieces. Oh, and they want me to start doing some live web chats, which I’m looking forward to. Looks like the first one may be next Thursday or Friday — stay tuned.
Will you still be allowed to write for other publications, and about non-sports stuff?
Yes. But the nice thing about the new contract is that I’ll now have enough security to be much choosier about my other writing.
How will the changes in the membership program affect those of us who are already members? What about my Charter Member status? What about the T-shirts?
I promise to address all of this in the next week or two.
How old are you turning today?
Forty-four. Bryan, incidentally, sent me a package with a bunch of presents, including this book, this book, and these socks (which are actually red, not orange — blame my scanner), and you don’t want him to feel like the only sucker who gave me stuff, so feel free to send presents, cakes, strippers, etc. to the usual address.
That’s it, at least for now. Thanks for listening.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The “NCAA” patches being worn by every friggin’ team in the tournament look ridiculous (plus it looks like some of them were affixed with nothing more than a glue stick). … Yesterday’s Ticker linked to some Florida Gators photos that showed a new blue helmet stripe. But Bob Jaye has the story behind that one: “Those photos show freshmen, who all begin practice with a stripe and have to earn the right to have it removed by their effort on the field. Urban Meyer implemented this when he arrived in ’05. It doesn’t represent a change in the Gators’ game-day helmet design.” … A little birdie tells me that the following NBA teams will have new home and road uniforms next season: the Nuggets, Timberwolves, Magic, Kings, and Hornets, plus the Bucks will be getting a new alternate design. … While researching something else, I stumbled across a photo of Chief Wahoo made out of Lego. … Tony Esposito
is auditioning for Friday the 13th Part 17 wore his old mask during a pregame ceremony the other day. … Forgive my brain-lock here, but aside from the Reds’ Joe Nuxhall patch, are any other MLB teams wearing memorial patches or armbands this season? I can’t think of any others, but I also can’t think of a recent season that didn’t have several uni-borne memorials, so I’m wondering if there are a couple for this year that I’m forgetting. … Thanks to everyone who entered the NCAA Tourney contest. Vince reports that we have about twice as many entries this year as last year.