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[Note: If Meta posts (i.e., posts about the site, itself, rather than about the Cubs) aren’t your thing, you’ll want to skip this one.]

As many of you know, this past weekend, I headed to New York for the now-annual Blogs with Balls conference. It’s a gathering of online sports media types, and includes a set of awards for a variety of things like “Best News-Breaking Site,” “Best Writer,” etc. Thanks in no small part to your efforts, our place was a finalist for “Best Team/Region-Specific Site,” so, if I hadn’t been inclined to go already, I knew I had to head to NYC on the small, small chance that BN actually won.

It did not.

Rather than a narrative recap of my experience, I’ll do it bullet-style (I’m sure I’m leaving a great deal out):

  • Most important thing first: so, yeah, BN did not win its award. The awards were handed out throughout the conference, so the presentation was over in the blink of an eye. You may recall that the other nominees included the largest independent sports blog on the ‘net (MGoBlog), the blog for CSN Philadelphia (The 700 Level), and, the winner, the sports blog on the Washington Post. The winner prepared a video acceptance, which was actually pretty funny.
  • Those Oscar losers who who smile and applaud are full of crap. I’ve never really been nominated for anything of import, and certainly not anything about which I was deeply passionate; something that is a reflection not only of what I do, but who I now believe myself to be. So, when BN was named a finalist for this award, I knew there was going to be a part of me that wanted to win … even though I didn’t think the site actually would win, given the caliber of the competition. But, until they announced that I’d lost, I didn’t realize how much I wanted to win. It sucked. Maybe that makes me petty, and I don’t think I need that external validation; but damn, it would have been cool to win. When they announced the winner, I smiled and applauded. I, too, am full of crap.
  • The conference was actually on the second day of the event. There was a kick-off party on Friday night, at which I met and had a legit conversation with Deion Sanders. I told him his athletic accomplishments were great and all, but those NFL commercials where he plays the fairy were great (I developed an unhealthy sense of self-satisfaction for saying that). Deion couldn’t have been more pleasant, and more uninterested in talking to me. I assumed it was simply because it was a sponsored event (Van Heusen), and Sanders just didn’t really want to be there. But maybe it was personal – he filed for divorce the next day.
  • The non-conference events had a very “New York party” feel to them, which was, I suppose, to be expected given that the event was in New York and most of the attendees were New Yorkers. I’m a Midwesterner through and through. That’s neither a criticism of them, nor of myself. Just an observation.
  • I knew no one, which apparently made me very unusual – I had a hell of a time finding individuals and/or groups to talk to at the party events. Folks knew who they wanted to talk to, and I wasn’t one of those people. I like to think I’m a generally affable guy, and, as a former corporate lawyer, I’m no stranger to awkward, required socializing. Still, I was frustrated at how difficult it was to find people to actually engage me in a conversation.
  • Particularly egregious? Adam Best, the face and co-founder of Fansided (a blog network not unlike SB Nation), thrice slid into conversations I was having with other bloggers, refused to acknowledge my physical existence (you know the type – didn’t look at me, and then used his body to square me out of the conversation like he was blocking out for a rebound (and these weren’t large, group conversations mind you – they were one-on-one type deals)), and dashed away without so much as a generic “what’s up.” Maybe he’s actually a really nice guy and I just caught him at a weird time (thrice), but it felt like he sized me up and decided I wasn’t worth his time.
  • One other low point: during a panel on the fracturing of blogs like this one by large sites (like ESPN/Yahoo/CBS/NBC, who scooped up a bunch of blogging talent three/four years ago en masse) and by social media sites (if your content lives on Twitter and Facebook, why do people need to come to your site?), I asked if the one-man, Mom ‘n Pop model was even sustainable anymore. A gentleman affiliated with CBS gave a plain-faced no. The exact answer, offered with a smirk as though the question was absurd, was “if someone offers you a bunch of money [to affiliate], you should take it.” It got the biggest laugh of the day, and I got the strong feeling that independent shops (like BN) are neither the future of online sports media, nor particularly welcome. I’m not interested in making this an attack on large media sites or affiliated blog networks (I might well affiliate some day), but it was disappointing to feel like I was crazy for doing what I do – in the very place I thought I was safest to be a guy who does that. (For the record, I still believe BN can “succeed” as a “job” for me. I’m nearly there as it is.)
  • That’s not to say I didn’t meet some cool people. Too many to list here, in fact. It was an impressive group, to say the least, most of whom have accomplished far more in this sphere by their mid-20s than I ever will.
  • The various panels throughout the day on Saturday were informative, interesting, and fun. Random thoughts: Matthew Cerone from MetsBlog might be the smartest guy around. The Deadspin writers have the slick air about them that you might suspect. Everyone in the biz considers himself/herself a writer first, and a fan/blogger/pundit/etc. second. That’s something I’ve always strived to follow, so I guess I’m on to something.
  • Jonah Keri and Bomani Jones are really impressive in person. I’m not a Jones reader, so I can’t say this about him, but Keri was as impressive in person as he is in print. And that’s saying a lot.
  • I met Julie DiCaro from A League of Her Own, which brought the total of Cubs bloggers I met to one. The total of baseball bloggers I met? Also one (I didn’t get a chance to meet Cerone). I met as many Canadian Football League and Premier League bloggers as MLB bloggers. Ours is not the most popular sport these days.
  • Overall, the conference was great. The organizers are clearly good at what they do – it was very professional, lest the name mislead you.
  • As I walked around the city (I decided to walk *everywhere*), I kept running into law buildings. Obviously there are a number of law firms in NYC, but I swear I came across a disproportionate number of their buildings relative to the thousands of buildings around town. It was a reminder of the life I’d left behind – and, when I saw the lights lit late on Saturday night, it became a pleasant reminder.
  • I left feeling more inspired than ever about my decision to make a go of this full-time. I looked around the room at these hundreds of people who do what I do (generally-speaking), and they’re all making a living at it. I saw people whom I read and respect, which has a demystifying effect. These people aren’t words on a page; they’re real, live people doing a job. I can do it, too, even if my preferred route is apparently atypical.
  • By the last bullet, I thought I’d be over the loss. Nope. Still bummed. I’m a very small man.
  • I’m not big on pictures at things like this, so I don’t really have any from the event. I did manage to snap this one while walking around the city, however. It’s true what they say – NYC really does have everything:

  • Fishin Phil

    Love that last pic, LOL!

    So, did you go with the strapless evening gown??

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      My shoulders can’t pull that off. I went with a little black dress and a mauve wrap.

  • Glenallen’s One Homer

    I just want to say good on you for being a finalist in the first place and for realizing that you’re happy with what you’re doing. That’s more than a hell of a lot of us can say for ourselves. Thanks for doing what you do.

  • miggy80

    While discribing the sights and sounds of NY I couldn’t help but to think that I too would of had the same reaction, and would of been bummed about losing. Us Cub fans think we always have a chance to win. Even if we have to take on the world. I got dibs on Adam Best!
    It’s becoming clear to me I don’t read this blog because I’m a Cubs fan. It’s because I have found a network with whom I can relate too about something I love. A network created by you Bret.

    Keep up the good work Ace!

    • Mike Foster

      Nicely said miggy, it’s about the network. And besides, Midwesterners already know about East Coast bias. Carry on Ace, we’re with you.

  • Mike

    You were up for an award? Why didn’t you say something about it? ;)

  • Wilbur

    I was in NYC just after Labor Day to see a couple of plays and the sights with the wife after dropping the youngest off at college. We walked out of the theater, she looks up and busts out laughing and makes me take a picture and send it back to Illinois to our friends. If I knew I hadn’t sent the picture to you I would have sworn you used mine …

    As for making a living at it what you’re doing keep it up, you’re good at it. You combine good analysis, with reasoned opinion and keep a sense of humor. Follow the money and affiliate or don’t based on the economics. Just keep the style.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Wow, that sign has been busted like that since early September? Either they like the attention, or they’re all kinds of lazy.

      (And thanks.)

      • Toosh

        You know what’s sad? I had to look up what MILF means. A lot of people need to get their minds out of the gutter.

        • Cardfan

          The irony of this post emanating from a “Toosh” is not lost on me…

          • TWC

            “Emanating from a Toosh”?!  Hawr.  Isn’t that where most Cardinals fans emanate from?

            • Cardfan

              Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful

              • Jeff

                Don’t worry, that’s not why we hate you.

              • Dave

                This is why we (by “we” I mean “I”) hate you:

                http://www.bleachernation.com/forum/index.php?/topic/106-arent-cardinals-fans-just-the-worst/

                And I mean “hate” in the metaphorical sense, not the literal.

                • Cardfan

                  Dave – read your “manifesto” and you are taking this wayyyy too serious. Although I do agree that nobody looks good in red. My suggestion is that you head to the “Cat and the Fiddle” and have Jerry fix you a strong one (if he is still around).

                  On first glance, you would also seem to be a bit of a masochist – you’re a Cubs fan in the heart of Cardinal country, and a Mo. Tigers fan in Mo.St. Bear’s country?!?

  • Cardfan

    Brett-
    IMO this post encapsulates your success:
    1. you want to win
    2. you can laugh at yourself and not be too serious
    3. you can be surrounded by assholes and still maintain your focus
    4. You can see the sheep mentality and the “prevailing opinion” for what they are. Pick an industry and the true success stories are the ones swimming against the current and having a kick ass time doing it.
    We will never agree on the right team, but I can fully appreciate talent when I see it.

    Well done sir-

    An adoring trogolodyte…

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Thank you to all for the exceedingly kind comments. I should have made it clear in the post: this place would not be what it is without all of you.

  • Jeff

    I know I am probably in the minority, but I’m not a fan of the under-one-roof blog sites for teams that I am so passionate about.  I love the Cubs and the Bears and I have no need or desire to read blogs from people that care and know less about those teams than I do.  This “mom and pop” site has some of the most knowledgeable Cubs fans around, including our fearless leader.  I don’t think I’ll ever be a regular reader of any blogger from say, Yahoo, espn, or SB nation.  Those are the kind of sites that post things just to get page views by saying controversial things or pulling things out of their ear.  It sucks that you didn’t win, but none of us feel any less about our favorite Cubs blog or the quality of your writing.  Besides, you’re in on the ground floor, just imagine how huge Cubs blog sites will become when they start winning again.  Keep up the good work, and we’ll keep reading.

  • Cheryl

    I was a newspaper writer and never won a reward yet I could get interviews others couldn’t. Don’t let it get to you. You’re good at what you do. You wouldn’t have the respect of everyone here if you weren’t. Keep it up!

  • dreese

    Sorry you didnt win Brett but I have I way to get BN more popularity. If next years team is as bad as we all think its going to be we should all buy a row of seats and have BN signs and since there will only be 12 other people in the park after the cubs 2-34 start we will be on TV for at least 45 minutes.

  • Kyle N

    I definitely echo the sentiments of the faithful here.

    Some of us might be brazen and harsh pessimists, eternal silver-lining optimists, enthusiastically long-winded (I am guilty as charged here), or just flat out crazy, but ALL of us are here because of the extremely high quality of this blog (due to your charisma, good writing, thorough research, and humor) and that we are simply passionate about the Cubs.

    I agree that the whole take on the independent blog situation is a downer, but the fact is, you are getting the recognition on a national stage and have the right mindset to continue to build on your success, jaded guys at CBS be damned.

    BTW, A BN gathering for a future game needs to happen. I feel like Landfill’s brother in the movie “Beerfest” after he joins the drinking team. “I feel like I already know you guys, so there won’t be that awkward get-to-know-you phase.”

    And to think, I didn’t know this place existed until the reigning reader-of-the-decade Caleb introduced me. In fact, it was about the time we both drove cross-country from Minneapolis to Boston to watch the Cubs beat the Red Sox at Fenway. (It was the “Marlon Byrd got beaned in the head, or “the James Russell started and didn’t actually lose” game, depending on your preference)

    • Kyle N

      P.S. Don’t think I haven’t thought about your “Defending Darwin Barney” post. I think you put that up just to elicit a response from me. :) I’ll post my carefully worded response soon.

      It really isn’t much of a defense, as it is a realization, justification, and a bunch if other things. Haha. It won’t get me a pair of good shoes, but maybe you’ll find it in your heart to hook me up with a pair of crocs.

  • packman711

    There were a lot of things thought “not possible”.  I highly doubt anyone that posts on that CBS dude’s blogs gives two craps to care what kind of dress you wore how the conference went. Personally, I think you deliver that hometown feel that you don’t get anywhere else. Keep up the great work friend.

  • Mike Foster

    Carry on Ace, carry-on. You got 2 more games to review, and I want my full money’s worth….

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Thanks again, everyone. You’re good people.

  • Ron

    Ace, guess I should have tried to vote for you more often. I agree with the sentiments previously expressed, love the site, good work. On affiliating, I probably would stop reading (maybe) I like the mom and pop feel and can relate. You have created a place like the local tavern that no cookie cutter chain can give you. Keep up the good work. Maybe next year! You just need to get more left handed.

  • Laura

    Meh. They stinks.

  • pfk

    Brett, what an amazing recap of the events in New York city. It was as though it was being told to me by a very close friend who isn’t afraid to show his feelings or share his thoughts. I could actually feel the disappointment over not winning; the awkwardness of not having anyone with whom one can speak at a party; the feeling of being ignored and being made seemingly trivial when another butts into your conversation; the impressions made by brilliant people and world-class talent. I think all of us who follow BN felt it like a family feels it, which is what makes this blog so special. BN will indeed be a financial success for you. The cream always rises to the top and there are those who recognize that – and pay for the best.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Thanks again, all. I appreciate it.

  • durbo55

    Brett,

     

    Next time just give us all the address and we will  show up and crash the party, and do it Chicago style.  Where it doesnt matter where you are from and where it is SO easy to strike up a conversation with other people.   On other note, dont worry about not winning it is a great honor just being nominated for an award.  You write great stuff man.  If you didnt none of us would be here complimenting you like we all have been.. Keep up the good work man.  Next year is always a chance to win it again.  At least it hasnt been over 100 years since you won something!

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    Yeah, man.

  • mannytrillofan

    There are no better sites to get the real unfiltered truth than this site. I don’t know how you always come up with the info so fast and up to date. The best site by far.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Thanks again, all. My heart is full – which sounds all kinds of cheesy. But it’s true.

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