Everything I'm going to say in this column can be boiled down to three things: 1) How much I enjoy the Mavs' internet community 2) Some things you should know about what we do, 3) Some things we need to remember about who you might be.
When I first started writing Mavs, I wrote for Examiner.com. I have a lot of bad things to say about Examiner, and I probably will, for the fun of it, but it actually wasn't too bad a gig. Especially at first, when they used to pay a whole cent for every click, a formula they eventually changed, in a negative way. So it goes.
Still, they gave me a place to write about the Mavs and paid me a little, and I was happy. I learned a lot while I was there, but probably the most important thing was this: over there, because it's a huge, huge site, you really have to self-promote. I didn't love it that much -- who does? -- but I did it.
Here's where I learned my first and most important lesson. If you don't come from a big deal site, big deal people don't necessarily treat you with respect. Is that fair? I mean, to a degree. Basketball writing isn't 100% not a meritocracy. Can Zach Harper (someone who has never had an unkind word to say to me, to be clear) do his job way better than I do mine? Yes.
But here's the thing, whether you're a writer or a commenter or an occasional reader, 90% of us do this part-time. In real life, so to speak, we all do something else. Is it fair for me, now that I'm a writer, to condescend to someone who is a commenter, because they are not a writer? It is not.
It wouldn't be, anyway, period. But if it were ever justified, it certainly isn't in this case because the thing about the internet is, you never know who you're talking to. Maybe someone made a comment about the Mavs that I thought was dumb because they haven't had a chance to watch enough Mavs games this season because they were too busy working on a new kind of superconductive material, revolutionizing world electronics. And I'm going to act all snooty because they think Darren Collison's been doing pretty well? Alright.
I really apologize to anybody who has ever felt that I talked down to them because I'm a fancy web page columnist, and not just because I got all snooty. That's lesson one.
Eventually, I left Examiner. Well, actually I was fired. Actually, I was fired twice. Actually, I wasn't fired. Okay...
So, first, they found out that I had moved from Dallas to Providence, and even though they had only figured it out because I told them, not thinking it was a big deal, they fired me. I cursed them out, and they realized, I suppose, that they were paying me essentially nothing to provide content for them -- hey, looky there -- and "took me back." Well, agreed not to actively look for anyone to replace me. Or something.
And then, here's how they eventually did fire me: they replaced me right in the middle of the Mavericks' championship run and they didn't tell me about it. I just noticed that, as the season reached the ultimate crescendo of Mavericks history, my posts suddenly weren't getting promoted even in the little ways they used to be. Since Examiner is a site you basically can't search, I had no idea it was because they'd brought somebody else in.
Then, after the Finals, after they'd benefited from having two guys write for them, without the inconvenience of having to pay one of them anything, they let me know...that they'd let me go a while ago. Or, rather, they told me that though they'd replaced me weeks ago, taking my audience out from under me right in the middle of the moment everything had been building towards, the moment all NBA eyes were on the Mavericks, I could stay on, with such a terrific company, and contribute some if I promised to work on my writing, which was not meeting their standards.
I patiently explained to them, at a rate of four curse words a sentence, how eagerly I looked forward to the day when they, and all companies like them, were sued for exploitation and that while I was happy to take certain criticisms of my writing from sources I felt were qualified to give it, I had no (censored) idea who any of my (censored) bosses were and that after their (censored) conduct with respect to me, I had certain (censored) opinions of my own about the validity of their (censored) perspectives, which I warmly welcomed them to place in the appropriate receptacle for (excrement).
I didn't write about the Mavericks for a few months after things ended with Examiner. Then, there was a contest here for new writers. I didn't win, but I came in 2nd or 3rd, and I stuck around, and now I've been here a couple years.
Man, is it better.
Lesson 2: SB Nation, a far more successful initiative, thrives by giving its writers the tools to do what they do, and by fostering individualized communities rather than running things from a black box somewhere down the line. It's great for me, but it's good for you because SB Nation values you as much as it values me, and it should.
I want you to know one thing about most NBA writers, because it's also true of most people who dabble in the arts at all. More or less everybody gets paid mostly in exposure. That is, most of these websites have realized that the hardest thing for someone pursuing art on their own to get is anybody to notice them in a crowded market place.
There's nothing inherently wrong with this. For those of us who want a career in sports journalism -- not me -- there are very real opportunities that come from the contacts provided by a job like this. For those of us who aren't looking for that, it's still a lot more fun writing for a large audience than writing on your private blog that no one ever visits.
The bad websites are the ones that think you should be super grateful. The good websites are proud of you. Not proud of you in the clap-you-on-the-back sense, proud of the talent that they have to display, taking pride in the accumulation of talent. The bad websites are the ones that are doing it for the ad space and think a monkey can be trained to get it done. The good ones recognize that writers, paid or unpaid, are assets. In exchange for light financial compensation, they set them up to do what they do as well as they can, and they applaud them when and if the next step shows up. SB Nation is great at this. And they're great at perks, too. You've read a couple columns on here, one of them being my own, about how exciting it is to attend a game as press. I made the bargain, and I can definitely live with it.
This one is for all you younger people out there. Value yourself. There are going to be times when it makes sense to let somebody exploit you for a little bit to put something on the resume, but they're often fewer than they seem. Be protective of your work. If you're not going to get paid in money, be sure you're comfortable with what you are getting paid in. Get paid in perks, or in autonomy, or creative freedom.
I'm very happy selling these thoughts of mine to SB Nation in return for this great Mavs community, and the freedom to write how I want. Fan Fiction Friday, and all kinds of things. I'm happy with the great Twitter community, and the great fan community in here. I hope you're happy.
Anyway, this is getting long and that's most everything that's happened to me in my blogging life so far, so let me just say this. You know who we are a little bit more than we know who you are. Now you know, if you didn't before, that we mostly do this for free and around our "real jobs." I hope you all feel respected, and I'm happy to report I generally feel respected too. Sometimes I tell someone who joins MMB for the sole purpose of acting superior about a typo the number of mostly extremely hot places they can take their unwanted opinion.
Hey, one of the things I get paid in is the ability to protect this one little corner of the internet from the things that are on the regular internet. I never feel bad about it.
But basically, here we are, at the beginning of another year, looking for ways to improve for you and for us, and I am looking forward to it.