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On blogging, obsession vs. passion, and following sports

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Today is my last day as the editor-in-chief of Buffalo Rumblings.

That is not nearly as difficult a thing for me to admit as I thought it would be - not just two weeks ago, when I announced that the end of my time here was near, but in the several months that preceded that day, when agonizing over this eventuality was a daily item on my to-do list.

After I hit publish on this post, I’ll be done blogging about the Buffalo Bills - if not forever, then at least for a good, long while.

While it’s not difficult to say it anymore, it’s definitely weird. Buffalo Rumblings has been my obsession for over nine years - and they were critically important years, too, I hear, ranging from ages 21 to 30. It’s the little corner of the internet that I founded, along with SB Nation (while it was still a startup, years before it was known as the powerhouse that is Vox Media), and that I oversaw as it grew into one of the biggest team-oriented sports sites in the world.

I have edited or outright published over 11,700 posts and 39,000 comments on this website. Bits of my very soul live in these pages, tapped out through my fingertips throughout the past 3,353 days. It’s basically my most prized Horcrux (if those were real, and they required countless hours of labor rather than a murder-by-wand). Something this important to me needed to be left to the right person.

That’s why I’m so glad to know that Buffalo Rumblings will be entrusted to incredibly capable hands moving forward. My successor has been chosen, and will make their introductions later on today. I promise, y’all are in great hands. As a matter of fact, I have a feeling that new heights are in store for Buffalo Rumblings. I’m excited to see where [IDENTITY SNEAKILY REDACTED] takes this community.

Right now, however, I have a few final paragraphs to impart upon you, should you choose to read them. I hope you don’t mind one last post with my self-indulgent rambling; I will try my hardest to make it worth your while.

When I started blogging back in 2006, while still a college student, I was carrying a full course load and working an IT job 20 hours per week. It was at said IT job that I was pointed in the direction of a blogger named Merlin Mann, who is best known for his site 43folders.com, and for his writing and speaking on making time for creative endeavors. (If you’re in any way feeling disorganized or creatively adrift, I cannot recommend his work enough; it’s a bit dated now, but the wisdom of it holds up exceptionally well.) It was Mann’s words on "how to blog" that caught my attention early on; they became my unofficial credo, and they should be carefully considered not just by bloggers, but by the readers and commenters who make those blogs their online homes. Those words:

Find your obsession.
Every day, explain it to one person you respect.
Edit everything, skip shortcuts, and try not to be a dick.
Get better.

At different points throughout my blogging career, different aspects of that genius statement have been points of emphasis for me. "Get better" was the first among those; starting a site from scratch requires that your work grow from bad to passable, and from passable to fairly respectable, as quickly as possible. Apparently, I was able to pull that off well enough, even though I typically cringe today when I read some of my posts from the early days. I’ll never be completely satisfied with anything I write, but I am sincerely humbled by the fact that you all stopped by here every day to read what we had to say - even if you were just here to yell at me.

"Try not to be a dick" came next; that’s not an easy thing to do when you’re a naive 20-something in charge of a growing website. I consider this to be the single most difficult thing for anyone involved in covering or consuming sports to do these days. Managing an editorial team pumping out high volume, plus tens of thousands of readers and several hundred active commenters, is a hard thing to do. It’s made exponentially harder when you’re nearly constantly trying to minimize the impact that people who succumb to the pull of being a dick can have on the community. I have said too many stupid things to too many people I respect while fighting that fight; even though that has been reciprocated a hundredfold, I'm still not proud of it. Mercifully, there is still mutual respect between a lot of the people I have wronged, mostly because those people are awesome. My only regrets from my time running a sports website fall under the "try not to be a dick" umbrella.

If I would ask anything of the members of this community - and of the Bills’ fan base as a whole, quite frankly - as the next chapter of Buffalo Rumblings begins, it would be this: try not to be a dick. It’s okay if we occasionally slip into dick territory; we’re human beings. Just try. Hard. It makes talking about sports with our fellow fan far more enjoyable, for all parties involved, if we’re enjoying our common interests together, and not just yelling at each other all the time. My original goal for Buffalo Rumblings was to create a community of Bills fans that respected and even occasionally liked each other. I think we’re doing okay in that regard, but the work is never done. So let’s keep trying, shall we?

As Buffalo Rumblings continued to grow, "edit everything" and "skip shortcuts" came into play. I needed a team. Quality volunteers helped in the early days; Dock Ellis started that ball rolling in the blog’s infancy, which led to "The Triumvirate" of Kurupt, sireric, and jri111, who are all stellar dudes who helped stabilize the site early on. Eventually, I stumbled across some dude with a Homer Simpson avatar named Matt Warren, who has been the Dwight Schrute to my Michael Scott (or maybe the Jesse Pinkman to my Walter White) for over six years now. He is fantastic in nearly every respect, although he could stand to use more commas. Jason Pieri is a great writer, and a pleasure to edit. Jon Ramsey (you might know him as @YardsPerPass on Twitter) was a former real-life coworker that ended up being one of the brightest amateur football minds I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’ve been luckiest for the past year, when our staff has expanded to include smart, dedicated writers like Dan Lavoie, Tom Mitchell, Jeff Hunter, Anthony Marino, and Kent Dickerson.

There are many others that have provided work for the masses on the pages of Buffalo Rumblings, almost exclusively pro bono, that I haven’t explicitly named here. I’m not trying to be a dick; I’m just trying to wrap this sucker up this century. To everyone who has helped me make this place what it is: you are awesome in your own unique way, and I can’t thank you enough. If you ever run into me in a bar, the beer will be very free for you.

"Every day, explain it to one person you respect." In this case, "it" is "the Buffalo Bills," and as you know only too well, the Buffalo Bills can be exceedingly difficult to explain. After tens of thousands of posts and comments on my chosen blogging subject, I can unequivocally share with you that I still haven’t quite figured them out. But that holds true for the members of this fan base, as well, which is why trying to figure this team out alongside you has been a unique joy in my life. I respect the hell out of Bills fans. This fan base is truly great. It has its flaws, but we are millions of brothers and sisters riding the same crazy roller coaster; things were always going to be a little bumpy. No matter what, we'll always share a bond: the love for the charging buffalo (and/or the standing buffalo, depending on your preference).

My biggest comfort in retiring from blogging is knowing that I’ll still belong to a large, insane group of people who all want the same thing: for their favorite football team to win, and win big. The 2016 season will be my family’s 23rd straight in which we’ve owned season tickets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. I’m leaving, but I’m also not going anywhere.

For the vast majority of my first 30 years, the Bills were my obsession. It started because of my dad, and kicked into high gear during The Comeback, which I watched as a seven-year-old - vertically, while my infected ear was pressed to a heating pad. Tears were shed after playoff losses thereafter; my mom correctly diagnosed an illness as made-up after a particularly grueling postseason loss in Miami during my middle school years. (She was right to make me go to school while "sick" the next day.) Then came the piles of notebooks and spreadsheets during the high school years, followed by the journalism degree in college. Voila: that’s how the obsession of my formative years manifested itself into Buffalo Rumblings, and the site only kicked the obsession into overdrive.

When push comes to shove, I’m calling it a career because of one predominant reason: these nine years of growing up have (so, so incredibly slowly) taught me the difference between obsession and passion. I am, and will forever be, a passionate Bills fan. But I am, quite honestly, no longer obsessed with the team or the sport. Depth charts, snap counts, 40 times, signing bonuses, and press conference quotes no longer dominate my thoughts during every waking moment; a while ago, they became frivolous mosquitos darting around my to-do list, while I tried to take care of more important matters. Those include, but certainly are not limited to: my incredible fiancée, and a grown-up job that I am lucky enough to enjoy. For you, these may be common life developments; for me, they have helped to put the Bills, and the sport of football, into a proportionally proper place in my life. The Bills are no longer my obsession; they are simply one of the many things I am passionate about. It took me a long time to realize that. It took me longer to realize that I am going to be much better off for it.

Until I find my next obsession and start a blog about it, I am ready to assume my place as a passionate Bills fan, alongside the rest of the masses, and to let Buffalo Rumblings enter its next phase of existence as I enter my own. It has been a great decade; I wouldn’t trade this time for anything, and I’ll cherish the memories forever. Thank you for being a part of that journey.

Go Bills!

- Brian