I see my light come shining, from the West out to the East,
Any day now, any day now, I shall be released
-- Steve Band, lead singer of The Band
I'm not sure if it's because I'm an insane person or a Northwestern sports fan -- it seems the second would be impossible, if not for the first one -- that I've had the same thought several dozen times. "Rodger, what would you write on your Northwestern sports website if..."
If Northwestern basketball made the NCAA Tournament. If Northwestern made the Rose Bowl. If Northwestern *won* the Rose Bowl. What would I do? What would I write?
I've thought about this on the treadmill. While walking my dog. While just lying there. I have spent multiple hours of my life thinking about how I would emotionally react to a sporting event that might never happen, and how I would broadcast that emotion to the world.
I won't write those posts, or at the very least I won't write them in the manner I intended to.
As you might have noticed, I handed off SB Nation's Northwestern coverage to Inside NU. (You noticed this, right? Look to the top-left, idiot.) It's a decision I made for a variety of reasons, logistical and emotional.
I'm a tad relieved to no longer have to worry about the daily blogging #grind. I'm happy y'all will be in good hands. I'm glad for my company to snag a quality site. I think Inside NU is the best Northwestern sports publication, online or in print, and I'm not just saying that because.
But of course, I'm a bit wistful. SoP can never and will never die, but the transition obviously makes me feel feelings. If you read this site over the years, feel them with me.
They say everything can be replaced
The simplest way to explain why I'm turning over the site is that I decided to turn it over in mid-April, and now, in August, I'm finally getting around to finishing a semi-eulogy for it. I spent an hour-plus a day running this site for four years, and it took me about four months to put together time to write a post about leaving it behind.
I've known for some time that I was going to transition out of a role where I spent several hours per day writing about Northwestern sports.
There were a few ways to do that. I could've found somebody else to run SoP. I didn't like this for two main reasons: first, I'm an egotistical jerk who would've hated seeing someone else run the thing I named. Second, I learned that putting "Sippin' on Purple" on your resume does not necessarily lead to job opportunities, and didn't want somebody else to deal with that.
If you've noticed, Inside NU is an absolutely spectacular site. I don't really have any qualms saying it's the best Northwestern publication out there, in any medium, free or not.
I don't mean that as a knock on the newspaper reporters and paysites and other blogs. I've just always been impressed by the depth, quality, and quantity of what Inside NU does. I also think they'll have a lot more lasting power than something called "Sippin' on Purple" that was designed to be me writing dumb stuff when I felt the urge.
I still want to warble about Northwestern, so I'll still do that when I feel like it. But you'll get a much fuller perspective of what's actually happening in Northwestern sports with a full crew of journalists going to games and practices and calling recruits and previewing stuff than you ever would with just me. You should be happy to have Inside NU here, as I am.
They say every distance is not near
I think it's pretty obvious I'll always be a Northwestern Wildcats fan. I think that's pretty obvious. I bought purple pants last year, dammit.
But I do think a big part of college football is, um, college. There's something special about getting massively drunk with your friends, being in a crowd of thousands of people wearing the same color shirt as you, seeing your team win, and then later going out to the bar and seeing all the players from the team that won celebrating.
It's fleeting. I'm 24, young by most human standards, but in terms of college, the three-year gap since I graduated is eternal. That bar, the one everybody I went to college with went dozens of times including all those post-game Saturday nights, is closed. It has been for several years. The vast majority of current Northwestern students have never been there. In the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream that is college, three years is how long it takes a universally-known mainstay to become anonymous.
I remember being a freshman and walking into a fraternity house and seeing this house full of people who knew each other and had all these inside jokes and wanting in. It felt like watching a sitcom for a first time -- Kramer bursts through the door and everybody applauds, and you're wondering "why's everybody applauding?" and you watch to find out. In a few years, I was the person whose inside jokes those were, and new freshmen were on the outside when I was looking in.
If I went back to that house, the only people I would know would be the kids who were freshmen when I was a senior, and those kids would be the seniors ready to graduate. My inside jokes have probably been replaced with new ones, and those new ones have been since replaced by new ones.
I am three years removed from college, and that is several centuries. Last year I watched Northwestern football games on my computer in SB Nation's offices in midtown Manhattan. The beer was free, but I only had a few most Saturdays, because I was working.
Last year Northwestern lost two games in overtime, one game in triple overtime featuring a last-second field goal, on a Hail Mary. They lost game after game after game in heartbreaking ways. And perhaps my heart would've been broken if I was in college.
But I wasn't. I was in an office. Most of the time, I sat there, watched the horrible thing happen, took a sip of beer, and carried on with my workday: another thing to write, another thing to tweet.
College me would not understand this. First, he'd be furious at me for not getting hammered off free beer. By leaving that beer for free, those people were challenging you. To leave even a single beer undrank would be proving you were weak.
Second, he wouldn't understand my seeming indifference. Each and every one of those losses would've sent me into a daylong, perhaps weeklong depression in college. My soul would've hurt. How could I be so emotionless?
I'm only 800 miles away from Northwestern, but it might as well be millions. I won't see those players at the bar after the game, and although I care whether they win or lose, I don't live and die with it like I did so many centuries ago.
So I remember every face of every man who put me here
Right now, I'm pretty thrilled with my life. I have a full-time job with SB Nation, running social media but also writing stuff about sports that I like. Although I see room for growth professionally, I have a pretty ideal job right now. I watch sports and make jokes about them on the internet, which is kind of what I used to do and not get paid for. Now I get paid for it. Not as much as you jerks who did engineering or went to law school, but enough. I have a dog with incredibly floppy ears and a beautiful girlfriend (who shares a name with, but is not related to, a certain former Northwestern basketball coach) and a little backyard and down the street there's a bar where I can bring the dog in and lose to hipsters in shuffleboard. My days are extremely content.
I have this job directly because of Sippin' on Purple. I got hired to work on SB Nation's newsdesk because I was good at running this site, and things moved from there.
I was good at running this site, in essence, because of you, the people who read the words I wrote. Y'all fueled me. I can't really describe what it meant to have a group of people willing to read my stupid words. When you said I wrote something good, I preened. When you said I wrote something bad, I tried not to do that thing again. You drove me, and made me strive to make my site the best in its little corner of the internet.
You guys crafted me into a much, much, much, much, much, MUCH, much, much better writer than I was when I started this. More than any professor, I owe my (still-improving) writing skills to the primarily anonymous people who read an commented on this site.
So when I say I have this job and everything that comes with it directly because of Sippin' on Purple, I mean I have this job and everything that comes with it because of the people who read my site over the years.
So thanks. I cherish this. I owe all of you beers.
So, in sorta-signing off, I ask of you this: don't be strangers. There's going to be a fine blog here writing stuff about Northwestern sports. I'll be reading it. I hope you will too. I hope the same community we had at SoP lives on at Inside NU, so those writers can get the same boost from you that I did. And when I swing along to write stuff, I hope y'all are there.
It's been real. Remember: Always sip.