"Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it." - David Foster Wallace
This will be my last Article here at Big Blue View. I wanted to do a big sit-down interview and really drag out the decision Lebron-style, but I actually don't have anything lined up after this. It just sort of felt time to move on. This will be my 141st article in 16 months and I think I've given as much as I have to offer. It was a good ride, and I'm thankful to everyone who helped make it happen.
Former BBV-staffer 'Invictus' set me up with this gig after some back and forth on Twitter. He and I actually met up once here in Ireland shortly after I started, and to date, he remains the only person in the Giants community who actually knows that I exist, although, I did create some very real headaches for Ed when we had a few colorful exchanges during my time here. Although I must admit, our disagreements made me a better Writer. It's important to listen to your editors, kids, even if you don't plan on actually incorporating any of their advice.
(Fake note from Ed: You are so fired, Sinclair.)
(Extra note from me: You can't fire me. I already quit. Also, I stole your prized possession; that signed Marshall Newhouse jersey that hangs above your mantelpiece.)
I had a few ideas about what I might do for my final article here. A detailed appreciation of Jeff Hoestetler's action mustache. The story behind the time my cousin saw Eli Manning hit on a girl in a bar on Christmas Eve and get rejected (they were in high school together). Top 100 plays that should have gotten two yards against the Giants defense but instead went for 30+. I went for a different angle. I went sincere and sentimental. Here are eight lessons that I learned while Writing for BBV.
People can disagree with your opinion, and still like your writing. My favorite article that I wrote for BBV was about the idea that Kerry Collins could be a Hall of Fame player despite being remembered as a lower tier quarterback. That article took weeks to put together, and I was doing it more as an exercise in my own ability to debate rather than trying to fire off a quick 200-word hot-take. I got a lot of heat for that article. I got called crazy more than any other time in my life, but many of those instances also included compliments on my writing, and those were the best compliments of all. It is a special feeling to have someone disagree with your entire philosophy and concept, yet still feel the need to reach out to give you praise on your execution. That was a serious "This is why I write" moment.
My last day at Pro Football Focus was also my first day at BBV. I was offered a contract at PFF that contained some extraordinarily aggressive non-compete clauses. If I signed that contract, I would have been eligible for trials for a promotion, but if I didn't get the promotion I would be relegated to low-level data monkey stuff with a legal binding that stopped me from working with statistics or football for the next two years.
I had already been exploring the possibility of writing elsewhere while at PFF, but then the contract showed up, and I was told under no uncertain terms that I could not write for BBV. So, I made an executive decision and cut ties with PFF to join BBV. Looking back now, I was miserable when I worked at PFF. It was high pressure, terrible pay and about 55 hours of work per week. I worked from home. Alone. I took one day off --€” Christmas --€” in an eight-week period, and even then, that was only possible because I was still working at midnight on Christmas Eve. It got to the point where if I wasn't working, I was thinking about how much work was accumulating. That was no way to live.
When I started writing at BBV, I wanted to use statistics and analytics to write about the Giants the same way I had been writing about teams for PFF. Amazingly, this began in the same time frame that included PFF shifting away from public-access for their stats and moving towards the more commercially-friendly "grades." I hate the grades, and I hate that they take away so much from the rest of the good work done by that company. PFF have so many useful metrics and tools at their disposal, and to include subjective opinion-based measurements like grades in along with their "Signature Stats" was a damn shame.
I began doing a weekly stats round-up called 'Blue Data' in the preseason, and it started out with a full offering of PFF stats, but this was cut short quite suddenly when they revoked public access to those stats and held that information at ransom within a multi-thousand dollar private package offered to teams and media outlets. It was fascinating to see such a popular company make so many unpopular moves in such a short space of time, and boy, I sure was glad to not be on that side of the game when all that went down.
For the record, I think there are a huge number of brilliant-minded and kind individuals who work for PFF, but their system is set up to take advantage of low-level employees and they don't mind a high staff turnover to make that happen. Maybe their practices have changed since I've been there. Maybe it's better now. All I can say is that I regret nothing about how things played out since then. BBV has been a joy to write for, and I'm damn lucky to have had the honor of publishing my work here.
I think people will seriously rethink the whole Tom Coughlin/Jerry Reese blame game after Ben McAdoo's first season. The idea that one man was to blame was crazy. Getting rid of Coughlin will not solve the Giants' problems, but I think the team just saw room for growth with Reese whereas Coughlin was never likely to change at this point in his career. I know that players have attested to a better attitude from him in recent years, but his philosophies may change. Reese has time on his side, and he could potentially man the reigns of this team for the next two decades if it all goes well. Coughlin and Reese and the idea of blame dominated the comments sections of most of my articles and it was a strange sight to see so few in the middle ground. It seemed that if you had an opinion on it, you were so far to one side of the fence that you didn't really know there was a fence at all. People who are scared about the one-track minds of Trump/Clinton supporters have seen nothing unless they've seen ten caps lock comments about Coughlin/Reese posted in an article about training camp schedules.
I learned that you should always fight fire with correct punctuation, because correct punctuation can produce the sickest burn of all.
[Commenter name redacted to preserve integrity]
The fundamental flaw in all Sports Writers is that they think they're funny. We're not. Sports writers are worse for Dad jokes and puns than anyone on the planet, and we all think we're different to the others. We all think it's okay for just us to make dumb headlines and eye-rollingly obvious references, because it's me and I'm above the rule. Yes, Victor Cruz is a good player whose last name sounds like the word for a nautical vacation. Do I have to use it in every single article about him? No, but I'm gonna. Basically, if sports writers couldn't be sports writers, we'd all be hacky stand-up comedians performing at comedy showcases for 15 percent of the door and a case of beer. I'm not taking shots at others either. This includes me. In fact, I have been working on some new material.
Every comment on articles about draft prospects is "Yeah, but I like this other guy better so maybe if this original prospect is available three rounds later than any sane person would predict, then maybe I'd consider drafting him. Maybe, though. He's probably not a scheme fit."
I think Chris Pflum is one of the best media scouts there is. There is nobody in the business right now that makes the most out of as few resources as Chris does. There are better draft writers, sure, but they're loaded with an army of behind-the-scenes staff and materials to make them who they are. When Chris and I were covering the draft this year, it was genuinely just two guys working from a list of prospects and crossing them off one by one. I did about 30 or so. Chris did about three times that, and he did it well. Comparing mine and his work would be like comparing a handgun and a grenade. Whatever it is he has inside him, it's damn potent, and BBV is lucky to have a guy like that.
The difference between a good NFL writer and a great one is stamina. The NFL season lasts 17 weeks, with four rounds of playoffs, a Pro-Bowl, and four preseason games. There's one week for the combine, and I guess you could account four weeks for the draft just because of how dense a subject it is. And we have free agency, so that's about another two weeks. That's a total of 33 weeks where NFL journalists have something to write about. That leaves 19 full weeks where you are chasing vapors, tossing couch cushions and pretty much eating dirt to survive.
The off-season is a cruel and demeaning beast that reduces a lot of writers' creative motivation --€” myself included -€”- to a jaded husk. Ed Valentine makes sure that those 19 weeks appear seamlessly to the reader. There is always something on this site, and he's the man you have to thank for that. This is his full-time job and it's about as full-time as it gets for him. If he needs to take a day off for something basic like Christmas or Thanksgiving, it means working extra hours before that to make sure there's something ready to auto-publish when he's not there.
What Ed has is stamina, and it's not something that passion or "the love of the game" can produce. This is earned through the labor of getting up every morning and making sure you press the keys on your laptop enough times to make an article. Yes, everyone who writes here loves the Giants, but this really isn't about that. To say that a writer is talented or skilled would be totally undermining the actual level of work involved in the process. What Ed does best is that he keeps on doing. There's always something to do. Always something to write about. Always something extra to maybe figure out.
I guess this is it. What am I going to do now? You might see me catch on writing somewhere else, or you might not, but I'll still be writing regardless of whether you see it or not. I have a few personal projects in the works. And I'll always have my twitter for ranting about the NFL a good place to start if you're going to miss ice-cold takes about statistical anomalies and, well, yeah there's gonna be some Dad jokes too. You always gotta have Dad jokes.