Thursday night, TB and I took a mini-road trip to Topeka to attend the Kaw Valley Catbackers 27th Annual Family Barbecue with my father. While neither TB or myself are Catbackers (nor is my father for that matter), we couldn't miss an opportunity to see the new University President, Kirk Schulz, and Athletic Director, John Currie, stand in front of several hundred K-Staters after the nefarious "audit" had been released. Of course, it's much easier to drum up support and instill pep when you bring Bill Snyder, Frank Martin, and Deb Patterson along for the ride.
I wish that they would've given us some inside information or something outside of what we've learned in the past few news cycles, but that wasn't the case. Mostly, Schulz and Currie talked about the importance of transparency and trust, and both men were vocal about how they were excited to assume their respective positions regardless of the current situation. Again, this isn't anything new or exciting. There were a few references to the audit throughout the evening, but there wasn't anything juicy or scandalous. A lot of money was wasted, no NCAA violations were committed, and ultimately, the lion's share of the blame and potential repercussions fell on two men who I can't recall being mentioned (by name) at all during the three and a half hour affair.
As far as the individual speakers were concerned, each of them were engaging and entertaining in their own way. Schulz and Currie said all of the right things, Deb Patterson was spunky and playful, Frank was extremely funny and charismatic, and Bill Snyder was, well, Bill Snyder. Truthfully, if a meteor the size of Ohio was headed straight for Earth, and it was obvious that the world was about to end, if Snyder stepped up to a podium and told you everything would be okay, you'd probably believe him. He just has that kind of mesmerizing effect on you.
Outside of the standard morale boost you receive when you attend such an affair, one comment by Frank Martin stood out amongst the standard pep rally chatter. When he opened himself up to questions from the crowd, a couple of people threw out some pedestrian queries, and there was a long silence. Martin looked at the crowd and said (I'm paraphrasing), "No more questions? I know that I'll go home tonight, get on GoPowercat, and you'll have questions about the team." There were some very hearty, knowing chuckles from those that frequent Tim Fitzgerald's site (like myself), but what he said hit home with me. I couldn't quite figure out why at the time, but it did.
While driving back to Kansas City, TB and I discussed a myriad of topics, but we had a lengthy discussion about Frank's comment, and a hypothetical situation where he said "Bring On The Cats" as opposed to GoPowercat.com. Neither TB or myself harbor any misconceptions about where we rank in the K-State cyber-universe, but what if something we'd written in the past few months caught his attention in a negative way? What would happen if I were to stand in front of Frank Martin, or Bill Snyder for that matter, and they didn't greet me warmly because of something I've written on this site?
Over the course of our discussion, I started to verbalize a series of sporadic feelings I've had lately regarding a paradigm shift in how I view my fandom because of this site, and how it's made me somewhat uncomfortable. I initially got into blogging because I wanted to make people laugh. However, in the past few months, we've continued to see our core readership solidify and increase, and our posts have been linked on sites like ESPN.com and the NY Times college football blog, The Quad. We're a source on 'Google News' alongside ESPN, the Topeka Capital Journal, Wichita Eagle, Manhattan Mercury, etc. We're considered to be a legitimate source for you to get information regarding Kansas State and it's various teams. Because of these things the bar continues to raise, and with that so do our individual efforts. Personally, I feel like I have to be more detached and offer the cruelly objective viewpoint of a journalist. For a guy that's made a name for himself (or, more appropriately, his avatar) on finding ways to personify Texas A&M as Forrest Gump humping inanimate objects, it's pretty intimidating.
That's not to say that I don't enjoy writing for this site. I really, really like sharing my thoughts with folks that are interested in reading them, and all of the accolades that we've received are extremely flattering and humbling at the same time. In no way, shape, or form do I consider myself a journalist, and as TB has said before, we aren't in any hurry to get the kind of access a press pass provides. We like living on the outside and being observers and commentators. In some ways, we exist out on the fringes of the Fourth Estate, but unlike members of the press, we can easily hop back-and-forth across the fine line where the requirement of unbiased objectivity requires you to suppress the part of your soul that simply wants to be a fan. That kind of freedom may seem trivial to some of you reading this post, but to me, it's what allows me to continue blogging.
See, while several journalists were in attendance last night, presumably working, I was at the end of a long table, eating barbecue and drinking Bud Light, and I listened to my administrators and my coaches talk about my teams. I wasn't thinking about the fears that I've shared on this site regarding the football program when Bill Snyder steps down again, and I wasn't wondering what kind of statistical impact players from certain geographic areas would have on Frank Martin's team next season. Instead, my cup ranneth over with optimism and excitement, and I thought, "Ah, Hell, why can't we win nine games next year?" and, "Dude, Frank could take these guys on a serious run." All of the cautious pragmatism that I attempt to display on this site is definitely a part of who I am, but sometimes, I like to get my "rah rah" on, and when I do, I can become as big of a homer as there is. It wears off like a good buzz after a night of drinking with your buddies, but sometimes I like to unleash the foolish optimist that I've tried so hard to bury into the deepest reaches of my psyche just to remind myself that I'm a fan first and a blogger (or whatever I am) second.
So, for that evening, I suspended my frustrations, anxieties, and pragmatism in favor of optimism and unconditional support for coaches that have earned my respect and admiration. Tomorrow, I may go back to looking at things with a much more critical eye, and I may say something that will ultimately draw their ire, but from time to time, I feel the need to say, openly, that I'm a fan, and I'm not the enemy. Because I promise you that the day I feel like I've become the enemy, you will have read my last post.
And what would the world do without Texas A&M trying to make it with a leaf blower?