Good morning, frents!
Welcome to the first issue of Midway Minute. If you’re here, it’s because you love the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, Sox, Hawks or some combination thereof.
Me? I’m here because I also love Chicago sports. Love talking about them. Love writing about them. But I hate that it’s hard to keep track of it all in an age dominated by the noise on the platforms we go to find our news. How can you discover if the Blackhawks are on track to make the playoffs if you keep getting derailed by unsolicited political opinions and your favorite reporter’s travel woes?
That’s where Midway Minute comes in. Each weekday morning, I’ll keep you updated on the Big Five teams plus other important Chicago sports stories with just one simple and easy to read email. If you were looking for a way to keep up with all the Cubs and Sox news that will be coming out of spring training or each headline from an important offseason for the Bears, Midway Minute is the newsletter for you.
Sound good? Yeah? Then let’s do this.
Sign up now to get Midway Minute in your inbox each AM:
The future is always rooted in the past
So here we are. Hopefully you already hit that subscribe button and plan to tell a SuperFan friend. It’s early, but I’m excited to see where we can take this community. There are too many of us wandering aimlessly around the Internet each day or holed up in our own little team-specific hamlets.
Anyway, this is the section where I’ll usually tackle the Chicago sports topic of the day. Whether it’s the latest news out of Wrigley or breaking down the Bears’ plans for the upcoming draft, I’ll always make sure you’re heading into the day with a take on whatever Chicago sports fans are talking about. If you’d like to see more of what I’m talking about, here’s a sample newsletter I wrote last week about John Paxson and the Bulls standing pat at the trading deadline.
Today, though, is different. Because this is the inaugural edition of Midway Minute, I wanted to spend some time on why I’m going down this path.
It goes back to the two most formative media outlets in my life as a reader and writer.
The first is the Chicago Tribune sports section of my childhood.
I was about six or seven and had just learned to read. The paper would be delivered to the first house I ever lived in, a small ranch with yellow siding on a cul-de-sac in south suburban Hazel Crest. I’d quickly remove sports from its wrapping of sections I had little interest in and unfurl those broadsheet pages across the white formica of our hexagon kitchen table. When I opened the section to page two, it covered more than half of the table. There was no place to put my cereal except for the bottom of the page and it was from there where I simultaneously slurped and read. You might roll your eyes when I say it was magical, but that’s what it seemed like. An entire section devoted to the teams and sports I was learning to love alongside my dad? Delivered to my house? Every day? It still qualifies as a miracle.
This was the early to mid-80s, a seminal time to be a Chicago sports fan. The Bears were shuffling, MJ was rising and Harry Caray was the best cartoon on TV. As a kid who was nuts for baseball, I’d watch the Cubs during the day and the Sox at night; I’d wonder why the Hawks could never seem to get past that guy named Gretzky.
Each morning, I’d marvel at the way the Tribune brought order to all of these sports and teams I was learning to love. I loved the way the stories were written and adored the way the pages were designed. I learned to read box scores and marveled at bylines from unique-sounding places like Green Bay and Ann Arbor. I’d make it a point to clip the baseball standings whenever a Chicago team was atop them. (That practice, of course, usually ceased after the season’s first few days.)
On most days, reading the Tribune was the best 10 minutes I’d spend. The dependable installment was many things: a guide to help me better understand something I loved, a map for what was ahead and an outside line to a community I was only beginning to know.
My second big influence is not a single outlet, but rather the collection of sports blogs that ruled the Internet from 2007 to whenever it was that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram swallowed and ate the entire blogosphere whole.
You might remember that I conceived and ran one of the bigger baseball blogs in that community. Big League Stew was born on the Yahoo Sports Blogs network in 2008 — 12 years ago tomorrow, in fact — and I loved every minute of it.
It’s hard to remember, but that was a much different Internet back then. Social media had a much smaller footprint. The iPhone had just debuted so no one was addicted to the endless mobile scroll. If I asked you to describe the word “content,” you’d be more likely to say “a state of satisfaction” than “literally anything we can slap up on the Internet from Martin Scorsese epics to whatever it is that YouTube stars do.”
The circle was much smaller. The platforms had yet to be weaponized to destroy both our attention span and sense of shame. Most everyone got along and the Google Reader-led culture was built around sharing, credit and camaraderie, not the soul-sucking economy of hijacked highlights and stale jokes for RTs, likes and follows.
A lot of credit for that scene in the sports blogosphere goes to Will Leitch, who was generous with Deadspin links and launched the careers of many in the process. The model quickly spread to sports blogs all over the Internet. If you read something good on another blog, you’d bring it back to yours, share a snippet with a link back or a h/t and then you’d try to add more context. The result was a meritocracy that was engaging, illuminating and encouraging with hundreds (thousands?) of sports fans writing things they hoped would be rewarded on their own creativity and insight.
At Big League Stew, my genius partner Dave Brown and I fancied ourselves as the center of that baseball world. While other sites were more authoritative when it came to analytics or trade rumors, there was no better one-stop shop for the entire sport than us. The result was a glorious mix of our own writing and sharing our home with the best work done by fans of all 30 teams. If you needed to know what was going on in baseball, a few fun minutes each day on the Stew was all it took.
God, was it fun. I’ve missed being that kind of ringmaster and getting back to that spot is something I’ve been trying to figure out for awhile.
Which brings us to Midway Minute.
In retrospect, the answer was an easy one. As the Internet has grown bigger and more unwieldy than we ever imagined, a couple of counterbalances have emerged.
The first is the return of the trusted curator. The endless streams and feeds of unedited content may be beneficial for the big companies in Silicon Valley, but they’ve become unnavigable to the average user. As time gets more precious, people are turning to personalities they trust to sift through the avalanche for the most important parts.
The second is the rise of newsletters, which are more or less replicating what blogs used to be and are spreading faster than a Kris Bryant trade rumor. The only difference is that it’s delivered straight to your inbox since neither writer or reader can no longer count on the updates to rise out of the morass of social media.
I’m excited about what’s possible with Midway Minute. I’m going to aim for the order that old Tribune sports section provided while building the community and collaboration of the old blogosphere. There are still so many great Chicago outlets producing great writing. You can count on finding the best news and links from all those corners in this space, mixed in with a take or original reporting from yours truly. I want this to be the best few minutes you spend each morning.
I promise I won’t always be this long-winded. While getting through Midway Minute will probably never take a literal 60 seconds, the idea is to get you in and out of Chicago sports as quickly as possible with still delivering the info you want.
Bottom line: I know where we’ve been and I *think* I have a good idea of where we’re going. The formats and the times may change, but our interest in talking about Chicago sports never will. Thank you for joining me at the start of this ride.