The picture you see is from a very special party to celebrate RandBall (the man) turning 33 a little over a month ago (note: our birthday is the day before Halloween, hence the attire). But this post? It's from Jon Marthaler, celebrating RandBall (the blog) turning 3. See the numerological symmetry? It's almost as terrifying as the movie "Knowing," which is a comically bad piece of cinema. We would also like to point out that it's been far too long since a Redactular gathering of commenters took place. We shall attempt to plan on as soon as possible.
But we digress. The Marth has far too many kind words. We are blushing. Jon?
Allow me to begin this post with some words from the introductory RandBall post: "If you are here for the fresh blueberry pie, I regret to inform you that we just ran out."
Those words, amazingly, are now exactly three years old, or if we use the standard blog-to-literary conversion, exactly 2,793 years old. It's hard to believe that anything from 2006 could still be considered pioneering, but cast your mind back: RandBall was. Here we had a sportswriter who seemed to - gasp! - like sports, who didn't treat his readership like they were either dimwitted children or snarling morons, and who was (and is) genuinely interested in engaging people as fellow fans.
Much has changed since then. Twitter was around in December 2006, but it was still called "twttr," and fewer than 20,000 tweets were posted per day, or roughly the same number that Michael Russo now posts during a typical period of hockey. The only people with Facebook accounts were students or recent alumni, and anyone over the age of 25 with an account was viewed with suspicion. And those few sportswriters who had attempted to "go online" were still, for the most part, treating web denizens with undisguised loathing. We were still sixteen months away from Buzz Bissinger going berserk on poor Will Leitch on HBO (ed. note: language, obviously), but Bissinger's ravings were merely the outpouring of the feelings of what seemed to be every sportswriter.
I've written before about this, but every year when I stop to think, I still find it surprising: RandBall was immediately different. Mr. Rand didn't have to be convinced that the commenters weren't just unredeemed losers that lived at home and fought against the tyranny of pants. He tried right away to engage readers on their level, not as Mr. Sportswriter Deigns To Address His Subjects. Even now, think of how rare that is! Most media figures would rather hear themselves talk (which is why they all, eventually, end up on talk radio). Even Bill Simmons, Mr. Web himself, wouldn't do this; he'd rather patronize us with the old "Yup, these are my readers" shtick, and spend his time doing podcasts and talking at us.
Yes, I'm quite biased. But people, I think it's working. Every time I read the comments, I'm convinced. Every time I read a post from Stu or Clarence or Brandon or anybody, I'm convinced. I think RandBall is really on to something with this engagement of the readers, and it's something that you don't find anywhere else, even three years later.
So, once again: Happy birthday, RandBall. Congrats on three great years, and as always, here's to many more. Keep it up. We don't find stuff like this anywhere else.