Without a job and without a path forward
I’ve got a conundrum.
In the business world, it’s not a problem really: Long-time veteran of a field of business leaves said-field for two full years and then gets an inkling to re-enter as issues faced personally or an attempt to find a career in a new field hadn’t pass muster. This ambiguous jargon makes it seem plain and simple, don’t it?
It’s not that simple. Not for me.
You can see in a couple of recent blog posts I’ve done that I’ve been touching on my old forte in hockey blogging. I am one of the original hockey bloggers, having founded Boltsmag.com in February 2004, running it independently for five years before being recruited by my long-time colleague James Mirtle (who started his own writing career independently at Blogspot) to SB Nation where I founded Raw Charge. I blogged about the Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL for 12 and a half years before resigning due to burnout (a burnout which also seen as symptoms of a surprising health issue that almost killed me).
Blah, blah, blah… Maybe I should ge back in? I’ve got nothing else going for me.
I’ve tried to get into the music field by way of having my lyrics put to music, but this hasn’t gone anywhere. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time looking over musical promotion avenues (read: radio and streaming) and often, voluntarily, pass on to artists. I’d willingly spend time working to promote individuals but no one of the do-it-yourself independent field is going to hire a guy like me to help them promote themselves – they are small time. Some are doing music recording just as a hobby. Professional marketing companies aren’t looking for an amateur such as myself to do this professionally for them as part of their PR push.
So here I sit, been slipped a bone, a crying shame in baritone…
To go back to hockey full time does not work well for me at this moment in part because I’m not as deep into the Tampa Bay Lightning roster as I once was. Oh, much hasn’t changed while much has. Yzerman’s gone (hi, Detroit. Have a nice time with your #19 in charge – he knows his shit and knows it well), there’s been a turnover of roster players derived from the Tampacuse system as well as the fun and games of free agency and transactions – I can’t list names of those I don’t know because I’m not looking at the roster while I write this.
I’m not deep on the drama either; I haven’t been close-close with coverage. I do know General Manager Julien BriseBois is still running both the Lightning and Syracuse Crunch – the hiring of a new AHL GM should come with time, but when? How much talk and speculation has been out there? I’m in a blank-state on that.
There’s the business angle of me returning to hockey full time – who the hell would want a guy such as I? While Raw Charge is open to hiring a site manager (and has been for almost a year), I’ve grown to loath SB Nation. The backend changed vastly before I resigned, and it hampered producing content. While I have positive memories, I also have disappointment and hurt: I lost friends who worked with me on the site because they felt screwed and overworked while doing their writing voluntarily. My own work got me a pittance of repayment and that’s the endowment continues to be what a new site manager of Raw Charge will receive: Fifty dollars a month.
A $50 monthly stipend for writing coverage, staff oversight and management, editing, social media management, and networking with other site managers and their respective writing staffs? $50 a month (while your colleagues who work with you get nothing) for managing an online publication with an open reach compared to the growing presence of must-pay coverage from the likes of The Athletic, Lightning Strikes and the Tampa Bay Times? All while SB Nation and Vox Media take in a windfall of money from ads and investment? Sounds like a fair offer, doesn’t it?
(Note: What I just said is in no way, shape or form an attempt to slander the works done by the Athletic, Lightning Strikes or the Times. They were cited just as an example of how the media beast has evolved. Lightning coverage from all three sites is worth investing in if you’re a fan.)
Back to me: My writing is more of a third-party, outside observer style. I’m not of physical qualification to handle in-person media entity as I’m a disabled fellow with a very rare genetic illness. That means I ain’t no beat writer. I’m not someone who can cover hockey events at Amalie Arena (or amateur events at Tampa Bay Skating Academy or other ice rinks in the greater Tampa Bay metro area). I’m sidelined; in=person is a no-go.
It’s why I write like a columnist. Oh, facts and news can be done – thank you PR emails and Twitter news leads – and reactive responses can come from other people’s writings (my reaction to Larry Brooks in 2014 is one example). It just..just… Just doesn’t make me a sought-after personality, does it?
Writing here on my site is the only clear avenue I have going forward, but it doesn’t draw in the eyeballs compared to the majors and long-time-going hockey blogs. My social media reach as an independent blogger is nil (Wouldja’ please “Like” Johnny Fonts on Facebook and follow me on Twitter? Kthanxbi). Heck, my reputation on Twitter is meh at best; my presence and tweets during Lightning games this season have only led to people unfollowing me at a steady pace.
JohnnyFonts.com’s reach isn’t that great either. While I’ve got plenty of write-ups of various sorts in my blogging life, the site’s weight is zero in the hockey, the topic I’ve focused on in this write-up. While I have articles from the last few years that are Lightning and NHL related, their draw is negligible. I get more web traffic aimed at pieces I’ve done about movies or the music field than things I say hockey related.
So, how do I move forward here? Do I play up my own personality as a hockey writer and go full-tilt here on Johnny Fonts? I’m not going to make a cent from it (even with Google Ads placed on the site). Do I contribute to a network site like Bolts By The Bay or Bolt Prospects? That comes off worse as I’d be an underling. It’d be mistreating those two publications to he involved with them up until I get my groove back.
Am I wrong to even strongly consider going back to hockey? There’s a catchphrase I have used when changes came up with the Bolts in the past: And so we move forward, always moving forward. It was often used when something major happened that shook up the franchise and the fanbase, it was like a “don’t dwell on it” decree; it hurt, it’ll be a topic to touch on going forward, but we move on. That’s life.
I’m not sure where I’m moving, that’s the problem. I don’t know my path. And if I go back to covering the topic that was my home for so long, it’s backtracking. It’s worse to think of going to SB Nation, that’s not forward at all. That’s submission.
I’m lost, folks. And I lack confidence in committing to one direction or another as there’s no guarantee of anything being more than an over-glorified hobby status. I’m not trying to find a hobby. I’m trying to find a respectable path to work and a career in something I know and can do.