I watched the Nationals use the Phillies as a clinching mechanism last week. Jared Hughes gave up the most predictable grand slam in baseball history. And so we shutter another season of Phillies baseball. And just as the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention, I now eliminate myself from The Good Phight.
Hello! I’m Justin Klugh. I never wrote a “Hello!” piece when I inherited the managing editor gig from Liz because I had been writing at the site for about five years and my assumption was you knew who I was. Looking back, I probably could have done a better job of garnering a reputation around here.
I’m sure you’ve noticed--well, I’m sure I’ve noticed, you probably haven’t--that I don’t write for this site much anymore, beyond the sentence or two you occasionally get on a game thread, when it isn’t just an embedded tweet of the Phillies lineup. And that’s why I’m leaving.
Sports! What a trip it’s been. Also, it’s not over—I’ll be a contributor at FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus moving forward (Check out my review of the Phillies season here!). I’m staying on the TGP podcasts with John and Liz, too, and I’d never give up The Dirty Inning. I just want to tell stories, and it just so happens they’re going to be about baseball.
But boy, leaving TGP has sure allowed me to reflect on my time writing about the Phillies, which began ten years ago, on a different site. I became the sole writer on that site because the other writer, a 15-year-old, had tricked the administrators into thinking he was an old man and was subsequently fired, though we weren’t even getting paid back then, so I’m not sure how “fired” you could really be. On a whim just now, I went back to that site. It has all the engagement of a stack of junk mail you’ve been meaning to throw out. I’m pretty sure I had my identity stolen just by visiting it. My laptop is getting really hot.
After that, I wrote here for a while, sometimes in lieu of other opportunities, sometimes in addition to them. I wrote bloggy crap, I wrote news updates, eventually I started writing long, exclusive features, some of which are actually pretty good. I also did the occasional personal essay. This one was especially fun.
That’s what I’ve come to love writing about, really—not baseball itself, so much, but all of the life that surrounds it and all of the stupidity it entails. Consider the sheer number of grown-ass people who gather online every year to grouse about whether or not an old man or two should have a bust made of their heads. And not just the grousing, but the insults, the accusations, and the death-threats that come from it. Amazing!
Anyway, I was here as a writer for a while, and then about a year ago I started as the managing editor, and I got about halfway into the season when I realized, yeah, no, this isn’t going to work. Managing a web site in my spare time—a job which you should probably hire someone to do full-time—was not something I wanted to do.
I am not into “oversight.” I am not into “metrics.” I am not into “selling t-shirts,” though I am into “buying them.” I am not into “FanPulse” (sorry), and I am not into “constant complaints.” I just want to write, and that’s what I’ll be doing elsewhere. I’m sure my lack of interest in upkeep became apparent, and to those of you who drifted away from this site during that time, or kept coming despite noticing it, I do genuinely apologize. This should be a place where Phillies fans come to celebrate or bitch about the team, and if I made it more of a ghost town with my apathy, that sucks. But again, that’s why I’m leaving! You’ve got plenty of good people here to lead you onward—and hopefully, some fresh voices to bring in a new generation.
I don’t really talk about myself a whole lot on here, and I figure, with this being my last post on the site, I would do it for a second:
- I once had an Inquirer sports editor storm over to my editor at Philly dot com (RIP) and scream at him in front of the whole staff for allowing me to pursue this story, claiming I was just going to use my access to the Phillies ball girls as part of some sort of scheme for the blog I was also connected to (this one). It was pretty bizarre, given that this was a man who had never met or even emailed me directly. His efforts to keep me out went so far as to warn the Phillies of my sinister plans (to write about them, for my job). So intense was his hissy-fit, one of the food writers had to ask him to keep it down. That moment was quite indicative of the culture of collaboration we enjoyed in that office every day.
- I got to cover the Super Bowl one year, the year it was in New Jersey. The night of the media party, it wasn’t until I was a few beers in that my editor told me I was getting up to go cover the Broncos’ media availability the next morning. After several more beers and three hours of sleep, I dragged myself to the shuttle and found out the event was on a boat. I held my recorder up in the air throughout John Fox’s press conference, during which Rick Reilly repeatedly asked him about weed being legalized in Colorado. An extremely audible groan went up across the entire press corps. I had my head down for a lot of it. I was supposed to get a ride back to Philly with the other writer there who was covering the Seahawks’ media availability. I called him and he said he’d slept through his alarm and didn’t go. I wonder why we all got laid off?!?! (Well, he didn’t. He left and joined another company in a more prominent role. You probably read his stuff every day, actually).
- I was sent to the 2013 SABR conference because it was in Philadelphia, and I could walk there so I wouldn’t even have to expense a car ride. While there, I asked Brad Lidge a deeply unprofessional question and in doing so, was noticed by Liz Roscher, whom I knew from Twitter but had never met in person until that moment. This summer, I officiated her wedding. So that worked out.
- Here’s an archived G-chat exchange I just found between me and some other writer from 2012 when I was but a humble dog walker in Brewerytown, only at the beginning of this wacky adventure they call journalism:
Him: i hate taking on more work but i guess that’s what you’re supposed to do
Me: I know right
Me: Like as aspiring writers, how do you say “no” to anything when it’s offered to you
Him: even though writing is the worst
- One time, my editor heard a bunch of the Flyers were watching some hockey tournament at a bar in Old City. I think it was Mac’s. They sent me down there to bug the players and interview them about god knows what, just so we’d have some content. I went down there and Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds and a couple other guys were all hanging out. I approached Hartnell during a commercial with my recorder out and was about to say something when I was overcome by how needless and intrusive it was. But then he turned around, saw the recorder, and went “...an interview?!” He graciously answered a few innocuous questions and I left feeling like I did my job, but that was one of those times when it was clear to me that so much of sports media, and media in general, is so unessential.
- Early in my career, I wrote a story about a guy outside Philly who was brewing Flyers-themed beers, complete with awesome labels. I recently learned he’s now a brewer at a place called Broken Goblet, where he’s still brewing at least some of those same beers. Just throwing that out there. He’s a good guy who makes good beer. Check them out.
- Having the opportunity to watch my team win the World Series in person, is going to live in my head forever. I knew it it at the time, but I feel like I know it even harder now: That’s something most fans of most teams don’t get to experience before they die. But that I got to live in Philadelphia during the
lastmost recent golden age of Phillies baseball is a vastly impactful thing. With the right team in the right year, this city can so easily become the greatest sports town on earth. Being here for one of those eras quite literally changed my life.
Okay, now comes the sap:
What I love about baseball isn’t analytics, or fanalytics, or quotes, or features, or breakdowns, or graphs, or access, or hot takes, or even the Phillies. It’s smelling dead grass in the heat of late summer and having it trigger memories of whiffle ball in the backyard at family events when I was a kid. It’s my mom running faster than I’d ever seen after making contact and my dad calling her “the flash.” It’s going to ball games with my dad, my uncle, my grandpa, my cousin, and stopping at Wawa on the way home, eating a whole box of mini doughnuts and barfing. It’s bragging about my sister throwing a no-hitter in fast-pitch softball in high school. It’s the road trip my grandparents took me and my cousin on when we were awkward teenagers to Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, and the year they flew us down to Clearwater for spring training. It’s the trip to Cooperstown I went on with my dad when I was a slightly older, somehow even more awkward teen. It’s the little collectible set of team helmets I got in a souvenir shop that I keep finding in the closet when I visit my parents. It’s my dad temporarily lifting a television-ban so I could watch the All-Star Game after I’d been grounded. It’s watching the 1993 Phillies video yearbook every night until it barely worked. And regrettably, it’s finding out how so many of those guys were scumbags, and feeling dumb for having held them in such high regard throughout my childhood. It’s all of this stuff that happened because of the people I know and love, who just happened to know and love baseball.
Remind yourself: This is supposed to be fun. Whatever’s fun about this for you, jump into it. Sports are entertainment. Sports are mostly stupid. And you shouldn’t get to use sports fandom, sports media, or sports in general as an excuse to be a shitty person.
So, that’s it. Thanks for reading. Sports and politics are intrinsically linked and if you disagree, you are one hundred percent wrong. I also think I might hate the Phillies. Take care, everyone.