This is Derek, known for the last 13 or so years as OldSchool. This is the first year in 13 that I have not begged, borrowed or stolen my way into training camp. I must admit, sitting here in Miami for work (which has gotten crazy in mostly good ways) I have been surprised how little that drive has impacted me. As a member of the ‘Fringe Media,’ when we at WTB got to the place where our Training Camp requests were finally met with a solid level of approval it was a massive accomplishment. As many of you know, notes, pics and videos of training camp and my assessment opinions about the team early on were how we started here and, at the risk of sounding too silly, the smell of the grass (in Tampa or Orlando), the heat of the day, the constant motion and the inconvenience it all represented were some of the things that kept us coming back. An early glimpse. A chance to look behind the scene. As a former coach, seeing the drills employed and looking at the raw material was something that I felt fans could all benefit from.
I know I did. I used to love it. I used to love this team.
Ooooo… heavy. I know. Here is where the dark trend I have taken in the podcast that really started with the Schiano era but has certainly continued post takes it’s eerie and unpleasant turn. A few notes:
- The feelings I will express here are my own and in no way are meant to direct, lead or bias you, the reader. They also do not necessarily represent the feelings of the rest of the WTB Krewe who are some of the best people I have ever met.
- The feelings expressed here may be unfairly impacted by my personal experiences, ones that few will have since we have had a pretty odd ride at WTB.
- The feelings expressed here may also be tainted by my stage in life (read: old). With two growing boys and work exploding, the ability to retain the flexibility necessary to do the things that I did as a part of the larger WTB ecosystem simply do not exist.
The reality about the podcast (and thanks to all of you who say the nice things you do about me in social media, I came along at the right time and was stubborn enough to do it for a long time.) I like to think we did some good things and helped drive the innovation into the market and it makes me happy to see all of the products that are out there now. I always tried to remember that everyone had a favorite flavor, even if it was not mine. While I certainly had my favorites, some of whom are still putting great content out there, the only way to find new favorites is for people to get a chance to spread their voice and information. This ecosystem offers that chance now so for you new folks, find your niche and continue to evolve it. Be original in content and put in the work. If you do, people will gravitate to you. The cream almost always rises to the top in this regard. Do your best to come to grips with the apparent fact that many will never go beyond 140 / 280 characters to find an answer. That is true outside of sports as well and if it is not a sign of an impending apocalypse, I don’t know what is.
Why I No Longer Love This Team – The Team
At a high level, because they never really loved me. (Waaaahhhhhh, I know. Grow up.) This is actually ‘my truth’ as it has become popular to say now. After over a decade of dedication in various levels around the areas of time, talent and ‘treasure,’ it started becoming increasingly obvious that this was a one-way relationship. No matter how hard we worked to support, advance and evangelize for this team, that effort was always met with the interest of the flowers and cards to that unrequited love from high school. Sure, you’d get a cursory ‘Thanks,’ and maybe a smile, but there was never any commitment forthcoming. Some of that I wrote off under the chapter, “Protect the Shield.” That bought the team a solid decade. We were not then, nor are we now, a group that is perfect. We would never be. That said, no group is. As a group that anyone could claim (even though few were actually ‘Krewe’) it is no more possible for us to police all behavior then it is for, say, a football team. We made that point and it seemed to be heard but the more I thought about that the more I realized that the protection of the shield was a hollow response. When one weighed all of the work our group did to host fans (from here or abroad) advocate for the team as ambassadors in this and other communities and then, later in our life and led by Cheryl, through the amazing work that she and our WTB Really Matters group did in the community, the constant begging and ‘please sir, may I have another,’ approach we had to take with the Buccaneers finally broke me.
Reminder: It did not break everyone, and these positions are only MINE. That said, they are intensely mine and have led me to where I am today.
There were moments that bought extensions of trust, like the attendance at a loved one’s funeral service (which was truly impactful) but as a group, as a franchise, this team showed repeatedly and clearly how little it actually cared about our efforts as fans. I have a unique spot to see how other franchises do this and I have to tell you folks, we are not in the top half.
Note, thus far I have said nothing about the ages of losses, disappointment and flat our despair the team has put us all through via their lack of performance and results on the field. One might think that is what would turn someone off. Funny enough, as disappointing as losses may be and despite how seemingly inconceivable our current run of ineptitude may seem, that really has not been the thing. I know many people are turned off by various villains in the org. The most popular is ownership who are (in my opinion) unfairly compared to other owners locally. More money could always be spent and sadly, we will never really know how much impact they wield on the decisions of the football people. Some target the GM with their ire, but it seems to me that math would say most GMss seem to perform about the way he has. The coach has received, and always does, a disproportionate amount of anger and my position here has been chronicled over the last decade plus. I advocate a minimum five-year contract for coaches. The swings and chasing the draft are too significant barring some form of legal or ethical issue to have coaches on short leashes. So even though I felt at multiple points coaches have demonstrated behaviors that required action, my position on them is clear. As a team is just another organization, one can take action on a coach for gross acts of negligence (things that I felt Coach Schiano exhibited, albeit from outside of the org so possibly unfair as an assessment here in hindsight) versus behavioral actions of coaches like Coach Morris (well-known foolishness with the players in public which could easily have been handled as the immature actions of a young and talented coach rushed into a leadership role) or Coach Koetter whose cantankerous demeanor warmed the hearts of many fans but was clearly a sign of problems to surface that should have been managed. I don’t mean to leave Coach Smith off the list, whose stubborn loyalty was as much a flaw as any of the others, but the common problem in all of these seems to be a lack of leadership at an organizational level. That fault sits at the feet of the Ownership and General Manager and is genuinely something I hope my home team comes to grips with as it moves forward.
Another Reason – The Fans
This one is odd and will undoubtedly piss many of you off. That’s ok. I never shied away from that in the past. The interesting bit here is that this one has massive polarity. The reason I got involved at this level was the fans. The reasons we grew and expanded and tried to do more was the fans, the reason saying goodbye to much of this is hard is the fans. That said, the ugly human side of people is amplified in areas of passion. So, the fact that the actions and behaviors of some fans helped drive me away should not surprise me but it still does. It was the love and passion of many that created us and made what we do so special.
With the podcast, the goals early were to vent and create a “watercooler” community to report and to try and teach. I love the game of football. I like to think I know a little about it. I think it is beautiful in both its simplicity and its simultaneous complexity. When we started, social media was just getting its sea legs. We were firsts in almost every major adoption category from podcast to social media, video and live streaming. We went where no one went before and for that, I am extremely proud of our team. The mainstream coverage was lazy at that point. This revolution that we were part of has driven that group to new heights and for that I am also proud. Folks have had to learn and adapt and to be honest, many have done a great job. My frustration that many listeners seem to shy away from learning more about the game and still gravitate to the headline catching, lazy takes can be written off as old man grumpiness. I’ll wear that. The silver lining is that in some of the newer pods I see a focus on film and a leverage of stats as color (they are not the be all and end all) which I feel lead to a well-rounded position and take. That is really next level shit that even the highly funded, mainstream shows do not do.
Throughout the years of the podcast, the recipe for success was simple. Be reliable (do shows regularly) be timely and be consistent. My ability to do the first two started waning with life events (good ones, you know, like kids growing and fantastic opportunities at work) but they changed my ability and desire to make the tradeoffs necessary to produce the quality that you guys deserved. When those pressures met my drifting passion, I knew it was the beginning of the end. So, what led to that passion drop?
Jealousy. Pettiness. Keyboard tough guys. Lack of humanity. The internet, social media and yes, the podcast platform can amplify all of those. I am not innocent in this as I listen to some of my earlier podcasts. There have been rivalries and battles and while contention is healthy, the place that it has led this small community is sad and trending toward scary. While I have been privy to actions that are downright despicable, most of the interactions that have blown up into massive negative trends in the information superhighway could be solved by sitting down, human to human, and having a beverage while treating each other like people. We helped create a way to do that, though not for that purpose over the years. From Kick Off parties before they were commercially viable to watch parties before they were chic and leading up to our Hall of Fame Tailgate that has seen proposals and visitors from countless countries, we truly brought fans together in ways that had not been done to that scale previously. It is fantastic to see that spreading nationally and I hope those leading that charge, like the Buccaholics, are able to avoid much of the infighting and sniping that we have endured throughout our timeline. It is cancerous and if I had a way to counsel you to avoid it, I would certainly share it. Sadly, it seems like the recipe for that bullshit is:
• 1 part people
• 10000 parts passion
• Human nature
For the record, there has not been a single good thing we have done that has not been attacked. We tried to take the high road most of the time. That said, being the standard for things puts you in the crosshairs. That position can be fun, but it is a daunting one and to be honest, one that I no longer want to lead.
Leadership. That is a tough one. Since our group started over a decade ago, we grew quickly into a de facto role of leadership. That was fun and I feel, for the most part, we did a pretty good job. As I have stated previously, we were far from perfect. For people with whom we ended up with struggles, I generally wish you all well. That all said, being a large target for this long is both exhausting and unfair. While we know things like the tailgate and more importantly, the charitable work, are important (and will continue in some form or fashion), the pieces that are not necessary are finding new homes or finding the annals of history (word choice to make me chuckle).
It has been nowhere near all bad. We have forged friendships across the globe that will live on. We have met amazing people who do amazing things. We have seen marriages form and fall, and lives start and end. We are, by all accounts, a family (in fact, the term ‘fanmily’ has gained some level of prominence) and that will never change. So, while the negative infighting and bullshit has pushed me away, I encourage the newer, stronger and more energized to carry the torch and make all the things we did, better! We never claimed to be perfect or know it all, despite the snipes from the peanut galleries. We were just never afraid to go and do it. I truly hope that lives on.
The Final Reason – Me
Probably should be the first but this was the last one that I realized. I had put things in my life into secondary (or even tertiary… ‘cause that word is cool) positions that simply cannot have those roles. While I used the platform to teach my kids about community service and charitable actions, the time required to do those things also meant taking massive amounts of time away from them. I like to think of myself as a good father. I started to think that I was slipping in this regard. When work expanded and my family had a chance to really seize a significant opportunity, I knew that my 20-hour a day ratio would have to be modified. At that point, the work of WTB, between the podcast and other activities, had already been amplified by a 50% tax of bullshit due to negativity.
Finding what I needed to remove was clear.
It was not easy. It took 3 years to finally do it and I’m still not done.
I love this Krewe – with its warts and squabbles, ups and downs, these people are simply amazing. They are timeless and loyal. I know what Cheryl said years ago is truer than I want it to be in that when I leave the day to day, many of us will drift apart. That’s what people do. It has already started. But to them, and to you, I want to say a heartfelt, “Thank You.” They will get a more intimate (stop it, Cook) discussion and farewell, one that I already started. But you guys will get this and whatever conversation bubbles on in my limited exposure to social media or at games.
In summary, thanks for giving a shit about what I had to say. Thanks for opening your ears, hearts (and for charity), your wallets. I hope that your impression at the end of this ride is a positive one. I know mine is. It is still pretty amazing to look back at what we have done. I am encouraged by what may be done with new leadership. #OpenPositions