Glancing either way up the street it is safe as no autos are approaching. Crossing the street to the arranged location strides follow briskly. Stepping through the door glanced around the room. A head moved, it was unmistakably him. There was a nod of affirmation. A voice asked what the order was and a finger was pointed at a donut. Picking up the cup and plate then proceeding towards the face. Standing to offer his hand the plate and cup were place on the table. As the tablet come out of the bag it was clear no one else was within ear shot. A quick sip and the interview started
MI: Good morning, Thank you for agreeing to do this
HA81: My pleasure, I am always at the disposal of the media
MI: you are looking well
HA81: Thank you, the climate seems to favor you as well
MI: I have grown used to it. Down to business. First question, how did you come to blog for the Sluggers?
HA81: Well, saw an ad in the newspaper, sent in a note, got a call, talked to a guy, sent a sample, bought the guy a coffee and talked to another guy, did a small dance and finally got the gig. Yeah, that's about it
MI: I see, has it been worth the effort?
HA81: Well, I don't get paid if that is what you are asking. Otherwise, it has been fun and kind rewarding in a way.
MI: How so?
HA81: Like anything else, the feeling of accomplishment. In this case that there is some element of an audience out there that reads my stuff.
MI: What is your view of your audience?
HA81: Not sure how you mean that? What do I think constitutes my audience? Well, they are kind of like me.
MI: Ok, I see. What I meant is how do you see your interaction with the readers?
HA81: Yeah, right. That was part of the talk with the guy. There was no clear direction given to me about what or how to write, as long as I didn't use foul language. So, I kind of had to work my way along. At first I was doing the "news at 11" standard, you know "he put his rook on the 7th and it proved to be very good there", crap... er stuff like that. Then I noticed that everyone was doing that and probably better. So, I tried a different tack. I played on several teams that won the local team league...
MI: is that the old Puget Sound League?
HA81: yeah, the PSL. I think I was on 8 winners in 10 years or something. Anyway, I remembered how my teams would approach matches and I attempted to share that. It seemed like a good idea and it was WRONG! I got no feed back at all as well as finding out that nobody on the team read my stuff. So, I kind of had to go back to the standard crap, but this time I didn't tailor it to fit what was expected or normal, I put my own feelings and emotion into it. The end result is, half of the league tells me to stop ranting.
MI: Ok, so you don't see the rest of the league as part of your audience? How do you feel about the rest of the leagues reaction to your blog?
HA81: The rest of the league is more than welcome to read my stuff and leave remarks. You know that the bloggers are a big part of the league because the blogs are the conduit to the fans. . Bioniclime does a really great job of getting interest from around the league and Ron Young figured out the jumble deal, that stuff is really fun. I mentioned this in a previous post that our league has fans who are players, not just folks who pretend to know what it is like to play, and part of the deal doing the blog is to create a forum for the fans to react and interact. Ok, how does it make me feel? Well, you see I write my stuff from the perspective of a Sluggers fan and so other people around the league aren't going to understand or appreciate that as much. I find my stuff is real different from the other bloggers. I get along with the other bloggers I have talked to. So, with all of that aside I would say that I see the rest of the league in 3 groups: a whole bunch of chess players who are just that, like me they are chess players, second group is a small cluster of agitators who figure they can get 20 seconds of the spotlight by telling me what a bozo i am or that one of the Sluggers should feel humiliated for losing to a lower rated player or something, third group would be players who get involved in threads that they are incapable of understanding because to be honest these people are third from the left on the graph of human evolution, you know the first ones who don't have their knuckles dragging...
MI: Uh, are you sure you want to depict part of the audience that way?
HA81: yeah, sure, why not? He knows who he is.
MI: Not afraid of making enemies?
HA81: Enemies? I am half Irish, I started out with enemies. Besides, it is only a freaking game after all.
MI: You know, I have noted that your blog involves a bit more controversy than the others, do you think that is related to your writing style or your content?
HA81: That is a very good question. Yeah, my style of writing is a bit more flamboyant than some of the others, but isn't the color I bring a positive? As for content, that's a big bag. At the core of it, any controversy on the blog is based in confrontation. My feeling is that the controversy isn't derived from differing points of view. No, the simple fact that I try to hold the responders to a standard - no free pass for imbicelic insults or saying things that have no thought behind them - that causes controversy. In this regard, we are talking about groups 2 and 3 in my previous comment. I invite people to take shots at me, but do some thinking about it... make me work for my counter remarks. As for any controversy concerning my run ins with titled players, I would say that there is a pecking order in the league, I am at the bottom of it but won't allow that to prevent me from standing up. To be honest though, I have no idea why this is even a topic because this stuff never makes it to the league, I mean there isn't any "McLaughlin Group" to debate the pros an cons regarding differences.
MI: I see, yes. You said that your writing is different from the other bloggers, how so?
HA81: Let me try this; how many times do you see predictions? How many times do you see post match wrap ups? Yeah, so everybody posts late Sunday or early Monday and then on Thursday. So, the first thing I did was write a post about how the other bloggers were kind of letting down, nex t thing I get a comment from Elizabeth Vicary. So, I kind of got a little momentum there. I started trying little things to change up how the blog was coming across, I still had to write match wrap ups though. I guess it is just looking for something new to try.
Mi: Why have you kept your identity concealed?
HA81: No one has asked me who I am
MI: So, it is as simple as that? If someone asked you your name you would tell them?
MI: Well then, you are actively remaining anonymous?
HA81: Uh, I don't see how it makes a difference? I am not a famous name, my name doesn't appear in Chess Life, I don't play in any of the big opens or the Amateur Team events, so if I use my name everyone will just wonder who the heck I am. That is anonymity as well, isn't it?
MI: I don't know about that. Having a real name on the blog would seem to give it more respectability, after all you yourself have commented about "anonymous" posters...
HA81: I can see where this is going. I have not used my "real name" for a couple of reasons, but mostly because it keeps a bit of intrigue in the writing. Your next question is going to be about the hypocrisy of me keeping a secret identity yet denouncing others for replying on the blog anonymously, right?
MI: Ok, lets say that would be next question...
HA81; that is easy. How often do I go onto the "Anonymous" blog and tell them that they aren't a good enough player to write about the USCL? Hmm? Never, because they aren't on any blog of their own. More simply try this, If I go onto ICC and ask about HA81 there is a chance someone will say "oh yeah, that fool who blogs, he is an idiot", but if I ask about Anonymous, there won't be anything. Does that help?
MI: Well, no not really. Why don't you announce your identity? What will it take?
HA81: Simple. This is America, if I get a good enough offer I will reveal who I am. That is the difference.
MI: Ok, moving on. Have you done any other writing?
HA81: Oh my yes
MI: Well? Such as?
HA81: Uh, I write checks, notes to my aunt, short set of instructions for co-workers...
MI: No, I mean have you done any other chess writing
HA81: ... term papers, small snipets of poetry... (pauses) Of course! I have written elsewhere about chess
MI: (slight bit of impatience) Ok, what else have you written?
HA81; (waves his right forefinger) No, what you mean is where can you find my identity. Sorry, not going to work today. Why don't we talk about the Sluggers?
MI: Very well. The Sluggers have had a good season this year, what has been the difference from past seasons? Is it Nakamura?
HA81: Well, there have been a few things. First off, Serper has played quite well this season and that has been a boost. Also, Sinanan on fourth board has done a tremendous job. Both of those guys should get a lot of credit for the teams success. Nakamura is great, but still only one point. Where he makes a difference is in the minds of the other players. The lower boards on the Sluggers kind of get the feeling that they should try to play up to his standards and that acts as motivation. Great for the team.
MI: Have you ever thought about playing for the Sluggers?
HA81: (rolling his eyes) Yeah, sure. All Star 4th board for the Sluggers!. I thought about it, then realized that I have a job I have to be at on Thursday mornings, I would probably be good for 30 to 35 moves and then it would be my bedtime. Besides, I have really good tv on Wednesday nights.
MI: I see. Who is your favorite Slugger player?
HA81: Oh, I don't know. I have known Eric (Tangborn) since we were both teens, I always root for him. Slava plays so hard it is hard to ignore him. I would say one of them.
MI: That is a bit of a surprise, I would have thought one of the GM's
HA81: No, not me. Sorry.
MI: Do you have any ideas of how the Sluggers could increase their popularity?
HA81: Yeah, I have a couple. Talk to the local high school chess coordinator and arrange a match, say 2 weeks before the season, between one of the better high school teams and some of the Sluggers. It wouldn't have to be any of the titled players, just the guys holding down 3rd and 4th board maybe. Set it up like a real internet match, with the Sluggers at home and the high schoolers at their place. I think that would draw some attention. Also, I had an idea to have some of the old time players from Seatte or the Puget Sound play a similar squad of Sluggers, but at a mall. You could have banners or something. Play it up to the public.
MI: Where do you see the league going and how do you percieve your place in it?
HA81: Uh, that is tough. I do not have any information about official league direction and am certainly not privy to the inner workings, so what I say is totally off the cuff. I have heard rumors that there is more expansion in the works, that could work really well. If the league got to 16 teams they could set it up like the 1960's NFL where there were 2 Divisions and 2 conferences in each division, so 4 conferences of 4 teams. Then for a 10 week schedule arrange it so that the teams play each other twice and then each team in one conference plays each of the teams in one other conference, then rotate which conference plays which on a yearly basis. For example, if a team came to LA you could have a Pacific conference with Seattle, San Francisco, LA and Arizona, then you could have a Southern or Dixie conference with Miami, Dallas, Tennessee and Carolina. Year one each of the Pacific teams has 6 matches against their conference brethern and 1 game each against the teams in the Southern conference. 10 games! That would lend itself to direct rivalries and give that a boost, also if the teams in a conference are all in the same time zone it would relieve a bit of the situation where New York is starting at 9 PM wondering if they will get 5 hours sleep before work the next day and Seattle is playing at 6 PM coming almost directly from work without time to freshen up. That would seem a positive to me. Another thing I can see is having 3 boards with a rating limit and the 4th board being strictly a junior or possibly a senior board. I am not thinking that teams could aim to pick up points by having Lenderman or Robson playing off the top 3 boards, instead it would seem likely that each team could recruit 1 or 2 aspiring local high school players and include them in the team. If little Bobby came home and told his parents that the local USCL team wants him to play, it is likely that Bobby's parents will have to find out what USCL stands for, but after that it is like free marketing. Those are just a couple of thoughts. As for my place in it? Probably very minimal if any. This season is likely it for me, I think that my contributions to the league are about done. My efforts would start to become routine and mundane, which is the furthest thing that I am aiming for. Probably just a fan and from where I live and watch the matches not many folk can here me yelling and cheering.
MI: Very surprising. From your writing my feeling is that your are one of the most passionate characters in the USCL and you are saying that you will walk away?
HA81: Yup, walk away with a perfect record no wins, no losses no draws.
MI: Ok, well that is about all I had. Do you have anything you want to share with the readers?
HA81:Yeah. When are we going to have USCL trading cards? Why don't we have an All Star match? Really want to spice things up, you could add an element of randomness like, Round 3 next year the teams can play their 4 players in any order! Or Round 5 we don't have prematch color allocations, each game draws lots for colors!! Or how about something like Sunday night on ICC the managers of paired teams compete in a trivia game to determine who gets to decide colors? Why did Greg stop doing his weekly video recap? Creativity, that is what this league needs more of.
MI: Very good thank you again...
HA81: One final thing. If any of the readers has an idea of who I am, not the Commish or anybody who I have revealed my identity to, then leave a comment with what you think my name is and why. I am certain that at least one person out there knows me, but I would bet it is an older person because all the clues I have left are from the before time. Thank you