In the last few weeks, Bruins Nation has undergone a pretty profound organizational transformation. It began last summer when Nestor stepped down as managing editor and JoeBruin15 and I were the lone volunteers who stepped up to keep this place running.
It came at an unforeseeably bad time. My work hours suddenly increased by a third (with zero increase in pay, btw), and JB unexpectedly couldn't devote the time he wanted to for several months. Bruins Nation, which had always focused on its narrative like a guided missile, became a battleship coasting with no steady hand on the rudder.
When JB15 and I tried to get back on track, though, it was with the well understood intention that we wanted Bruins Nation to adopt a more diplomatic tone in its interaction with the Bruin fan base and community. We hadn't changed our basic opinions on the AD or basketball coach, for example, but we wanted to create room for more opinion and change how the conversation was moderated.
Since Nestor's signoff, we've read the public goodbyes from Bellerophon, islandbruin2, and Patroclus, as well as the private ones from several others. With fewer and fewer frontpagers, it's been harder to maintain our usual content, and it's put an incredible strain on the remaining folks. We faced the question of whether we abandon ship and let BN sink.
I can't say how disappointing it has been watching many of the old guard walk away from Bruins Nation. These people have been my friends via the Internet, and some in face to face meetings, for years. We have talked nearly every day, not just about U.C.L.A., but about our personal lives, jobs, families. I thought I could be a force to unite us in a new direction, but I was wrong. Things like coaching hires and moderation techniques proved stronger. My biggest regret about the changes in the front page staff has been the damage and loss of some of my personal friendships.
But there are some things in life, like family and ethics, which are bigger than my feelings. U.C.L.A., and doing right by the ideals associated with Coach and Jackie and those 4 letters, is one of those things.
For years, Bruins Nation has been a singular voice in the U.C.L.A. community. We occupy a unique place as the largest free Bruin blog on the Internet. With that comes a unique opportunity to speak to, and listen to, any Bruin fan or observer with a connection to the web. Despite some incredible moments like #SFatPauley and raising thousands of dollars for a gutty little Bruin and developing a fantastic online community, I don't think Bruins Nation has fully capitalized on its opportunity. Too many people felt their voices were unheard or unwelcomed and they tuned out. I felt we shot the albatross and the seas went still and our ship stagnated. BN's message and status became isolated.
I understand there are a lot of idiots on the Internet. Behind the anonymity of a keyboard, it's easy to be tough or dismissive or rude or bully. Just look at what former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has been dealing with. We've sadly seen stuff like that around here. So I see attacks on BN around the Internet, and I have to take some of it with a grain of salt. I might be biased, but I pretty sure I'm not a fascist, or asshole, or trojan.
But there's only so much salt you can take before you get hypernatremic, develop renal failure, heart failure, and die from complications. When I see the volume of vitriol leveled at Bruins Nation from places like BRO and BSR where there are some intelligent and passionate Bruin fans, or at InsideUCLA and the other tiny Bruin blogs and the message boards where you have other vocal Bruin fans, or on other SB Nation sites where you'd think they wouldn't have a bias one way or another, or even from SB Nation employees where our success is in their own best interests, how could I not consider there is a problem? I know a good friend and fellow Bruin who is smart and involved and cares about U.C.L.A. - and who agrees with virtually every thing BN says about the AD and basketball coach and the hotel and Pauley - who still says that BN is a joke and an embarrassment. A guy shares BN's opinions exactly, and he still won't give us the time of day. Think about that.
I don't cave to every criticism, but I have to make allowances for them, too.
Attending U.C.L.A. taught me about the importance of diversity and alternative thinking, and above all, listening. And after a lot of listening, it's my turn to make an announcement here on BN.
I'm not going anywhere.
Bruins Nation, its place, its opportunity, and more than anything, the community it has built so far is too important to walk away from.
But there is work to do to get this place sailing smoothly again. I wrote a throwaway fanpost this week, basically doing a Cliff Notes version of a writer's idea that Kobe Bryant would make a good coach for U.C.L.A. (It's meaningless. He doesn't even qualify because he has no college degree). That post has over 6,000 views in 2 days, and the poll has over 2,000 votes (and lol at the 83 people who voted C). And for all that, it has only 35 comments.
People are looking in. There is no question about that. But only a few of them are talking. I want to get them in the conversation, and the way to do that is to make them comfortable and invested in sharing their opinions, whatever those opinions are. It doesn't mean we are going to tolerate cheap shots at the frontpagers, or disrespectful comments at others in the community, or trolls, ever. No blog should ever do that. At the same time, the front pagers here have to treat every commenter, regardless of his viewpoint, with the same respect that we expect from them. It needs to be a two-way street. Yes, I'm spending my own time to write here, but I have never thought that anyone else was lucky that I was writing for them. On the contrary, I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to write for everyone else.
I don't expect everyone to think like me, but here's what I believe: Royce Quad is the most beautiful setting of a college in the world. Alford is an average coach with a proven nasty past and he was the wrong hire. His contract was egregious and irresponsible and that is one of many failures by our AD. I love volleyball, but I'd literally drown playing water polo. U.C.L.A. student athletes rule. We should have an on campus football stadium. Mora has done a pretty good job so far but there are still lots of areas that need to be improved if we are ever to get football to an elite level. Our tradition is important and not to be trifled with. We need to find a way to bring back men's swimming and gymnastics. The on campus hotel is a bad thing for students. The NCAA abuses college athletes like third world labor. We were beyond blessed to have Coach. The 8-Clap and the Fight Song and the Alma Mater are beautiful sounds, the Bruin Bear is beautiful sight, and powder keg blue and gold are the two most beautiful colors. With full shoulder stripes.
See? It's not 100% positive. Nothing is. But it's all about U.C.L.A.
Now, tell me what you think. I'm sure we can find some common ground.
It takes a while to turn a battleship in a new direction. Physics alone keeps that sort of thing from happening in an instant. And there are people out there who won't care which way we steer at this point anyway. But many will. I hope those people who have an open mind will extend it to BN and see the change in course and will want get on board, and I want to throw a rope over the edge and help them on. There is a lot of room left on this ship, and someone doesn't have to agree with everything I say just to get a ride. You just have to be nice about it, and I intend to be nice back.
I don't need BN to be loved. But I want it to be respected. And credible. I'm staying on the bridge and I'll keep fighting to get us there, and we need the entire community to help us do that. We're all part of the ship and part of the crew.
This is not about the past. We are looking forward here. I won't criticize nor will I tolerate attacks on any previous front pagers. Those people spent countless hours writing about the Bruins for free and they sincerely love U.C.L.A. They laid the keel and shaped the hull and ran out the sails, and I love those guys. But they have disembarked, so now I'm the ancient mariner of the group and I still want Bruins Nation to carry on. This is about the future and what we want this community to be and to become. And very soon, we'll be able to announce some new folks who will help pilot the ship for us in the days to come.
The seas ahead are wide open. There will be storms, but with everyone on board and working together for what is right with U.C.L.A., we can navigate whatever the oceans have in store.
Full speed ahead, Bruins.