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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Blogging is Like Football! (What blogging is)



As I watched (or should I say yelled through) the Georgia Tech football game this past Saturday, I had an epiphany about blogging. (The F18 Flybye shown to the left gave me a little inspiration too! I was sitting in the top right of the screen and they flew right over my head! It was amazing!)

At the game I was thinking on the subject of blogging because I have come under recent criticism for my lack of perfection on this blog. Sometimes I misspell words and sometimes things are not quite as "polished" as some people say a "blogger of my stature" should have.

This is my conclusion: blogging is more like football than a once in a lifetime performance at Carnegie Hall.

Blogging is like football

1 - One play at a time

My little league coaching husband says that a successful football player focuses on the current play. He learns from the last one, but he doesn't get ahead of himself and focuses on the play that he can change -- the one RIGHT NOW! Blogging is a little different in the fact that one can go back and correct their post, however, a blogger has to focus primarily on the post that will have the most impact -- their current post before hitting that "publish" button.

2 - Sometimes plays go right, sometimes they go wrong


If every play was a perfect play, every play would be a touchdown! Every blog post is not going to be a "touchdown." Some will resonate with your readers and some will not. You will "fumble" on some blog posts and despite your best intentions, you may hurt someones feelings on another. Some blog posts will be nonexistent -- because nobody is interested in it but you.

The point is not whether you screw up, the point is whether you keep playing. I had one reader - myself -- for a while. Then I had three. Then I had seven until mid January. (I started blogging in December.) Now, I have a lot more than that.

I was listening to Morten Anderson, an amazing NFL place kicker for the last 20 years, and he said that

"The best kickers will miss one in every five kicks."

Reality is that we mess up sometimes! You get some grammatical bumbles and stumbles in this "reality writing" of blogging. Readers get to see the mood swings of bloggers, the bad days and good days are reflected in blog postings like a mirror and you cannot take it back.

A once in a lifetime performance at Carnegie Hall would be close to perfect. (If a person screws up, what excuse do they have?) Such a performer will practice and over practice to the point of perfection. Likewise when someone publishes a book, it should be close to perfect.

But when someone blogs, you are seeing a virtual play by play of a person's life. As human beings we are flawed (some of us more than others) and we make mistakes. So, whether you're viewing a football game or a blog, you will see a few touchdowns, a few fumbles, and a lot of hard work. It is part of watching humans do anything over a period of time!

3 - Keep your head in the game (and not on the rankings)


Ultimately football rankings are MOSTLY determined on the outcome of the football game (but as Notre Dame fans know, history has a little something to do with it also!) So, the blogger rankings (as Steve on Musings says are "totally inaccurate list of completely irrelevant numbers") are a result of the "best guess" of some blog search engine algorithm like that at Technorati. But, it is usually the overall success of a blog as determined by the number of links from other blogs that determine whether that blog will move up in the rankings.

I cannot allow myself to get to "hung up" on the rankings. There are many amazing teachers out there and when the world meets them through their blogs, they will far surpass me. Even, if I manage to sustain some modicum of success over a period of time, at some point, I will die and "poof," there goes the Cool Cat Teacher blog. It is a matter of "keeping my head in the game."

This is one reason it is so hard for many athletes to adjust to the "real world." Their knee goes bad and then they go from being "Mr. Big Body" to "Mr. Nobody." It is sad to see people who truly think the best moments of their life are behind them.

So, whether I climb or I tank, I write because I love to write and I want to encourage others. I write because I want to help others live their lives in a better way. I write to leave a legacy in words behind me.

When I read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People in sixth grade and he helped me so much, I said,

"I want to do that for others." "I want to encourage them. I want to help them live better lives. I want to help people be better like he and other writers have helped me."


That is a lifelong dream. That is part of who I am.


4- Character flaws off the field can affect your game.

There are many sports stories of players with gambling, drug, sex, or unsavory habits that simply took them out of the game. We've seen a baseball player who claims to have never touched steroids mysteriously improve his average after the age after a typical players "prime". We've seen football players get suspended for rage problems. (As one fan joked to me last week, "I came for the fight, but I thought there might be a football game." because my team, Georgia Tech, was playing Miami.) We've seen movie stars be unable to film because of time spent in jail.

It is never OK to compromise your own beliefs for your blog. For example, my five year old came in just as I was typing that last sentence. I was in a flow, I mean, "going to town, Baby" (as Dick Vitale says). But, my toddler said, "Mommy, I'm hungry." I looked at my last sentence, saved my blog entry and now have come back now forty five minutes later. My children and my husband and my students and my family and my faith must come before my blog. When things get out of order, my blogging suffers.

I love the old saying, "A person without anything they'd die for, has nothing to live for." My beliefs make me who I am. If I give them up, I give up myself. Character off the field is reflected in on field performance.

5 - Performance on the field can affect your life off the field.


Heroes who make the touchdown enjoy real benefits. Just being on the team has benefits too. Likewise, I am a better teacher because I am on the blogging team. (Bloggers have an inordinate amount of influence.) Blogging has brought opportunities to me and my students that I could not imagine! Doors are opening! Blogging affects opinion. You can make a difference when you blog!

But remember, words have great power. People forget this -- say things that jeopardize their career and the trust of colleagues. Sometimes I read the blog of others and think, "Do they realize that their non-blogging counterparts may not read blogs now but they will in two or three years?"

As teachers, we must never slander our coworkers or students. We must find ways to be genuine without harming those we've sworn to protect. I have a rule -- if I'm angry or upset, I always save the blog post and come back. (If you don't believe that some people make such mistakes -- see the Chicago School Superintendant's Humor in the Workplace Gone Wrong - hat tip to Education Wonk.)

Why paramedics do not run to the injured. I watched a young boy who was hurt in JV football game several weeks a go. The paramedics went out there and they weren't running. I asked someone, "WHY DO THEY NOT RUN? He's hurt!"

I was told,

"They train paramedics not to run. When they run, their adrenaline gets going and they get emotional and they make bad judgment calls with someone's life. They are trained to stay focused and keep from getting overly emotional."

If paramedics can walk to a dying person to keep focused, I think we can do the same when we get overly emotional. Walk to post -- don't run!

6 - Don't let "Monday Morning Quarterbacks" ruin your day, but respect the opinion of seasoned coaches

From my days in the business world, I came to despise "Monday Morning quarterbacks." These are the people who do not play in the game nor do they coach but have a world of advice about how the game could have been won on Monday morning (after the game is over.)

Monday morning quarterbacks in the blogging world are those who refuse to discuss a subject. They refuse to help others on important topics. But they are very eager to pick apart those who are attempting to promote dialog on important issues.

They hone in on spelling errors, minuscule flaws, and question the intent of the blogger who is trying to make a difference. In blogger land, this person is often a "drive by commenter." They never read your blog but follow a hyperlink from another one that has "interpreted your post." Their comments show that they haven't even read your post and they make "snap judgments" about what you're saying without reading.

And I have now learned to tune them out. I nor anyone on this planet is going to be everyone's "cup of tea." If you honestly fit in with every human on this planet, you're lying to somebody. I honestly love all people as best as I can, however, I'll never agree with others all of the time. It just doesn't happen.

However, there are times when I've done my very best and a wise, seasoned person has valid, rational feedback. (If a great NFL coach gave you advice, you'd take it. But, Johnny the bartender doesn't necessarily know football. Same in the edublogosphere.)

When such a person takes me to task, I always respect their opinion. I listen. I pray about it. If my post needs to be revised, I do it. (I revise carefully because republishing means that it sends it back through your subscribers RSS readers and doing this to much is not "nice" to your readers.) These "seasoned coaches" are worth listening to. Much blogging information is experiential and so no blogger should profess to know it all. I am very open with my students and blog readers about how many times I screw up and how "dumb" I feel so many times! This being said, if my convictions still stand, then we agree to disagree.

Growing up on a farm, I learned, "When you're green, you're growing, and when you're ripe, you rot!" I don't want to rot, so I guess I'll have to stay "green." (For international readers, "green" means a beginner at something.)

7- Don't use the fact that you are human as an excuse to not push towards perfection.


I know I will not be perfect but I still will use spell check. I made the mistake on a recent article of just proofreading three or four times because I am sick of fighting with the poor spell check feature on blogger. I let four typos slip past me. I feel terrible about it, I really do and I fixed it.

I remember going to Georgia Tech from a small private school in rural Georgia and only 32 in my graduating class. I didn't even know what an AP class was. I got to Tech and the other students said things like this to me,

"You're never going to make it, you're just a small town hick." "You're just here to get an MRS degree." (Find someone to marry.) "Your school was too small and not good enough, you can't keep up with us highly educated big city folks who've all had at least 4 AP classes apiece."

Well, I didn't let that stop me, and I resolved to show them the only way I knew how -- with my grades. I knew that there were many people smarter than me, but I grew up on a farm as the oldest of three girls. I worked in 110 degree heat in the summers and pulled peanut wagons on my summer and fall breaks. I knew that although I may not be smarter, that I could sure as heck work harder. And I did. And while those same people who talked so big during orientation cried with their suitcases on the street corner after getting their grades, I had a 4.0. (The rest is history, I graduated first in my major in 1991.)

So, as I begin blogging (I'll be a year old December 3), I am hearing a lot of comments similar to those I heard during freshman orientation.

"Blogging is stupid." "Who cares about blogging?" "Who are you anyway?" "You can't make a difference." And on and on.

and on and on. And you know what, that's OK.

I love the analogy with the movie Waterboy with Adam Sandler. (I've included a few clips if you've never seen it.)
He learned to tackle by visualizing a person that made him angry. The coach called that his "tackling fuel." He'd get so angry that he'd completely annihilate the person with the ball -- so much so, that often they would just throw him the ball to prevent the painful tackle.

Use negative comments to spur you to greatness. So, when people make derogatory comments about my blog, that is my "Tackling fuel." Just as the girls (and guys) called me ugly and stupid in Middle school -- I used that tackling fuel to go on and win beauty pageants. And the choir director in middle school who put me on the back row and told me "don't sing, you're messing up the choir." I taught myself to sing and with some supernatural influence, I now sing in church once a month and at other events. I used negative comments not to drag me down but as tackling fuel to push me to greatness and outside of my comfort zone.

So, with my newest criticism in my back pocket, I will again set my mind and heart on being excellent at this blogging thing, for it is what I feel called to do. I do not need to brag about what I will do, that is for pro boxers and pro wrestlers. The truth will come out as you watch my work. I mean it, I am going to work even harder!

8 - Perfection is an illusion.


The Cindy Crawford Illusion. I remember hearing about Cindy Crawford being interviewed by a TV personality. The TV personality asked her, "How does it feel to look like Cindy Crawford?" Cindy quipped back, "I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford." She then went on to say that after the photo experts "doctored" her photos, every flaw was erased and enhancements were made. She felt like she didn't look like the perfection in her photos.

My life is not perfect. I have ups and downs. All bloggers do. So, although we should still strive for perfection, when we don't make it and mess up, we have to "cut ourselves some slack." (As my Grandmother says, sometimes "You've got to let the rough end drag.")

9 - Scrimmage Games are not a lot of fun to watch


A scrimmage game is when a team divides in half and plays against itself. Somehow, it lacks the depth, spontenaity and energy of a real game. The two "teams" are too alike. They are too similar and one leaves feeling like one has watched a farce.

Likewise, "groupthink" is the mental equivalent of inbreeding. It is vital to read outside your discipline. It is important to interact and discuss meaningful, professional, ideas with people who come from a different cultural background and mindset as you.

The blogosphere (and emerging wikisphere) give us an unprecendented opportunity to explode outside of our immediate surroundings and prevent group think. We can learn from others who are not like ourselves.

It is important to learn, however, to have good "sportsmanship" and to be kind and professional as we tackle such important issues. I think the k12online wiki project was a great model of the greatness of collaboration with people from many diverse backgrounds.

10 - Fans make a big difference


I've talked a lot about the power of commenting. Encouragement truly makes a difference. Feedback makes a difference. Football coaches talk in awe about the power of "the twelfth man" on the field -- the fans. Bloggers talk about their readers who comment and blog about them (with links) with the same affection. I love learning from those and sharing in conversation.

How Blogging is NOT like football

There is such a thing as a win-win
In blogging we can all win. You and I can both contribute equally in our spheres of influence. We can make a difference. We can discuss problems from different angles and work towards a common agreement that can then help others. Football means that usually there is one winner and another loser -- in blogging that is not the case. With the tremendous growth of the blogosphere, there is more than enough room for everyone at this time.

Enjoy the game!

Whether you win or lose, a good, competitive football game is FUN! It is great! It is wonderful! Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but if you can't learn to enjoy the game until you know the outcome, you miss out! Blogging is a lot of fun! You meet people around the world and learn from them. We're not so different from one another! The process is part of the enjoyment.

Who knows where it is all going?

For those who ask what the big deal is about blogging and wikis, I reply the same answer that Benjamin Franklin gave when someone asked him about the implications of an innovation he had just observed.

"What's the use of a baby?"

(Answer: One day it will grow up and then we'll find out.)

Life is fun! It is not all sour-puss whining and complaining! Laugh when a funny comedy clip is shown on the jumbo tron or when a funny comment comes across your e-mail. Smile when someone says "good job." Determine to do better when you fumble. And remember that in this game of blogging, if we behave with ethics, kindness, professionalism, and a general respect for our fellow man and the power of the written word, that we can all win!

So, fans, let's hear your thoughts!

So, what do you think? How do you think blogging is (or isn't) like football (or your favorite sport.)

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