It is time. It has been an awesome run, but it is time to close up shop on the daily dose of Wildcataganda after one wild ride. The actual final post for this blog will be January 15, the day after the ‘Cats home tilt with Illinois and just days after Ohio Sate or Oregon is crowned the 2014 College Football National Champion.
This news may be blasting you just like that arctic slap in the face Chicago’s frozen temperatures and wind brought many of us today. After pulling up a chair to this community whether it has been since June of 2007 when I launched or if you’re a relative newcomer, you deserve an explanation.
With the help of a great crew of contributing writers and my main man, Phillip Rossman-Reich, LTP has produced nearly 5,000 posts. The goal of the blog was rather simple at its launch – “help pack Ryan Field with almost all purple”. There was a second motivation I had back in the spring of 2007 as well – learn about social media by diving in as a participant.
Many of you don’t know the real impetus for launching LakeThePosts, a blog name created by Northwestern alum, Dan Shanoff (Medill ’95), was for my own personal gain at work.The name, as the sidebar of this site explains, is a nod to the pre-Gary Barnett era Wildcats who won so infrequently that a win, any win, became a student section mission of ripping down the field goal posts, exiting the stadium and marching them down Central Street to north campus and throwing, or “laking”, the field goal posts in to Lake Michigan.
In 2007, blogs were crossing in to mainstream media influence and as the recently named CEO of TeamWorks Media I felt I needed to get a deep understanding of how to connect the social media dots. I’m a tactile learner and as I thought about the one topic that I felt I could write about every single day to keep a blog robust and provide value online more so than 99.9% of the world’s population the answer was painfully easy – “Northwestern football”. I quickly expanded that to include Northwestern Athletics as a whole, but the name is no doubt a nod to football.
As the days turned in to months and then years the goals expanded and so did the community. Northwestern football had a voice among the sea of Big Ten-related blogs and though I couldn’t control the on-field product, I went on a crusade to protect the brand,blogger by blogger. I developed great relationships with all sorts of media types ranging from local blogs to national college football experts. Much more rewarding, though, were the hundreds and hundreds of relationships I developed because of LTP. Some have only been through email, some via Twitter and many have been in person.
When I think about the various types of people for whom I otherwise would never have connected with it makes this journey so worth it. I’ve come to know all sorts of people from wide ranges of age and interests all connected by our love of the Wildcats.
The life journey has changed as well. When I started LTP, I was in a parental haze having then three kids three and under in age. Now, my oldest daughter, Eva, is about to turn 11 and my youngest, Nora, is 7 – they are in the sweet spot of childhood. The demands of LTP are double-digit hours per week and during football season it gets up to nearly 20, and those are hours I’ll never get back with the kids. I’m now 41 and priorities change in a good way.
My wife Tanya has been a saint. She’s been very supportive of LTP and has gone all-in on Northwestern despite previously having had zero connection with the school. We tailgate at every home game in the west lot and she plays host to 20-40 people on any given Saturday. She’s also seen me be completely engrossed in my own world on weekends solely dedicated to LTP.
The overwhelming majority of posts are created on the Metra train to and from work, but as a Lake Bluff native who works downtown, that’s an 1:10 minute train ride each day and those two plus hours could easily be used all-in on TeamWorks, which has a much better ROI. She often jokes that best-selling author, Scott Turrow, made millions on his train rides while I work for free.
As my career at TeamWorks has grown over the years, I’m engaged in a daily battle of growing a company that specializes in purpose-driven marketing, getting to the heart and soul of an organization and helping them connecting with their desired audiences by helping them tell their story in various ways. Take what I’ve done with Northwestern Athletics, take double digit communication touchpoints and you get the gist. You can see how LTP has been a breeding ground for helping others benefit from building engaged communities, just as I had hoped when I started.
But, the time has come to call it a day. I had envisioned dropping the microphone and walking off stage left after a season average of 47,330 with mostly purple and the ‘Cats heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. To leave now, after back-to-back losing seasons and a very frustrated football fan base makes it that much tougher for me.
Despite Sunday night’s waxing by Wisconsin, I do believe the ‘Cats will have a legitimate shot to crack the NCAA Tournament next year if things fall their way. And when that day comes, man will it be a party and you can bet I’ll be there with you, packing some overwhelmed city like Albequerque and creating the most ticket demand ever for a first round game.
As with most things in life there is never a “perfect time” for just about anything. You can always rationalize putting things off until tomorrow. For me, at some point in the past year or two the daily passion started to turn in to a daily grind. At first I blamed it on writer’s block, but after it persisted, at some point the daily posts became more obligatory than exciting.
Even if the ‘Cats had put together back-to-back 10-win seasons I believe this feeling would have been there. I’m not ending LTP because of two down football seasons, that much I know for certain.
In the final week plus of LTP, I’ll be sharing great moments from the past as well as addressing some topics that I’ve never gotten around to -the big picture ones that are worth addressing and will spark conversations.
As Wildcat fans, you are in good hands. So many options have emerged since I started the blog. In addition to the mainstream beat writers you’ve got the voluminous work being done by Kevin Trahan and InsideNU, you’ve got Scout’s PurpleWildcats site, Chris Emma and friends at Wildcat Digest and of course Louie Vaccher and WildcatReport.com which was here before I joined the party. Throw in the Big Ten blogs like ESPN’s and OffTackleEmpire and there is no shortage of Wildcat coverage.
Just like there were staples before me – HailtoPurple.com being the most impressionable on me – there will be more Northwestern outlets in the future. Like attendance, it will most likely uptick with on field and on court success, but there is no doubt brighter days are ahead.
It is a day of mixed emotions for me. On one hand it is cathartic for finally typing the words “LTP is ending.” On other hand it is tough to let go of something that has become part of my identity. I look forward to celebrating the next week plus with you.
Coming up tomorrow…Closing Time Part II, which could also be called “The Hypocrisy of LTP Anonymity”.