All Good Things…

It’s so easy to be a Navy football fan today. Every game is on television, and the internet allows us to follow the program from all corners of the globe. The days of dialing into Teamline to listen to the radio broadcast over the phone are long gone, and coverage only increased as Navy started winning again in 2003.

It was boom times for the program back when I started this blog nine (!) years ago. Yet even though there was more access than ever to Navy football, I didn’t feel like people were any smarter about it. You know the feeling… Navy’s got a big game coming up. You tune into TV to see what the supposed experts have to say about it. Then you’re treated to a buffet of platitudes. Navy’s a plucky bunch of overachievers that will never quit, you see. They’ll play all four quarters. And that offense, it’s tricky, but I just don’t think they have the athletes to beat the defense’s speed.

At some point, you realize that you’re hearing the same things over and over again.

And that was my problem. The program was treated as a novelty. The offense was viewed as a gimmick. Nobody took either seriously. I remember Sonny Lubick, at halftime of the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl, saying that he was caught off guard by Navy’s speed. The comment caused Chris Fowler to remark, “If you’re impressed by service academy speed, then your team must have some thick ankles.” Reggie Campbell was running fast enough to travel back in time in that game, but not fast enough to escape the clichés. There was no shortage of news, but analysis and educated discussion that treated Navy with respect as a football program was in short supply.

That’s really all I had in mind when I started: to write the kind of stuff that I wanted to read.

By that measure, I’d say that The Birddog Blog has been a success, not that entertaining myself is the highest standard to meet. I think it’s accomplished a little more than just that, too. This has become a great community of die-hard Navy fans, and there has been more than one occasion when your comments were better than what I wrote in the post. Other outlets might have a bigger audience, but I doubt they have a better one. I’d never be able to prove it, but I firmly believe that some of the discussions we’ve had here have even had a small effect on how Navy is covered by more mainstream outlets, particularly with regard to the option offense. This blog has been a great learning tool for me, and a pretty significant part of my life.

That’s why it’s difficult for me to announce that this will be my last post here.

OK, so that’s a bit misleading. Yes, this is my last post here, but this doesn’t mean you guys will be rid of me. I’m turning out the lights on this site and moving to a new building. Today, I am launching The Mid Report, the new Navy site on the Rivals network.

This was a difficult decision for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the time commitment it takes to run a Rivals site. Here, I just write a couple thousand words whenever I have something to say, but with Rivals, I’ll have to churn out a lot more on a regular basis. That’s going to be a challenge, but it will also make me a better writer. It’s a tremendous opportunity.

Still, it’s not a change I’m entirely comfortable making. As with all Rivals sites, there will be a subscription component to it, and I feel like it’s arrogant to think that anyone would pay to read what I write. Maybe nobody will, although apparently someone seems to think that it’s worth the risk. I’ve gone back and forth on whether I agreed ever since I was first presented with the possibility a little more than a year ago. Ultimately, I do, for a few reasons.

I’ve been approached with offers to write for other sites in the past, but Rivals is the first one I’ve felt comfortable with. With Rivals, the site is mine. I keep editorial control. I get to choose who contributes. I get to choose what I write about. I can essentially keep writing the things you’re used to seeing from The Birddog Blog, but with access to more resources that will allow me to provide even more content. There will be growing pains as I figure out the best way to utilize those resources, but over time they will make it possible to fulfill my vision for a hub of intelligent Navy discussion.

Besides, if I don’t do it, someone else will. Navy is coming off of its best football season in decades. They’ve joined a conference, which adds a whole new group of people who will want to follow the team. There is more interest in Navy football now than there has been in my lifetime, yet coverage of the program hasn’t grown along with it. With consolidation of different media outlets and newspaper budgets being slashed, the opposite is true. There is more demand for Navy coverage than is currently being met. Someone is going to fill that vacuum, and the way I see it, it’s better if it’s me. Otherwise, the moment that some other person writes something I disagree with, it’ll be my own fault for not seizing the opportunity when I had the chance.

In a small way, I think it will be good for the program. It’s one thing for me to pontificate from my little soapbox here, but it’s a whole different ballgame to do so as part of an established national network. Rivals gives me the chance to bring a Navy point of view– whether it’s with recruiting, conference realignment, or any other trending topic– to a much larger audience. The more people who understand Navy, the better. I also think it helps with overall perception; it simply looks good to have a presence on Rivals. Sometimes news will be good, sometimes news will be bad, but honest coverage leads to greater understanding and will be beneficial for everyone in the long run. Sure, it’s only a small impact, but it’s the impact I’m in a position to make.

So that’s that. Before I close up shop, though, I need to thank a few people who helped me out here and made this opportunity possible. (I’m not sure who wants to remain anonymous so I’ll keep it vague. You can out yourselves in the comments if you want!)

I am exceedingly grateful for the trust placed in me by several people at the Naval Academy, particularly the Sports Information staff. The fact that I was already credentialed made me an easy choice for Rivals once they decided the time was right to launch a Navy site. I also am thankful for members of the media that have treated me as a colleague and not some random internet dweeb. Both groups have extended me every courtesy even though I deserved none of it.

Finally, so many readers have pitched in behind the scenes to make my life easier. I’ve received countless notes of appreciation. When my DVD recorder broke, another one appeared on my doorstep a week later thanks to a reader that didn’t use his. When family duties required my attention, some of you even wrote blog posts to cover for me. When I wanted to design a logo for the blog, another reader actually paid for a graphic designer. Two blog readers with businesses even made Birddog-themed items for me. A few readers found recordings of old Navy games and were kind enough to send them to me. I have been the recipient of many beers and dinners. Some of you have acted as my proxies at the Sale of the Century. I know that whenever I go to Annapolis, I’ll have a place to stay and a tailgate waiting for me. I’m grateful for everything.

This is all sounding way more melodramatic than I wanted. The bottom line is that I think this is a good thing. I’m excited about the opportunity. Thank you all for reading this blog, and I hope you will join me at The Mid Report.

The Triple: Fordham

Three quick observations from the Fordham game:

Continue reading

Postgame Haiku, Vol. 101

Navy beats Fordham
When is a win not a win?
Now we wait for news

Extra Points: Fordham

Here are three things I’ll be watching for when Fordham visits Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday:

Continue reading

Game Week: Fordham

Fordham athletics is an interesting case study.

Continue reading

On Big 12 Expansion and Navy

When I left last week to go on vacation, Big 12 expansion was considered a dead topic. There would be no Big 12 television network, and there didn’t seem to be much of a reason to expand without one. It seemed like a safe time to head out to camp in the desert for a few days. Now that I’ve returned, I’m wondering if the heat might have made me hallucinate. Not only is expansion back on, but it’s imminent. And it could be as many as four schools! And Bill Wagner is campaigning for Navy!

That’s the last time I take a vacation.

Continue reading

Army’s Retention Problems

Like any other school, graduation is the highlight of the year at the service academies. That isn’t the case for everybody, though. The end of the school year also means that some midshipmen and cadets with low grades will have their fate determined by the Superintendent and senior faculty at an academic board. Not everyone makes it through.

Continue reading