The JoeBlogs One-Year Anniversary
Let’s start with a story. In early 2007, I went with the Kansas City Royals on their caravan; every winter the Royals would send out a little delegation — usually a couple of players, a former player, a radio personality, a front office person — into the hinterlands to drum up some excitement about the team.
Several times, I went along to write about the adventures and misadventures.
But this is about something else: One of the stops for the caravan that year was Bentonville, Ark., so that the participants could have dinner with Royals owner and then-CEO of Walmart, David Glass. I was invited to come along, too, which was very nice of him because I was not always super-complimentary of Glass’ ownership skills.
When we got to Glass’ house, it became clear that he had invited a who’s who of Walmart executives to join. I don’t remember all of their titles, but I do remember that one was in charge of Sam’s Club. I remember this detail because when Royals great John Mayberry found out he was in charge of Sam’s Club, he asked the obvious question: “Which one?”
“Um,” the guy said. “All of them.”
Dinner was barbecue, as I remember, and the strangest thing happened over the barbecue. I say this as modestly as I can — I became the star of the night. All the executives sat around me and asked questions, and I told a bunch of baseball stories and golf stories and Olympics stories and college football stories, and they were all eating it up.
This happens to me sometimes; I’m normally not especially outgoing, but sometimes, when the situation demands (to steal some words from Larry David) I really can be quite a treat.
Like, for example, a few years ago, when I won National Sportswriter of the Year, I delivered 20 or 30 minutes in Salisbury, N.C., that people STILL talk to me about. Told stories. Did bits. Thirty tight minutes. After that was over, no less an authority than the guy who co-created “Saturday Night Live” and modern Olympic sports coverage, Dick Ebersol, went on stage and said to the crowd, “I’ve worked with the best announcers in the history of sports television, people like Al Michaels and Bob Costas and Vin Scully. Any one of them would have had to be on their game to be as good as Joe was tonight.”
That’s a real thing that happened that I have never talked about publicly because … well, let me not step on the ending here.
Back to Bentonville. After the dinner, I was pretty psyched about how it went; you don’t often get to be the star attraction in a room filled with executives from one of the world’s biggest companies. I called home to Margo and told her about how I had been the life of the party at Walmart Central.
And I will never forget the seven words that she said to me instantly.
She asked: “Did you tell them about the book?”
The book? The book. This was about two months before the publishing of my first book, The Soul of Baseball. It was the very first thing that came to Margo’s mind. And yet, in an evening spent entertaining people who could, without even thinking about it, turn my book into a national bestseller, I had not mentioned my first book even one time.
But here’s the kicker.
I had not even THOUGHT about mentioning the book one time. It had never even come close to entering my mind.
This is the painful little secret behind the “Have I mentioned that I wrote a book?” gag that I have hammered to death here on JoeBlogs and on the PosCast.
The point is: I’m really, really, really bad at self-promotion. I’m really, really, really bad at selling. I’m really, really, really bad at taking advantage of opportunities, such as having Dick Ebersol, one of the most important figures in the history of television, call me a unique television talent and a singular American voice.
If I hadn’t just told you that, you would never know.
And it happened like a decade ago.
“If you don’t promote yourself,” Bob Feller once asked me, “who will?”
Nobody will, that’s the answer. So Bob promoted himself. And me? Well, even now as I talk about promoting myself, I look at the preposterous boasting in the previous paragraphs and cringe.
Anyway, I guess it’s important that I say some of this stuff now. Because we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of JoeBlogs.
One year ago, I took a chance on myself — and you. After more than 30 years of being paid by others to write, I struck out on my own. I gambled that there are enough of you readers out there who connect with what I do.
I had only one worry when I did this. It wasn’t about the writing. I felt — and feel — pretty confident that I will write interesting, surprising, touching, silly, inspiring and funny things that will make readers happy. Not all readers, of course. But enough. I believe that in today’s troubling, divisive, maddening, unsettling times, many people crave a few moments of happiness. I like to believe JoeBlogs offers that.
I don’t think you should start a business like this without believing that you have something special to offer.
No, it’s that word — BUSINESS — that concerned me. Because JoeBlogs is, like, a real-live business. This is how I make my living. There is no advertising. No sponsorships. No rules, except those that we make up together. It is a 100 percent subscriber-based business.
And I don’t know anything at all about running a business. I’ve never done it, not even when I was a kid mowing lawns in the neighborhood. Even then, I worked for someone else who handled all the business stuff (like buying gas for the lawnmower).
So, how has the business part of JoeBlogs gone so far? Against all odds, it’s been quite a year. I drew up projections before the year began, and I’ve hit or surpassed all of them. Thousands of people are subscribing and thousands more are reading for free. We are one of the top sports newsletters at Substack. It has been great, and I cannot thank you enough.
Despite that, some of my business worries have, in fact, been realized. I have one friend in particular, a successful business person, who is convinced that for JoeBlogs to be sustainable in the long run, I have to spend much more time and energy and imagination building it up, making it grow, getting the word out. I suspect he’s probably right.
So as we begin a new year — with all sorts of exciting JoeBlogs projects in the works, including several sneak previews of my upcoming book, WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL — I’d love your help in making this newsletter bigger and better.
How can you help? Well, sure, for you free readers out there, I’d love if you would consider subscribing if you have the means*. Please know that there will always be plenty of free posts here at JoeBlogs, that’s part of our mission, but we do have lots of fun posts coming that will be for subscribers only.
*And if you don’t have the means but would like to subscribe, please email me — several brilliant readers generously donate subscriptions.
But beyond that, I’d love your help getting the word out. If each of you would share JoeBlogs with even three friends who you think might like what we’re doing here, that would go a long way toward helping us build Joe Blogs into something bigger and better.
I’ll share something kind of funny with you: As I asked around about ways to celebrate our one-year, a friend suggested I have a contest for people who bring in the most subscribers — free and paid. His crazy thought was that there would be prizes, and the grand prize would be that the winner could pick my next assignment — like I would come to your town and write about one of your kids’ games or your fantasy football draft or do a full recap on the most important game of your life. So, you tell me: Is this a good idea?
OK, enough selling (I think I just heard my business friend groaning in the background). It’s anniversary week, and like always, we’re going to have some fun. The Football 101 will return on Wednesday. And I’m going to do what I hope will be a pretty cool two-part series where I break down who are the active Hall of Famers. And I’m sure there will be another surprise or two.
Just another week at JoeBlogs …
I apologize but I was out of the country. How did the state by state tournament end up? Who eventually won the tournament. Thx. Mark.
There's no way I'll ever be able to win any contest where I convince people to subscribe to anything. But, if I could, and the prize was as stated, I would simply ask Joe to have a Tournament of Greatest Infomercials.
And... thank you, Joe! I pay money to subscribe to 3 substacks, which is what I can afford. You, Calcaterra, and Molly Knight. To me one cannot do better for a wife array of smart, soulful online baseball- and baseball-adjacent content (perhaps though when paired w The Athletic).