Wednesday, March 23, 2011

T.A.H.: Darwinism At Its Finest…

Coveted T.A.H. invitation to the sometimes annual L.B.L.
On January 27th our vaunted, talented, sometimes internally maligned Research Department (which is, for the record and to use a legal term, “more often than not,” correct) forgot to inform the spectacularly disorganized and frequently inaccurate Editorial Department that said date was the sixth anniversary of Today’s ACC Headlines.

Once notified of this important date, we set about pondering, or as Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies used to say “cogitating,” about this important event.  Here’s what we came up with:  It’s time for some change, some evolution if you will.

But first, some history.

Yes, T.A.H. was born on January 27, 2005 – you could look it up in Wikipedia to confirm, but we still don’t have a Wikipedia page.  The first T.A.H. was an email to what we now fondly refer to as CC Nation.  CC Nation was then, and is now, a hardcore group of men and women who are either alums or lifelong fans of various ACC schools.  The list has expanded over the years, but like then, CC Nation understands all the inside jokes and the vagaries of not only the bar scene in College Park or Clemson but also the likes of Liverpalooza, the VP Kup and Hacks v. Hicks.

The Mayflower of T.A.H., and, yes, it includes a factual error!
Remarkably this group of friends and acquaintances get along spectacularly well.  The numerical core of this group represents the Commonwealth Cup (Virginia and Virginia Tech) and the Battle For Tobacco Road (Duke and North Carolina).  Toss in some Maryland, Clemson, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Florida State, Georgia Tech and only Miami and Boston College lack representation at CC Nation’s not-so-round table. 

Remarkably, even the Duke and Carolina folks are civil and Southernly polite for 362 days a year.  Note we didn’t say 361 as that would suggest that he Duke v. UNC football game had the potential to draw ire from either fan base. Alas, most years, it does not.

So on that fateful day back in January of ’05, we sent the homies this email.

An old favorite...
Subj: Break Up VT, Date: 1/27/2005  
Fear the Hokies. (Following VT’s win over UVa)

Rumor has it that there is now a University of Virginia at Waynesboro and that is where Gillen and the Hoos will be held up until they deem it safe to return to Charlottesville after last night’s catastrophic and demoralizing defeat.

Who would have bet that on 1/27/2005 the Hokies (which lost to VMI earlier in the year) would be in fourth place in the ACC ahead of Maryland, GT, NC State, UVA and Clemson...OK, maybe ahead of Clemson who hasn't had an impact player since Tree Rollins (who is older than me! Clemson class of 1977)...

Of course, like the guys who invented Facebook (maybe Zuckerberg, maybe those robot twin crew dudes) we didn’t realize how big it would become!  Four days later, the second edition was published:

The Esso at Clemson.
Subj: The World Turned Right Side Up, Date: 1/31/2005  
1. Fear the Turtle.
2. Hokies, welcome back to earth.
3. Hoos...ooohh, my. I believe the Hoos are in a very dark place. They barely put their hands up to defend themselves vs UNC.  The score could have easily have been 140-73. Carolina's leading scorer for the year scores all of 5 points while Wahoos surrender 110 - ouch!

And finally, three days after that, the historic first T.A.H. that actually included headlines and the name T.A.H.:

Subj: Today’s ACC Headlines, Date: 2/3/2005  
CAROLINA REMAINS ONLY ONE LOSS TEAM AFTER WAKE BEATS DUKE (AGAIN)  -- Heels face stern test in Chapel Hill tonight - ESPN - 7pm, UNC slim 17 point favorite.
DUKE IN FOUL TROUBLE FORCED TO PLAY THREE WHITE GUYS, SUFFERS NARROW LOSS TO WAKE -- Krezlewkishikne&#!ki blames tsunami, McDonalds, increase in prime rate, Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson and Tom Brady.
GEORGIA TECH TOPS FSU BY LATE FIELD GOAL -- Bowden angry with officials, Clark still not sure it was a basketball game.
VIRGINIIA TECH BEATS MIAMI (AGAIN) -- Beamer's special teams somehow take credit for the win.
MEDIOCRE BIG EAST PROVIDENCE TIES NCAA RECORD FOR THREES WHILE HUMBLING HOOS -- Gillen fired, team disbands.
DR. JEKYL AND MR. CANTER-MEDLY LOSE TO STATE -- Currently no reason to fear small, armored reptiles.

So there it was, the fledging T.A.H. out of the nest and looking for stories, readers, sources of humor and, of course, the occasional free beer.

This evolved to include more and more email addresses as T.A.H. was passed around.  It hardly went viral, but it did develop a loyal fan base.  By and by, the email became a PDF file and eventually the web page you are reading right now.  The PDF files included original headers almost every day – some of our finest work.

At first it was easy.  Duke was the University of New Jersey at Durham (UNJD), then there was the long run of John Paul Jones jokes noting both British naval history and the rock legends Led Zeppelin.  But, simply put, we couldn’t keep rehashing the same old ACC jokes no matter how funny (or appropriate) they might be. 

John Paul Jones
Sorry Tar Heel Nation, we know you love the UNJD and constant misspelling of Krzywkl3ski.  The latter is a fan favorite so it still pops up here and there as even after all these years of following ACC sports (all of Krzxcvbn9ski’s career) we still can’t spell Krzcwqsd5ski’s name correctly without looking it up).  This particular mental block is reasonable for someone who grew up a Terps’ fan during the Lefty Driesell era and eventually married into a nest of Tar Heels.

Then Bobby Bowden retires…dadgummit…and along with his departure a long (and successful in our humble opinion) run of jokes about dadbern and doggone football stuff.  Speaking of FSU and eventually N.C. State then back to FSU as an assistant, how about Chuck Amato?  Virtual cannon fodder for T.A.H. in so many ways…(Editor’s Note: Coach Amato, who was released by  Florida State following the Noles 2010 bowl game, is suffering from throat cancer and, in all seriousness, we wish him well.)

Editorial staff meeting of T.A.H.
So, when T.A.H. became a full blown blog/web page, it began to function more like an actual news source – reporting game scores and the like.  At one point, the blog Gobbler Country paid T.A.H. the highest compliment to date calling us “The blog of record for the ACC” noting the remark was framed in the New York Times context.  Heady praise, even if inaccurate most days.

Coverage expanded to women’s basketball, baseball and lacrosse.  Of course, there were always the old favorites on board – horse racing, cricket, motorcycle racing, relevant pop culture (if there really is such a thing) “Dear Mr. Snyder” and, of course, “Things That Make You Go…Hmmm.”

Some Maryland dude punking Jon "Crazy Face" Scheyer.
Having a journalism degree from James Madison University (one of the top journalism schools in the country – you can look it up!) we always approached T.A.H. like it was a newspaper.  Each issue is assembled top to bottom in order of story importance with “Pictures of the Day” anchoring each daily edition.

This somewhat organized chaos appealed to our journalistic sensibilities.  However, as time has marched on and the scope of T.A.H. expanded again and again, we have discovered that our “old fashioned” approach was in need of change.  Enter Darwin.

T.A.H. is a hobby.  It earns the Editor and the Pop Culture Editor Young A.T. about enough money annually to cover one good bar bill (about $120 – so when you are stuck on the phone on that stupid conference call could you maybe click through ads on T.A.H. and pick up the staff and the beleaguered Research Department a couple of extra adult beverages?  Can you do that in exchange for thousands of chuckles, guffaws and “oh wow, I didn’t know that”s over the past six years?)

An exhausted "Toly Hansbrough" at a pee wee FYF game.
Sorry, got distracted.  So here is what we have learned. With full time jobs, a family business, two kids, a house, a yard, cars, bills, taxes, sports, various activities near and far, two dogs, two cats, four fish and two frogs, the most valued currency is not money, but time.

So the challenge was how to reduce the amount of time it takes to publish T.A.H.  The answer was simple and if you read it daily you have already seen the results of the change over the past ten days.  Gone most days is the formatted start-to-finish edition of T.A.H.  In its place is the NEW T.A.H. which functions more like a typical blog – items are published throughout the day in chronological order not in story importance order. 

(For example, in a random phone call about some unrelated scheduling of a child’s activity,  the Pop Culture Editor learned that Liz Taylor had died, she informed the Editor, we posted it on T.A.H. not 25 minutes after the crazy-on-the-hot-tin-roof drew her last perfumed and diamond encrusted breath. That’s some quality journalism there, yes?  OK, we “borrowed” the actual words from CNN as another way to cut down on publishing time is to reduce original content and rewrite inferior stories from other so called “major” news sources.  Hacks! All of ‘em…[just kidding].  Damn it, the Legal Department constantly reminds us not to incite those from which we plagurize…)

Barry Bond's success explained.
We realized this new format would work in the wild wonderful world of “scroll down.”  How did we know this?  Keen intellectual analysis, perhaps?  Well…no.  We knew this because that is how EVERYBODY else does it.  Damn near every blog uses the scroll down format (the Drudge Report being a very popular exception to the rule). Even such powerhouses as Deadspin, Gawker, Perez Hilton and the like are using the scroll down format since all the users/readers are used to scrolling down.  

Real media web pages like ESPN, CNN, etc. still use the multi-content home pages, but the blogosphere utilizes the simpler approach.

The VP Kup's black jacket goes to the winner while the Kaptains again
demonstrate the sportsmanship that is the signature of the event. 
Even some major newspapers have redesigned their web pages to show less content on the home page (most recently the Washington Post).  While we don’t enjoy those technological options, we can “systematically disorganize” T.A.H. and publish on a “random, content driven” schedule. Which is exactly what we are doing.

So if some days (not today) things look a bit different and somewhat disorganized, “don’t panic” (as Douglas Adams once so eloquently said in his classic book The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. You may have seen the bad movie. It was terrible, but the books are great. Go read them.)  

Nice spelling.
As we approach 500,000 visits, it seems a little evolution was in order.  We hope you enjoy the ride, and thanks for reading.

P.S. The original point of this post was to note for the one billionth time in the blogsphere that the Big (L)East was, and is, and probably always will be, massively overrated…Go ACC!

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