I was taught to never bury the lede, so I won’t.
Last Monday, after months of communication with some good folks, I was presented with a serious, generous offer for DaBearsBlog. The deal would have added five figures to my checking account balance, while moving ownership of this entire platform to people not me (and Noah) for the very first time. They wanted to keep me involved and pay me for that involvement. They wanted my voice to remain with the site and Twitter feed. But neither would be mine any longer.
On Friday I respectfully turned that offer down.
A Bit of Personal History.
Years ago I took a temp gig at the Corcoran Group real estate office on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After being there a few months, and not being particularly good at the gig, Barbara Corcoran (before becoming a television star) called me into the office. “Jeff,” she implausibly said, “Would you be interested in taking over as office manager here?”
“Are you serious?” I asked. A lot of people say something like that out of a sense of jubilation or faux humility. I legitimately thought she was joking. Two days earlier, after a way-too-late night at the Dublin House on 79th Street, I’d fallen asleep twice at my desk. When I got called into the office, I thought she was canning me.
“Yes,” she said, laughing. “The job is all about making the brokers happy and the brokers all tell me they love you.”
This was true. The brokers did love me because I went drinking with the brokers almost every night. I slept on a few of their couches and in one of their beds. I’m good at drinking with people.
The Office Manager gig paid $65,000 a year with full benefits. At that time I was living paycheck to paycheck and the paychecks were small. I told Barbara I would let her know the next day and she was cool with that.
That night I went to one of my favorite bars, Druids in Hell’s Kitchen. I wanted to think about it over my favorite pint of Guinness in the city. I ran into my buddy Geoff Cohen, with whom I’d worked closely on the team that started the now-defunct New York Musical Theatre Festival. The festival was getting ready to launch a week and a half later.
“The festival is fucked,” he told me. “Two of our house managers on 45th Street quit.” I had been in the room when the festival was conceived, in the room when the shows were selected, in the room when these spaces were chosen. I felt I owned a small part of the thing.
The next morning I told Barbara I was going to house manager for NYMF and get paid $2,000 for the month. No benefits. No long-term prospects.
She looked at me and said, “I knew I liked you for a reason.”
The decision to spend those 32 days living in NYMF theatres led to every serious connection I’ve made in the theatre. It wasn’t financially prudent. It wasn’t safe. But it was true to me. It was, for lack of a better word, right.
This is not the first time someone has tried to acquire DaBearsBlog.
The Athletic wanted us in their early stages. Those inane conversations included one of their editors telling me, “You can be DaBearsBlog but you can’t call it DaBearsBlog.” I’m still not sure what that meant. Was it metaphysical?
The Sun-Times inquired. We famously made our ChicagoNow mistake. Almost every single large-scale blog network has reached out at one time or another, but none of those relationships made any sense to me. There were two earlier purchase attempts but neither, quite frankly, was as impressive as this one. I never considered them seriously. I did in this case.
I consulted many people. Noah, Reverend Dave, Adam Jahns, Sarah (First Lady of DBB), my cats (Bear didn’t give a fuck), my uncle, my brother, a few friends. Most looked at the offer and said sell. But a few of them didn’t. The former were thinking about the numbers. The latter were thinking about me.
It’s Only Money.
This site will never make me rich, if wealth be defined by the number on the ATM receipt. But it has given me more than I ever dreamed when Brier built it to shut me up in 2005. I think about the moments.
Getting too loaded with Jahns at one of his neighborhood haunts and missing the Metra back to Ogilvie because I stood on the wrong side of the tracks.
Rick Pearson walking Sarah and I up from the Billy Goat to Trib Tower to meet Dan Hampton and Ed O’Bradovich, then slamming Old Styles as Matt Barkley almost led a miraculous comeback against the Packers.
A magical Christmas sing-a-long at the home of the Q Brothers, a relationship that began with a cold email from JQ because he liked something I’d written.
I’d like to think I could be friends with all of these folks without the blog but there’s no denying the site’s importance in the the beginnings of each relationship. And wait, there’s more!
Becoming an honorary member of #BillsMafia with its founder Del Reid at the Old Pink in Buffalo. (We then split about three steak sandwiches with my buddy Josh.)
Managing to pull off the Mike Ditka look-a-like competition at the Double Door while a blizzard pummeled Chicago.
Raising money for the kitten nursery at Windy Kitty Cafe and being treated like royalty on each visit.
Partnering with Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and bars around the city to collect thousands of books for the juvenile detention center’s new library.
Listening to folks come down the stairs at Josie Woods and ask the bartender, “Is he DaBearsBlog?”
Texting an NFL GM and former drinking buddy I call [REDACTED] that his team sucks.
Doing radio spots around the country, thanks to Trent Condon and the boys in Des Moines believing I could do it.
And more than anything, I cherish the community we’ve built at this strange corner of the football internet. I love when people email me about the weird shit you nuts do in the comments section. I love when people tweet me things like, “I don’t get it. Your site is poetry?”
As a playwright and musical theatre writer, I’m so used to waiting years between writing a line of dialogue and hearing an audience react. This site has become the most important artistic/creative outlet in my life. I write. I click a button. You read. You react. How could I give that up?
I Can Do More.
The Reverend Dave (listed in my cell phone as Dickhead Dave because he changes numbers more frequently than a West Baltimore corner boy) noted something to me when I discussed this decision with him. I wrote less in 2019. I was far less engaged on a day-to-day level. I took a step back. Some of that was about time, but more it was about how frustrating and demoralizing I found the entire 2019 campaign.
Before I made this decision, on Thursday, I told myself, “Go to sleep tonight and when you wake up, pretend you don’t have the site or the Twitter feed. Pretend you’re just Jeff Hughes, the guy who used to be DaBearsBlog. If you’re not bothered by that, or you feel a sense of relief, it’s time to take the money.”
I didn’t like it. No, more to the point, I fucking hated it. Not only was I not ready to get rid of DBB, I was more inspired than I ever have been to make it better, to be more engaged, to make it more profitable. The charitable component will never go away but it doesn’t have to be the only financial component.
So I won’t have more money than I have now. What else is fucking new? I’d have spent it in taverns and pro shops anyway. Money is great. It’s very helpful when it comes to buying things. But last week made me think this platform should be about more.
When the story of blogging about the Bears is written, as tiny a story as that story may be, I want folks to think nobody cared more about it, nobody did it better or longer, nobody put more of their soul into it. And that means I have to own DBB – literally and figuratively. It has to be mine. And it will be.
I’m not going anywhere.