Our story begins seven years ago, when Blazer's Edge was getting too big.
This may seem like a pleasant problem to have. Most sites would kill twice a day and thrice on Sunday to experience it. And we weren't exactly complaining about it. The issue was, the "we" in that sentence was purely hypothetical. Though the site has always been about the audience, though reader contributions bring life to the whole, the backbone of the site before 2007 was a one-man operation: Dave here, there, and everywhere.
You don't need to see too many zeroes following your "page views" numbers before you figure out the limits of a single person doing everything at your website. Blazer's Edge was strong and healthy. Blazer's Edge was also running at 110% of capacity and was going to cap out its potential quite soon. The impending dynasty of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and the #1 overall pick in that year's draft exacerbated the issue. The Trail Blazers were about to become a hot topic around the league. How could the site keep up?
Back in 2007, marching through all this for the first time, I wasn't wholly aware how dire the situation would become. I just had the vague idea that "I should do something about this sometime...begin looking for someone."
So there I was, merrily pursuing my passion for Henry Abbott's "Truehoop" (back when it was just Henry Abbott's Truehoop like it was my Blazer's Edge) when I saw Henry quoting a guy I'd never heard of. He was talking pretty persuasively about drafting Kevin Durant with that #1 pick. The counter-cultural sentiment didn't strike me as much as the writing style. Agree or disagree with the basketball points, this guy was good.
So I wrote him. In far more words than this, I said, "Hey, I need a co-editor at Blazer's Edge. I can give you fairly free rein, a built-in audience, and the chance to fill a void in Portland's sports talk world right now." That guy was, of course, Ben Golliver. He said yes and before I knew it, one had become two.
Yup, there it is. The great and grand story of how Benny met Davy. A single quote off of a random click, a couple e-mails, then seven years of wonderful history following from a wing and a prayer.
I still remember having dinner with a few media types at Summer League a couple years after Ben had started. One of them said, "You and Ben make an amazing team. What's he like?"
"I don't know," I replied, "I've still never met him."
The reactions around the table ranged from, "Holy Jesus!" to, "That's just hilarious." People had trouble believing you could just hand the keys to the car to someone you'd not eyeballed, had only read very little of, and it still worked out that well.
But that's Ben, isn't it? Everything comes out in the writing. He's crisp, incisive, efficient, passionate, a little snarky, and whip-smart. What else do you need to know? I've met him since and the in-person impression is no less than that from the written word. What you see is what you get, and what you get is good.
In the ensuing seven years, Ben took everything about Blazer's Edge and made it bigger. He's the one responsible for taking us into the social media age, for leading and tightening our headlines, for advising new staff members, for setting the standard for the cover and shunting us seamlessly into the platform change a couple years ago. He's the one who pioneered instant news, Fanshot reporting, story streams and updates. He's lived at ground zero, reporting on games at the Rose Garden/Moda Center, plus press conferences, plus practices, plus reports on everybody's new kicks (remember those?), plus wacky signage, plus marriage proposals, plus Summer League, plus...everything.
He's also shared with us his incomparable voice, more than fulfilling the promise of his chance to play with the big boys. He's become part and parcel of the Portland media experience and now moves on to full-time national work. He hasn't just walked through open doors, he's re-framed them into archways, broadening the path as he progressed. His work ethic and career provide a template for aspiring sports journalists who follow after.
I think you'd agree that the wing-and-a-prayer, instinctive decision seven years ago has turned out pretty well.
In the interim Ben has become a fast colleague and friend. I've been inspired by him as much as anything. He's made my work better, giving me someone to measure up to. I've always been a decent writer and I got along well enough before Ben came along, but as soon as he came on board I knew I had to step it up. Before I had been the happy guppy swimming with goldfish. Now I was in the tank with a shark, precise and razor sharp in his game. Guppy wasn't going to cut it. Our styles are different, but I learned to swim faster and think harder. The site owes much to Ben, but I do as well.
The best word to describe Ben's tenure and arc here is "success". First and foremost, we credit his talent and personal success, evidenced by the national work he pursues and departs to. We also remember the success of the site. Hundreds of thousands of annual views have turned into tens of millions in the last seven years and Ben's been a big part of that. His departure, while bittersweet, is also a great reflection on this community its first class nature. People who come here tend to leave better off for the experience. We're also better off because those people came.
Someone will inevitably ask, "How do you feel about this moment, Dave?" Sad...but also like we've fulfilled a promise long-made. We've always known Blazer's Edge gets noticed. We've always known the peculiar chemistry here breeds great thought, great ideas, great voices. Now we can also say with confidence that talent shows through here and if you prosper in the crucible at Blazer's Edge, you've got a chance to prosper anywhere.
Folks will be curious how we're planning to fill Ben's shoes. The quick answer is that we're not, at least not in the same fashion. Just as the site was unwieldy for one person in 2007, Ben's job is too varied for a single person in 2014. We're actually splitting the "Ben" components into 3-4 parts. I'm happy to announce that Timmay has agreed to step in as editor along with his moderating duties, assisting with posting and layout and such. Chris Lucia, our preview writer, will also take on more feature-writing, especially in the off-season. And we've got plans for a couple more departments which we'll talk about soon.
Obviously the sentiment right now is, "It's not going to be Ben!" That's both right and appropriate, which is why we're not going to delve into it on a day that's about honoring Mr. Golliver other than to say, "Don't worry...we got you."
Also remember that Ben wasn't always "Ben" and Dave wasn't always "Dave". Once upon a time I was just a dude trying his hand at blogging. Then we all got in the groove and I became that Dave. For a while after he came on board I actually got e-mails complaining that Ben wasn't me. (Nowadays I wouldn't be surprised if Ben gets e-mails complaining that I'm not him. See? Circle of Life.) I counseled the same patience then--since well-rewarded--that I'll probably have to counsel when another person starts out with us. Ben's voice will never be replaced, but it doesn't have to be. Echo chambers only go so far before the sound hits a wall. New voices and new perspectives build onto the familiar foundation, making growth boundless.
Our story began seven years ago, when Blazer's Edge was getting too big. Then a guy we'd never met came on board and alternated between making that problem worse and finding new ways to deal with it.
For that, we owe him thanks.
Congratulations, Ben! We will celebrate and miss you in equal measure. Thanks for the years of coverage and friendship. May happiness and success follow your feet, whatever your path.
--Dave Deckard (email@example.com)