Sunday, November 14, 2004

The scoop

Do a Google search for "sports columnist" and you'll get 159,000 matches. (Frighteningly, the first match is Stephen A. Smith.) Search again for "sports blog" and your options number 115,000. For perspective, a search for "naked Paris Hilton" yields 73,000 pages.

Rule of thumb: When you're hunting for something and you have more options than there are butt-nekkid pics of America's Tramp, you know what you're looking for is out there in abundance.

What I'm trying to say here, in my wordy, roundabout way (get used to it), is this: thanks for finding me. I figure if you navigated the vast expanse of the World Wide Web and somehow ended up right here, right now, you're either a former reader of my Concord Monitor column, someone recommended my site, you gave birth to me (hi mom - I'll call!), or you saw my half-page color ad in "Cat Fancy."

Heck, you must have sought me out, because the bleepin' Internet sure isn't going to help you find me without some digging. Search for "Chad Finn" and first thing that pops up is some hippie-looking cat who apparently has found far greater success breeding freakin' berries than I have as a sports journalist for two of New England's finest newspapers. Much to my ego's detriment, Chad Finn, Blueberry Guy comes in second on the search list, too. And third. Fourth, also. Dude's berries must be a sight to see. Er, whatever that means.

So, yeah, thanks for finding me. Now let me explain exactly what it is you've found.

I started this site in Nov. 2004, for a couple of reasons:

1) I fear for the future of newspapers, and fret that in the onrushing age of electronic media, being a page designer - which is part of my job description at The Boston Globe - is fast becoming the dodo bird of journalism jobs. I figured it couldn't hurt to learn some rudimentary HTML, maybe some Photoshop, get in on this blogging fad, and anything else that might make me a desireable employee at someplace other than Derek Jeter's Taco Hole 20 years from now.

2) I dearly missed writing. For the better part of five years, I wrote a column at the small but substantial Monitor. From what I gathered, some people even read the thing on occasion, and every other year or so I might get a nice little plaque or two for my efforts. It was a wonderful, fulfilling job. But in December, 2003, my dream job beckoned.

A little background: Ever since the summer of '78, when I was 8 and my growing love of the sports was fertilized by the brilliant sports writing in the Boston Globe, I dreamed of someday covering the Red Sox for my dad's favorite newspaper. The dream stayed with me through my teen years, even as I turned most of my reading attention to Steve Buckley's coverage of my beloved, neglected Maine Guides in the Portland Press Herald. And it flourished as a journalism student at the University of Maine, where I covered a 17-year-old Paul Kariya's first strides toward hockey superstardom.

But as the years flew off the calendar, the dream was amended. In 1994, the Monitor hired me as an assistant sports editor straight out of UMaine. I soon found that I was satisfied with that career path, particularly after realizing sometime in school that covering a major pro sports beat is a horrible, soul-killing lifestyle. (And covering the Red Sox is on a whole 'nother level.) So the dream became this: to work at the Globe the year the Red Sox won the World Series.

I was hired by the Globe as a page designer/copy editor on Dec. 13, 2003, a day I might rank as the fourth-most-joyous in my life, after birth of my daughter, my wedding, and, of course, the time I met Butch Hobson and Otis Nixon in Old Orchard Beach, Me.

Eleven months later after I was hired by the Globe, on a glorious autumn night in October, 2004 . . . well, you know. Renteria grounded to Foulke, Foulke threw to Mientkiewicz, Mientkiewicz scurried away to get the ball authenticated . . . and then all heaven broke loose. Sometimes I still marvel at how blessed I am to have my silly little dream realized. In a serendipitous bit of irony, or maybe karmic confirmation that I've made the right choices along the way, the game story the night the Sox won the World Series was not mine - but the headline atop it was: "The Possible Dream." The possible dream, indeed.

Yet, as much as I appreciate, enjoy, even cherish my Globe gig . . . I still longed to write. I missed having a forum, an opinion that mattered. I missed the give-and-take with readers, missed hearing "Finn, you nailed it" or "Finn, are you sniffing glue again?" when I'd run into folks around town.

And I really missed writing about the Red Sox. The first year in many that I don't have a newspaper column, and wouldn't you know it, they win it all. Man, that killed me, hurt like a repeated kick in the ol' Manzanillo. During the early stages of writing withdrawal, I even tried keeping a journal about the Sox during the season last year, with an eye toward pitching it as a book if the season went the way I'd hoped. I was diligent 'til July, but daily life intervened. I abandoned it. (Unfortunately, Stewart O'Nan didn't.)

Which brings us here, to Plan B, which I suppose stands for "blueprint," since I'm still figuring out exactly what this site is and what I hope it will become. Some ideas, details and Cliff Clavin-style facts that might help clarify this thing:

- The name of this site was the name of my notes column at the Monitor, but it's lineage is far more distinctive. Touching All Bases was the title of Ray Fitzgerald's column in the Globe from 1961 to 1980. This is my small way of paying tribute to the best sports writer this city has known, a writer who remains an influence on me 25 years after his passing. (His Best Of compilation is available on the main page if you're interested.) To put it the best way I can: I would be thrilled and fulfilled if someday my best column was as good as Ray Fitzgerald's worst.

- Simply put, I want to write the type of stuff I like to read. You can probably get a pretty good sense for what that is from my links list - Gammons, Peter King, Dr. Z, all of whom have the traits and talents I expect from a columnist: Humor, insight, perspective, an ability to be critical or poignant when the moment calls for it. My greatest hope for this site is that you'll recognize some of those traits in my work.

- I have some recurring features in the works, such as a Monday morning "First and 10" Patriots column during football season, and weekly "Nine innings" Red Sox notes columns during baseball season. I hope to write satirically now and then, probably by using fake dialogue or some other wicked clevah device. I will also work baseball cards into the equation, though I haven't quite figured out how yet. I hope to do some longer, column-style pieces, if time (and the sleep patterns of my infant daughter) permit. No matter how it all plays out, I promise to be vigilant, with a minimum of two substantial posts per week, and hopefully four or five.

- Derivitive is the last thing I want to be. Well second-to-last: I really don't want to be Skip Bayless. Seriously, I do hope you'll find me to be original. If you catch me writing a 12,000 word missive on the pros and cons of "According To Jim" or other such dreck, or if I suddenly start dropping names of E-List quasi-celebrities . . . well feel free to light me on fire, as the weary catchphrase goes.

- Tragically, I'm guided solely by the bickering voices in my own thick skull. This site is not affiliated with Globe, and it does not reflect the opinions and beliefs of my employer. In fact, should the Globe eventually discourage staffers from having blogs, I'll shut this baby down faster than Bob Irsay beat it out of Baltimore. I won't even turn out the lights.

So there you have it: the Touching All The Bases memo/mission statement/blather/cry for help. Thanks surfing here, and indulging my lengthy explanation of exactly where the hell you are. I do hope you find your way back again.

Oh, and if you were looking for the other Chad Finn, do me a favor, will you? Let Blueberry Guy know I'm gunning for him.