So you're a baseball fan. And you want to blog about your favorite team. But you're afraid nobody will catch on -- there are lots and lots of baseball blogs out there, after all, many of them written by pros.
What do you do?
Chicago Cubs fan Joshua Allen had an idea: Create a comic strip to document the season.
Thus, the Obligatory Baseball Blog was born.
It's a little "Calvin and Hobbes" mixed with a lot of baseball fandom, with one character providing a grounded, thoughtful approach and the other louder and more emotive. The drawings are simple -- essentially stick figures -- but effective. Since this is a "blog," the focus is more on words than pictures.
And the theme is pretty consistent: classic Cubs angst mixed with that horrible thing called hope (come to life, quite literally, with Allen's creation, "The Hope Monster"). Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it's a little PG-13. But it always is true to the plight of the Cubs fan.
We caught up with Allen via email to talk about the blog/comic. His take is below.
What inspired the strip?
"I had done a previous comic and enjoyed working in that medium. I had also done a Cubs blog in 2010 that was in a more traditional format, but it had no real hook, and no one really read it. As spring training started up this season, I got interested in doing a blog on the Cubs again and in restarting my comic. Since my time is limited by a new baby, I decided to combine the two urges."
How long have you been into the Cubs?
"As long as I can remember, though if I had to guess an exact year, it was probably 1984, though I was pretty young. I have vivid memories of [Ryne] Sandberg and [Andre] Dawson and later Mark Grace."
Chicago native, I'm guessing?
"Not really. Born in Washington state, lived in Minnesota. Most of my childhood in Eastern Iowa, then a stint in New Mexico. Graduated high school in Nebraska and went to college in Arkansas. I did live in Chicago later for about three years off and on. Moved to Champaign, Ill., in 2008, and I've been here since."
So what drove the Cubs love? WGN?
"I would say from WGN. My dad started getting into them, I assume, because of the postseason run in 1984, but I think that we kept with them through the harder years because they were the only team on television in Eastern Iowa. I didn't follow them as closely in the prime Sammy Sosa years, because we didn't get WGN in Nebraska, where I lived at the time, so moving to Illinois around 2003 for that run rekindled my interest."
How did the Hope Monster come about?
"I'm not sure specifically. It was just part of the natural process as I was brainstorming what I might do with this comic. ... I kind of started with the "Wait till next year" [idea] -- knowing that this year was going to be a rough one (Editor's note: The Cubs have the second-worst record in baseball, as of Thursday.) -- and personified that as a weird alien monster. It seemed funny to me and interesting enough to give me several strip ideas."
And what was the inspiration behind the two characters with differing viewpoints?
"I frequent a few different blogs with different viewpoints, so I wanted to play what I saw of as the more traditional viewpoint against some of the newer analytic ideas and to play those off each other. In some sense, too, they are two halves of my personality. I really like the new analytical methods -- I have a math background -- but I also have the passion and I still enjoy the emotion of the game."
Talk about the things you do while you're not doing the comic.
"I actually edit for a small engineering firm in the day. That's the only thing I actually get paid to do. I also write fiction every day, squeeze in the comics when I get time, and I started a literary journal devoted to math-based fiction called "Imaginaire." I also do quite a bit of insect/arachnid photography. ... Also, I have a 1.5-year-old son. I like to keep busy."
So considering all of that ... where do you want the comic to go?
"I'm kind of willing to let the Cubs dictate that. Obviously, we're in for a couple of bad seasons while Theo [Epstein] and company rebuild the team, but even within a bad season there are interesting dramas, such as whether Matt Garza will be extended or traded, sudden retirements, perfect games into the fifth -- stuff like that. I've been trying to let my reactions and my interest spur my creativity, rather than force anything particular on it."
All images courtesy of Joshua Allen and the Obligatory Baseball Blog.