The beginning of the season coincided with BuckeyePlanet’s front page refresh, and at that time Clarity put a call out for people who were interested in writing things for the front page. For those of you who have been around for a decade or more might remember that there was a pretty strong team of volunteer bloggers who wrote previews, recruiting updates and special features for the front page. I had always wanted to contribute in that capacity, but I didn’t have the expertise, insider access, or interest in diving deep into statistics that those other folks had and never really had an idea of what I could bring to the table.
In the time that has passed between BuckeyePlanet front page 1.0 and 2.0, the landscape of college football coverage on the internet has changed a lot. Nowadays if you want to write something it doesn’t all have to be news and statistics and interviews. There is room for fun. There is room for irreverence. There is room for somebody who enjoys college football the way I do to have a voice. So, when Clarity brought the new front page to life I wanted to be a part of it.
Making picks for games is just a natural sort of thing that you’d have somebody write if you were launching (or relaunching) a front page like BuckeyePlanet’s. In writing it, I didn’t want to come across as something from a position of expertise, authority or seriousness. There is way too much seriousness in college football. That’s really where the idea to make picks against Poobert came from.
Hopefully you all realized this from the start, but Poobert doesn’t actually make picks. While we do spend a lot of time together in front of the TV on Saturdays, his picks are made by coin flip - heads for home team and tails for the away team. It’s trope that’s not uncommon in picks column - test the experts against randomness, and see if the people who purport to be experts really are experts or if they’re doing not better than guessing.
CollegeFootballNews, a site that used to be awesome ten years ago, called their coin flip Clucko the Chicken. Clucko wasn’t really given a voice or a personality - he was just a column in a table - a clever name for a control group in a year-long experiment. Poobert on the other hand is real, he has a personality, and I wanted to expand on that by bringing a bit of that to the column.
As I talked about the idea at the beginning of the season, a lot of people had ideas for things to try. Some of the BuckeyePlanet staff that I discussed this with suggested creating videos and a Twitter account for Poobert. Showing him making picks by having him choose to eat from one team’s food bowl or another was a possibility. My wife wanted to dress him up topical costumes. I started off simply by adding a little dialogue - I would be the half-sincere, half-smartass that I normally am on the forums and Poobert would be alternately naive and condescending toward my picks and explanations. As I mentioned before, I didn’t want to come off as an expert and he was to be my foil. I was fully prepared to lose to him if not overall, then at least occasionally, I was fully prepared to make an ass of myself in the process, and was kind of hoping it would happen. There’s entertainment in that.
It didn’t take long for that strategy to go out the window. First of all, it’s really difficult to write dialogue about college football from a cat’s perspective. There are only so far that you can get with litter box and M*ch*g*n jokes before you start write the same things over and over. Also, it was becoming mean-spirited. That’s not what I wanted to be, and that’s certainly not who Poobert is.
It also changed because life got in the way. The night I was going to start writing the entry for week two, there was an emergency and Poobert had to go to the hospital. His life was seemingly in danger. We were there with him from early evening until long after midnight with little else to do but fret. We had been through this sort of situation with him before, and came very close to losing him back then. We worried that we might not be so lucky this time. Since I came straight from work essentially, I had my laptop with me that night and got on the internet to take my mind off things. It was then I was reminded that I was supposed to be writing an installment of this column that night, and I had no idea what to do. I sent a DM to Clarity and said I may have to abandon it. To his credit, he told me to do what I thought was best, and to take my writing in any direction I wanted.
Clearly, it didn’t end up coming to that. Poobert came home with us late that night, and in the ensuing days his condition improved. He’s back to normal now - or normal for him at least. The next day I ended up going ahead with the column I had drafted for that week since it was a hectic time and that was the expedient thing to do. I at that moment though that eventually I would end up writing the one I’m writing now. In light of that experience the college football aspect of this didn’t really matter to me anymore. Ripping on players and coaches and rivals though fake dialogue didn’t seem important. I wanted to tell stories - real stories - about a pet that is dear to me, that I consider to a friend and immediate family member. Tacking some college football picks just became an excuse to share those things.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing College Football Right Meow. In the process, I got to explore the bond between a man and his pet. I gained a greater appreciation for my place and his in our family and in our household. Nearly ten years ago my wife and I found each other on Match.com. A few months after that, she found and adopted Poobert. In many ways me and Poobert reflect each other - in our personalities, our flaws, and in the way our lives have changed over time. Every time in that span that one of us was in danger of losing it all, the other one was there. He has been an irreplaceable companion and friend to me in both good times and bad. The thought that could all end made me want to share as much as I could - to pay tribute to it in a way, to articulate it and capture it.
I realize all of this has been self-indulgent. I’m thankful to everybody who put up with that aspect of the direction I went read what I wrote over the last few months. I like to think that everybody out there who has a pet feels as strongly about their companion as I do. Whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, I hope your pets are considered family. Sometimes they may annoy you or do strange or stupid thing. In the end though, I hope they bring you as much happiness and comfort as my pets do, and I hope you appreciate yours just as much in return.
I can’t say for sure if College Football Right Meow will be around next season. That’s a long way off, and a lot of things can change between now and then. Maybe it’ll return, and we’ll do some of the things that we didn’t get around to doing this season. Maybe somebody else can take it over, make picks with their own pet, or take it in a completely different direction entirely. Time will tell. For now, I’m just glad for the chance I’ve had share the things that I did.
Finally, there’s one thing I didn’t mention earlier about Poobert’s picks - there was never a coin flip for Ohio State games. Like I said, him and I are alike, and we’re both Buckeyes all the way. With that in mind, for the final week we are each only making one pick, and it’s for the only game that matters. In the old BuckeyePlanet tradition, the Buckeyes will neither get nor give points for this one:
Game jlb1705 Poobert Comments Ohio State (pk) at M*ch*g*n J: Fuck M*ch*g*n.
P: Go Bucks!!!!!
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