An Ode to Wikipedia
I’ve been a fan of the Hawkeyes since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, as my grandfather would say, so my love of Hawkeye sports history shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Here’s one thing about me: I love the history and tradition of sports. I always bristle when someone asks, for example, “Who’s the best Hawkeye quarterback ever?” and people only respond with players from the past thirty years. Now like all good Hawkeyes, I have nothing but love for Hayden Fry, but he didn’t invent Hawkeye football (although I can appreciate why it might seem that way to many fans who suffered with the Hawkeye teams of the ’60s and ’70s). If I wanted to know who was the best Hawkeye quarterback of the last thirty years, I would have asked THAT question.
Anyway, when I was younger and historical sports questions were raised, I didn’t want to sound uneducated. So I set about educating myself.
I became a Hawkeye history junkie, for lack of a better term. While I love the history of all sports, I gravitated toward the major ones, and of course, my Iowa Hawkeyes. I could recite long-lost facts about the Hawkeyes that confounded and amazed (and often bored) those around me. Despite now possessing a solid knowledge of Iowa’s athletic past, becoming an author wasn’t something that entered my thought process for years and years. Then I discovered that wonderful beast known as Wikipedia.
Getting Started on Wikipedia
“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you’re getting the best possible information.” – Michael Scott
I know a lot of people are snarky and cynical about Wikipedia, but personally, I think it’s a fantastic resource. And let’s be honest…who here hasn’t leaned on Wikipedia at some point to learn the fast and quick about a random subject? Yet the wiki-Hawkeye content was severely lacking, to say the least. I wandered onto Wikipedia one day and searched for Duke Slater. To my astonishment, a Duke Slater page did not exist! I then searched for Cal Jones. Again, no page. Then Aubrey Devine, Larry Station, Randy Duncan, Fred Becker…nope, nope, nope, nope.
I thought, “Somebody should do something about this!” Now, anyone who knows me recognizes that as a dangerous statement coming from me, because I usually appoint myself to fix the problem. I have this thing about righting perceived wrongs, trumpeting the merits of the unheralded, and defending the unjustly criticized. I’m almost obsessive about stuff like that.
So I set about writing the articles, one after the next. I started to get quite good at it, if I do say so myself. If you read an article about the Hawkeyes on Wikipedia today, there’s a better than fair chance I had my hand in it. And I saw the rewards. Fans online would link to and praise the articles I wrote, and I started thinking, “Hey, other Hawkeye fans actually like my writing!” It was the first time I realized that writing about the Hawkeyes might be something I was actually good at.
I’ve more or less given up on writing articles for Wikipedia, mostly due to the ludicrous practices of Wikipedia scrapers. (For those who don’t know, some companies have been copying and pasting Wikipedia articles – including those that I wrote – and selling them on the internet, even on reputable sites like Amazon.com. I don’t mind writing Wikipedia articles for free, but I’ll be darned if someone else is going to copy and paste what I wrote and then profit from it. There’s something objectionable about that.)
So when people ask how I got started writing about the Hawkeyes, the honest answer is Wikipedia. Those articles also came in handy as I prepared to write my first book. How? I’ll tell you…soon.
In the meantime, thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!
Filed under: Iowa Hawkeye Football
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