Greetings dear readers. It has been awhile since our last post and I wanted you all to know where I’ve been and what’s to come.
Back in January, I was given the opportunity to test out my theories regarding learning and teaching in a live environment, K-8.
Since then, I have accomplished some truly amazing things while validating my various pedagogic hypotheses. Moreover, I have begun to develop an approach to teaching that has the ability to renew programs that have suffered long-term dysfunctionality, regardless of the subject or the grade.
A methodology that is based in great part on the work of Dr. Susan Isaacs and her emphasis on PLAYful activity as a learning modality.
In any case, I promise a lot of content is coming. A LOT. Until then, please enjoy what we’ve already produced. Take a look in our archives. We’ve been ahead of the game for years.
(Editor’s note: The following, like all of my accounts as a substitute teacher, is best qualified as creative non-fiction. Though the account is true, the site, school, grade, or subject may have been modified. More importantly, the names of the students have all been changed.)
Esme: Mr. Flowers, Braydon won’t stop burping.
I was surrounded by students, all wanting my attention, but I could hear, from across the room, the discordant noises of a rude belly full of gas.
Me: Ok, ok. Have a seat, everybody. No, now.
I stood and walked over to the table labeled DIGNITY.
Entire class, except for Esme, erupts in laughter.
Me: Dude! I’m standing right here. Are you crazy or something?
B: I’m sorry Mr. Flowers, I can’t help it. I drank my soda too fast.
Me: Ok, no worries. But instead of belching why not try just blowing the air out.
B: What do you mean? BWAAAAAAP!
Me: (Trying not to laugh) I mean. You don’t have to force it out, just try and do it quietly.
B: But I don’t know how.
Me: Ok, how about this…
Me: (over the laughter) just relax, that’s it. Now don’t focus on your stomach just concentrate on not burping.
Braydon looked up at me, doubtful, then took a deep breath, blew it out and tried to relax.
A minute went by, followed by another, then another. I smiled at him and he smiled back.
Me: See, what did I tell you, all you have to do is rela…
It seemed to go on forever and ever. No one was laughing, we all looked on in silence until he finally finished.
Alec: Dude. That was the GREATEST BURP EVER!!!!
An atom bomb of laughter.
Me: (genuinely worried) Bray, you alright man?
Braydon looked up at me smiling and relieved, like he had just had a giant splinter removed from his palm.
B: Yeah, I’m fine. I think I’ll be ok now Mr. Flowers. I just had to get that out.
Took me twenty minutes to get everyone back on track.
(Editor’s note: The following, like all of my accounts as a substitute, teacher is best qualified as creative non-fiction. Though the account is true, the site, school, grade, or subject may have been modified. More importantly, the names of the students have all been changed.)
It was my first day at a school I had wanted to teach at since I first saw it nearly 30 years ago. It was the ideal of a rustic, rural town at the base of a mountain range, the Sierra Foothills, which extended well beyond the incorporated areas of Placer County.
Like its surroundings, the school itself was an amalgam of old and new with an emphasis on the former.
The architecture had not been updated since the 20th century. It looked and felt like a time before the advent of smartphones and social media. My IPHONE 12 PRO MAX never once held a signal. And yet, that was the beauty of it all.
My job was to teach 2nd Grade, Home Room.
For reasons I won’t go into now, 2nd Grade is my favorite.
SOME FACTS ABOUT 2nd GRADERS:
1. They stand in lines.
2. They don’t know what ‘lines’ are and never will.
3. They are ALL fragile in their own way.
I had just finished giving out the assignment: making wreaths out of branches they’d collected from the redwoods nearby, when I felt the tiniest poke behind me. I turned around and there was HOPE.
Big brown eyes framed with brunette hair. About two and half feet tall.
Damn if she wasn’t crying.
I leaned over as far as I could so she could whisper to me. I asked, “What happened?” In my most gentle voice.
She responded in kind, “I miss my momma.”
I will never forget the way she looked at me when she said it. I hugged her, as best I could, and said, “I miss my momma too.”
The rest of the day, I caught her looking at me, not smiling, observing.
To be honest, it made me wonder if I had crossed a line by sharing my feelings.
But then, as they all filed out at the end of the day, I suddenly felt tiny arms wrap themselves around my waist. I looked down and there was HOPE smiling up at me.
I hugged her back, best I could, and then watched as she walked down the old stone steps where her Momma was waiting and then, disappeared amongst the other parents and students.
(Editor’s note: Greetings and thank you from the BOOM. One of our readers asked for the following article to be retracted or the section on Ty Cobb removed because it perpetuates an unproven mythology of Ty as a person and player. They refer to the book written by Charles Leehrsen, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, in which he argues that the stories of Ty as a violent racist are largely, if not entirely, untrue, and that there is even evidence that Ty could have been opposed to racial injustice, like the segregation of Baseball.
And while Mr. Leehsen’s thesis may in fact be true, we, like him, do our research and we respectfully disagree with his argument. Ty was a racist and violent, some could argue, murderously violent. Unfortunately, all we have is circumstantial evidence to demonstrate the character truths of the man. Nonetheless, we are glad to have an opposing viewpoint that is so well researched and chooses a challenging position to a very complicated subject.
Finally, Ty Cobb, is not the only one. There was a system of racism that was perpetuated within the MLB for nearly sixty years. The kind of system that can only be maintained if those in power are 1) aware of it 2) support its purpose. There is no doubt many more than the four men that are mentioned in the following are guilty of being white supremacists. The four in question were just more obvious about their views. We hope, as always, that you enjoy the following. BOOM)
Watching Major League Baseball’s World Series, it’s difficult not to get drawn into the mystique, or maybe more accurately, the mythology of the so-called, “national pastime.” Since its inception in the middle of the 19th century, baseball has been about one thing, inclusion. All you need is a stick and a rock and a small piece of space, and you have the makings of a baseball game. Anyone, regardless of gender or race, or economic circumstances, can play baseball.
It is truly one of the greatest inventions of humankind.
In America, it is the superlative American Sport.
A container and curator of the American experience, it holds a very privileged place as a reflection of our culture and society. In this way, baseball acts like a mirror, reflecting those issues that are foremost in the American mind. Take for example the most recent world series between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros. Is it surprising that the Atlanta Brave “tomahawk chop” has attracted so much controversy? Not when one considers how systemic racism has become one of the defining issues for America in the 21st century.
In the past decade, American’s have demanded that dozens of pieces of historical materiality, such as statues and paintings, be removed from publicly accessible areas, including parks, government buildings, publicly funded institutions, because they reflect problematic themes that have been deemed insensitive to under-represented populations.
For example, on September 8, 2021, a “12-ton…statue” honoring the former head of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, General Robert E. Lee, was removed from Richmond, Virginia’s so-called Monument Avenue, where it had stood for over one-hundred and thirty years. Despite General Lee’s significance as one of the most important military figures in American history, the monument had long been viewed as a “symbol of racism and oppression…[an] idol of white supremacy.”
But it wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd, and the re-emergence of the movement known as Black Lives Matter in 2020, that talk of its removal became an American, socio-cultural cause cé·lè·bre. The removal of General Lee’s controversial sculpture and pedestal seemed to be the pinnacle of a nationwide effort to eradicate all vestiges of racist symbolism. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “168 Confederate symbols [have been] renamed or removed from public spaces…”
With all the scrutiny on American institutions, it seems reasonable to expect that Major League Baseball (MLB), and its famous museum, the Hall of Fame (HOF), would be subject to the same kind of racial-scrubbing that has occurred throughout the country. Sadly, the opposite is true, instead of ridding itself of the remnants of its racist past, the MLB and its HOF seem content to simply ignore the issue and pretend that they are exempt from such criticism.
For almost fifty years, the Hall of Fame has endeavored to “honor…and immortalize (italics mine)” its inductees as representative “of the highest mark of achievement in the game” that, for over a century, has been widely recognized as America’s, “national pastime”. As “keeper of the game” the Hall of Fame’s self-proclaimed, three-fold mission has been “preserving [baseball’s] history…honoring excellence [amongst the baseball community]…[and] connecting generations [of its fans].” It is for these reasons, the HOF holds a unique and some would say “hallowed” place within American society and culture.
And yet, it continues to honor people everyone (by everyone I mean baseball historians, players of the game, coaches, GMs, etc.) know were violent and hate-filled white supremacists, who openly mistreated Black Americans because of the color of their skin.
Perhaps the most egregious example is Ty Cobb.
To call Ty a ‘racist’ would only have pissed him off. He was a full-fledged member of the white-supremacy movement that established itself during Reconstruction and led to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
In his book, Baseball as I have Known It, renowned baseball journalist and historian Fred Lieb wrote, “Ty had a contempt for Black people and in his own language, ‘he would never take their Iip’… I don’t know if [he] was a Klansman but I suspect he was.”
Ty was also violent.
Of course, it was downplayed and marginalized in the media because, just like now, NO ONE really wanted to talk about racism and baseball, the gentleman’s agreement made sure of that. But just as Ken Burns’ asserts, and I agree, Ty Cobb is a stain upon the MLB as the American, national pastime.
In an era in which America is demanding its institutions rid themselves of any racist iconography, how is it possible that a man like this could still be in the Hall of Fame?
The answer is simple. No one wants to talk about it. Not the team owners, not the players, not the media, not the fans, not the NAACP, not BLM; nobody wants to talk about Ty Cobb or the others.
It reminds me of Baseball’s first gentleman’s agreement when, back in the late-19th century, white baseball owners in both the major and minor leagues, struck a deal to prohibit the hiring of black players. Even though everyone knew of the arrangement including the owners, the players, the commissioner, and the media, few ever complained. In fact, some in the media became apologists for segregation, more or less parroting what the owners argued was the real reason for why Black players didn’t play in professional baseball, because they weren’t good enough.
The leagues would remain racially segregated for nearly 60 years until Jackie Robinson played his first major league game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.
And yet, even though it has been integrated for over 80 years, Major League Baseball stubbornly refuses to free itself of the memories of its racist origins by continuing to honor individuals who represent the worst of America’s racist past.
Why? Because the Gentleman’s agreement of the 19thcentury continues to exist in the silence of those who cannot or will not hold baseball up to the same standards as other American institutions. This includes the ownership, management, player personnel, and the media. By refusing to hold Baseball accountable, leaders of sports media like ESPN and Sports Illustrated have made themselves complicit to Major League Baseball’s gross racial insensitivity.
They’re tearing down statues in Virginia, they’re pulling down paintings at the Capitol, but no one wants to remove Ty Cobb from the Hall of Fame.
For six decades, the MLB excluded thousands of American citizens from participating in the national pastime because of the color of their skin. For it to continue as America’s socio-cultural analogue, it must now finish the work of history and remove the shadows of hate that continue to darken its halls.
 Famed baseball journalist, Fred Lieb claimed both Tris Speaker (HOF, 1937) and Roger Hornsby (HOF, 1942) were members of the KKK (Lieb, 54). It was once said of Cap Anson (HOF, 1939), “…[he] was one of the prime architects of Baseball’s Jim Crow policies…” and had, “an intense hostility toward blacks” (Tygiel, 14). This means that of the first 27 inductees into the Hall of Fame, between 1936-42, four were hostile white supremacists. Given Baseball’s early history, there are more than likely others that should be added to this list. Kenesaw Landis, was another major figure in the fight to keep baseball white; (https://www.witf.org/2020/06/30/a-dark-past-mvps-say-time-to-pull-kenesaw-mountain-landis-name-off-plaques/). In a recent article for the BOOM, I discussed the segregationist period just prior to Jackie Robinson and the ugly history of the MacPhail Report, a terrible reminder of Baseball’s institutionalized racism (https://www.boomsalad.com/english/nonfiction/fordfrickaward).
 Fred Lieb, Baseball as I have Known It, (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977), 54.
 Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 13. This subject will discussed in detail later on in this essay.
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns, Season 1, Ep. 3, The Faith of Fifty Million People: 1910-1920, Directed by Ken Burns, 1994, DVD. 15:46.
 The Sporting News, August 6, 1942 edition, in an OP-Ed entitled, “No Good From Raising Race Issue”, gave a lengthy rebuttal to those calling for the integration of baseball. Not coincidentally, their arguments would closely resemble those of the owners and league presidents who favored segregation, as detailed in the MacPhail Report of 1946. (Tygiel: 38, 39).
(Editor’s note: The following, like all of my accounts as a substitute teacher, is best qualified as creative non-fiction. Though the account is true, the site, school, grade, or subject may have been modified. More importantly, the names of the students have all been changed.)
I was standing outside, leaning against the open door made of metal and painted a rusty-red.
One by one, they walked in.
Each with a world ahead of them.
Turner: Yo Mr. Flores!!!
Hand in a fist headed for my face, in very slow motion.
Me: (FIST BUMP) Yo Turner. Are you going to be good today?
T: (A smile with curly blonde hair) What do you mean?
The day before he asked to go to the bathroom, then disappeared for 30 minutes. I had security looking for him.
Me: (LOL) Yeah. nice. You know they put people in jail for less.
T: (suddenly serious) They do?
Me: No. I just like to see you with fear in your eyes. Look no trouble and I promise I’ll let you be the “teacher’s pet”.
Me: Yeah, freakboy, get inside.
Turner passes me by and I can hear him and his favorite friend greet each other. Suddenly,
Turner: YO MR. F? CAN ME AND …
T and Friend: Ahhhhh!
…and then I saw her.
She was maybe a sophomore or younger. She had dyed her hair a dirty platinum. Her eyes were red and it was clear she was struggling.
Me: (I smiled at her) Hi, hold on a minute. ( I whispered to her).
She stopped and looked up at me.
She had freckles and blue eyes full of tears.
(It’s times like this I have to remember I’m a teacher, not a father.)
Me: (I nodded) Can you talk?
She tried and it ended in more tears.
Me: Okay. It’s going to be okay. You are safe here. You understand? You are safe.
Me: Ok, how bout you sit right there on the bench in the garden and take a breather? I’ll be right back.
I promise, I’ll be right back.
She nodded and started walking.
Now, I’ve been formally trained how to help students that are experiencing crisis, even those with severe trauma. It’s rare though that you have to use every bit of learning and talent for one person.
Eventually, we sent her home.
Turns out there wasn’t any particular ‘thing’ that’d happened.
It’s interesting how the word expose, or the idea to expose, has evolved over the millennia. As with all verbs in our common usage, it has its roots in a practice. The word practice itself has a history of meaning that is from the earliest of recorded history. All that being said, it’s these two words that when combined, weave a complicated tale of victims and survivors, forgotten and the re-imagined; all, a complex product of one phrase: to be exposed.
In the ancient Mediterranean and Near East: Anatolia and the Levant, even as far as the northern coastline of Africa, all the way to Gibraltar, the practice of being exposed mostly referred to the poorest of the poor, the proletarii. The word proletarii derives from the Latin word for children, “prole”. The proletarii were the lowest class of the Roman caste. Landless, it was said that the proletarii could only contribute their children for the benefit of the Republic. And they did, and in this way, exposed their children to a life of slavery and hardship. But that’s not what the term, to expose your children, meant.
To expose one’s child was a form of ancient birth control. One of the earliest examples is, actually, from ancient Greece, Oedipus is exposed (left out in the wilderness to die) to ensure the prophecies about him go unfulfilled. Well, turns out the Romans were listening. So, a common practice for the poorest of the poor, the proletarii, was to expose their children. From the modern perspective, it seems not only animalistic but also, inexplicable, how a parent could ever expose their child in such a way. And yet, that is how far we have come as a society based, in many significant ways, on the Greco-Roman cultural project.
We can’t imagine exposing our children like that, and yet, we understand the phrase, still, as a negative, even in the modern context. In fact, isn’t it true that instead of referring only to some momentary event, the modern definition now includes a much broader timeframe? In other words, exposingyour children could be something that happens for a day, a year, maybe their entire childhood. That’s an example of one of those moments I was talking about before, the deadliest kind, the kind that kills both the perpetrator and victim. It’s times like that when everyone needs a heaven to make sense of it all, but I wouldn’t rely on it.
So, one would be right to ask, ‘are we really evolving to a better us, or are we still yoked together by the neck, watching shadows on a rock wall?’ I pulled my chips on that question a long time ago, but not after losing my ass playing against the house. I think it all comes down to tellin ourselves what we want to hear so that the hit we take is always from a position of suffering, never something we might have deserved. Again, it might make sense, but I wouldn’t rely on it.
When you compare the impact of the law of exposure of the modern age to that of its antecedent, a sane person would have to wonder whether it might be more merciful if practiced like in the days of the heathens. Just put them out of their misery early and be done with it. But, still, I think that’s a step back. All these mountainous decisions are the projected image of the smaller decisions made by all of us. That’s why you should fear them. It might just be about ice cream, or a seat on the bus, hell, maybe it’s about your momma or your sister, trust me, they can fight their own battles without you losing course. The best thing to do when you’re being exposed is to just watch and listen, and when possible, escape.
I was a boy when I was exposed to a sexual predator, and yet the experience didn’t result in any sudden enlightenment of the OT. If anything, it made me more subservient to its various guises: health, wealth, youth. Instead of an acceptance of the truth, I embraced its antithesis: I didn’t want to die. A divergence to my path was introduced that could not be reversed, and only intensified as I got older.
I remember walking home from school one day, I wasn’t supposed to because I was far too young, but I was precocious and thought I would show them all. After walking several blocks, in the right direction, I suddenly became lost. I no longer recognized the landscape. It was then that a fear began to grow within me, ‘what if I’m wrong about all of my previous steps?’ I was terrified and started to cry. Suddenly one of my older sister’s yelled at me, “what the hell are you doing out here?” I wanted to hug her as my savior. But that’s the fear of exposure I’m talking about. The cadence of fear. The realization that there is no one coming to save you.
The experience left me untethered but more importantly, it revealed an essential difference between the ancient practice of exposure and its modern cognate. In the modern usage, it may not be possible to reverse course, but it is possible to recover control of the direction you are traveling, and that can make all the difference in the world. But everything that graces your doorway comes with a shadow (not a truth per se, but certainly a statement I can make with complete confidence).
Recover and recovery are two different modes of a practice, the former usually leads to the latter. But in the practice of the law of exposure, there is never a so-called “recovery”. The loss is the beginning of change, the change in course that will define the trajectory of your journey, until the next one. And there is always a “next one” for those that have been exposed, just ask Oedipus.
When I compare our souls with those of our ancient past, I see the anguish of the proletarii with greater clarity than parents of those who are exposed at the beginning of the new millennia. The primary difference being the immediacy of the loss. No woman exposes her child without memory and loss. But because the modern practice of exposure can last for so long, it’s difficult to outline or to recognize. It’s in the shadows of the good times, a language in music that only plays at the end of a long and terrible day. It takes a connoisseur of suffering to recognize its mournful plaint, but that’s the legacy of the exposed. We become the worlds empathics. We come to recognize that the OT has a language of its own, and that language requires no translation. Not everyone understands the truth, but everyone understands the language of death through the concept of loss. Ultimately, that is what the conversation of exposure is about, loss, permanent loss, and a wrestling with the Only Truth.
All those who experience exposure, experience a corollary loss. I feel fortunate to have discovered my loss at the age I am. Perhaps that’s the biggest distinction between us and the ancients, unlike our infant predecessors, once we discover the loss, we can begin to understand its history and its trajectory. Suddenly, we come to realize, we’re no longer lost, we’re exactly where we should be, nowhere.
We sat together in the small margins that compose the quantum disreality of the here but not the now. Bukowski stood and leaned against a throne with a full glass of misery and poverty smiling back at him like a long-lost friend.
Me: Yo Jack, I never knew you had a daughter. What’s her name?
Rimbaud shouted from the corner of a room he had constructed by himself and owned as if it was the last planet in the last universe with the last vineyard still growing the only Bordeaux that King Louis XIV would drink, “Penelope…NO…PANDORA!”
Kerouac looked at him from afar with disdain and deep affection, “Wrong, on both counts.”
Me: Don’t mind him Jackie, he’s just bitter because women thought he smelled like a goat.
Bukowski: Not a goat, a cow.
Suddenly Rimbaud stood up from the ancient chair that held his pride so carefully, and yelled, “FUCK YOU CHARLES!” Then he fell back and nursed his wounds against a parade of landscapes, all drawn in blood by Van Gogh.
Bukowski: (still drinking from a jug of Sherry he stole from the cornershop at the end of Hope) I bet you say that to all the girls…
Morrison: You really think he thinks you’re a girl? You gotta be the ugliest girl I ever saw.
I looked around the room and it was empty, not of people but of confidence and dignity. They were the shadows of memories sewn together with worn out woolen patches made from destruction and necessity. The physical residue of a hurricane with a famous mother.
Me: Enough Jim. Chuck is a man, just like you, just like Ernest over there.
Morrison: Say’s you Flores…flores…what is that Spanish for piece of shit?
Hemingway: No, that would be the definition of every name in Ireland you fake.
Jim stood up, wobbled, then corrected himself. “How dare you EH after all the love I’ve sent your way!”
Then Jim grabbed his crotch before blowing Ernest a Marilyn-styled kiss.
(something he knew all about)
Hemingway just sat and surveyed the poetic disaster before him, then smiled that joyless discreet smile he reserved only for those who hated fishing.
“Go with God my son”, he said then took a deep draft from his cigar and blew it right in Jim’s beautiful mug.
Finally Sappho spoke up, against the objections of Stein, Parker and Dickinson (who preferred to just leave quietly).
“I’m bored”, she said, “You men are very boring.”
I laughed with Whitman and we shared a wink while Eliot said a quiet prayer for the sun to rise again.
“Time to eat!” cried Melville from the door to the kitchen where Poe chopped quail and onions while Stout played God Bless America on the harmonica. The first one to rise was Kafka, “I’m starving”, he said as he rushed to the door pulling up his threadbare hospital trousers.
“It doesn’t matter how much you eat Franz,” Marx chuckled, “you’ll always be starving.” He nodded to Nietzsche, who was fast asleep, and Freud before putting on his jacket, taking a last long drag from a Turkish cigarette he bummed off of a completely disinterested Plath, then left the room to nowhere.
It may take you a week, a month, a year. It may happen in your youth or in your prime, even in the later years. The only way to describe ‘it’ is a sudden realization of something you’ve known all your life. A truth, perhaps the only truth one can ever hang their hat on: no one gets out alive.
Looking back on the days and years, the minutes and careful seconds that compose my life’s trajectory, I am astounded that I am still ‘alive’. Life, as I see it now, is simply an aggregate of moments, split-seconds when you make that final decision to run or stay. And yet, who’s to say the choice was ever yours in the first place? Who am I to tell you anything about your life, or mine, and expect it to make any sense or be decodable?
It’s the great irony of life, how similar we look and yet, how different we can be. I have always believed that gap between us could be filled by the dream long lost in the technological ether, that thing called ‘love’. I sit here now, half dead in time, wondering if I even know what the word means. That’s how fragile things become, like ideas, beliefs, even the foundations of your life start to show their age in ways, with a smile or a tear, you did not expect.
Again, there is only one truth. And as dark as it looks, one only need shed a light on it to see it more clearly and discover that what you thought was the cave of a monster, was a place that you could find shelter from the storm, a little home of your own. The ancient Taoists understood. They shined a big fat light on the subject of death and realized, it’s nothing to be afraid of because it’s the truth of everything. That doesn’t mean the living don’t get to mourn. Everyone grieves, even Chuang-tzu wept at the loss of his wife.
Nope, it’s not the end of the journey one should fear, it’s those moments of mental lightning, where the gods demand you testify for your life, the ones that introduce a deviation from the course that can never be reversed. Again, who’s to say I’m right? Maybe it’s just me, my life that’s had its moments when all you’re eating is a bowl of shit. That’s theoretically possible and I am just trying to say, I know now, it doesn’t really matter.
The rest of this is a selective memory of the journey that got me nowhere but here, so to speak. ‘Selective’ in the sense that all memory is selective. It will come much as it arrived, in unexpected ways and over a long period of time. But, as sure as a man jaded by life, yet still optimistic, can put time enough a way to remember, think and write, I promise to do as such, realizing such a promise might as well be made to the wooden cross on my wall for all the good it will do.
Last September, news and media outlets worldwide reported the professional video gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins return to the Amazon-owned, streaming platform Twitch. While details of the multi-year contract between Amazon and Mr. Blevins have not been disclosed, it is likely that the Ninja will be paid tens of millions of dollars as a premiere streamer/content-creator/influencer for the site. Given the plethora of so-called “video game streamers” on the web, one might ask, and reasonably so, what is it about Mr. Blevins’ content that makes it worth so much?
The obvious answer is the extreme popularity of his streams. As of this writing, Mr. Blevins enjoys over 15 million followers on Twitch and more than 21 million subscribers on YouTube. And yet, this seems an inadequate explanation when one considers that the Ninja’s live and recorded streams represent only a tiny fraction of the total content that is shared online worldwide. Clearly, then, there is something else, something unique to Mr. Blevins ‘creations’ that support the enormous sums companies are willing to pay for exclusive rights to their distribution.
To get at the root of what makes the Ninja’s streams so economically valuable, it is necessary to first consider what it means to be a streamer/content-creator. Taken individually, one can say that a “streamer” is someone who uploads or “live streams” content online. Thus, “content-creation” is a precursor to the function of the streamer. In the case of Mr. Blevins, his content is directly tied to his video game play. For this reason, most assume that the content he creates ARE the videos and live-streams he produces and shares. And yet, because these are based on his gameplay and not, necessarily, his talents as a video producer, the true content must be something other than the streams themselves. In other words, the value of the Ninja’s content is not tethered to the production quality of the stream. What then are his creations if not the streams themselves?
The simple answer is his gameplay (see video below). And yet, in saying this we risk marginalizing the value that content represents. Once again, I refer to the thousands of hours of video game play that is uploaded or live-streamed daily compared to the dozens of hours the Ninja might produce in a month. The primary difference between the two is in the creativity embodied in the content itself, and the successful outcome it affords.
When viewed as a software application, video games can be defined as an aggregate of coded commands and functions that compose an environment in which certain actions and activities are made possible and others are not. Hence, this assemblage of coding defines the gameplay potential for every player of a particular game. Thus, in playing a video game, the player creates new sequences of code by manipulating the pre-existing functions of the software. In this way, gameplay is made synonymous with programming. It is here that the true value of Mr. Blevins work, as videogame player/programmer, is established.
Some, of course, will argue against this comparison by pointing to the seemingly obvious differences between the work of a programmer and the activities of a videogame player. And yet, when viewed from the perspective of the outcomes produced, these differences soon disappear as merely superficial distinctions directly tied to the user interface. This point is reaffirmed when one considers certain programming interfaces developed to teach software programming to children and teenagers. Oftentimes, these environments use video game play as a programming methodology. In other words, children learn to program by playing video games.
But what do I mean by “outcomes produced”? If there is one outcome, in particular, that reigns above all others in the programming space, it is the goal to produce code that successfully executes as intended, without bugs. The same thing can be said with regards to the Ninja’s goals when he plays a game like Fortnite. In constructing his code, ie. developing his gameplay, his goal is to produce sequences that consistently achieve his primary goal ‘to win’. Instances in which he is unsuccessful can therefore be viewed as “bugs” in his programming, or errors that inhibit successful execution of the rest of his coded efforts.
The reason, therefore, why the Ninja’s work is so highly valued is due, primarily, to his ability to consistently produce original and bug-free code that is highly successful at fulfilling its primary purpose, “to win”. Another important contribution to his valuation is the reproducibility of the code sequences he creates.
In other words, while those who follow Mr. Blevins may be impressed by his ascetic choices in grooming and clothing styles, their loyalty is far more dependent on his ability to provide them with sequences of code that they can recreate in their personal gameplay in the hope of achieving the same successful outcomes. This suggests that if at any time the Ninja’s code suddenly loses its reputation for reliability and success, his valuation will likely decrease. The same can be said of any software programmer whose products become known as overly “buggy”, eventually her or his value will decrease.
From this consideration of the Ninja’s role as streamer/content-creator, it is clear that it is not the streams or video uploads distributed by Twitch and YouTube that compose the true content for which the Ninja receives such large sums of money, but rather, the code he creates through his gameplay. Once again, some might argue (Mr. Blevins in particular), that his role as an influencer is also a significant contributor to his high evaluation. While there is no doubt there is some value in the manner in which his streams are produced and presented, the fact remains that it is his work as a coder that is the primary basis of his overall value, and which enables his other, subsidiary functions as a streamer/content-creator/influencer.
One interesting question that results from this interpretation of the Ninja as programmer is whether or not the software industry will one day take full advantage of this analogy and develop professional programming environments that use a video game interface to produce code instead of the traditional text based, “editor/compiler/assembler/linker/loader” model.
 A similar agreement signed by Mr. Blevins and the now defunct Mixer site in 2019 was valued between $20 and $30 million dollars. See the Verge online article “Fortnite Star Ninja’s Mixer Contract Reportedly Worth $20M to $30M”
 In saying this, it would be naïve not to recognize the impact that the quality of production has on content value. However, in the case of Mr. Blevins, such is not the determining factor as it would be for creators whose sole function is the production of video streams.
 Examples of this can be found in a number of programming environments made for children such as those provided via the website CODE.org.
 For instance, having famous entertainment stars show up in his streams as co-players certainly would increase the value of his brand.
 See Douglas Jones excellent discussion of the fundamentals of computer programming environments at http://homepage.divms.uiowa.edu/~jones/syssoft/notes/01intro.html#:~:text=The%20term%20programming%20environment%20is,environment%20used%20by%20the%20programmer.
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