tribebally

The 11-seeded Dayton Flyers lost to No. 1-overall Florida today in the NCAA tournament, and with that loss, the death throes of The Mid-Majority began. I can trace my interest in basketball to my discovery of this site (and free season tickets to Tribe hoops from my employer), but credit for the site’s charisma and community belong to Kyle. I have never met Kyle, but I feel like I know Kyle. The fact that I feel compelled to pay my respects to a basketball website is entirely due to Kyle.

Kyle Whelliston is (for another few days, at least), the proprietor of The Mid-Majority and the finest sportswriter in America. On Monday night, ten years of TMM posts, interviews, fabulous reporting and absolutely stellar writing will disappear. The website that Whelliston invented, shepherded, battled and let go will be gone and deleted.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. Why, after a decade of building a community — a real, breathing one — should its home be erased? My Twitter feed would be full of Tribe basketball faithful regardless, but it’s thanks to the Mid-Majority that there are also fans of VCU, Northeastern, Denver and, yes, Dayton. There are code words and inside jokes, #PIXELVISION and #AOUEOU, secrets that only the proud few of us know. I proudly donated money to keep the site going, as did many others. And it will be gone.

This will all be explained, Kyle says, in the tenth and final Epilogue. If it’s anything like previous years, it won’t just be a post-mortem of the mid-major collegiate basketball landscape (in fact, it’s sometimes only remotely related to hoops) but also a barometer on Kyle, the community that supported him and the places he would lead us. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say he became a bit of an iconoclast, not least of all because he shrank from the TMM spotlight over the last few years to focus on the rest of his life. Now, it seems, he’ll finish the leap.

The Mid-Majority lent narrative to a sport that I barely understood eight years ago, watching agape in Richmond as Leonard Mendez buried an off-balance three to annihilate the Tribe’s CAA tournament chances. TMM knew: ours was a titanic struggle of schools with few resources struggling against the might of the BCS conferences. Ours was a challenge to claim a sport on our terms and not ESPN’s. Ours was a struggle to remember that there must be room for quirk and pain and joy in a world of power rankings and ROI. The Mid-Majority, when I found it, was a conduit I could get into, and I did. TMM blended the obscure and strange with the epic and powerful. It was the perfect place for me to discover basketball, and I learned a lot about writing, too. (Of course, there are still haters.)

More than anything else, Kyle Whelliston is a hell of a sportswriter. He styles himself as a web developer now, and admittedly I lost some interest in the site after he stopped writing as frequently. But if you don’t believe me, read his 2010 book One Beautiful Season, which is now my post-deletion consolation that this work will live on. But if you’re just learning about the website now, you have fewer than 48 hours to read as much of TMM as you can. Start here.

A handwritten note from Kyle arrived in the mail last week to thank me for my support of The Mid-Majority over the last few years. Now that I live in Silicon Valley, mere miles from a Pac-12 Sweet Sixteen team, I am struck by the realness of the TMM community in contrast with the nascent, ephemeral communities of the tech industry. I have a TMM foam finger, a t-shirt, two Bally Club membership cards and now this note. I gave *him* my money and I’m the one writing this lengthy tribute. It’s an inadequate way for me to extend my thanks back to Kyle, but it’s a start. I got a lot out of following TMM: I learned a lot, and I felt like I belonged. It’s not a feeling I ever expected to get from the Internet.

So for a website about ten guys bouncing an orange ball around a wooden floor, that’s pretty damn good. Thanks, Kyle. Good luck.

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