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Better Know a Commenter: W.Smith86

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A lurker steps out from the shadows and into the light. He's just like the rest of us.

 A lurker comes to us with arms wide open
A lurker comes to us with arms wide open

While we're all much more than just being Royals fans, it is the tie that binds us. What brought you to the Royals' front stoop knocking on the door to be let in? Perhaps more importantly, why did you stay?

My love and appreciation of the dark arts was handed down to me from my father. He is a first generation Californian. My grandfather was from Missouri. I wish I knew more of the origins to his fandom. but in pure William David Smith fashion--I am the fourth in this lineage--my ties aren't particularly strong with my family. Crap, this is getting dark.

I fell in love with the sport originally because my of father. But Jermaine Dye being from my hometown in addition to the crop of rising offensive stars--Beltan, Damon, Sweeney, Pendleton... wait--and my appreciation for gunslingers who lack cavalry (Kevin "Tha Gawd" Appier), it was a nativity in black... and blue.

If we're getting deeply personal though, I think I'm loyal to a fault. Quitting is a fate worse than death. That's been a theme--relationships, jobs, art, food--reflected from the river of my life. Or something.

My introduction to Royals Review happened more or less when Craig Brown took over. I was an avid read of Royals Authority. Craig's actions on June 25th, 2012 forced me to find the key to the lurk wagon.

There seemed to be a lot of handwringing amongst their readers when Royals Authority shuttered and Craig, Clark, and Nick came over to the dark side. How did you handle that news? As a lurker, how do you view the Royals Review community as a whole? Are there reasons that you have remained mostly in the shadows? What personal relationship do you have with the site?

You'd have thought it was the end of the world when RA packed up things to move to the SB Nation. Royals Review was enjoyable from the get-go. There's a lot of wit in the community. As a writer, the duality of the internet commenter fascinates me in general. What I've come to find is that RR has a vulnerable group of intelligent people. The comments section as a case study on the perils of calling the Midwest a wasteland. Bi-coastal exceptionalism is the worst. One day I hope to walk on hallowed, BBQ-stained ground.

The lurking is really more about not wanting to disrupt the flow of conversation. By the time 11:00 AM PST rolls around, there's usually a bow on most rumblings. Hard to shout into the ether when nothing comes back, as Martin O'Malley illustrated on his campaign.

Standard dating profile questions: Age? Sex? Height? Hair color? Marital status? Kids?

I am a 29-year-old white male who measures out to be 5'8". Being 5'8" and caucasian means that I'm only cashing in on half of my privilege unfortunately. I am going prematurely bald, so pop culture figures like WWE's Cesaro, Anime/Manga's OnePunchMan, and cinema's Jason Statham are my heroes.

I am in a four-year-old relationship. I don't know if its future includes wedding bells and Key Largo, but we get on well. Unless she's reading this. If you are, just know that you're my beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy (100emoji).

There isn't a Will Smith the Fifth, as far as kids go.

In the name of cheap plugs, (Tumped dawg), I'd like to put my friend's music project out into the ether. It's called A/S/L. It's electronic in the vein of Burial, Violator-era Depeche Mode, and a SFW version of FKA twigs. Find them on Spotify or here.

Where do you live now, and where did you grow up?

I grew up in the shadows of Sacramento, California. The suburb is known as Vacaville. Pop culture and sports creations from this cow town include: Jermaine Dye, the exploding prison scene in Con-Air, Papa Roach, noted street shark Stefan Janoski, and political activist Cindy Sheehan.

My junior year and early twenties were spent in Sacramento, and I identify with it more.

I live in Oakland, California currently. Just east of the not-as-progressive-as-you-remember tech-bro menagerie known as San Francisco. The Giants loss was personal to me. I find their fans to be the third-worst in my power rankings. Just behind Red Sawks nation and the BRIBs (Best Racists in Baseball).

Both Sacramento and Oakland tend to catch a lot of flak from outsiders, though it seems like the perception of Oakland has changed a bit recently. Since you've actually lived in each city, how do you feel about them? What do outsiders get wrong?

Sacramento is where I came alive. It's a cultured place that is surrounded by suburban sprawl. Midtown Sac is as artistic and vibrant as Oakland or parts of LA can be. The student body at my school was ethnically diverse. It's blossomed into a food, beer, and wine city.

Random Royals fans in the wilds of Oakland

Random Royals fans in the wilds of Oakland

Oakland has the same energy as Brooklyn. It's a proud place under siege from gentrification. Some of this gentrification is actually healthy. Downtown isn't as violent of a place. But crime isn't necessarily normalizing. I'm always troubled by people who talk about how up and coming the city has become. It often feels like casual racism. Especially in light of the 25% exodus of black citizens living here between 2000-2010.

While many choose not to define themselves by their job, what do you do to make ends meet? For how long have you been plying that trade?

I am a TNC driver. TNC stands for Transportation Network Company. You know this as Uber/Lyft. I primarily drive for Lyft, but as a 1099-level independent contractor, I have no one TNC God to behold. This is why the group's conversation of driverless cars left me salty. I was lurking though, so you wouldn't know. As I was telling Minda on Twitter, the most Royals-relevant passenger I've ever driven is Chris Dwyer's agent. He has some thoughts about the state of high school baseball.

This has been my trade the past two years after ten tears of being a barista. In that trade, I worked everywhere from boutique (Stumptown) to corporations like Starbucks.

Barista for ten years? A man after my own heart. So did you also live in Portland, like royalcoffee? What does your typical order at the coffee shop consist of? How do you brew at home?

Coffee... nomnomnom. My mom and dad divorced when I was six years old, so I'd fly back and forth to Portland where he lived. It's interesting how the city attempts to monetize the "Weird PDX" thing. I think Ian Karmel has some good thoughts on this subject. [For example.] I'd defer to him. It's a cool place if you're a part of a scene, though.

Typical coffee order... 12oz. BLACK COFFEE. I'm big into iced coffee as well. Hate cold brew though. My method is adding double strength (twice the original amount of grounds) to a french press, allow it to steep, plunge the french press, and pour into a glass of ice. Sometimes I'll filter it through a sliced grapefruit. More often than not though, I will visit a shop for my coffee. It gives me a reason to not be in the car.

Since I had to do a double take, I'll ask for clarification. You don't literally mean that you filter it through a sliced grapefruit, do you? After raising an inquisitive eyebrow, I did a quick search. Are you just using the grapefruit to extend the effects of caffeine? Does this seem to work?

Hahaha, to clarify, the french press itself is filtering the coffee. This is in regard to my special method for making iced coffee. You place a slice of grapefruit on top of the glass you're intending to drink your iced coffee. The hot coffee downpours through the slice of grapefruit and over the ice to give it extra bite. Think of the slice like the sugar cube and spoon ritual that goes along with absinthe. Afterwards, you can use the slice as a garnish. This works best with single origin African coffees, like Kenya.

How do you like driving for Uber/Lyft? Is there a reason you lean more toward Lyft than Uber? Do you prefer driving to latte-slinging?

At the crux of it is the origin of the two companies. Lyft was started by two dudes, Logan Green and John Zimmer, who have an urban development background. The idea is to occupy as many seats as possible in a car. Hopefully, the net positive is reduced emissions, smoother traffic times and a touch of community as the drivers are every day people. Uber is the free market, luxury brand that hopes to replace car ownership by creating a chauffeured society. These are similar goals packaged in a way that appeals to different demographics.

Business philosophies aside, Uber is a really gross company that reflects the worst of Silicon Valley "asshole" culture. Whether it's a heinous joke in GQ's profile of CEO Travis Kalanick about women on demand being called a "Boober" or the mediocre background checks that lead to a rampant violence against women problem, the extra dollars I could make driving with Uber isn't worth it.

With the understanding that obviously baseball and the Royals are an area of interest for you, what other hobbies and interests do you have?

In my teen years, I was a musician, specializing in shredding root notes on synths and singing out of key. I will not be linking to that. Just know that we sounded like Brand New and Modest Mouse. I don't know if any of you are familiar...

Also in my youth I boxed quite a bit. I'm a huge fan of Juan Manuel Marquez, Joe Frazier and Gennady Golovkin. Boxing was the reason I joined Twitter in the first place. As a Bleeding Blood Berndog Liberal, boxing Twitter is fascinating to me since it's a lot racially inflammatory joking. At its best, it can be a comedian's utopia of finding togetherness through equal parts self-deprecation and ad hoc derision of everyone's ethnic eccentricities. At its worst, it's St. Louis.

How long did you box for? To what level of competition did you rise? Do you still lace up the gloves at all?

I was heavyweight Golden Gloves champion, baby. That's a lie. I actually never went past sparring. My grades were utter shit, and the P.A.L. program required a 2.5 G.P.A. I could've been a contendah.

As a serious boxing fan, how do you feel about the rise of MMA?

(Rant alert)

I don't think MMA is as on the rise as people would have you believe. Boxing is compromised of Europeans/Former Soviets and Hispanics at the top level. Mainstream press and the viewing audience has a hard time with this. Plenty of boxing fights have gate receipts around 10,000. The average HBO fight does 900K-1.2M on the Nielsen ratings.

Outside of the UFC and maybe the circus that is Bellator, I wouldn't even say MMA is that popular, globally. High-level Japanese title fights garner domestic views of 40 million. Pacquiao-Marquez IV did similar numbers in Mexico. Boxers get paid better on a free market scale, which as a combat sport, more power to them. The UFC is a league designed to suppress payroll revenue to its fighters.

I don't classify myself as "woke" male by any means but between the reality is that racism has a lot to do with it. Joe Sportsfan is either: turned off by the violence (yet laments the old days of the NFL), bored by the weak heavyweight division (boxing has plenty of talent elsewhere but Joe would rather watch large men act as avatars for superheroes), or can't relate with the "non-mainstream" athletes on their screens for xenophobic or racist purposes. Couple that with a USA Boxing being a joke, the war on PAL leagues and inner-city community centers creating a dearth of talent, and The UFC's marketing and P.R. departments selling the product like it's WWE's attitude era, and you have a tsunami of American apathy.

This isn't to say boxing doesn't have problems. Too many titles. The best frequently avoid the best. The aforementioned talent gap.

Obviously there isn't much to do about boxing fans not being able to pronounce Golovkin's last name or tell the Klitschkos apart, but aside from them there aren't a lot of household names outside of the welterweight division. Do you think that's just from a deficiency in marketing, or does it feel like the quality of fighters in the other divisions has taken a hit? If you could completely remake the boxing game in your own vision, what would you do to better suit it to this modern world in which we find ourselves?

As far as the marketing goes, these guys refuse to fight top-level competition unless exorbitant purses are guaranteed. The multiple belt thing isn't as big of a deal in a vacuum. In a world where elite competition only fights at 3-4x per year, you wouldn't have much use for one belt anyways. The advent of premium cable really hurt the sport. Guys stopped attempting to become local draws. If for whatever reason you can't capture America's attention, become provincial. It's good for business. Terrance Crawford from Omaha is a good example of a guy who gets great crowds. If he fought more frequently, he'd be more of a household name. I could prattle on for hours, but it's better to ruminate on this classic Larry Merchant riff instead: "Nothing will kill boxing, and nothing can save it."

What is your educational background/area of study?

This may be a first for the series, but I did not graduate high school. I have a G.E.D. that was acquired at age 17. I've often floated amongst groups of intelligentsia as comrades, but inevitably my lack of higher education becomes a road block as those around me aspire higher while I slum and perspire.

It sounds like you got your G.E.D. before you would have otherwise graduated from high school. What was the rationale for that at the time? Did it relate to your burgeoning music career? Were you in touring bands? Or was it a reaction to the aforementioned family to whom you said you weren't particularly close?

The rationale for the G.E.D. was that I needed out of my home, and employment of high school drop out would be akin to a fate worse than death. At least that's how various employers seemed to be framing it. Without going to deep into the maladies of my family life, we can say that things were toxic.

In all honesty, I was never a very talented musician. But my friends were. I was happy to help and travel. But my anxiety about being more or less a cog in well oiled machine eventually lead to me quitting. My last show was in San Diego in front of 40 people in 2010.

Five-plus years later, do you have any regrets about leaving? Now that you're out of the music game, what do you find yourself listening to in retirement?

Despite not being particularly talented, I wish I would've learned my craft more. The prospect of playing music just makes me sad. In addition to that, the music it seems was the only thing propping up a few of my friendships. I'm a gregarious prick. To my dismay, my social life has cratered since then.

What I'm currently listening to: not rock. The genre is on a death knell, at least in the ideas market. I guess the new Beach Slang album was cool. From a pure production standpoint, I think Justin Bieber's odd sound of 80's R&B goth-pop was the most fascinating thing I heard last year. This probably kills my music credibility. Kanye's new album is a beautiful, disjointed work. The song "Ultralight Beam" singes everything that it touches as it lifts the listener straight into the cosmos. Oh! I'm a huge Deftones fan. "Gore" is the number one album I'm looking forward to. Generally though, my tastes are eclectic: John Prine, Converge, Odesza, King Crimson, Kylie Minogue...

What's the best thing you've read in recent memory? Describe it as though you were trying to convince someone else that they should read it.

I've got a couple screenwriting manuals I'm thumbing through but nothing in the fictional department. However, while I think a lot of think pieces are contrarian or at the very least divide and incite more than unite and brighten, Rembert Browne's piece on "White Privilege II", the Macklemore joint, is as close as I've ever felt a writer reaching toward my feelings on race. Here's the link for Collapse the Thread RR.

We all have a long list of stupid shit that we've done. What's the dumbest thing you've done?

Hmm, as I approach 30, it could be argued that not obtaining one of those fancy Bachelor's Degrees that you folks possess might have been. Absent that, at parties, I used to get hammered and walk around with champagne bottles. Sometimes I would wear pullover sweatshirts as pants. Other times I'd sleep nude on regional brand discount pizza. The point is that now, while I enjoy a Pliny the Elder or a gin and tonic, Drunk Will stays buried in the armoire. For even though Drunk Will, AKA Slurricane, can attain such great heights, past that it's dark. And hell is hot.

Is the disappearance of Slurricane related at all to the relationship in which you currently find yourself? Is she a calming influence for you? What does she do?

Slurricane doesn't make the rounds because the vessel he uses is about to turn 30. If anything, my girlfriend wishes I drank more than I do. She's great in that she was an anchor at a time I was beginning to float into the sea. She's a manager at macaroni and cheese restaurant. Think mac and cheese with bechamel and pecorino and other bougie ingredients. It's good stuff, man.

To circle back to writing, what do you see yourself doing in that arena? Is there a form or genre to which you find yourself gravitating? A style you'd like to emulate? From whom do you draw inspiration as influences?

A chance encounter with a co-worker lead me down the screenwriting rabbit hole a few years ago. I'll play around with Final Draft from time to time. I don't expect to be the next Shane Black. I've always crafted narratives (not unlike The Cartoonist), given random backstories to the people you see on the bus. It took me nearly 30 years to realize that this is what I'd like to do for a living. Poetry was always my first love (my contempt for grammar probably tipped that hand). I don't know if I have an influence yet, at least an emulated one. My voice just seems snotty to me. Vonnegut makes me smile wryly on the world at large. Bukowski is a favorite uncle. Plath is my air and water. Eggers makes me feel like I'm not doing enough. Diaz makes me hot around the collar.

Also, I'm contemplating writing about the Royals this year. The idea is to call it "Kansas City Royals Teenage Angst" and host it on Tumblr. I'm hoping to pull off photoshops of Lorenzo Cain on Gerard Way's head, gamers written like ninth grade poetry and occasional analysis both analytically and esoterically. I'm only 66% joking about this.

Describe yourself in three sentences or less.

My body shares the same bone density as Alex Rios. Every girl is the end of the world. My little league baseball coach actually did tell me I had "Plus Speed."

What Royals Reviewer would you be most interested to meet in person? Why?

It's hard to whittle it down. royalcoffee and I would be able to nerd out over coffee, and he/she could fill me in on the state of the specialty coffee scene. Minx because we're of a similar age, and I feel a Gen-Xer in a millennial body kinship to her. Max sounds like the dad I always wanted--sorry if you're reading this, pops. Duggan and I seem to have have compatible senses of humor while Shaun and I have an admiration for loud, early aughts xRockCorex.

Or if Slurricane ever drifts over to the Kansan plains, I'm sure Kansas City Keith is the kid with the chemicals. Just kidding, booger sugar is gross.

And finally, Scott. Because I want to believe.

Because while I am an acolyte of "TrueSABR" concepts--like I wish we could replace Jumbotron stats with wRC+, wOBA, xFIP, etc.--I am also a strong believer in team chemistry. Not that I think it's as linear as its true believers would tout; I think a work environment's atmosphere improves productivity. True talent rules everything around me obviously. My only lament about the championship run is that I couldn't enjoy it in my ignorant days. In sport, you're taught that execution matters. I hate that smart punditry is that the playoffs are luck. They are a small sample size, but Carlos Correa still has to execute the catch and throw. Houston still has to win Game 5. Or, despite the fact the Royals and the Racists are projected differently, I will never think of them as more talented, despite understanding Steamer, ZiPS, etc. Sometimes it feels like a bug not a feature. Or that the Royals hacked the system in a way that isn't a recommended or easily repeated way. And that's why, while successful, it feels tenuous...

Anyway, I say Scott because I just want to learn more. And his flippant side reminds me of mine. I'd like to learn more from him. About numbers, life, New York, fatherhood. He's a good dude.