Content is fascinating to me as a mythologist. What captures our attention and keeps it? What are the components of a good story or a charismatic storyteller? Conversely, what makes us turn away from content or personalities? When has a show or a person "jumped the shark" or lost its edge?
I don't spend a whole lot of time on conventional TV anymore except for sports, but I do still access entertainment-- especially online. Two of my favorites in the past few years have been Gary Vaynerchuk's Wine Library TV, and the ESPN Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast of Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz.
"Past few years" indicates these guys have kept my attention. Vaynerchuk is an ultra-charismatic host, someone who built a huge audience just by tasting wine and telling us his impressions. Along the way, he became a consultant, speaker, and author, and he continues his rise.
Berry is also charismatic, a very funny, charming, witty guy, who makes for great diversion while gathering information for your fantasy baseball league team. With his partner, the straight man Ravitz, he tells listeners who's doing well in baseball and who's not, who he thinks will do well, and who you should have on your team. He's a pundit and a prognosticator and is substantially responsible for the rise of fantasy sports in the past couple of decades.
I like both these guys a lot. They are not for everyone: they are in, frankly, niche markets. But for those who are in the markets, they provide high quality entertainment for free. You just have to be, well, a geek.
Recently, however, I have found myself turning away a bit from both Berry and Vaynerchuk, and for similar reasons, hopefully beneficial for them.
Both of these guys have become more famous than they were when they started their shows. They travel a lot and put their energies into many things. They appealed to me at the beginning because they were focused more wholly and closely on their shows. Nowadays-- at least to me-- they don't as much.
It's possible I never would have had this impression with Berry unless I had listened to him guest on the ESPN Bill Simmons podcast (April 29 of this year), which is apparently very popular. Berry worships Simmons, and he was very candid in telling Simmons that he wanted to be more like Simmons-- more of a general sports personality, not just known for fantasy sports. He made it clear that he had a very good job making money for playing and talking about a leisure activity. But he yearned for more.
Ever since then, I have listened to Berry's part of the podcast a little differently. Is his advice a little more slapdash than it would've been? Does he joke more about not giving good advice? And when he is not on the podcast, do the other guests with Ravitz stick more on topic? Just me, but yes on all counts.
Vaynerchuk, similarly, seems to have lost a little energy, a little passion, and perhaps he's noticed this. I was really astonished to receive a group email from him (one day before the Simmons podcast, April 28) letting me and others know who had not been commenting lately that he missed us.
There must have been something in the stars those two days.
Part of my turning away from Wine Library TV is just that I can't afford wine. But part of it is that after almost 900 fun and entertaining episodes, Gary Vaynerchuk, like Matthew Berry, is bound for better, or at least bigger, things, and for me that makes each episode have a farewell type of character. And I hate goodbyes.
Vaynerchuk talks a lot about passion-- doing what you love as much as you can do, and he is living it in moving beyond wine alone and into things like motivational speaking, brand consulting, and prophecy about the future of the Internet and social media. I'll continue to follow him, but probably drink just a little less wine along the way.
As to Berry, I'll continue to listen to the podcast and take whatever advice he has to give until he moves on. Unlike wine, fantasy baseball costs nothing but the time it takes to do it. Wait a minute... I knew there was a novel I was supposed to be working on...