Say what you have to say, not what you ought. —Henry David Thoreau
This is the introduction to a series that we’ve been thinking about for a long time.
The idea behind Open Mic is to give a platform to interesting and influential people around the outdoor sports scene, to provide a space for athletes, owners, and others to say exactly what is on their minds.
This assumes, of course, that something actually is on their minds—an assumption that might seem pretty ill-founded if based upon the typical interviews and guest columns you see in the outdoor sports industry. Far too often, these features are totally predictable and just sort of…dumb.
But I’ve met enough of these individuals to know that a good number of them have more going on in their lives and in their heads than the magazines and websites would lead you to believe.
The problem here isn’t that nobody around these sports has anything worth saying. The problem, I think, is that the magazines and websites basically assume that you, dear reader, are stupid. They assume that you are incapable of sitting still and reading anything, even if it’s interesting; that if they don’t keep absolutely everything super short and painfully simple, you will abandon the article or interview and go back to watching things explode on YouTube.
But I call bullshit.
And Open Mic is our response.
So we are contacting certain skiers, snowboarders, climbers, bike builders, and company owners, asking them some variation of these questions, and giving them this forum to answer:
What are you most passionate about right now?
What’s on your mind, what keeps you up at night?
What are you obsessed with, or angry about, or geeking out over?
That’s it. There are no other rules, no further parameters.
For all I know, Seth Morrison may want to tell us that he’s discovered the classical guitar, and that it’s blowing his mind. Lynsey Dyer might want to talk of some town in India that she can’t stop thinking about. It could be the honest-to-god truth that Jeremy Jones is absolutely taken with the art of film editing and the act of piecing together an experience on screen.
I don’t know what the answers will be, and what these people have to say is entirely up to them. Our only concern—and our only criterion—is that they say what they truly have to say, and not what they think their sponsors or peers or investors expect them to say.
I also don’t care if you or I find each of these Open Mic installments to be equally interesting. Open Mic is an experiment, and the only way it all goes down in flames is if everybody around the industry replies, “Sorry, I don’t actually have anything to say.” If that happens, then all the magazines and sites that have been posting vapid interviews and bland profiles will be vindicated, and I will owe them an apology.
Of course, it can be a bit nerve wracking to put yourself out there in this way, as more than one athlete and owner has admitted to me. It’s much easier just to stick to the script and trot out the same pat answers to the same pat questions. Say hello, plug your sponsors, play the game, get out. That’s pretty understandable, even if it is incredibly ironic in an industry that is all about taking risks and pushing beyond your comfort zone….
But fair is fair, and since this is all a bit unusual and perhaps a little unsettling, I’ve agreed to go first.
I don’t presume that anyone out there will be clamoring to read this; you might not find it interesting. That’s fine. Consider this merely the introduction to Open Mic.
But do check back. This is a good project, and we are eager to see how it all plays out.
Till then, you’ll find my answer to the question on the next page.