TLO at 10: The Clark Matthews Retrospective
10:15 AM EDT on May 10, 2017
If you haven't read the harrowing magnum opus Royce Young wrote about his daughter, you really should. The TLDR version is that Royce, ESPN's beat writer for the Thunder, and his wife, Kerri, were expecting a second child. During the ultrasound – a time of excitement for most pregnancies – they not only learned the fetus was a girl, but also that she had a rare abnormality that assured she would never survive more than a few hours beyond birth. Royce tells the story of her death and birth (in that order) in a way that is equal parts heartbreaking and inspirational.
For me, it was a trip down memory lane.
I promise this will become a retrospective of The Lost Ogle, but first I need to backtrack a bit. During Labor Day weekend of 2005, I was attending a bachelor party for the guy who had been the best man at my wedding a few years before. It was a de facto fraternity reunion attended by guys I had lived with over four years but hardly seen in the five years since. We had just met up at a restaurant and were exchanging small talk about how my wife was expecting, about how she had just started the fifth month and how that--hopefully--meant the morning sickness was ending, et cetera. Then, my phone rang.
The bachelor party was over for me. I collected myself for just a few minutes and then hustled to my car where I drove as fast as I safely could to Mercy Hospital, arriving just minutes after Mrs. Matthews had been admitted. Her uterus had taken "Labor Day" literally.
While the standard way of referring to the length of pregnancy is "nine months" it is really closer to ten--forty weeks. My child had just completed its eighteenth week of the process. Needless to say, it was not time for his arrival. This was extremely early labor, and even with the best medicine available, our son was a long-shot to survive being born. So, the doctors did what they could to delay. Surprisingly, it worked.
Until it didn't.
For six weeks, they pumped her full of drugs that attempted to get her uterus to relax and stop trying to evict our son. Complicating the matter was that a week in, her water broke, so he was swimming in an empty pool while we tried to buy him time to get bigger. Eventually, the contractions could not be kept at bay, and in the middle of October, our first child was stillborn.
I clung to knowing her humanity would be validated to me when I saw her as a living, breathing human being. I would hold my daughter and be her daddy. I wanted to watch her die, because that would mean that I got to watch her live. Think about that one for a second. Now it was all gone. I longed for just five minutes with her, heck, five seconds with her. All of that practical stuff about organ donation was irrelevant to me now. I just wanted to hold my baby girl and see her chest move up and down. I just wanted to be her daddy, if only for a few seconds.
Reading that passage destroyed me, because this is exactly what hit me hardest while staring down at my child that never drew a breath. I looked across the room at my father, sobbing at the loss of his first grandchild, and it dawned on me that my son was denied the opportunity to have a relationship with me. I would never take him to little league games, teach him to ride a bike, or even change his diaper. It haunts me even now.
So, you could say I was in a pretty dark place at that point.
While this was going on, a pretty significant moment was taking place in Oklahoma City. The week before Mrs. Matthews started labor, Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the Gulf Coast. During our hospital stay, the primary topic on the news was the aftermath on, mostly, New Orleans. By the time she checked out, New Orleans' NBA basketball team had already played preseason games at the Ford Center.
I had dreamed of Oklahoma City having an NBA team (that I would play on) as a child shooting baskets on the driveway. But even then, I never believed it could actually happen. So, part of that becoming a reality combined with a need for a positive escape outlet and a job that wasn't challenging me led to my first encounter with Patrick.
Patrick's entrepreneurial spirit had spurred him to create a website that catered to Oklahoma City based fans of the newly dubbed New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. I was one of the early followers of HornetsCentral.com, which at that time, was almost exclusively a message board. For those who don't remember message boards, imagine the comment section being the entire draw of a website.
These days, I can't believe something like that appealed to me. But, oh boy, did it? I would write novel length message posts about what the Hornets needed to do to become playoff contenders, why the team should relocate to Oklahoma City permanently, which players the team should consider in the draft, and perhaps most poignantly, an essay about why Chris "The Birdman" Andersen's drug suspension was less about an idiot throwing away his life, and more about mental health and drug addiction.
After I posted that one, I got an email from some dude I had never met before, but I knew through the magic of the internet as the owner of the site I had spent many hours using. Patrick wanted to beef up the "blog" portion of the site and offered me an opportunity to be a featured writer. I'm not going to lie, I felt like I had finally been discovered. I was going to the big time, though actually it just meant I was going to have my profile raised on the message board part of the site, the part most of the community actually cared about.
Fast forward about a year and the tea leaves were reading that the Hornets were heading back to Louisiana permanently. However, some businessmen from Oklahoma had just purchased the Seattle Supersonics, who despite insisting they would attempt to keep the team in Washington, few people really believed them. Least of all, me. It was at this time I started lobbying Patrick to roll the web site over to a Sonics-centric version.
He had a different idea.
It may surprise you to learn that the idea was the seed that would become the website you are reading currently. Probably not, the bread crumbs have been laid. At the time, he described it as a website where we would talk about Oklahoma related things. He namedropped websites like Deadspin and What Would Tyler Durden Do? as spirit animals, but having never visited either, I had zero idea what he was going for and less confidence that a general topic of Oklahoma could truly have any staying power.
"I can write about sports," I told him with the economy of words I reserve for the spoken variety.
As the transition started to take place, though, I began to see the fertility in the subject matter. One day, while discussing the weather in a HornetsCentral thread, one person began bad mouthing Gary England as a forecaster. The ferocity with which this man was rebutted was incredible. The discussion went on for days with many of those coming to Gary's defense--myself included--bordering on cultlike devotion. The man behind "Those Terrible Twisters" was our deity. So I shot Patrick a quick email suggesting our fledgling site be named "TheChurchofGaryEngland.com."
Patrick politely rejected it, as he had already registered The Lost Ogle, and preferred its succinctness. I could tell he was excited that I finally embraced what was happening.
During the launch, I was going through a life change. That unchallenging job that allowed me to waste tons of time on timewasting websites packed up and moved to Houston. I considered following the company for about fifteen seconds before realizing that Houston is North America's undeodorized armpit, and that my family would kill me for taking my newborn son 500 miles down the road. Luckily for the website and the ClarkPupp's college fund, I quickly found a new job that I hated. So, I still needed an escape.
My sadistic new boss, who hired me after an interview in which I expressed zero desire to spend my life in Houston, sent me to Houston on my first job assignment. That's how I wound up out of town and mostly incommunicado during the launching of The Lost Ogle. One night, homesick in a hotel, missing my wife and tiny baby, I checked my email and realized that the site had gone live. I logged in to find that most of the articles were written by some guy named "Tony" who I had never communicated with at all. (He explained why that was the case recently.) Feeling like a slacker, I dashed off a lame posting about how I missed Oklahoma City--though I'd really only been gone for a couple of weeks.
For the next five-plus years, TheLostOgle.com was my passion. Every conversation I had or article I read was processed through the filter of my mind into how it could be incorporated into a posting on the site. If it couldn't, I usually lost interest.
While I generally wrote about sports, as I agreed to do in the beginning, I also branched out to politics at times. The most fun, however, came from the collaboration. Tossing around ideas for listicles and improving jokes about recent headlines were daily highlights. While I take pride in much of the work I did while I was involved, I mostly just marveled at how much better Patrick, Tony, and later, Marisa were at writing than me. Being affiliated with those three and having any role whatsoever in helping build this incredible alternative news source has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Outside of the day-to-day, "The Ogle" had a way of getting me out of my incredibly strong shell. There were the times I walked around taking pictures of Cardboard Jim, or the pub crawl. We had contributor banquets where I got to meet great people like Chelsea, Spencer, and Chad.
Of course, the Ogle also got me into contact with more adversarial people, like the former television meteorologist who shall not be named, a guy who turned out to be running a pill mill, a lawyer who had designs on becoming a district judge, and an internet meteorologist who all wanted to shut us down. Coming into contact with them sucked.
My favorite part of being a Lost Ogle founder, though, was probably overhearing random people discussing articles they read. When that happens, I get to quietly pretend that I was Clark Kent instead of Clark Matthews. Good times.
It is hard to believe that it has already been ten years since it began, but it will not be hard to believe it continuing another ten.
Thanks to everyone who has ever contributed. Thanks to the readers for giving us a reason to contribute. Thanks to Patrick for talking me into getting involved, and unwittingly helping me through a very tough time.
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