Monk Campaign Disperses
Mitt Romney suspended his campaign today, and many of those who worked on his behalf will now find other causes to promote, other candidates to back.
A different campaign ended last weekend, but the forces behind that campaign will retire from the advocacy business.
The Art Monk campaign was waged for years by the fans, from online petitions to those parking lot diehards who dressed in monk robes, from Tom Kercheval's video-heavy Monk4TheHall site to Ted Jou's Nexis-heavy Art Monk campaign blog. Hundreds if not thousands of their fellow fans confronted Hall voters directly, demanding Monk's inclusion.
Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z finally gave in under the onslaught, telling FanHouse's Michael David Smith "I'm tired of being the [expletive]," while SI.com's Don Banks no doubt spoke for many media members this week when he wrote "I'm glad Art Monk made the Hall of Fame. If only because it now puts the cottage industry known as the Art-Monk-deserves-to-be-in-the-Hall-of-Fame Washington lobbyist group out of business."
But Banks brought up an interesting point: what will these out-of-business lobbyists do with themselves now that they've won? Will they miss the solidarity, miss being part of a cause, miss gearing up for election season each February?
"I was thinking about this," Kercheval told me with a laugh. "I always thought, 'I wonder what politically oriented rock bands like U2 would do if suddenly there was peace in the world. Would they have anything to write about any more?' "
Kercheval is a 40-year-old video editor obsessed with the Gibbs I era; he amassed a collection of more than 100 VHS game broadcasts in and converted many of them to DVD. In late 2006, at the height of the "Elect Monk" madness, some friends encouraged him to get involved with Elect Monk.
Eventually, he made a 20-minute DVD, laying out the arguments against Monk and then attempting to refute them via video evidence. He then mailed copies to every Hall of Fame voter. Some e-mailed him their thanks; one sent a mass e-mail to the rest of the voters encouraging them to watch Kercheval's work.
After Monk didn't get in in 2007, Kercheval took his efforts online, posting about an hour of Monk-related footage, including video testimonials from Howard Cosell, Dan Fouts, Bill Walsh and scores of others. He estimated he spent between 50 and 100 hours on the campaign; his wife would say he was "all hopped up on Monk." Um, why?
"Not to deify the guy or make him seem like some superhuman person, but just the way he played and the way he produced just endeared him to so many people who wanted to see that example rewarded a little bit," he told me.
Jou, 26, started his Monk for the Hall blog several months before Kercheval began cutting Monk footage. As a UVA law student, he had access to news archives, and so he amassed ungodly numbers of excerpts from the voters that indicated their Monkish feelings and then scored their thoughts on a zero-to-10 scale, an effort that also took about 100 hours. He tracked down as many of the voters' e-mail addresses as possible, encouraging his readers to focus their passion on the 'No' voters, and then provided a comprehensive source for ongoing Monk coverage. Um, why?
"That's a good question," Jou said, but I think he had already answered it by talking about the Hall of Fame's electors.
"They're not direct representatives of us, but in a way they are," Jou said. "They can sort of try to brush it off, but when it comes down to it, I think the fans CAN make a difference."
And so what now? Friends have told Jou to turn his focus to Russ Grimm or Gary Clark, but his work was based on the controversy Monk had sparked--"it was already this phenomenon," he said--and that would be hard to duplicate. He plans a final post with Monk induction photos, and then darkness.
"I guess I'll miss it a little bit," he said. "It's fun being part of something, trying to make a difference, I guess, and that won't be there any more."
Friends have likewise told Kercheval to devote himself to Grimm videos, but as he pointed out, "it's kind of hard to put together a video highlight film for an offensive lineman. Maybe five years down the road I'll work on a Brandon Lloyd for the Hall page, if he finally makes a catch."
Both men had tapered off in recent months, since their initial body of work stood up over time. But Kercheval--who will keep his videos online for the near future--said he won't miss the long months of searching through esoteric statistical categories and trying to find corresponding visual evidence from '80s-era video, this campaign's equivalent of a snowy trek through New Hampshire.
"To be honest with you, I'm just so relieved that I don't have to scour the Internet for e-mail addresses for Hall of Fame voters any more," he said. "I don't have to look for their addresses, I don't have to try to figure out an obscure stat for Art that I can use to his advantage. It's a bit of relief that I don't have to do any of that any more. I don't feel an empty spot; I'm just happy he got in. I couldn't have asked for a better ending."
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