I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write this.
As most denizens of the Tigers blogosphere by now are unfortunately aware, we lost a great fan the other day. Brian Bluhm, known to many on the MotownSports message board as estrepe1, was a student at Virginia Tech, and was killed in the shooting.
Lynn Henning has an article up; it’s a good, albeit painful, read.
The internet is a powerful thing for college students, many of whom for the first time find themselves at a remove from their usual ‘communities’. I’m a baseball fan in the art school; many days the only way I can have an intelligent conversation about baseball is with someone online. Brian was a Tigers fan in Virginia. The internet was his way of stretching his Tigers-fan legs.
And stretch them he did. It’s tough to be any kind of fan and be removed from the rest of your fanbase, but Brian was that kind of fan that feels such removal more keenly than others: the rabid fan. He didn’t just enjoy baseball, he loved baseball with a consuming passion… and it’s not a leap for someone who only knew him “on the internet” to say that. Why else would he spend hours in front of a computer, talking to people scattered across the country and the world, most of whom he never expected to meet in person, discussing things like Andrew Miller’s ETA and Carlos Guillen’s contract? Any rabid sports fan recognizes that kind of behavior. It’s a labor of love.
It’s hard to describe to someone who isn’t a member of these online communities, but there is a true sense of, well, community, and any loss therein is painful to all. Brian was so integral a member of MotownSports that it’s hard, nearly impossible, to imagine the place without him. A new topic of discussion would come up– someone would get traded, someone’s bat would heat up, someone would throw a good game– and soon enough estrepe1 would be chiming in with his opinion. It’s something to look for when you first come to a new thread. Scan down it to see what the regulars have to say. Sometimes they’ll say something you agree with, sometimes not, sometimes they’ll say something that’ll make you roll your eyes or laugh. Regardless of what’s written, it’s good to know that those voices are there. It’s a comfort, in a way.
The untimely removal of one of those voices is jarring. It seems stupid, maybe, to feel genuine sorrow for someone you never knew in person, but community is community. That’s part of being a fan, right?
Brian was a fan. He was one of our fans. He loved the Tigers even from afar, loved them enough to want to talk about them all the time, think about them a lot, see what other people were thinking about them. He was a Curtis Granderson fan. He was intelligent and funny, and he knew so much about the Tigers that his opinions carried a lot of weight among many intelligent fans.
So now Brian’s friends and family are left to deal with his absence, and all our thoughts go out to them. And there are many more people, scattered all across the country and the world, who go about their business with a heavier heart, grieving for a member of a community we all belong to, even if we’ve never met.