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Sunday Evening Quarterback

My family and I went out of town this weekend to visit relatives in South Georgia. We waited until after suppertime and bathtime on Friday night, then left at bedtime so the kids could sleep in the car on the way down.

Due to our late departure time, I was on the verge of shutting down my computer and hitting the road with my wife and children when I received an e-mail from Burnt Orange Nation’s Peter Bean at 7:02 p.m. on July 25, 2008. Because the subject of that e-mail has not yet divulged publicly all of the details Peter conveyed in it, I will not reproduce it in its entirety, but its gist was clear enough; viz.:

Sunday Morning Quarterback’s Matt Hinton is leaving SB Nation.

I’ll let SMQ himself give you such details as he will:

After a couple months of wary circling, swooped in and made and offer your poor, grad-schoolin' host could not refuse. The last post on Sunday Morning Quarterback will go up in a couple weeks, when I'll also let readers know where to find me for the upcoming season. Only hint: that place doesn't exist yet.

Although that passage leaves much unsaid, it should make this much clear: Matt, like Every Day Should Be Saturday’s Spencer Hall, isn’t so much leaving us as he is making the switch between being a dedicated hobbyist (at least from the I.R.S.’s perspective) and being a professional compensated on a full-time basis.

In this respect, Matt’s career advancement is unqualifiedly good news, which is both well deserved and long overdue. I once wrote, and I still believe, that college football would be better off if Matt Hinton replaced Myles Brand as head of the N.C.A.A., and, quite frankly, there was no justice to be found in the notion that Stewart Mandel made a better living writing about college football than Matt Hinton. (Had Matt hired me to negotiate his first contract---which, for the record, he did not---I would have insisted upon a Nick Saban-like guarantee that Matt would always be paid at least one dollar more per annum than Mandel.)

Unlike Spencer, however, Matt decided that he would be unable to maintain his current weblog and assume a full-time position elsewhere. I both understand and regret this decision, and, although I wish him every success, I cannot claim that the news was not bittersweet. It didn’t ruin my weekend or anything---my father and I took my son fishing for the first time on Saturday, and the boy caught his first fish with his first cast, so I had a great weekend---but, while I am glad Matt has been given this opportunity, I am sad to see a colleague and a friend moving on from SB Nation.

On December 12, 2005, Peter became the first truly to give Matt his due by opining:

So his team is Southern Mississippi? We couldn't care less about them, either, but the beauty of this great blog is that he spends most of his words on college football in general. Also the winner of our "Best Up and Coming Blog," Sunday Morning QB writes well, knows his football, and has excellent thematic structure to his weekly content. We're impressed.

On March 4, 2008, Spencer minced no words and told no lies when he wrote of Matt:

The pinnacle of college football writing today. Today, anywhere, anyone, anywhere. He’s a better prose constructionist than any of them, a one-man set of Wonder Twins capable of morphing into whatever tool you need. . . .

[N]o one’s better. No one. Strip the gears, rebuild the engine, pop the restrictor plate off the engine, and he’s still lapping you on the ovals, short tracks, and road courses. Our own words are an insult to his fine writing, writing you may find at any spot on his site. We’ll stop typing now and just bow in the general direction of Austin, Texas, and declare you the winnah. We suggest you, reader, do the same. Congrats, SMQ.

It is no accident that, in the posting announcing his impending departure, Matt expressed his gratitude to Peter, Spencer, and MGoBlog’s Brian Cook---there are few bloggers who are not beholden to these three gentlemen directly (with the list of those who are most certainly including me) and none in the college football realm who are not in their debt indirectly---but the accolades thrown Matt’s way by these and other bloggers were heartfelt and warranted.

Although I do not occupy the same plane as those Matt mentioned by name, I have been grateful for his presence in the blogosphere and I have enjoyed my exchanges with Sunday Morning Quarterback, who is a class act, a good guy, and every bit as good as Spencer claimed.

I am left uncertain how to react. I would call for Matt’s jersey to be retired, only we don’t assign numbered uniforms in the blogosphere. I would put my meager talents as a songwriter to use in penning a Don McLeanesque paean, but, although the site is coming to an end, Buddy Holly will continue to cut albums, as it were, so such a dirge would be excessive.

I am at a loss for words, which is only fair, since, as Spencer noted, no one knows how to use them better than Matt, anyway. Here, then, is SMQ himself:

I was part of a very small, informal audience not long ago for the dean of a journalism school who refered dismissively to "so-called 'citizen journalists'" - a ridiculous term to begin with, since of course all journalists are citizens, with no more or less rights to access than anyone else as a matter of law - and I shrugged it off as a spontaneous throwaway line from a veteran lapsing for a second back to 2001. Professionals understand the meritocratic nature of Web reporting and commentary, regardless its trappings, especially when they are at the head of a program that includes as a matter of necessity an emphasis on "new media" and its corresponding relationship with more traditional outlets. Besides, since I adamantly do not practice journalism here at SMQ, it's nothing personal. Everybody knows what time it is. Whatever. . . .

My point: Yammer, peons, yammer away, and paint the walls erected by your money-grubbing media forebears, and over one another's splatters, and erect new walls, and fight about it, until somebody new comes along to the table so you can rage against their impertinence, too. Same as it ever was.

As I noted at the time, Matt Hinton was right to write those words in May 2007, which is why he is wrong now to claim that "SMQ Sells Out." No, he hasn’t; in an era in which the lines increasingly are blurred, a greater infusion of green merely shifts him between shades of grey. (Maybe that’s what Orson Swindle was trying to tell me right around the time he publicly revealed his secret identity as Spencer Hall.)

So, yes, Matt Hinton is the best writer in the college football blogosphere, in the same sense that Elle MacPherson was passably attractive in "Sirens," and, yes, he’s moving on from Sunday Morning Quarterback. How, then, are we to bid farewell to SMQ?

The only way this lifelong Georgia fan knows to say it is to put it the way Larry Munson would, secure in the knowledge that Matt will appreciate the depth and sincerity of the compliment contained in the comparison:

"There goes Hinton . . . there goes Hinton . . . there goes Hinton. . . ."