TMM Season Zero: A Comprehensive User Manual

The Concept

The Mid-Majority was born on November 1, 2004. That was the day before George W. Bush's reëlection as President of the United States. 2004 was a year that featured a contentious vote, a separation between "blue" and "red" states, the encroachment of new technologies from new companies, debates over the proper balance of privacy and safety, and a deadly virus that began in Asia and spread worldwide. 

In other words, 2004 looked a little bit like 2020. With over a decade and a half of hindsight, perhaps 2004 can offer us some lessons on how to move beyond the challenges of our present moment. (As well as how not to.) Using basketball memories as a starting point, we have the opportunity to carefully reconstruct the sociocultural contexts in which those events originally occurred.

In order to move forward, we have to go back. TMM comes from the same year as the United States "Nightmare Team" at the Athens Olympics, the ascendance of Manu Ginóbili and Argentina, a Pistons-Pacers rivalry that peaked with Malice at the Palace, a UConn men's-women's double, the Maccabi Tel Aviv miracle in the EuroLeague, and a undefeated run to the NCAA Tournament by Saint Joseph's. Back in 2004, with a narrow focus on mid-major basketball and the daily challenge of building an audience from nothing, there wasn't really time for The Mid-Majority to talk about any of that. 

There's time now. Welcome to TMM Season Zero.

The Timeline

TMM Season Zero will begin on Sunday, November 1. Starting in November, TMM will present 40 basketball stories from 16 years ago, one per week. As is longstanding tradition, the TMM website will be refreshed with newly redesigned graphics on its birthday at midnight ET. The first chapter will be released shortly thereafter. 

New chapters will be released every Sunday until August 8, 2021. The chapters will be untitled, numbered 1 through 40, and posted out of order. At the end of Season Zero, they will be compiled in a multimedia EPUB book (in the correct order) and given to TMM tiered supporters in October 2021.

There is a trailer. This is that trailer.

There will be supplemental content. Pleasenjoy TMM Radio 2004, playing throwback jamz to make you cringe. On Fridays, TMM will post curated Spotify playlists of music somehow related to the upcoming chapter. On Wednesdays, a Season Zero podcast will contain personal recollections—basketball and otherwise—from 2004. 

You can share your own personal 2004 story. Unlike most pods, this one doesn't require an invitation to join. Simply make a telephone call to (802) 331-2004, then follow the voice prompt. Using a flip phone is not necessary, but it will help jog your memory about 2004. Tell TMM your basketball memories, who you were dating if you were old enough, what was in your wardrobe, what kinds of technology you used, and what music you were listening to. 

There will be a paywall. Access to all newly-posted Season Zero content will be password-protected and limited to TMM supporters for 30 days. After 30 days, the content will become publicly accessible.

The Support

TMM was one of the very first crowdfunded sports sites, fully and fiercely independent since 2009. Whether you've been supporting these efforts for a decade-plus or are just joining TMM on its ongoing expedition, financially supporting Season Zero is definitely going to be worth your while.

TMM now offers Patreon as a support option. A common complaint via The Form™ during Season 16 was that dealing with PayPal is unnecessarily unwieldy and cumbersome, especially for readers who do not live in the United States and/or have non-American currency. PayPal has been TMM's primary donation processor since February 2006—and that's a long ass ride—but their systems and processes haven't evolved much since then. For these inconvenient reasons and others, and because there is no other viable or preferable alternative, TMM is now on Patreon. Patreon is the website you are looking at right now.

If you are not a TMM supporter yet, your time is today. For as little as five USD per month, you can access all 40 TMM Season Zero chapters 30 days before they are publicly available. For ten, you get supplemental 2004 content, plus a wide array of tangential benefits: an extra Pickball pick; full access to the 10-channel Pixelvision network (including the revived Hoop, Hoopflix and RINK streams); community access (more on that in a bit); plus a spot in Season 2 of the college basketball pick'em game UP!set, coming in late November. Unlike last year, UP!set will be limited to tiered subscribers only.

If you are a Bally Club™ GOLD member, there's no need to do anything. If you subscribe to TMM via PayPal and are cool with it, TMM is cool with it too. But please keep reading: activating certain Season Zero features will require action on your part, including but not limited to manually typing out a 2004-style email.

If you are subscribed via PayPal, switching to Patreon is easy. You can cancel your PayPal subscription here, then come back to Patreon to complete the transition. Patreon will charge you today, then automatically knock your card on the 1st in future months. If you use Patreon already, your support of TMM will be combined with the pledges to all those hyperniche podcasts you like so much.

All $1 PayPal subscriptions will be automatically cancelled on November 1. PayPal withholds a minimum of 33 cents on each transaction as a processing fee. Depending on volume, transferring funds to a legitimate FDIC-ensured financial institution costs between 10 and 90 cents. It doesn't require CPA training to realize that TMM is literally losing money on $1 monthly pledges. If you insist on giving TMM $1 per month and nothing more, to keep the 2004-2014 archives online, please switch to Patreon and perform a custom pledge. (Please note that you will not receive Season Zero benefits.) If you are unable or unwilling to continue your TMM membership: your past support has been profoundly appreciated, and best of luck on future projects.

The Sportz Institute

Reconstructing 2004 will require minimalism and focus. That's why all of the post-postmodern streaming media, gaming experiences and ancillary widgets from Season 16—including Pixelvision, Pickball and UP!set—have been spun off to a new entity: The Sportz Institute. That is a semi-ironic inside joke that only longtime Millenni-X Mid-Majority readers could ever possibly pretend to appreciate. 

The Sportz Institute is real. If you are a TMM monthly subscriber via PayPal, you may have already noticed that your October receipt says "The Sportz Institute" on it.

The Sportz Institute's twin campuses are located in Düsseldorf and Helsinki. Robots in white labcoats work around the clock in GMT+2 to create experimental digital experiences just for you. The Robots are your friends.

It is pronounced "schports". Not "sports".

The Community

The Sportz Institute is now on Discord. During Season 16, TMM readers expressed a modest amount of interest in reviving the community features that were an integral part of The Mid-Majority a decade ago. The "TMM Community" met on proto-Twitter and in web-enabled weekly chats, and bonded deeply over a shared American small-college underdog experience. These human connections were the only reason anyone tolerated the tedium of endless essays, or the annual disruption of major design overhauls.

Discord is nothing to be afraid of. Discord is a communication platform created by people from the aughts who value linear threaded discussions and enjoy terrible sci-fi puns. It is as close to an old-school message board as you're going to get in 2020. Discord is also completely financed by subscriptions, and therefore not beholden to commercial interests or susceptible to offshore propaganda. They will not completely sell you out like Twitter and Facebook do.

This will be same same but different. TMM Folks have always been the type who just want to Be Good, get through life in one piece, and leave the world in slightly better shape than they found it. TMM Community II aims to be another small, friendly and chill place for like-minded people, where you'll always feel at home whenever you find the time to visit. 

There are two community rules. There were a pair of unwritten edicts in the old Chat Blocks: no politics, and no creepy. These two rules are now zero-tolerance three-strikes commandments. If you can't get through an online conversation without starting an argument about saving the world or talking about what you want to do to others, don't bother joining. If you can: now more than ever, yeah?

What did you do today? There's even a channel in the Discord where you can just post what you did today, just like those BBS boards from the 1990s used to have. If there were more simple and pleasant online forums like that, maybe folks wouldn't feel the need to use Twitter like a DM group chat. (It is not a DM group chat.)

It's okay to be a lurker. The Sportz Institute Discord contains a variety of experiential sportz widgets. Pixelvision features include one-click access to streams, as well as daily and hourly channel schedules. Want to watch live hoops instead? There are FIBA competitions, and games from France and Turkey. There's one streaming film recommendation per day from the Basketball Movie Database. Keep up to date on former mid-major ballers overseas in the International Player Tracker, and talk up your favorites.

Sportz means more than just basketball. Try out the Minor League Baseball random games podcast (it's better than the Calm app), or stay tuned to the newest epic Whelly-Harsky collab Dead Football League.

The Discord is where the games are. You don't need to support TMM to play Pickball, but the Sportz Institute Discord has a new "Pickball Players' Lounge" with daily point sheets and realtime updates of games gone final. You can chat, talk smac and exchange tips with other players too. Once the NCAA men's and women's seasons bring about a new round of UP!set, it'll take place completely in the #upset Discord channel. By way of connective logic, that is why you can't play UP!set without being a TMM supporter.

Qualified Patreon supporters will be automatically added to the Discord. "Qualified" in this context: subscribing via Patreon or Paypal at 10 USD or more per month. Here's the email part that came up earlier. If you are a current Bally Club GOLD™ member who would like to maintain support via PayPal, please drop a note to [email protected] with your Discord handle. You will be given the correct role on the server, and receive an invite code within 0-24 hours.

Discord isn't something that's just for Zoomers and furries. If you are over 40 years old, this is Discord's website, which includes instructions on how to install its application on your telephone and/or computer. It's a lot better than Twitter and Facebook. Follow us to freedom.

Did anyone mention there are Bally emotes? There are Bally emotes.

The Credits

Time to switch to third person for a minute. Kyle Whelliston has operated TMM since 2004 through all its various annual manifestations. He is a former senior writer at ESPN.com, covered mid-major basketball for Basketball Times for three years, blogged at Basketball Prospectus for two seasons, and is the author of five books. Kyle also co-authored "Sole Purpose" with Samaritan's Feet founder Manny Ohonme, and "I Don't Mind Hitting Bottom, I Just Hate Dragging" with basketball coach Tony Ingle. He's trilingual and doesn't like animals. The more I learn about this "Kyle" dude, the more I think he's legitimately qualified to spend the next ten months writing 40 chapters about 2004.

The End

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