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The Soxaholix

The Soxaholix is a comic-based blog published by pseudonymous Hart Brachen (similar to heartbroken) for Boston Red Sox fans to discuss the team and other sports-related news. Occasionally during the television season, the blog also discusses the television drama, Lost. The site began just prior to the 2004 baseball season. The author references many different sources of classic literature, modern literature, television shows, popular culture, and internet culture through the characters' dialogue. The setting for the comic centers around a group of office co-workers in Boston and each daily strip focuses on the conversation of two of the characters in a back-and-forth manner similar to the comic Get your war on.

Readership averaged 1,600 visitors per day in 2005 with sometimes as many as 12,000 readers in a single day. The site has been recognized by a number of prominent online award committees and sports websites for incisive wit and mix of high-brow as well as low-brow humor, including a 2005 article in The Wall Street Journal. It was also mentioned in the March 2, 2007 All Things Considered story concerning baseball fandom on NPR.

History

Hart Brachen, a pseudonym to cover the author's true identity, grew up in New Hampshire and attended college in Boston. He then attended graduate school at a university in the South. Always a Red Sox fan, the author found the comic style of Get your war on appealing and chose to use the method to describe his thoughts about the Red Sox, especially given their heart-breaking end at the hands of the New York Yankees in the 2003 postseason.

One of the first entries included a discussion of blogger Ana Marie Cox and a link to her blog, Wonkette. She linked to the entry from her popular website and The Soxaholix received a large amount of attention very quickly. Readership remains high and the website garners more attention when the team is doing well, such as during and after the 2004 World Series. The author was interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article shortly after the Red Sox lost to the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 postseason.

Format

Style

The TypePad blog entries are written in a comic-strip style using only one or two positions for each character's appearance. The dialogue is written in plain HTML above the character's "talk bubble" instead of incorporated into the images; this allows for alternate browsing such as cell phones and RSS syndication. The strip is created in BBEdit and Fireworks MX on an Apple iMac. The original blog used clipart directly from Microsoft Office, but the current artwork is obtained from completely original sources.

Characters

Bill Callaghan is one of the major characters used by Brachen in the strip. Callaghan's character portrays an office manager in an IT environment. The dialogue given to Bill by the author balances between pessimism and pragmatism regarding the Red Sox. In order to display the stereotypical Red Sox fan, the current fate of the team determines what attitude is assigned to Bill each day. The author describes Bill as a "...cross between David Brent in the BBC sitcom The Office and the Dabney Coleman character Buffalo Bill from the 80's sitcom of the same name."

Doug Roy, a counter-part to Bill in a large number of the strips, gives voice to the author's darker side. Conversations by phone between Bill and Doug in the strip show that when Bill's character sounds optimistic, Doug's portrayal is just as equally cynical. Further, Doug is described as being younger than Bill. This allows the character to not seem as tied into the Red Sox history and pathos as Bill, choosing to evaluate the team with a more current and hip mindset.

Mike Sweeney is given the role of an office employee under the supervision of Callaghan. He frequently appears as the author's voice against the more established Boston sports media. In order to do this, the author stays up to date with the latest online news concerning the team via blogs and fan websites and relays this information via Sweeney. The reader is quick to recognize that Sweeney is less prone to suffer the losses of the team than Callaghan. This leads to the character always looking for the silver lining at all times regarding the team's performance.

Tara Hemmings allows the author to comment from a more rational and statistically-based point of view. Her portrayal as an African American female in a mainly white male office gives a presentation as an outsider. This often results in dialogue using sabermetrics and occasionally making fun of the other characters and their passions for the team.

Susan Wentworth (aka Circle), according to the author, is the newest and youngest member of the office, filling a vacant graphic designer position. In order to present a more artistic and bon savante attitude for the character, Susan asked her co-workers call her "Circle" for the same reason as the character Sarah in Geoff Dyer's Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It

Arturo the Hot Dog Vendor is an occasional character who likes to "tell it like it is". His introduction as a rough street vendor gives a talking place for Roy to be strongly sardonic. Most of the time, Arturo is used by the author to include the more ribald links and pictures.

Marty Silverstein is an antagonist that speaks out for a Yankees point of view. Brachen gives this character the stereotypical loudmouthed fan attitude that most Red Sox fans know one example of in their life. The character's backstory includes time with Callaghan from their college days. His smug, upper East Side dialogue is used in phone calls to Bill every so often, typically after a Yankees win and Red Sox loss, just to gloat.

Steve Xiang is used for representing transplants to New England, specifically from the West Coast. In his backstory, he came to Boston just before the Red Sox played the Mets in the 1986 World Series that captured the entire town's attention. Because of this insight into the character, the reader can understand how Xiang became instantly attached to the team and frequently talks with the other office characters, playing into each of their personalities.

Al appeared in 2007 as a new set of scenarios were introduced by the author. Included in the new set was a water cooler situation including Bill, Doug, and a heavier set office worker named Al who has not yet received significant character development.

Lisa the Temp is a minor character, making a one- or two-panel appearance whenever the regular Soxaholix characters are absent. Because of the perceived status of temporary workers in modern offices, Lisa is generally resentful of the other characters and even the readers. This is adequately relayed by the dialogue assigned to her when conveying the message that there will be no significant blog/comic entry for the day.

A Green Line T Train is the panel reserved for when Brachen chooses to speak as himself directly to the reader. This is often the case when technical difficulties or other occurrences get in the way of the publishing of new strips. Beginning during the 2006 baseball season, a computer terminal with no one around has also acted in a capacity halfway between the T train's direct communications and Lisa the Temp's more aggressive style.

Awards and recognition

  • Blogdom's Best: Boston Red Sox - named the best Red Sox-related blog by Deadspin.
  • 2005 Webby Worthy Selection - awarded to sites and teams demonstrating a standard of excellence and outstanding caliber of work.
  • 2005 South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival Finalist - "Best Blog".
  • 2005 Bloggie Awards Finalist - "Best Non-Weblog Content of a Weblog Site".

See also

References

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