Johnny B Good

LA Times

A celebration of 5 years with John B and Gang Green Nation.

Johnny B Good

September 8, 2008. It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. On the worst side of the ledger, a day before, on September 7, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection, the final blow tipping the country and the world into full financial meltdown. Money markets seized up, and the value of money market funds dipped briefly below 100% on the dollar. Financial panic was in the air. Banks refused to lend to other banks, credit markets seized up, and only extraordinary measures orchestrated by central banks worldwide prevented a global financial collapse the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression. What ensued was the Great Recession, the effects of which the country and the world are still digging out from under 5 years later.

It was a bit more difficult to discern at the time the best side of the ledger. But for Jets fans, a flicker of light was lit in an obscure corner of the Web called Gang Green Nation. Here, in our community of Jets fans, an unknown blogger referred to as John B joined the SBN Jets blog Gang Green Nation as Editor In Chief. Legend has it John wanted to name the site www.WeWantSapp.com. However, eventually the name Gang Green Nation was settled on and the Jets blogosphere would never be the same.

John originally had a small blog on AOL that only attracted a few visitors. That site has since been torn down. According to John, he had been interested in leading the SBN Jets site from the beginning and submitted his application, but others were chosen ahead of him, much to his chagrin and SBN’s detriment. The editors of those predecessor sites were not successful in building a thriving Jets fan community and they moved on to other things, and that's when SBN found John's AOL site. Most of the visitors in the beginning were Brett Favre fans, as Favre had just signed on as the Jets new franchise QB. Fortunately for Gang Green Nation members, John’s staying power far exceeded Favre’s. There were a couple of writers who came and went before the legendary early cast of David Wyatt, David Vill, Matt Birch and Ryan Alfieri came aboard, but for various reasons those unnamed early writers didn’t work out and they have been consigned to GGN’s Peter Best role (and if you don’t know who Peter Best was, look him up).

Matt Birch and Ryan Alfieri eventually both moved on to Bleacher Report, but the two Davids, Wyatt and Vill, remained, and together with John continued to build something special together. Later, as the site grew, such luminaries as bobdolethesnapplelady and Bro Namath were brought on to contribute their special talents to the growing world of GGN, along with Jeff W and GangGreenMag. Sadly, bobdolethesnapplelady was later killed in a tragic fishing accident, eaten alive by a giant Salmon. The moderators Judgegavel, rexthejet, MachlinT and Tamarack were brought on to help keep the rapidly burgeoning site the kind of place which would make us all proud. Finally, over the last year or so, the site has grown so much a new crop of writers were recruited, including sp0rtsfan86, Rich MacLeod, Henry Strawder, ConnorSmo, Tito Javier, LilMissNYJet, and of course, me, Smackdad.

The early days were not so easy for John and his team. For the first several months John was pretty much holding down the fort by himself. At that time GGN had a couple hundred visitors or so and only two or three members who regularly contributed. But John had a vision. He was convinced that GGN was going to be a tremendous success, despite us being the last NFL team to have a blog on SB Nation. The amount of time and effort John put in to build GGN from scratch was, and continues to be, staggering. Readers will only see whatever John publishes, but back in the early days especially, he would be working behind the scenes more than he was writing on the site. The early staff would talk a lot and brainstorm ideas and through John’s enormous dedication and hard work, leadership, vision and guidance the site has really flourished into what it is today. With sites like Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Yahoo! Sports routinely linking to GGN, this website has turned into what John always knew it could be – the go to site for Jets fans and the best damn Jets site on the internet.

In celebration of 5 years with the inimitable John B and GGN (OK, OK, it isn’t QUITE five years yet, but the actual anniversary falls on Opening Day, and we wanted John to have the spotlight to himself, so here we are), the staff would like to thank John for everything he has done and everything he has meant to GGN and each of us. Please join us in celebrating this momentous occasion as we share a little bit about what John has meant to us. We also invite and encourage each of you to celebrate this anniversary by sharing a bit in the comments section about what John and GGN has meant to each of you over the years.

The Pioneers

DAVID WYATT

I've known John now for nearly 4 years, honestly it feels more like 40. GGN has always been one of the very best Jets websites since it's inception; the only difference between now and 5 years ago is the community and the fact people now know about GGN. John was producing the same excellent content 5 years ago as he is today. With the help of the whole team, those who are still here and those who moved on, we have managed to create one of the premier Jets sites on the internet, and a lot of that has to do with John B, his dedication, the work he has put in and his tireless pursuit of great topics of conversation.

I came to GGN 4 years ago this summer. I was posting some bits on Bleacher Report, mainly because it was the only site I could post any content on and have a few people read it. John approached me in 2009 about writing for GGN. I hadn't heard of the site but one look and I was convinced. A great set up, a professional look and when John explained to me what he and GGN were all about, I didn't hesitate in joining the team. In the early days it was really a handful of comments - anyone who has ever set up their own blog will know that when you're not always receiving feedback, it's hard to find motivation. However, John stuck to it and through it all we've come out smiling.

A lot of people won't appreciate just how much work John puts into this website. I've never emailed John, never messaged John without him responding to me extremely quickly, and that's not always easy with the time difference. He is the perfect editor-in-chief to work with, if you have a great idea he'll bounce some ideas with you. If you are stuck for content he'll always recommend some suggested topics without limiting your creative mind.

There isn't a lot more I can say about John or his hat that Scott loves so much. The proof is in the pudding. The visits, the comments, the respect and appreciation the name Gang Green Nation now holds among the Jets community, it's all down to the work that has been put in the last 5 years. Well, here is to the last 5 years, and to the next 5 years - which hopefully includes a Jets Super Bowl.

RYAN ALFIERI

When I was a sophomore in college, I stumbled onto GGN—and it wound up being a life-changing experience. As I spent more and more time writing for the site instead of paying attention to my business classes, I realized that sportswriting was my true calling. As a result, I changed majors and the rest is history.

Without the help of guys like Matt Birch, John B and everyone else who was on the site at the time, I would probably be sitting in an accounting office somewhere, hating every minute of it. GGN gave me a platform that launched a new, exciting passion of mine, and I will always be grateful for it.

MATT BIRCH (@MattOnNFL)

It was November 2009, and I had just watched Maurice Jones-Drew take a knee at the 1-yard line, so Josh Scobee could drill a game-winning chip-shot field goal, giving the Jags a 24-22 victory at the old Giants stadium, in a real stinker. Thomas Jones did everything he could to win the game, and Mark Sanchez did everything he could to lose it.

But all I could hear in the parking lot, were cries of "same ole' Jets." So of course I had to find somewhere to vent about it. I came across Gang Green Nation, and asked John B if I could write a guest post for the site. The rest is history.

Some backstory: Four years ago, GGN was a tight-knit group comprised of the same 5-6 committed daily-posters with a few other loyal readers, and only 148 followers on Twitter--with an average of 2-3 comments per posted article. John and I synced up in hopes of developing John's baby into something big, and decided it was time to recruit talent, and engage our audience via social media.

The Gang Green Nation brand spread like wildfire. Through the implementation of daily Jets news clips, giveaways and contests for its loyal readers and interacting with Jets fans on Twitter and Facebook—the site exploded. David Wyatt had recently joined in the site's early stages and Gang Green gurus Ryan Alfieri and David Vill were recruited as daily writers, and the site became one of the top Jets blogs on the Web—thanks to insightful content and the best reader base on the Internet. GGN's Twitter account now boasts 5,089 followers and harbors some of the longest, most thoughtful discussions on the Web.


And the one constant and driving force through the years has been John Butchko.

While pursuing a journalism degree in college, John gave me the opportunity to write, learn and connect with a great group of readers. And man—I was lucky enough to connect with some great people, and definitely learned a lot, especially to always fact and spell check! In one of my first posts, I incorrectly weaved 'Darele Revis' into the text of an article--I hit refresh to doublecheck everything after publishing, and was already corrected by a reader! I vowed to never make that mistake again, as it was clear this reader base was intelligent and plugged in.

Let's just say GGN's readers clearly weren't schooled in Florida or Texas' education system. Unlike Dolphins fans, this was a smart bunch.

As I look back and see what GGN has become, I can't help but smile. The sky is the limit for this site as long as John is running the show, and it's great to see a place where passionate Jets fans can interact—thriving in the blogosphere.

Godspeed, Gang Green Nation!

DAVID VILL

Speaking of the Recession earlier, it was actually around that time when I became involved with GGN. Business had been extremely slow, and most days I had nothing to do but surf the internet. As more people had been migrating to Facebook, the Myspace groups I had been frequenting were emptying out. Eventually I found GGN through Yahoo!.

I was mostly a lurker at the start of the 2009 season. After the Jets lost for the first time that season and were heading into a Monday Night Football game, fans of the upcoming opponent came trolling by. I was enticed into responding to every provocative comment with variations of "your team is 1-3 lol" and so on.

And then I just started FanShotting and FanPosting like crazy, as well as flagging every troll and spam I came upon. Christmas came early for me that December when I received an invitation from John B. to be the daily links guy. I've personally met him a couple of times, and we could just talk football and other things for hours and hours.

Behind the scenes, John is very supportive of his staff. He fights for us like crazy. He also has some connections but he's very humble about them.

He has shown incredible patience and kindness when we rogue bloggers could have really taken down a certain mainstream writer. (Yes, we still have the evidence.) You've read his thoughts on the recent situation regarding our Palestinian-American rookie. And I have so much admiration in the way he handled things, constantly outnumbered by opposing fans in the early days, trolls or otherwise. He even tolerates David Wyatt's spelling of "offence" and "defence", not to mention the fact that he keeps us sane and level-headed through all the mind-boggling play calls, football follies and heartbreaking losses.

Over the years, I've gotten a few offers to move on to other outlets, but I'm still here. I'm not saying I can't be bought, but it would have to be an extremely high price for me to leave GGN. My fellow staff writers are excellent, and the members here are top notch. This is because the Editor in Chief sets a great example to follow.

The New Crew

SCOTT SALMON

Before I met John Butchko in the flesh, I liked to think of him as a stern father figure, perhaps with a beard, instructing his offspring about the game of football, and gently pushing them towards a more complete knowledge. Now that I have met the man, I can tell you he is a funny-looking, coonskin-wearing twenty-something with patience and wisdom far beyond his years.

I found GangGreenNation right around the time the New York Jets traded for Antonio Cromartie and signed LaDainian Tomlinson, although I can’t remember which it was that I was googling that fateful day. I wanted some information on the details of the transaction; I found a community that has, quite literally, changed my life. After a while of commenting on the site, I reached out to John for some insight on becoming a moderator, and after a few weeks of that, he promoted me to staff writer to cover the breaking news. It was then that I found a friend and mentor in John, who has guided me to becoming a better writer, editor, and fan of the team.

I actually have GGN listed on my résumé, and every single time I’ve had an interview for a job or a law school, it is the first thing that’s brought up. People ask me how the team is going to do this season, what I think of Tim Tebow (of course), and if I can offer fantasy football advice. Once, on an hour interview, my interviewer only wanted to talk about GGN for the first forty-five minutes. As I said, GGN has literally changed my life.

Throughout my time on GGN, John has been extraordinarily patient and knowledgeable. He has tremendous judgment and makes excellent decisions time and again. Whenever I have an idea, he’s willing to flesh it out and then bluntly tell me if I’m wasting my time or if there is potential there, which I value tremendously. When he's dealing with trolls or uninformed fans, he does not act rashly or impatiently.

John once told me that, for a variety of reasons, he was probably not the ideal candidate to run a site like GGN. However, the proof is in the pudding. John has guided GGN from a fledgling website of few followers to one of the largest New York Jets communities that averages 20,000 hits per day and is widely read by current and former players, front office personnel, and numerous members of the mass media. I simply cannot fathom that anyone could have done a better job than John has done.

SP0RTSFAN86

I really don't have much to add to the stories. I haven't been around too long considering everyone else’s stuff. Probably the first time I really got onto Gang Green Nation was when jerseyjetfan left the staff. That's my first memory as weird as it sounds.

I do remember the email John sent me about joining the staff. That email ended my plan of taking a break from GGN for personal reasons. Needless to say, it also added a bit of work to my schedule.

The best thing I can say about John is that he has a great sense of humor and is not afraid to be wrong or be self deprecating. He understands what it takes to run a blog, hire the right guys and keep the trolls under the bridge where they belong.

There's a ton of Jets blogs out there, but only one Gang Green Nation. In John B, GGN boasts an editor in chief who is a good leader, good discussion idea guy, and crazy enough to think a coonskin cap is fashionable headwear.

Thanks for everything John B.

FYI Davie Crockett still wants his hat back.

RICH MACLEOD

I always wrote things about my favorite sports teams when I was younger, whether it was on FaceBook, Twitter or a small personal blog that no one would ever see. While I’ve had experience working professionally in sports media, I had no real work/educational background in writing, yet John gave me a chance to join the Gang Green Nation team anyways, and that is something I’ll always be thankful for.

Unlike many people who run big blogs these days, John is constantly interacting with Jets fans in the GGN comments section. He’s not afraid to be wrong—although he’d always prefer to be right—and to have a sense of humor about the team, players, or even himself.

Happy anniversary to Gang Green Nation, and John Butchko. Here’s to, at least, five more.

SMACKDAD

I was a little late to the GGN party. I only found GGN in 2011, through the links posted on the Yahoo! Sports Jets page. But once I found GGN, I was hooked. Great writing, great debates, informed readers – it was a Jets fan heaven. I first published a fanpost in September of 2011, and continued writing fanposts over the ensuing months. In October of 2011 I found myself with a little extra time and began posting more, and at this point John took notice of me and sent me an e-mail offering me a job as staff writer. I will share with you what I told him in response. I am a HUGE John B fan, I wrote. As I tell my wife, he is amazingly informed, a gifted and prolific writer, extraordinarily fair, reasonable and measured in debate, and just a pure pleasure to read (and a pain in the ass to be on the opposing side of, as he always seems to get the best of the argument). But all of that was not what really hooked me. No, what really hooked me was a very simple act. John B had been engaged in a vigorous debate with a reader whose identity now escapes me. And as the debate wore on, John B made a simple yet profoundly super cool decision – he posted his antagonist’s fanpost on the front page. That, I told John, was the greatest thing anyone running a blog could ever do, because he controls the debate. John decides what will and will not make it onto the front page, and if he were like 99.9% of the people I have ever known, his ego would get in the way of allowing opposing views by members from gracing the front page. But John is a different animal. He has repeatedly rewarded good work with front page status, regardless of whether or not the members who submitted the work agreed with him or not, and regardless of how heated debate may have gotten. This one deceptively simple act of giving equal time to those who do not agree with him was the one thing that made me John’s fan for life. As I’ve often told my wife, the Big Man (as my son has dubbed John) is simply the best person I could conceive of as Editor in Chief of GGN. GGN is the best Jets site on the web largely because John is the best editor one could ever want.

If you’ll bear with me, I’d also like to share a personal story which even John has never heard until now. In fact, there is only one person still living on this earth who is aware of this other than me, and that is my wife. So now all of you and John B will share in a small story of how John B enabled me to reignite a childhood dream.

I was raised as the youngest of nine children, along with my twin brother. My father died a few months before I was born, and my mother raised nine children by herself. As you might imagine, it was not easy for her. There was never enough money, and there was never enough time. My mother, who passed away a couple of years ago, was constantly overwhelmed. A child of the Great Depression, she had been born in September 1929, a month before the Stock Market Crash. Growing up during those times had a profound effect on my mother, part of which was a very practical, somewhat unemotional approach to raising her children.

When I was eight years old, I won a local poetry contest and got a tiny 6 inch blue spruce sapling as a prize. That sapling still stands in the yard of my childhood home, now a towering 50 foot specimen fit for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. That contest sparked a dream in me. I loved writing, and now I had gotten confirmation that I was good at it. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up! In one of the precious few moments I found myself alone at the center of my mother’s attention, I excitedly informed her I now knew my future life’s work. I was going to write for a living. And my mother, full of the hardships of life, having seen more than her fair share of broken lives and broken dreams, looked at me with a deeply sad expression in her eyes. And as gently as she could, she tried to explain to me just how difficult it was to make a living as a writer. She tried to gently let me down and inform me in a loving way that such a dream just might not be practical. In her own mind she was protecting me, trying to prevent a mistaken path and stop me from being hurt worse down the road when I would inevitably make the painful discovery that I just wasn’t good enough for people to pay me to write. It was, in her own way, a loving gesture, akin to tempering the expectations of a child with no special athletic talents who nonetheless is convinced he will grow up to be the star centerfielder for the Yankees. It was the wrenching and never easy conundrum of trying to strike the right balance between encouraging a child in his dreams and guiding him in what may or may not be realistic. My mother, child of the Depression, chose in favor of practicality. It was in her own way an expression of her love. But the ears of an eight year old child heard only you’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough. Put away your childish dreams and come live in the real world. It was crushing, and I fought back tears. From that moment on, my dreams of becoming a writer were buried deep in the farthest reaches of my mind, filed somewhere between believing in Santa Claus and wanting to grow up to be an astronaut.

Time passed, I grew up and took a meandering career path and became a father myself. I found GGN and started participating. And then came the offer from John. We love your work, would you consider writing for GGN? In that moment, a dream long banished to the nether regions of my psyche began to tentatively stir back to life. If a man I respect as much as John B wanted me to write for him, hey, maybe, just maybe I really could be a writer. And while I am still not making a living at it, I have been encouraged enough by the response to my work that I once again dream, like that small child so many years ago, that maybe one day I will be asked what I do for a living, and be able to answer, I’m a writer. That’s right mom, I’m a writer! For the rekindling of a largely forgotten dream, I have one man to thank, our own John B. Thank you John.

The Members

Now it’s your turn. All of you. The members of Gang Green Nation, nearly 10,000 strong, who make Gang Green Nation great. If you appreciate John B’s incredible work in building this site from scratch and his continuing every day to work amazingly hard at keeping it great, this is your chance to tell John just how you feel about him and his creation, GGN. Fill up the comments section with your own memories and testimonials. Let’s all join in celebrating the one and only, the indispensable, irreplaceable, irrepressible John B and 5 years of Gang Green Nation. Happy Anniversary John B. May we all have many more to celebrate.

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