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Happy 10th Birthday, Hustle Belt

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Our founder emeritus (aka Dad) emerges from the comfort of his new home to say a few kind words about his favorite brainchild.

Belt’s fifth birthday (Alex Alvarado)

[Editor’s note: this was originally a FanPost pubished on Aug. 10, 2020. With permission from Matt, we were allowed to republish it in its entirelty, and some light editing for clarity, on the website so it could be posted to the front page. We thank him for allowing us to share this intimate rememberence of our origins, and hope to continue said legacy over the decade to come.]


On August 10, 2010, I launched a website called Hustle Belt Dot Com.

Leading up to that day, I sent some emails and was looking to get in on the SB Nation land grab of putting words into sequence about sports teams that we liked. A couple of fellas in positions of power gave me the thumbs up, a logo, and a CMS with which to go nuts.

I did this for about three full years, which means Hustle Belt has spent twice as much time in existence without me than with me, and the 10-year mark also means Hustle Belt is now twice as relevant in American history as the Confederate States of America.

There was little secret to why I walked away from the hallowed halls of a Mid-American Conference sports blog of my own creation, and it was simply that I was pretty much done caring about football.

First and foremost it was the concussions in the NFL, but it was also the pace of the game, and the slow realization that I didn’t have as much fun watching football than I did other sports. I still appreciate college basketball, and this is another very odd reason, but my wife can’t stand the squeaking of the shoes, so we simply don’t follow it anymore. This was also the summer we began planning a family, and successful intercourse led to exactly that in 2014, so some of the hobbies had to go.

But it was easy to remember why I started the site. These were the sports I enjoyed and the colleges I grew up watching. I didn’t care much for the Big Ten, because I didn’t grow up in one of those cities, nor did I attend one of those universities. Growing up in Toledo and at an early age, it became clear that largely everyone was either an Ohio State or a Michigan fan. I didn’t understand the false choice. Growing up, we had season tickets for Toledo basketball, so I followed them instead, then defected to BGSU, and that became my community. Starting Hustle Belt was an extension and affirmation of that choice, and that’s why it’s still popular today for all of you.

It’s wild to look 10 years back, when the conference was struggling for the crowded spotlight. Jon Steinbrecher was in the commissioner position for about a year. Not every game was watchable online — some were behind very funky paywalls. The only two coaches in football or men’s basketball still in their current position were Ohio’s Frank Solich, who has been there since 1877, and Tod Kowalczyk, whose Rockets went 4-28 that first year and then proceeded to improve their basketball skills, primarily their offense and defense. That was also the year a young Caleb Porter led Akron to the NCAA soccer championship.

Now we awaken from the 10-year coma, look at the MAC today and realize some subtle difference, such as changes in branding, different coaches, and the fact that there are not going to be any sports to watch this fall.

That’s never stopped this blog in the past and — I won’t put words into the mouths of current management — but reckon it still won’t.

Maybe things have changed, because I will honestly admit completely unplugging from college sports for the last few years, and you know teens and their new fads, but MAC fans/alumni have always stuck together in the face of a massive uphill battle, whether it’s a more affluent school hiring away a coach, or recruiting away a player, or simply beating up on them by 30 points. That’s one of *ours* you just plundered. Not cool.

Now the pandemic is the uphill battle.

As a conference, they decided to not let this thing spread worse, leaving the door ajar just enough for a post-vaccine season in the spring. And not unlike the innovation which led to bunches of points in football games in the early 2000s and ratings on the weeknights, now the hegemonic college sports conferences need to decide if they want to take a page out of the MAC’s smart decisions.

So, in conclusion, the 10-year anniversary really sucks! However, never in my wildest 2010 fever dreams did I think this website still be in existence in 2020. This is one of the coolest things I ever started online. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in 2030, and I am preemptively terrified of the youths who will be in charge of it.


Matt Sussman can be followed for general internet ramblings and curling/baseball livebogging on Twitter at @suss2hyphens.