Shea Serrano, New York Times best-selling author and sports and pop culture writer at the The Ringer, told a crowd of about 250 at Straub Hall Friday evening to give social media movements or group projects nicknames so that people can rally and identify with a name rather than a vague idea.
“If you give something a name, it automatically becomes so much more powerful,” Serrano said.
What Serrano didn’t expect was to come away from the evening with a nickname of his own: Stormchaser Shea. Allen Hall Advertising also unveiled their new ad campaign for the UO women’s basketball team, “forces of nature,” at the event.
The campaign posters illustrated players in the spirit of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic-4 superheroes, half basketball player and half tornado, or lava, or ice, and captioned with a nickname representing their “natural force” of choice.
Shea — who wrote about his fandom from the women’s team last season — was gifted his own poster from the set, which depicts him as a news reporter, engulfed by a thunderstorm in front of Matthew Knight Arena. The poster was titled, “Stormchaser,” and drew a raucous cheer from the crowd and laughter from Serrano himself.
The evening was emblematic of Serrano’s laid back personality and writing style. He tried to make a grand entrance into Staub Hall while playing the Undertaker’s theme song from WWE. But when the song failed to play, Serrano shrugged his shoulders.
“This was a bad idea — nevermind,” he said of the technical malfunctions and to more laughter from the crowd.
A student panel and audience members asked Serrano questions, touching on NBA history, his journey from middle school teacher to prominent sports and pop culture writer, his various creative projects, including his new podcast “Villains” and his mindset as a writer.
“I feel like I can’t do it all the time — like literally every day,” Serrano said of writing for a living. “At the end of every week I’m supposed to come up with ideas to pitch for the next meeting and I’m always sitting there like, ‘I’m fucking done they’re going to fire me I don’t know what to do.’ I feel like — in my head — when you’re eating ice cream out of the carton and it’s all gone and you’re just scraping the bottom. That’s what it feels like.”
Serrano said he began writing as a way to pay the bills while his wife was dealing with complications related to her pregnancy; both were public school teachers at the time. Serrano took a job writing for a local newsletter in Houston where his family lived at the time. From there, he worked his way up the proverbial ladder, writing for the Houston Press, LA Weekly, MTV, ESPN, Grantland and now, The Ringer. He remarked how his personal journey took two minutes to tell, but it was a taxing eight year process.
“They’re automatically like, ‘Oh I want to do what you do. I want to write for a place that lets me write about the stuff that I want to write about,’” Serrano said of his encounters with fans of his work. “And I’m like ‘Cool but you’re skipping over four years where I fucking wrote about bars in Houston. I don’t even go to bars.”
Perhaps the most sobering comment Serrano made was in response to a question about freelance writing: how should freelancers prioritize job opportunities?” Serrano explained that while the creative process is important to him, his first priority is the paycheck. He is after all a writer by happenstance.
“Writing is not just a job that I just Love” he said. “It’s just the job that I do.”
One of the common perceptions Serrano said he thinks outsiders have about writers is the stereotype of what the creative process looks like.
“People always have this very romantic picture of the job in their head where you’re wearing a turtleneck at a coffee shop and inspiration strikes like, ‘Oh my god I know what I am going to do this is my life’s work,’” Serrano said. “It doesn’t work like that. Most of the time I’m just fucking sitting at my computer for like six hours scrolling through shit, going through shitty ideas until I can figure out what the good one is.”
“Stormchaser Shea” is also in town for the women’s basketball game Saturday at 2 p.m.