In the middle of April I found myself in Austin reporting on a story for an outlet I no longer worked for. This was a story I’d spent years thinking about and months preparing, and everything was set up, except, of course, for the fact that the place that was supposed to publish it had quietly laid me off at the end of January.
This is the first time I’ve publicly mentioned this. I’m not upset about it. I wasn’t really even that upset about it at the time. I found another job quickly. This is the nature of the business. Nobody even really had to know. I came out looking fine. Everyone else looked okay, or better than okay. That was important to me. What – and who – I was upset with was myself. I wasn’t good enough. I made the wrong choice. I never belonged. I always could have done more. That’s kind of how I’ve felt about a lot of things throughout my life. It’s exhausting. Not just to me, but to everyone close to me. I never realized how much it really was until I saw what it did to the person I cared most about.
Plopped in the middle of Texas, skipping the wedding of one of my closest friends to do this story, in between another stretch of three weddings in four weekends which included my sister and my best friend from home, I felt completely alone. Not just alone in the sense that I was staying in a random person’s house (shout out airbnb) in a city I’d never been, but alone because everything in my life was crumbling around me. I had put so much of who I was over the past two years into my job, even though I always promised myself I’d never identify as such. But it was hard when your entire life really did go into being a Sports Writer. I neglected everything else that mattered. My health. My friends. My relationship.
After wandering around the city for an entire day, listening to Alejandro Escovedo at the Continental Club, I decided to walk the three or so miles back to the place I was staying. I stopped on the bridge for a few minutes and thought about it all. I think I knew even then that the break I was on with my girlfriend (that we kept a secret from just about everyone at the time) would ultimately end up being more than that. How could anyone be with me when I didn’t want to be with myself?
I stared at the reflection of the lights from the buildings off the water of the Colorado River and decided I couldn’t do that anymore. And I kept on walking.
So I woke up in the morning and decided to focus only on the story for the next few days, and only on me for the next few months. Over the next couple days I got some really great advice from my subjects – Mack Brown telling me you spend so much of your life disagreeing with your parents until you finally get to a point where you wake up and realize they’re right; Matthew McConaughey stressing the importance of finding something you really care about and doubling down – and I started to feel a little bit better. I wasn’t the monster I thought I was. I wasn’t the failure I kept believing myself to be. I was just a person. The same way the people I interview are people. The same way everyone I see on the street is a person.
We all carry so much of a burden we think we can’t show to the world, and at any given time any interaction could tip the scale from a bad day to a good day and vice versa. I made it a goal of mine to be more cognizant of that, of myself, and of making the changes I needed to make to be better. It was too late for certain things, and that much is clear even today despite any desire to the contrary I might have, but it wasn’t too late for me. That was something that really didn’t sink in until that moment on the Congress Bridge long after most folks had already gone to bed.
What does any of this have to do with college football? Plenty.
We all watch and follow college football for different reasons. We all come at it from varying origin stories. Mine is dull and boring compared to some of the others. I didn’t follow the sport until I got to college, suffered the first heartbreak (at the hands of Jay Cutler’s Vanderbilt team winning on a last-second play over Wake Forest at my very first home game in 2005), and realized I needed more. (I am from Cleveland, after all). An elusive and magical ACC Championship and Orange Bowl season the next year only solidified that hunger. A website I started – Blogger So Dear – strengthened my resolve.
And each move from then on, and every person I met along the way, made me more wild and unruly. I wouldn’t be here without those individuals who all shared the same crazed fire I did and kept pushing me to understand I wasn’t that weird, I wasn’t that broken, and I wasn’t that different. That I belonged even if I never truly felt like I did. Holly Anderson, Ben Glicksman, Stewart Mandel, Spencer Hall, Ryan Nanni, Dan Rubenstein, Andy Staples, Chip Patterson, Lauren Brownlow, Powell Latimer, Tom Fornelli, Lana Berry, Robby Kalland, Jason Kirk, Zac Ellis, Brian Floyd, Jeff Greer, Steven Godfrey, Matt Porter, Zac Jackson, Erin Sorensen, Mark Ennis, Michael Felder, Rodger Sherman, David Roth, Brian Hamilton, Bomani Jones, Jon Bois, Lindsay Schnell, Mallory Rubin, Pete Thamel, Bud Elliott, and a cast of so many more who deserve to be mentioned by name were there for little things and big things, stupid questions and legitimate ones, early-morning gchats and postgame drinks, and they became my sports family.
Unfortunately I didn’t put enough time back into them at times, and definitely didn’t put enough time into myself to be what I should have been, but that’s the thing about family – you’re stuck with them, win or lose. And I’m blessed to be stuck with some incredible people. We all are. That’s what’s wonderful about this college football beat. There are amazing writers here attacking this stupid, ridiculous sport from so many angles. We probably don’t deserve it. But we have it, and we really need to appreciate it more.
This is my first season covering college football at Uproxx Sports. And I’m going to do my best to be myself along the way. I still have a long way to go, but hopefully you’ll excuse that and recognize that it is part of The Process (see, I knew I could work that in there for you, Coach Saban, Roll Tide). I may not consider myself a Sports Writer anymore, but I am a guy who writes about sports. And that’s okay. I’m starting to kind of like that guy.