There I was, sitting in class my freshman year at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, IL, focused on anything but, well, school. It was hot, the main building was constructed in 1927, and although we were then comfortably into the 21st century (2005 to be precise), most of the rooms had not yet been provided with an A/C window unit.
I had to find something to pass the time, anything that would take my mind off the heat, anything but, again, schoolwork. There was going to be no reprieve from this sweltering heat, as soon as the final bell rang, it was off to throw on my helmet and shoulder pads and go outside and exert physical energy in this hot, muggy weather.
Finally, I found something to take my mind off the heat and the dreadful schoolwork (Was it Mrs. Mager’s math class? I can’t recall at this point, but I was disinterested either way.) My saving grace was one of the greatest pieces of human history, a newspaper.
I opened up to the sports page and found myself enamored with the witty writing, subtle quips and expert knowledge of Pete Hayes and Greg Shashack, two of the names that littered the sports page of the Alton Telegraph. It became habit, I would turn to that sports page daily. Some days to see what they had to say about our team’s most recent loss, others to see them pick how bad we would lose in our upcoming contest.
The habit became a passion, I loved reading about sports from Hayes and Shashack. As the team became better, the attention grew and the stories were even better to read (Funny how that works). I found myself constantly buried in what those two said, then my interest grew.
I started reading Bob Kravitz out of Indianapolis, he told me anything and everything I could need to know about my Colts while I was stuck in Rams country. These guys were gems, longform writing, creative writing. I was hooked.
When my family moved back to Syracuse before my senior year, my routine didn’t change, just the names. Now I was searching to find what Bill Beck had to say, if anything, about Wawasee. Greg Keim, what say you? But I always started at home, with the Mail-Journal and the stories by some guy named Mike Deak.
Beck, Keim and Deak, they were weekly staples. Of course I would still check-in on Hayes and Shashack. I’d visit ESPN’s website and get treated to Peter Gammons, Mike Wells and Jayson Stark, among others. I even read the occasional thing by Boston’s Dan Shaughnessy, because I’m a glutton for Patriots punishment.
Then I fell in love with the broadcasting side of the field. ESPN took my love for sports journalism and cranked up to 10. Let’s be honest, ESPN ripped the dial off. I was in deep and I loved it, I wanted to be a part of that profession.
Here I am, years later, a member of the field that I grew up with so much admiration towards. But things are completely different now than I could have ever imagined.
Two years ago ESPN shutdown Grantland, a site devoted to longform journalism and named for one of our country’s greatest sportswriters, Grantland Rice. It was one of many warning shots fired at true journalism and reporting. Recently the local area has seen the harsh layoff of beloved reporters and journalists. It all falls back to money and the inevitable demise of newspapers and journalism in our country. Social media and online streaming is winning and winning big.
Yesterday, ESPN chalked up another win to sinking cable subscriptions and laid off 100 employees, 100 reporters. 100 people I wanted to become.
I get it, money talks. If the subscription money isn’t there, then the jobs aren’t there. But it’s not about why, it’s about who.
Longtime journalists and reporters were axed while talking heads and personalities were kept. Ed Werder, Jayson Stark, Andy Katz, Dana O’Neil and Paul Kuharsky, all gone. Young and rising faces like that of Ethan Sherwood Strauss, gone.
This empire of sports journalism and news that I grew up watching, the flagship for my love of sports media, had just raised a white flag on the war against a struggling profession. ESPN made its statement, loud and clear, we’re going to scream your sports news at you, banter, rant, rave and then cut to commercial while you sit scratching your head still in search of what the heck is really going on with the topic of discussion.
True journalists are walking around with target on their backs, ESPN just went and pulled the trigger. But, they aren’t the only ones to do so, they won’t be the last. Fox Sports 1 is said to be brewing up large cuts of its own. Let’s not even get into major newspapers across the country and the swirling rumors that follow.
Growing up I read Hayes, Kravitz, Shashack, Beck and Deak. It passed my time and gave me information I wanted, quenched my thirst for sports knowledge from the local level to the national stage. ESPN was the cherry on top, the end game. I wanted to get into the profession and work my way up. Maybe one day I could be good enough to be on ESPN.
Maybe, just maybe, I could have a job like Jayson Stark.
If I worked just hard enough, perhaps I could stand outside an NFL front office and tell you what every fan needed to know just like Ed Werder.
Maybe I would luck out and get a cool job writing about the NFL’s AFC South division and all its mediocrity like Paul Kuharsky.
Perhaps I could have fallen into covering an up-and-coming dynasty like the Golden State Warriors, just like Ethan Sherwood Strauss had done recently.
If only I could be that good.
But, as I found out Wednesday, ESPN didn’t value those names and talents. Not even they were good enough. Talk about a humbling moment, a somber moment.
My shiny, golden castle at the top of the hill has fallen into disrepair. My dream profession was getting left behind. People stopped trying to ascend when they realized they could just push “Tweet” and “refresh” on their cell phones. The stairway started to get shutdown when real journalists made the jump to talking about Tim Tebow and Tony Romo on a seemingly daily basis. (I’m looking right at you, Skip Bayless)
Thank the lord above that Hayes and Shashack are still doing their thing. Goshen High School can take a sigh of relief knowing Greg Keim is on duty. Tiger Nation can always count on a great write-up from Scott Davidson.
Those are the type of guys that I continue to look up to and thank. The ones that give me hope that my profession still has a glimmer of light at the end of society’s social media obsessed tunnel.
For those wondering, yes, this article has surpassed 1,000 words. That officially makes it longform and that really makes me proud.
2017 NFL Mock Draft
- Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, Edge Rusher, Texas A&M
This has to be the pick. No analysis here. Pick Garrett
- San Francisco 49ers – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
I really want the Bears to draft Jamal Adams, so I’m going against the gran here.
- Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Okay, I actually really think the bears should draft Mitchell Trubisky. But, whatever.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Forunette, RB, LSU
Somebody is going to reach for him and either get a huge payoff or a huge bust.
- Tennessee Titans – Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
This guy is getting huge reviews. Don’t be surprised if the Bears grab him at No. 3
- New York Jets – Malik Hooker – DB – Ohio State
Just another team that needs help anywhere it can get some. He could end up being better than Adams.
- Los Angeles Chargers – John Ross – WR- Washington
Total reach at No. 7, but we’re talking about the Chargers here.
- Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffrey – RB- Stanford
This is all but a done deal. I won’t even take partial credit for this. Almost every expert has this pick and I am no expert.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Haason Reddick – LB – Temple
Reddick has gained a lot of buzz recently and the Bengals are always a solid defensive team. This would be a solid pick.
- Buffalo Bills – Deshaun Watson – QB- Clemson
Do it. Just do it. You know you want to, Buffalo. Don’t let me down.
- New Oreans Saints – Charles Harris – DE- Missouri
Drew Brees needs some defense if the Saints are ever getting back to the Super Bowl.
- Cleveland Browns – O.J. Howard – TE – Alabama
I fully expect for this pick to be traded. But, the Browns will need some new weapons on offense.
- Arizona Cardinals – Marlon Humphrey – DB – Alabama
This pick could go a lot of different ways, but I like Humphrey here as he could help an already productive secondary.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Tre’Davious White – DB – LSU
The Eagles are going to be very good in the next year or two, the defense has to get better in the secondary though.
- Indianapolis Colts – Reuben Foster – LB – Alabama
The defense is terrible and needs so much help. There isn’t a bad move to make here, really. However, I do expect a trade from Indy in this one.
- Baltimore Ravens – Derek Barnett – LB – Tennessee
Defense. Defense. Defense.
- Washington Redskins – Forrest Lamp – OL – Western Kentucky
Bolster the trenches and success will find a way.
- Tennessee Titans – Corey Davis – WR- Western Michigan
Davis is arguably the most talented receiver in this draft. This could be a great fit for Marcus Mariota.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Johnathan Allen – DL – Alabama
I messed up and had Malik Hooker drafted twice. And now I’ve changed this pick again. Allen has some concerns with injuries but could be a steal at 19.
- Denver Broncos – Ryan Ramczyk – OL- Wisconsin
The Broncos need some OL depth to protect their mediocre QB. This is a safe pick.
- Detroit Lions – Chidobe Awuze – DB- Colorado
Detroit is really in a good place on both sides of the ball, but Awuze would be a great addition to any defense.
- Miami Dolphins – Jarrad Davis – LB – Florida
Miami is in Florida, so, the Dolphins will make this pick on sentimental value.
- New York Giants – David Njoku – TE – Miami
This guy is a beast. i saw his up close at Notre Dame Stadium. My goodness. Eli Manning will love throwing to him.
- Oakland Raiders – Cam Robinson – OL – Alabama
Beast Mode is coming, time to build up an already strong line.
- Houston Texans – DeShone Kizer – QB – Notre Dame
I don’t know what I’m doing. I will certainly regret this.
- Seattle Seahawks – Mike Williams – WR – Clemson
Changed from my original pick. I like this fit here. Could be huge for Russell Wilson.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Dalvin Cook – RB – Florida State
This guy is going to be a star.
- Dallas Cowboys – T.J. Watt – LB – Wisconsin
Risky pick that could pay off in a big way for Jerry Jones.
- Green Bay Packers – Takkarist McKinley – LB – UCLA
McKinley could be picked as high as 14th, great pick-up for Green Bay.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Jabril Peppers – S – Michigan
Big Ben is making one last run. The defense will need some youth.
- Atlanta Falcons – Malik McDowell – DL – Michigan State
The Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. That’s all.
- New England Patriots – Marcus Williams – S – Utah
Does it even matter? They could draft Hingle McCringleberry and he would be an all-star.
Rd. 2 pick 46: Dan Feeney – OL- Indiana
Rd. 3 pick 80: Desmond King – S – Iowa
Rd. 4 pick 122: Eddie Vanderdoes – DL- UCLA
Rd. 4 pick 137: Brian Hill – RB – Wyoming
Rd. 4 pick 144: Delano Hill – S – Michigan
Rd. 5 pick 158: Tanner Vallejo – LB – Boise State
Rd. 2 pick 36: Taco Charlton – DE – Michigan
Rd. 3 pick 67: Larry Ogunjobi – DT – Charlotte
Rd. 4 pick 111: Taywan Taylor – WR – Western Kentucky
Rd. 4 pick 117: John Johnson – S – Boston College
Rd. 5 pick 147: Pat Elflein – OL – Ohio State
Rd. 7 pick 221: Trevor Knight – QB – Texas A&M