Tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of the launch of Page 2 on ESPN.com.
It goes without saying that the day is meaningful for me -- for the opportunities that I had from Page 2, for the colleagues I was honored to write alongside and work with and, mostly, for the readers who did me the sincere privilege of wanting to hear what I had to say.
I remember when I heard the section was launching -- and when it launched. I remember being maybe a month into business school, totally swamped with classwork, but so excited that my old friend and ESPN.com colleague Kevin Jackson was running the section... and that he was open to me contributing.
Things started two months later, when I did my very first "What's Hot, What's Not" list for the new year: 2001. Over the next two years, the "Hot/Not" list would become something around the start of every sports season, then a weekly franchise. I would also pitch ideas off of breaking news (too many to list). I remember the competitive metabolism I had to pitch something quickly, then the satisfied feeling of seeing it published. (Of course, that's nothing compared to the competitiveness of today's news cycle.)
One of my favorite Page 2 assignments ever was being part of Jay Lovinger's "Writers' Bloc," an incredible group of writers Jay put together (dunno what I was doing in there) that would basically email each other throughout the day on a topic Jay would throw out there. Then we'd publish an edited version of the email chain. In hindsight, it could have been "Huffington Post." Ultimately, it was probably too expensive and too unwieldy -- but, boy, was it fun.
Of course, my Page 2 experience was near-completely defined by The Daily Quickie, an idea I brought to Jackson and Lovinger in the summer of 2002 after plotting through it during my second year of business school. They were amazingly supportive, and helped me shepherd it through the approval process up the chain of ESPN command. I still look back on those earliest Quickie drafts from, like, August 2002. They were awesome. I knew this was going to resonate with fans.
On January 6, 2003, the first edition of the Daily Quickie was right up top on the front page of ESPN.com -- it got a huge audience. Some of them even came back the next day. And the next. And the next. And so I got to keep writing it the next day, and the days and weeks and months and years after that. From the day the column launched, I wrote it every non-holiday weekday for something like 420 consecutive days -- basically until I had to pry myself away from my laptop to get married in October 2004. It is an "ironman" streak I am very proud of.
The column ran for nearly 4 years. There was the "Morning Quickie" spin-off live-chat on SportsNation -- which still has to hold the site record for most comments published in an hour -- and I even found my way onto "Around the Horn" a few times in the summer of 2004. (I had the chance to visit the new PTI/ATH offices last week when I was in DC, and even though they are in a new space, it brought back a ton of memories, mostly of me treading water on national TV. Someday I'll digitize the DVDs I have of the appearances and edit them into a hilarious YouTube compendium of my pronouncements.)
But more than anything, the column allowed me to reach an incredible audience -- a large number of people, yes, but such amazing people, many of whom took the time to email (this was back before comments) or just simply took the time to read what I had to say.
To that point, one of the big foundations for the column was that I wanted to fundamentally respect the reader first and foremost -- not just to be fan-friendly but to put fans first:
*What are the topics I care about? Who cares! What are the topics YOU will want (or need) to know or care about today.
*How long do I want to write? Who cares! How quickly can I make a point, then move on... which would allow YOU to move on, feeling satisfied, to another column or another site or the rest of your day.
*When do I want to publish? Who cares! From my analysis, the glaring fan need was for something in the morning, when you were getting to the office or rolling out of bed in the dorm room.
I knew the combination was unique and potentially powerful. Still: It felt intuitive and natural to me. It still does. Is it really that hard to say, "But is it good for the fans?"
I wrote for Page 2 for five-and-a-half years, more than half of the decade that the section has been around. The four years I spent developing and writing the Quickie were utterly amazing; there wasn't a day -- not a single morning -- where I didn't get up at the crack of dawn both thrilled at the prospect of writing for you and so appreciative of the opportunity to do it.
I look back on my years at Page 2 with so much joy -- a testament to the unique role I carved out for myself, to the fondness I had (and still have) for folks like Jackson and Lovinger and my Quickie editor David Schoenfield and Mike Philbrick and Michael Knisley, to the admiration I had for my talented colleagues like Bill Simmons and Eric Neel and Hunter and the late, beloved Ralph Wiley (whose note to me after the Quickie launched remains in my wallet, seven years later). What a thrill to see my name alongside those other guys.
But the biggest joy -- the biggest thrill -- was connecting with you and the other readers. Maybe most haven't read me since then; maybe some only started reading me after I started blogging -- they have no idea about the Quickie days beyond my blog headlines. The column certainly gave me credibility when I entered the incredible sports-blog ecosystem. And I still get a thrill when I hear from readers, and I still get a kick when I mention what I used to do at Page 2 to someone and they recognize the column name or my name or Page 2.
Next week, I'm going to fill you in on what I'm up to -- what I have been working on, what I'm doing next. It's big. Really big: The biggest thing I've ever done. And it has been a whole lot of fun working on it so far -- with a lot more fun to come. Hopefully as much fun for you as for me.
Hopefully as much fun for you as for me.
That feels like the perfect way to sum up how I felt about my years at Page 2, too.