Before longing to work at DraftKings, before becoming a marketer, all I wanted to do was write about sports. Nothing more, nothing less.
And that I did. You see, sports journalism was the first career I vigorously pursued. That journey led me to a summer internship at the Las Vegas Review-Journal (the most-read newspaper in Nevada), freelance work at the Reno Gazette-Journal, editing the sports section of my student-run newspaper, The Nevada Sagebrush, for close to three years, and in between that, well over 300 bylines.
It’s because of journalism that I’m a storyteller at my core, still, despite not practicing it in five years. Nothing — and I mean nothing — fulfills me more than using my words or creativity to impact a reader or audience.
I still do that today through marketing, only through a lens of business instead of providing news. But I owe my sports marketing chops to journalism, no question about it.
Where else do you get a grasp of every sport imaginable than covering a college campus athletic beat? At the University of Nevada, Reno, I was reporting on 20-plus D1 programs, from football to softball to rifle. If there’s a DraftKings sport that’s bettable, there’s a good chance I’ve written about it before.
Where else do you interview hundreds upon hundreds of athletes, coaches, administrators, fans, and others? But just not interview them, but peg them with hard-hitting questions such as why they lost again — which was the norm with the Nevada Wolf Pack? These types of conversations help you find the pulse of an entire community, which is no different than a marketer understanding its core consumer in and out.
My Most Meaningful Clips
As I alluded to before, I’ve penned hundreds of sports stories in newspapers. I wanted to share a few noteworthy ones. The select-few clips I’ve chosen each have a personal meaning to me for different reasons:
- The Electronic Daisy Carnival — one of the largest EDM festivals in the whole world — is a spectacle you have to see to believe. Ending up on the front page of my home state’s biggest newspaper cause of an article I co-wrote on it was just as unbelievable, for me at least. I’d like to point out I whipped this story up once the festival ended at 6 am after 12 hours of non-stop, fist-pumping action. Hey, I had a deadline to hit, ok?
- I’m a die-hard fan of professional wrestling — yes, the “fake” kind, as non-wrestling people like to say. That four-letter f-word I just used is the worst thing you could ever tell someone that’s super into wrestling like me. Welp, I used that as the backdrop to a profile story I did on an aspiring wrestler.
- A byproduct of practicing journalism is increased empathy. When you’re grilling a subject with personal questions, you quickly realize the differences AND similarities in their life compared to yours. One story I penned that struck me deeply is that of former NFL player Brandon Marshall. On the surface, here’s a guy playing in the Super Bowl who seemingly has it all. But after investigating further, his journey was one filled with adversity and plenty of self-doubt. Seeing that juxtaposition in Marshall and other interviewees always taught me something about myself.
- There are sports rivalries and then there’s the Chivas-America rivalry. It’s without a doubt one of the fiercest in the whole world and I was thrust into the middle of it in 2013. What started as a soccer friendly in Las Vegas turned into a crazed riot, which I had the privilege of covering in real-time. I tell ya, there’s just no rush like breaking news.
- If you haven’t figured it out yet, my writing style (and personality as a whole) leans heavily into satire and self-deprecation. As a columnist, I loved nothing more than cracking jokes at everyone’s expense. Here’s a column with that tone in full, uncontrolled force.
Innovating A Traditional Medium
What ultimately led me away from journalism was the industry’s lack of innovation — a problem that continues to plague it today. I just didn’t see a bright future in it, for myself or my colleagues.
That’s not to say I didn’t try to change things. Believe me, I tried to flip the industry upside down while I was in the thick of it. In fact, those desperate attempts at changing the “old guard” are among my proudest moments as I reflect on my career. Here’s a sample size of those efforts:
The Brush Up broadcast show
The year is 2014. Being on a college campus, it’s abundantly clear of two emerging trends with 20-something-year-olds — video-first consuming habits (certainly not printed newspapers) and this behemoth called YouTube.
Those tell-tale signs lead to us creating a video news show distributed through YouTube, one we called the Brush Up. At the time, “hot take” shows such as First Take with Stephen A Smith & Skip Bayless were also trendy. So our first stab at the show mimicked its debate format. The inaugural episode featured me debating a classmate whether Colin Kaepernick — a fellow Wolf Pack alumni — was “elite” on the field (I said yes). Boy, the dialogue on Kap sure has changed, hasn’t it? Anyway, see my deductive reasoning for Kaepernick’s “eliteness” below:
Thankfully, the show eventually morphed into a full-blown broadcast show with news pieces and a revolving host of student talent (apparently no one wants to listen to me yap all day, who knew?). Even seven years after its creation, the show continues to run with current journalism students at the University of Nevada — and it all started with a knockoff of ESPN’s First Take!
Today, podcasts are permanent fixtures in the media. But this was far, far from the case in early 2014 before Adnan Syed’s story in Serial made podcasting a thing.
That’s why I like to think I was ahead of the game when we launched a podcast in 2014 alongside my newspaper peers. The reality is I never saw podcasting blowing up this much — as in Spotify dropping nine figures for Joe Rogan type of big — but hey, I’ll draw attention to this and credit myself regardless!