Dating back to my time as an editor at the University of Delaware’s student newspaper, The Review, I’ve probably written, oh, 3,000 articles of different sorts. Some have been 300 words. Some have been 7,500 words. It’s one of the great joys of my career—the unique pleasure of delving into a topic, learning all you can, then trying to put the information into words. It can drive a guy crazy, but the pleasure exceeds the pain (mostly).
Here are some of the things I’ve worked on that I’m most proud of:
Bleacher Report October 4, 2016.
My editor called and said, “What can we write about Tom Brady?” I had no idea—so I suggested a piece on why so many people seem to loathe the guy. Bingo! Calls to Styx’s lead singer, the owner of the Lakers, a WWE superstar and the creator of “Entourage” ensued. A joy to write.
Bleacher Report September 29, 2016.
As a kid, I absolutely loved Bo Jackson. He remains the greatest athlete of my lifetime; an unparalleled merging of power, grace and intelligence. I pitched the idea of going back in time to figure out why, 30 years earlier, he chose baseball over football.
Sports Illustrated June 10, 1996.
This was my first-ever appearance in Sports Illustrated. At the time I was a high school wrestling writer for the Tennessean in Nashville, desperately trying to land my dream gig. The editors at SI suggested I pitch some ideas. After my first two were rejected, I said, “You know, when I was in college I applied for the NBA Draft.” Bingo.
Bleacher Report October 22, 2014.
So I had recently started working on my book about Brett Favre, and learned he had a nephew playing college football at UT-Martin. I thought, “Hmm, that’s pretty interesting.” I flew down and met one of the coolest people out there. A joy to write and report.
SB Nation February 4, 2014.
I know little about hockey. Very little. But when SB Nation started asking around for Winter Olympic-themed stories, one idea immediately jumped into my skull. I still remember being 11-years old in 1984, excited for the U.S. hockey team to bring forth another miracle. Little did I know, they had absolutely no chance. For this piece, I was able to travel back in time to my childhood and find out why.
Bleacher Reporter February 4, 2014.
I’d never heard of Willie Williams, though once my memory was jarred I did recall his ill-advised Miami Herald recruiting diary. For this story, I jumped into the ugly, callous world of Florida high school football, where kids are slabs of meat and problems are pushed to the side. Willie Williams is in prison—but he is far from the only guilty party.
Bleacher Report. November 26, 2013.
I received a call in the late months of 2013 from an editor at Bleacher Report, asking if I had any interest in digging into the Jovan Belcher tragedy. “OK,” I said—not knowing what to expect from the piece, and from Bleacher Report (I’d never written for the site before). Well, it turned into an experience I’ll never forget. First, because the whole tragedy was so heartbreaking; Second, because more than a million people read it; Third, because it began a relationship with Bleacher Report that I still relish.
Sports Illustrated. March 11, 2013.
In 2013 Sports Illustrated sent me to Columbus, Ohio to cover The Arnold Classic. Hands down, the weirdest event I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. If you love steroids, this was your place. If you love muscles atop muscles, also your place. If you love oddballs and quirks and carnivals, well—Bingo!
Sports Illustrated. September 24, 2001.
This is the one piece of writing I’m probably most attached to. The assignment came right after the 9.11 terrorist attacks, and the last thing I thought Sports Illustrated should be doing is putting out a magazine. Sports, after, all, was 100% trivial at the time. Hell, I lived about a mile from the World Trade Center; watched the first building burn and saw the second plane approach. I hated that we were doing an issue. Thought it was really, really bad taste.
I was wrong.
That Sports Illustrated goes down as my all-time favorite issue. The editor, Bill Colson, handled the whole thing with remarkable sensitivity. That’s why this article has stuck with me (I remain close with Tyler’s father, Victor). It was the right thing to do, and I was grateful to contribute.
SB Nation. August 20, 2013.
As a kid, I was fascinated by Ricky Bell, the Buccaneers star tailback. Why? I’m not sure. His smile, perhaps. Maybe his Afro. His uniform. Again—not sure. But I remember when he was traded to the Chargers, I thought, “What? How is that possible?” Then, not long after, he was dead. I never knew much about it—and SB Nation gave me the chance to find out the details. I’m forever grateful.
Sports Illustrated. December 23, 1999.
I spent several years running from this story. I felt guilty—had I done the right thing? Why was I getting so much attention? On and on. Then, about a decade ago, I found peace. John Rocker was a bigot. I was a reporter. My job wasn’t to protect him. It was to understand him. Wound up being the most important article of my career. And one, in hindsight, that brings me pride.
Sports Illustrated. October 26, 1998.
I wrote “Bare Knuckles” in 1998, when I was a young scrub at Sports Illustrated trying to make myself known. I first learned of the saga of Billy Collins about three years earlier, when I was writing for The (Nashville) Tennessean. I had been covering a local boxing card when someone nearby said, “See the guest referee. That’s Billy Collins, Sr. And, boy, does he have a story …”
This isn’t the best article I’ve written, as far as style or flow goes. But it meant something to me … the type of story most journalists long to tell.
ESPN.com. September 23, 2008.
Although I was only six when Lyman Bostock was murdered in Gary, Indiana, something about his saga always stuck with me. Hence, I was thrilled to write the following piece. This is probably as in-depth a story as I’ve ever written. It also happened to be very emotional, standing on the corner in Gary where he died.
Newsday. April 5, 2005.
Back in 2005, toward the end of my brief stay at Newsday, I was visiting the spring training clubhouse of the Cincinnati Reds when I struck up a conversation with a pitcher named Joe Valentine. We talked curveballs, college sports … and—to my great surprise—about his gay parents
Patch. April 4, 20012.
I originally pitched this story to Westchester Magazine, and the editors agreed to pay a small amount (maybe $400). Which was fine with me—it was one of those pieces I felt compelled to write. I explained the concept, told them what it’d entail, wrote it as I said I would—and, as soon as I turned in a photo showing a young African-American girl, the publication lost interest. Westchester Magazine likes to present an image of the county as a place where minorities rarely (and barely) exist, and the narrative seemed fine until it involved a poor black girl. I was livid, but ultimately thankful when Patch agreed to run it. This was never about the money, which is good. Because I was never paid a cent.