Twenty years ago today, my life changed. Not immediately. But the wheels were set in motion when we flipped the switch on November 1, 2001, on ProFootballTalk.com.
I had no idea where it would go at the time. There was no master plan or mission statement. It was fun. And, at $ 500 to install it and $ 50 per month, it was a lot cheaper than, say, playing golf.
I had been on the sidelines of the company since June 2000, from writing part-time for the late NFLTalk.com (and not earning a dime) to landing on ESPN.com’s Insider service on a six month period. contract in May 2001 (I still don’t think they knew I was moonlighting with a full-time law firm) to decide instead of signing for another year with a salary of $ 36,000 (I always the document) to run my own thing. Something I was in control. Something I edited. Something that could go live instantly without layers or levels of approval.
The post 9/11 soul-searching that so many of us have been engaged in has also been an important factor. Life is short and uncertain. I was working 18 hours a day. I decided to forgo 36K security and try my luck with something new. My only real goal, frankly, was to ultimately earn the money I had turned down on the one-year ESPN deal.
The search for available domain names almost immediately landed on ProFootballTalk.com, one thing led to another, and we went live the day after my ESPN.com contract expired.
The internet was different then, in every way imaginable. I connected to the web through an old fashioned modem. It took forever to download stories and even longer to download content.
We found an audience very early on, with a surprisingly high concentration of people in football (Amy Trask can confirm this). We built the audience gradually but consistently. The only problem, however, was that we didn’t make any money.
Over time, the money started pouring in. The ever increasing traffic has helped. In 2006, Sprint arrived out of the blue and became our first major partner. It was then that I knew that, before long, I would be leaving the practice of law and devoting all of my time and concentrating on PFT.
That moment came three years later when NBC’s Rick Cordella proposed a partnership. I resisted, demanding full editorial control in the hope of scaring him off. It did not work. After a few months (which included blackouts fueled by traffic demands that had exceeded critical mass), we reluctantly struck a deal with NBC.
It was then that everything changed. No more law firm, at the request of NBC. My arm didn’t need to be twisted. My hobby had become my job.
My fear was that it would start to sound like a job, not a hobby. Sometimes it does, especially since we’ve found our way across multiple platforms. It can be a little stressful at times. But it’s never as stressful as having someone else’s interests depend on doing the right thing at the right time, whether in writing, in a deposition, or stumbling in open court. . Litigation is made up of constant conflict and a lot of resentment.
That’s what allowed me to be a little more disruptive, an agitator. An instigator. As I told someone years ago, when I was practicing law, half the people I dealt with hated me and the other half loved me; the biggest challenge was to keep the half who was supposed to love me from hating me. In this business, any day that less than half the people I deal with hate me is a fucking good day.
So here we are, 7,305 days later. The idea crossed my mind last week to shut it down and leave today (a lot of you would act like you like it, but I have a feeling deep down you wouldn’t. ). This insane instantaneous flicker of impulse has been muffled. I like what I do. I still enjoy it every day. I still have at least 20 years in me. Maybe 20 more beyond.
Even if it dates back to the days of low or no income, I will continue to do so. Because I already did it for no money. Regardless of the forum, shape, or format, I will continue to do this until I can’t.
So basically you’ve been stuck with me for 20 years. And you will continue to be stuck with me.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity (HERE IS THE PITCH) to point out that: (1) I have a book coming out in March about the last 20 years in the NFL; and (2) you can, if you wish, pre-order Playmakers to show your appreciation for 20 years of still free content.
After you’ve read the book (or if you never do), you can put it on your shelf, use it for a clipboard, or (as Big Cat suggested last week) use each page as your paper. to roll. Either way, you will get some value if you buy the book. And if you buy it now, you will have exclusive access to the weekly Playmakers Podcast.
Whether you buy it or not, I appreciate the fact that you are here, reading these words. I could say that PFT has changed my life, that Sprint has changed my life, that NBC has changed my life. The truth is that you changed my life. Without each of you, we would never have gotten to the point where someone with a lot of money would have decided to give us some of it in order to serve you.
I could (and probably should) thank a lot of people right now. Today I just thank you. None of this would have happened if you had not decided to integrate us into your daily life, to welcome us in your homes and on your phones. You have been there with us and for us for two decades, and we intend to be there with you and for you for many years to come.
On behalf of myself, my family, all the staff and all those who are in any way connected with the operation, thank you. I could never do for you what you did for me.