When I wrote on this blog in January of 2016 after getting laid off, I hypothesized that if I could stay in DC and do the exact same thing I had been doing, I'd be very happy. Little did I know that exactly two years to the day that I started working in DC, that I'd be offered that exact opportunity.
Last Thursday morning, I was offered the Redskins Beat Reporter position at 106.7 The Fan. I have accepted it. I am elated.
I can't go any further without acknowledging the last man who had this job. Brian McNally is one of the finest men I have ever worked with and one of the best teammates I've ever had. He was a pro's pro and he embodies everything that is right about journalism, nevertheless his humanity.
The night we found out Brian was moving on, he and I met and he encouraged me to pursue the position. His friendship, first as a competitor when I worked for ESPN 980 and then as an open-armed teammate as I came to The Fan has meant as much to me as any professional relationship I've ever had. Filling his shoes is an enormous task, and if I do it it will be in no small part thanks to how much better he's made me over the last year.
The person entrusting me to do that is Chris Kinard, my program director. We should all be so lucky to work for a boss like Chris. He's someone who communicates clearly what he wants, listens to questions and suggestions and gives answers and feedback straight. More than that, he's a human first. We can talk about human things. There's a real relationship there that started in a coffee shop around the corner from our station in the month following my layoff from 980. It's one that's grown over the past year of working together and one that will continue to grow over what is hopefully many years to come.
Belief is a powerful thing. Belief in self is required through hard times, but belief from others who you respect is uplifting. Part of the reason I believe I can do this job is because CK believes I can do it, and he's good enough at his job to help me be good at mine. It sounds simple. It's rarer than it should be. I know what I have and I appreciate it more than I can put into words.
When I was laid off, probably the biggest disappointment was feeling like I had unfinished business in DC. Chris gave me an opportunity to continue working, first part-time and now full-time. It might be dramatic to say I owe him my career, but the way the business is going I can't say for sure I would've gotten a lot of other shots. He gave me one in a city I love being in and had no desire to leave. Now time to live up to what I can do and pay him back.
The two years in this city have been an unbelievable ride. I came to DC nervous, but driven. The things I was nervous about came to fruition six months later. Six months of unemployed wilderness followed, which was both a personal and professional test.
Last July, as I was literally running out of money and wondering what the future held, everything changed, but it wasn't just from a text from Chris that said "I may have something for you." It was a chance someone else took on me that's changed my life in ways I couldn't have imagined.
I walked into Courtney Diep's office at Sport & Health as a person who had covered athletes as a journalist, grew up in a gym, but had zero training experience and wanted a job doing just that. Luckily for me, I walked in at the right time. She (soon to become we) were a little thin staffed, so a person with a little knowledge, a lot of time and a willingness to learn was someone she was willing to to invest in.
All the things I said about Chris I could also say about Courtney. Somehow I had two dream bosses at once. She set a high standard, but helped me reach it. She encouraged me to learn. She challenged me to be better, and she was willing to deal with my pain in the ass schedule.
It takes a special kind of person to agree to employ someone when they know that job isn't the top priority, but Courtney took that risk and helped me discover a passion that I otherwise never would have gotten to pursue. If you're an "everything happens for a reason" person, than my last year working in the fitness industry is a story you can tell.
I will absolutely continue to train, simply because I love it. I love working with people. I love helping them reach their goals. I love learning and trying things, and I can in the fitness world in a way that I can't as a reporter. It's a completely different use of my creativity and while I'll have to scale back, I can't imagine giving it up now. In January, Courtney left us to pursue an amazing opportunity, and fortunately our assistant fitness director, Lisa, was elevated in her place. Lisa has operated with the same caring, kindness and understanding that Courtney did and I am SO thankful she's going to allow me to stay on with our team and is still willing to work with my now even more pain in the ass schedule!
The gym gave me more than something to do and a (much needed) paycheck, though. It gave me some of the best friends I've ever had in my life.
When you're 27 years old, it's weird to have a boss that is 4 years younger than you. It's weirder for that boss to become your best friend. Enter Sam Gunther. Sam is our head of EP at OneLife (we changed names in January) and he started about a month after me. We just clicked. I don't think there's a whole lot of magic to it. We're two guys who like sports, like to workout, love to learn and try new things and really like bad (GOOD) fast food. Oh and we really like FIFA. Lots of FIFA.
As I started training, Branden Allen was my guide. I learned a lot studying to become certified. I learned a lot more from Branden. We worked out nearly every day for six months as I got started, and he simultaneously got me into the best shape of my life. In doing so, he taught me to help others do the same. More than that, he became an incredible friend. Spend 30 seconds with Branden and he'll be your friend, too. It's just how he is. And he laughs at everything. Which is great. Because most of my jokes suck.
The gym gave me a consistency that I hadn't previously had in DC. I came, hit the ground running, ran into a wall and wandered through the wilderness thanks to radio. I needed to find some solid ground. These people gave me that ground, while allowing me to still pursue my media career. What's amazing is, nobody pushed me harder towards this job than Branden and Sam. For Sam specifically, that's counter productive to his own goals. He's running a department that over the last year we have built to destroy all previous records and expectations. Now I will be dramatically less involved in that department. He did not and does not care. That's pretty special.
Fitness opened new doors for me in the athletic world, too, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my Train With The Best Podcast team of Chris Gorres and Lorenzo Alexander. Chris has become a friend and mentor. Every time I talk with him, I come away smarter. He allowed me to tag along with him to workouts and workshops and every single time I came away a better trainer and better person for it. He's just an extremely special guy and I'm glad to know our partnership and friendship isn't going anywhere.
Lorenzo deserves a shoutout as well. It's not common that a pro athlete that will let a media member join in on their summer workouts, nevertheless invite them just because. Lorenzo did, and that allowed me not only to learn what it takes to play at the highest level, but to have so many discussions where I was exposed to new perspectives that will help me do my job as a reporter better.
Last, but not least I have to thank my family and apologize to my sister. She just got a new job, and she got to have the shiny new label for a whole whopping two weeks. Whoops. Sorry, sis. I know she wouldn't have it any other way though. Her support and encouragement are one of the things that keeps me going.
Meanwhile, my parents literally help keep me afloat. They always know just the right chord to strike to push through a tough time or keep me moving in the right direction when things are going well. As I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate just how much they do. I'll never be able to repay them, though I have a list somewhere of literal money I owe them. Maybe I'll be able to give them a dollar or two of that soon. All I can do is try to make them proud, and I know not giving up on my dream and continuing to push forward has made them so. That, above all, is the ultimate satisfaction.
Time to go to work.