That’s a job?
Peyton Manning ended his goodbye press conference by telling Colts fans he has “truly enjoyed being your quarterback.” It was such a perfect line that I'm going to steal it. I’ve truly enjoyed writing for you here for nine years.
I started working at Rotoworld midway through the 2003 NFL season. Our office was located roughly 75 minutes north of New York City in Somers, New York. I rented a room in a house owned by a creepy motivational speaker nearby with my $500-per-week salary.
My job description was to write all the player news for Rotoworld football and help where else I could. It took me a few weeks to realize no one was going to tell me what to do. Or even ask what I was doing. It took me a few hours to realize I never wanted to go back to a real job again.
At the time, Rotoworld was a relatively small (but growing) part of AllStarStats Inc., a stats service for fantasy leagues. Two childhood friends Rich Pike and Mike Oliveto started the company in the late 80’s in Rich’s mother’s basement. Fantasy owners would call up and enter their teams and transactions by touch tone phone. (If you want to pick up Ellis Burks, press 1. If you want to pick up Tom Brunansky, press 2.) Stats were printed, stapled, and sent out by mail each week.
Mike showed up to work in a Metallica t-shirt every day and spent most of his day ranting about ... anything. Rich would emerge from his office to talk for hours about whatever “idea of the day” popped up. There were always ideas. (Executing those ideas was more challenging.)
The rest of us were crammed together in two rooms. It was a dramatic moment when Rick Cordella – who was a computer programmer when I started at Rotoworld and now runs all of NBC Sports Digital as a business celebrity – put up a divider around his desk to create an “office” where he could make phone calls.
Rotoworld news became my life. When I told people what I did back then, I would first ask: “Do you know what fantasy football is?”
The response was almost always the same: “That’s a job?”
I felt the same way and held on for dear life. It seemed faintly ridiculous you could get paid to write about fantasy sports. I kept waiting for someone to barge into the office and say, “Okay, you guys have had enough fun here. Time’s up.”
After five months, I moved down to New York City to live in an apartment I couldn’t afford on 12th St. between Avenue A and B. No football news was written on the site on my way to work and back. There was always a frightening moment when I got home, turned on my laptop, and hoped that no player was arrested during my trip back.
I didn’t miss much because there wasn’t a lot of NFL news in the evening to find back then. There was no Twitter, no RSS feeds, no round-the-clock team blogs, and scant information from the team’s websites. There was no NFL Live. NFL Network was just starting up. There were the local morning papers and not much else.
I was too immersed and in love with my job to notice things weren’t entirely stable around me. One Christmas, I heard years later, Mike and Rich had to pay our salaries off their credit cards. Just two years later, they sold the company to NBC and became set financially for life.
The average person knows fantasy sports now. They probably even know Rotoworld, which has topped four million pageviews per day all this week. We’ve gone from one man on news to a regular staff of 4-5 guys on football, with others chipping in.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how things started in Somers and how far Rotoworld has come. I’m taking a job at NFL.com and today feels like high school graduation. (If I went to high school nine years, met a wife and had a daughter during high school.)
I’m so proud of what we built, and it couldn’t be in better hands moving forward. Brett Vandermark runs the whole show and has overseen the site’s massive growth. Evan Silva, Chris Wesseling, Adam Levitan, and Pat Daughtery are the best football crew working in fantasy sports and it’s not close. No. 4 on our depth chart is better than the No. 1 spot at most sites. Tiffany Simons and Matt Casey made the Fantasy Fix what it is. And they made it a family.
I am so thankful to Rick Cordella for being the best leader I could possibly have for nine years. I’m grateful to Mike Florio for the opportunity to write at PFT and the friendship we shared working together. There are many others to thank here, but they are starting to play the music to kick me off stage.
This turned into one of those long, self-indulgent, overly sentimental goodbye columns that I didn’t want to write. But it’s hard not to get sentimental saying goodbye to something you love.
More than anything, I want to say thanks for reading. I meet a lot of Rotoworld readers that aren’t really in fantasy football. They are just news junkies. They want hardcore football analysis. They want contract information. They want to know what news means. They want news on the backup tight end in addition to the Peyton Mannings of the world.
There are a lot of you out there. Thanks for helping me avoid having a real job for so long.