Tipping Pitches: Who is this Guy?


Who is this Guy?

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Everyone has a blog.  And when I say "everyone" has a blog, I mean everyone has a blog.  And when the blogosphere is saturated with millions upon millions of musings, the first question I always ask myself -- as I'm sure you do -- when I find a new blog is, "So why should I read this?"

As a reader, there's not much I will regularly follow.  It's gotta be unique.  It's gotta be well written.  It's gotta strike a nerve.  And it's gotta be engaging.

I follow Bill Simmons on ESPN.com.  To be honest, that's about it.  Otherwise, I pick up stuff as I stumble upon it, but there really isn't anyone else I'll regularly search out.

Am I Bill Simmons?  No chance.  But I have life experiences that I feel will strike a nerve with many.

My Career
My professional career has not been typical, and I'd like to think we're still early in the game.  I graduated from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA, with a Philosophy degree.  In other words, I learned some very important skills in my four years there, but I wasn't prepared for any specific career.

What followed was a few years to which I'm sure many can relate.  I bartended a little.  I backpacked in Europe.  I took whatever job I could get.

And when I say "whatever job," I mean whatever job.  I did some cold call telemarketing.  And believe me, as much as you hated receiving those calls, I hated making them even more.  I'd fill up my water bottle eight times per day so that I'd consistently have a reason to get up and put my headset down (not just filling, but emptying, if you know what I mean).  I was terrible at the job, but being terrible at telemarketing is not something to be ashamed of.  I knew there was something better for me.

After getting married, I was again thrust into "find a job at any cost mode."  We moved to the Denver area without specific employers in mind, and we needed to pay the bills.  Thanks to a college contact in the area, I found the next least desirable job to telemarketing:  Claims Adjuster.  I did this for about a year before moving to underwriter with Travelers Insurance.  Much classier, but far from a dream fulfilling role.

I knew that I needed to do something I loved.  It wasn't an "I hope" proposition.  When you are doing something you don't truly enjoy, you need a backup plan.

What I did may have been a bit naive at the time.  I loved fantasy sports.  It was how I spent the majority of my free time.  It was a passion.  And I wanted to work in fantasy sports as a career.

Seemed a bit silly at the time.  The internet was just starting to take off with the 2000 tech boom.  Fantasy sports were trying to find an identity.  There weren't many -- if any -- people making good money in the business.

But I was determined.  After sending e-mails to just about any fantasy site with a "Contact Us" link, I started writing for Rotoworld.com.  Started from the bottom -- not that there was much of a top.  Updated news and soon started writing weekly articles on fantasy sports strategy.

I loved it.  Loved it.  Made very little money, but that wasn't the whole idea at the time.  It made me happy, and I got my feet wet in an industry that was far from saturated.  I made some great connections and learned the ins and outs of the business.

Eventually, I gained enough of a following that I started my own site, though it was certainly raw.  The site (no longer in existence) featured fantasy and non-fantasy sports writing, but with a humorous slant.  Instead of fantasy geeks who wanted to write, we were writers who also knew sports (and fantasy sports).  We created some content.  I learned how to manage a website.  We had our fun.

There came a point where I thought I could do it no more.  Lots of hours, little money.  Our oldest son Michael was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.  Priorities suddenly change.  So I got out for a year.

But once things cleared up with Michael, I got the itch again.  And it just so happens that one of my friends from the fantasy world was making a big name for himself.  Matthew Berry (aka "The Talented Mr. Roto") started writing for Rotoworld around the time I did, and we became good friends.  He was beginning to get big, but not yet "ESPN" big.

Matthew was consulting for the NBA to help them put together a fantasy section in 2005.  Part of that strategy was hiring someone who could run the show.  Don't get me wrong, I can connect the dots here.  He more than likely was offered the gig and declined.  It's never been verified, but it only makes sense.

But Matthew provided the NBA with some names of people he thought could handle the gig.  My name was one of them.

Now, this was too good to be true.  Work for the NBA.  Make it a career.  No need to do this stuff (or anything else) on the side.  What's the catch?

Move to New Jersey.

That's quite the catch.  But it's something I had to do.  Luckily, my wife went along with it.

It was an amazing three seasons.  There is no better position to have than one that has never existed before.  NBA.com/Fantasy had my fingerprints all over it.  It's actually somewhat funny (and sad) when I look at the presentation I gave to the NBA back in 2005 with my vision for the site.  Technology has evolved in a startling way.

I quickly needed to become an expert in relationships, contracts, development, and marketing.  In addition to managing our editorial partner (which happened to be Matthew's company at the time) I wrote some of my own content.  I developed promotions, created new games, managed a seasonal magazine.  I can't begin to explain just how "cool" (because there's no better way to describe it) this job was.

My two highlights were working the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Vegas and managing the NBA Cares Celebrity Fantasy League.

The All-Star Game was a dream come true as an aspiring sports writer.  Interview and mingle with players and celebrities.  Full access to athletes and facilities.  If even for a few days, I was "one of them."

The Celebrity League was as ridiculous as you may imagine.  Each season, several celebrities (and their assistants) managed fantasy teams under the public's collective watching eye.  I helped Samuel L. Jackson draft and manage his team.  Yes, it was as cool as you think it was.  But no, his teams were not good.  I blame him.

As much as I loved the job, we simply could not stay in New Jersey.  We had family and a lifestyle we adored in Colorado.  We had friends in New Jersey, but also bills and stress that we could do without.  Following the 2007-08 season, we moved back to Colorado.

For the first six months, I used the skills I learned in development at the NBA as Product Director for Rotohog.com, a fantasy sports vendor.  Much different on this side, particularly with a start-up.  I worked from home, but the hours and stress level were things to which I was not accustomed -- even during the NBA's busy seasons.

But it was good for our lifestyle.  It allowed us to return to Colorado and me to work from home.  I couldn't complain.

Then, however, the economy went into the toilet.  Start-ups like Rotohog struggled.  I received a call in January of 2009 that was not particularly shocking.  I had been laid off.

It was scary, but it wasn't something I could dwell on.  I was one of many in this country facing a similar fate.  I needed to rebound.

Luckily, I had a fantastic relationship with the company's new CEO, Kelly Perdew (yes, the winner of season two of The Apprentice).  I did some consulting for his wife and paid the bills for a few months.

I'll tell you, consulting is a lifestyle that I could get used to.  Freedom.  Money.  It's powerful.  But there's also risk.  And, although I was still working in the digital space, it wasn't particularly rewarding.

That's when connections and life experience again came into play.  The woman who hired me at the NBA had moved on and was an adviser for the American Cancer Society in Seattle.  Upon creating a VP of Strategic Marketing position, she contacted me (and the rest of her Facebook friends) about the open position.

It's funny how things always seem to work out.  I've been lucky.  I've had opportunities.  I've taken advantage of them.

I'm also a father facing the typical things a father does.  Whether it's coaching the boys' baseball teams, going to Cub Scout meetings, organizing the garage, or attempting to revive my yard, I thoroughly enjoy the challenges of being a father.

I have also experienced the agony a parent feels when discovering that their child has cancer.  It is an emotion that is impossible to describe.  I cried.  I rationalized.  I lived in fear.  But we made it through.

Six years later, Michael is a happy and healthy, cancer-free child.  It was an experience that forever changed us, but for the better.  We live with the scars, but we know that other families face more difficult prognoses.  Whether it's working for ACS or raising money for cancer research, we want to do whatever we can to help limit the pain of those who suffer -- and to help prevent the suffering from occurring in the first place.

I'm self-taught in the technology world.  As a college kid, I always bought the newest and most expensive gadgets (something my wife and I would pay for down the road).  Once I got into the fantasy sports world, I taught myself HTML and some PHP -- or at least enough to make me dangerous.  I learned about project management and development.  While with the NBA, I entered the "after college" Facebook world when it became available to all.  In addition to leading development of various fantasy games, I've been involved with the creation of Facebook, Myspace and iPhone applications.

Not surprisingly, I understand the importance of technology and social networking for a marketer.  That said, I've been slow to blog (at least without an alias) or fully commit to a personal Twitter account.  Facebook is my thing -- I dig connecting with people I know.  But I've never been particularly comfortable with opening up to the world.  Lately, I've been taking that next step -- this blog being an example. 

So, who is this guy?
I'm everyone.  In many ways, I may be just like you.  I've been very lucky to have some amazing opportunities to do ridiculous things, and I have taken advantage of them.  I face the trials and triumphs of any father, and have dealt with the pain of caring for a sick child.  Like you, I love my grill, my yard, my gadgets, my sports and my stereo.

Being that I'm not incredibly unique in that way, this blog may be bound to fail.  Or maybe it's the similarities to all that will make it engaging.