I sucked when I started.
It made sense why. I had never written an article in my life – or at least one that had to be reviewed by an editor before being published. My school was far too small to support a student newspaper, and even if it did, I would much rather be the one playing basketball than the one writing about it.
My longest plan was to find a small school in Pennsylvania to play D-III basketball, major in math, and eventually get a job as a high school math teacher and basketball coach. Not exactly a tale of tales, but that was the shot I wanted.
But just because that’s what you planned doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen. I was never tall enough (but being 5-foot-11 doesn’t make you a little king, contrary to popular belief), and I realized I had to move on. At the same time, while I was running AP Calculus to get a 5 on this exam (which wasn’t worth it even if I did), I realized that I would much rather spend the rest of my life talking and thinking about sport rather than dying. on how to find integrals for 20 minutes at a time, which is a long story told in short about how I ended up as a journalism student at Northwestern.
After editing hundreds of articles that have graced this site, I feel embarrassed to imagine what EIC Emeritus Noah Coffman must have thought when the overeager freshman he had just added to the staff submitted a Big Ten Power Rankings article that contained OVER 2,000 WORDS. DISORGANIZED!!!
Fortunately, he could only go up from there (set the ground low like I’m Rutgers football babayyyy). I don’t know exactly when it clicked for me, but I have an idea of when it started. Since NBA X and O maestro Zach Lowe was my favorite writer when I signed up, I was thrilled the first time I got the chance to write a movie review for this site, even if I was spitting nonsense about football, a sport I didn’t play growing up. Anyway, I devoured a Penn State-Iowa game movie and offered some advice on how the ‘Cats should attack the AJ Epenesa-led Hawkeyes.
Seeing that I was crazy enough to appreciate the movie bits, the powers of the day gradually let me test new waters with basketball movie bits, often centered around the women’s basketball team. 2019-20 Northwest Championship which finished with a 26-4 record and the Big Ten Regular Season Crown.
First, I gushed about Blizzard’s complex defense and how it works. Then I literally wrote an article for no other reason than to give myself an outlet to praise Veronica Burton (a foreshadowing of what was to come, in all honesty). But one player profile wasn’t enough, and soon I was diving headfirst into the breakdowns of Abi Schied’s ridiculous three-point shot and Lindsey Pulliam’s underrated defense.
Not only had I found the types of articles I liked to write about, but I was improving with each byline I published. Before, I tried to write like a hot artist, laden with general proclamations and spicy critiques of athletes. It took me a while to realize that the best version of who I am as a writer is no different from the way I played on the basketball court – an intense, detail-oriented worker who knows that it has to be above every minute fact for the system to work (just add the occasional self-deprecating comment so I can keep you all on your toes).
The key to my improvement as a “journalist” wasn’t perfecting the AP style or reading 1,000 books. The key was realizing that I love the sport, not the writing itself, and constantly communicating that in everything I do. Whether it’s talking and following other people with a similar obsession, building my entire online brand around said obsession, or finding a way to find out every little detail that happens on the football pitch or on the basketball court, I tried to remind people just how much fun I was having the chance to cover the sport.
People make a big deal out of “going to Northwestern” or “being in Medill.” Honestly, I don’t think the classes I took at this school made me who I am today as a writer, podcaster, or sports media person. The most important thing Northwestern did for me was let me know they could sign up to be on staff at Inside NU at the in-person publishing fair in 2019 because writing for this site was 1 000,000,000,000,000,000 times more useful than anything a teacher she tried to teach me (she was going to add more zeros but just like Illinois men’s basketball I didn’t reach my ultimate goal).
A solid six-month start with Inside NU led me to land a gig covering my favorite basketball team — the Philadelphia 76ers — at Liberty Ballers just before the pandemic first hit the United States. After about 16 months of writing, talking and escaping about them, I was hired as a basketball scout by Sports Info Solutions, where I was literally able to live my dream – getting paid to watch basketball all day and all night.
This was only possible thanks to this strange, wild, sometimes trying but ultimately amazing website known as Inside NU. This was the starting point for this next chapter of my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.
There are so many people to thank, so I hope no one misses here with this:
A big thank you to Noah Coffman for being my first EIC, promoting me to Editor-in-Chief in 2020 after seeing my passion for the job, and still being the fastest responder to text messages I’ve ever seen. Thanks also to Avery Zimmerman and Joe Weinberg for agreeing with Noah that I was worth a shot at the time.
Many thanks to Eli Karp and Lia Assimakopoulos (certainly spelled correctly the first time around, I certainly didn’t need to get a text from Ben saying I messed up and had to change it in the mail) for being Fantastic EICs and helping me through all my work on this site over the past two years. Both amazing people and amazing bosses.
Obviously, a big thank you to my co-editors at Mac Stone and Ben Chasen. I owe you both so much for agreeing to work with me to run this site after I told you this summer that I had just landed the big role with SIS and was going to need some other people in load of the site because I certainly couldn’t do it alone. Mac, I wish the Bears don’t waste Justin Fields, and Ben, I’ll leave you with a hearty “Go Dodgers,” as is tradition.
And of course, I must thank all of you who are currently reading this article and those who have continuously followed the 235 articles that have been published under my name for this site over the past two and a half years, not counting the countless tweets that I hope will keep you laughing throughout the day. It’s still mind-boggling to me how I’ve gone from a casual blogger in high school who got fired up when his NBA breakdowns hit 100 views to a semi-professional who saw his posts crack into the thousands, even tens of thousands of views in a single day for this website. Just know that every positive comment or affirmation you left under a piece of me has always meant the world to me.
That’s all for now, and maybe that will be all for me here at Inside NU. Just remember:
- Veronica Burton is the greatest of all time.
- I was the first person to be right about Adetomiwa Adebawore, no I will not accept any argument.
- The best version of Northwest football is when the ‘Cats suck at scoring but still win (especially the 2015 team).
- Everyone who helps maintain this site are just college students who find time throughout the day, and it’s amazing that Inside NU continues to be good at what it does year after year.
- Come on ‘Cats, baby.
Doctor Daniel Olinger