Friday, September 03, 2010

Into the great wide open

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - J.R.R. Tolkien

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - Hunter S. Thompson

My writing life's been an unusual journey, which is probably true for many writers. My parents have been heavily involved in the journalism industry for decades, but I wanted nothing to do with it growing up. I always loved sports, but I wasn't particularly interested in writing about them either. When I went off to school at Queen's University, my plan was to become a chemist; I was more concerned with compounds and formulas than vocabulary and turns of phrase.

That all changed thanks to the Queen's Journal, the campus paper I knew I wanted to be a part of soon after reading it for the first time. At first, I wanted the news and politics beats everyone else was interested in, but I took sports assignments because the editor (the very talented Erin Flegg) was looking for people. I found that I loved writing, and I particularly loved writing about sports. That eventually led to me working more-than-full-time for the paper for two years, first as the assistant sports editor and then the sports editor, and that in turn led to the time I've spent working for the Black Press chain of community newspapers as a roving reporter.

Throughout my career so far, traditional media outlets like the Journal and the Black Press papers have been my main focus, but sports blogging has been my outlet. That's about to change. Starting this weekend (probably Sunday), I'll be running Yahoo! Sports Canada's new CFL blog, The 55-Yard Line. The site will go live later this weekend, and I'll put up a new post with a link to it then; we're also going to be live-blogging the Labour Day Classic between the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Monday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern, so make sure to swing by for that.

What does all this mean for this site and my other gigs? Well, hopefully not all that much. The Yahoo! gig is replacing my day job, and most of my 9-to-5 output will be concentrated there, but I'm planning to keep writing here, at The CIS Blog, at Canuck Puck and more in the evenings. If you like my sportswriting work, you'll have more of it to read; if you don't like it, you'll have more of it to avoid. Sorry about that.

Being a professional blogger is a thrilling opportunity, and one I can't wait for, but it's a huge transition from where I've been. Five years ago, when I first started working at the Journal, I established this blog just as a place to practice my writing and develop my voice. That's still largely what it remains today, but hopefully the standard of writing has improved a bit here and there over the years. I've always loved the style and the voice involved in blogging, but until now, it's only really been a hobby. I can't wait for the chance to try and make a career out of it.

Along the way to this point, I've received tremendous opportunities from a wide variety of people; I owe Neate Sager a lot for giving me the chance to write for Out of Left Field and The CIS Blog, and Rob Pettapiece has been a tremendous colleague and now co-editor at the latter site. Andy Hutchins brought me into The Rookies, which was a tremendous sports blogging collective while it lasted (and gave me a key group of friends I still remain in touch with). Scott Carefoot gave me the chance to join The Score's Sports Federation, which has done a lot for both this site and The CIS Blog. Bryan Douglass recruited me to run Canuck Puck for Fanball and has been a tremendous supporter of my work. Without them and others, there's no way I'd have made it to this point.

I wanted to thank everyone I've connected with through the Blogs With Balls conferences. I went to the second one in Vegas last year and the third one in Chicago this year, and both experiences have been among the best of my blogging career; the events were well-run, the panelists were generally insightful and informative, and almost everyone I met was incredibly friendly and inspiring. Many of them have kept in touch through Twitter, Google Reader and the like, and I really appreciate their support. I can't recommend the conferences highly enough for up-and-coming sports bloggers. There's way too many great people I met there to thank them all individually, but I do want to give a special shout-out to the Hugging Harold Reynolds guys for putting those conferences together, and further shout-outs to Greg Wyshynski, Peter James, Josh Zerkle, Sarah Sprague, Dennis Tarwood, Phil Catelinet, Jonah Keri, Jay Busbee, Adam Jacobi, Spencer Hall, Alana Nguyen, the The Basketball Jones crew, Trey Kerby, Matt Moore and Zach Harper, a group of people who are completely awesome. There are many more I'm overlooking here, and I apologize for that. It's these people and others like them that make the sports blogosphere such a great place, and they deserve all the recognition they get.

Last but not least, I owe a great deal of gratitude to everyone I've worked with on the print media side. Particularly notable are my old Queen's Journal colleagues; I've got great memories of all of them, but those who deserve particular thanks are those who put up with working with me for extended periods of time: former-editors-in-chief Anna Mehler Paperny, Katherine Laidlaw and the aforementioned Erin Flegg, former managing editor Angela Hickman, my former sports section partners in crime Mike Woods and Amrit Ahluwalia and photojournalist comrades Harrison Smith, Josh Chan, Matt Rushworth and Tyler Ball. Former Journal types who worked there before my time, including Matt Hartley, James Bradshaw and Dan Robson, have also been tremendously helpful and friendly to me over the years. The Journal is a fantastic paper and one I'm proud to have been a part of.

Our world today features a lot of labels, with many people out to slot everyone and every outlet into clearly-defined categories. That's where a lot of the negative stereotypes about bloggers, newspaper reporters, talk-radio hosts and everyone else are generated. I hate stereotypes in general and many of those ones in particular, and I'm hoping to break down a few of them. I'm a newspaper guy and a blog guy, and in my mind, there are key roles for both styles and both mediums going forward. I'm looking forward to bringing my experience from both sides into this new role. It's a brave new world out there, but it's one I can't wait to enter.


  1. Huge but new CFL fan in the States. Can't wait to follow the blog. Do you have a URL yet?

  2. Thanks! The URL I have at the moment is Not sure if that's going to change or not.

  3. just read recent tweets by Leahy and Wyshynski / best wishes for success at The 55-Yard Line

  4. Congratulations, mate. Well-deserved. Best of luck.

  5. Thanks, guys! Much appreciated!

  6. Anonymous8:29 AM

    I'm pumped for this.

    Please cover my Tiger Cats.


    Bloge Salming

  7. Fantastic news, sir. Will continue reading your stuff and comment as much as I'm able, even as you move past your "indie" status. ;)

    Much deserved, and congrats again!

  8. Thanks! Really appreciate all the support.

  9. Cool dude! Congrats on the new gig! It's an exciting time if you're a young journalist, and can do things on the web and what not. I just took a new position with, which I think is going to revolutionize local news on the net.

  10. Anonymous2:00 AM

    Cool dude! Congrats on the new gig! It's an exciting time if you're a young journalist, and can do things on the web and what not. I just took a new position with, which I think is going to revolutionize local news on the net.