Two years ago, I hopped in my friend Jak’s car as we headed to our friend Katie’s wedding in Orange County. “I got bored yesterday and started a sports blog,” I said. Other than my roommate, Alex, who sat up with me as I painstakingly processed name ideas for what would become RulingSports.com, Jak was the first person I told. A true sports fan, he said, “That’s really cool!”
“I have no idea what I’m doing, but I already have a radio show booked for tomorrow,” I replied. “What?!” he said.
When I woke up on July 1, 2011, I had no idea that my life would change. I had no idea that the little website that I would stay up all night creating and haphazardly designing would put my life on a path much different than the one I was going down. I had no idea of the people I would meet or the places I would go or the happiness that I would find. I had no idea that just less than two years after Jak and I took that ride, he would drive me to the AmericanAirlines Arena and drop me off to cover my first NBA Finals as a credentialed journalist.
The last two years of my life seem to have gone by faster than the 27 that preceded them. They’ve been two of my favorites, though.
It always seems that the most exciting things of any venture come in its infancy. I would have thought that things couldn’t have gotten any better than they did during my first year of launching RulingSports.com, when everything was new and fresh and happening so fast. But they did. And this second year has been a gem.
It’d be safe to say that my favorite moment of the last year was the week I spent in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. The people I met, the places I visited and the food I ate are memories that will last a lifetime. Every morning when I woke up and walked to the media center or rode the bus to the SuperDome, I pinched myself. I had been a “journalist” for just over a year, and there I was with that prized credential around my neck, interviewing Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith and marching across the turf at the SuperDome. I said a little prayer each day thanking God for the wonderful opportunity He gave me and wondering just what I did to deserve it.
The NBA has been pretty darn good to me over the last year, too. Covering the NBA All-Star Game in Houston was a blast and it was nothing short of a privilege to be the only member of the media invited to the private ceremony when Team USA received their Olympic rings. Attending the NBA Finals in Miami this year was also a bucket list item. Standing in the hallway and getting hugs from NBA executives and having them personally guide me around the arena and make introductions made me feel at home, both inside and in the professional sacrifice I have made.
If there’s one thing that differed more this year than last, it was my travel schedule. Beginning in January, I traveled seven out of nine weekends all across the country. It was exhillirating, but exhausting. I met so many great new people, saw so many interesting places and things, and was greeted which much hospitality. But, at the end of the day, I was traveling alone. And there were times where I would go back to my hotel room and the harsh reality of loneliness would hit me. There might have been a pretty ugly sob fest in Virginia when I was exhausted, homesick, and still dressed in the clothes I put on two days earlier since Southwest conveniently lost my bags. During this time, my friends in Colorado were back at home making memories together and I was building a life of my own on the road. I was grateful for these moments, but traveling on a journey like this alone can get tiring, hard and lonesome.
If it’s not apparent, one of my favorite things about the last year, is the people I’ve met. There was Train, my favorite band, who sat down in a private room in New Orleans with this sports writer, answered every question with kindness and then invited me to be their personal guest at a concert in Aspen this fall. There was Rod Smith, the great former Broncos player, who gave me love advice (get a good enough job so you never need a man to support you) and business savvy. There was then Houston Texans and now Philadelphia Eagles player Connor Barwin who, through a chance meeting at the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, went on to introduce me to some of Houston’s top chefs during my NBA All-Star visit. There was Angelina Lawton, who when my flight out of Minneapolis got canceled because of snow, met me at my hotel bar late one night and said, “Ok, tell me everything about yourself. I want to know,” and listened intently as I told my whole life story. There was Claire Zovko, who on a trip to Colorado, made it a point to sit down to dinner with me and chatted about the careers we are building in this industry. There was Jason Snelling, who I’ve loved talking business with and is the only Falcons player I’ll cheer for should they ever beat my Broncos again. There was Kelli Masters, who I think God put into my life because He knew I needed a strong female role model who is led by faith and who I will always have memories of chowing down on pizza and rocking out at a blaring Lil’ Wayne concert with. There was Matt Steichen, who I believe I was in the right place at the right time, when I was alone at the bar at a Super Bowl party and he strolled up and gave me the chance to learn about everything he is doing to help the lives of others. There was Elika Sadeghi, who I don’t understand how our paths didn’t cross when we lived so close to each other in Orange County, but I am grateful to have in my life now as a sounding board and confidant. There was Erin Charlton, who before running up a mountain, went out of her way to have lunch with me and has been one of my biggest cheerleaders. There was Melissa LaCorte, who has served as an example to me of the great things women can do in this industry and has been gracious enough to open her network to me. There was Joanna Hunter with the NFL and my friends Kim Mandara, Amanda Thorn and Rick Pendrick at the NBA, who have gone so far out of their way for me so many times and have done more than I could ever ask to make me feel welcome as I travel along this new journey and go to these new places.
And then there are the people who we there with me last year, who continue to travel with me and support me. The Kristi Dosh’s, Mark Sullivan’s, Rachel Baribeau’s, Ryan Peck’s, Preston Wages’, David Cohen’s, CJ Stewart’s, Carmen Hawkins’ and Charlie Grantham’s. When I woke up that morning and decided to start a sports website, I don’t think I ever thought I would create real and lasting friendships through it. If that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is.
And then there are those of you who I have never met in person, but who are so important to me nonetheless. Social media is a powerful thing. The people you can meet and the stories you can learn are so widespread and phenomenal. My real friends think it’s crazy that I have friends whom I only know through social media. But, this is the 21st century, and this is how things work. Many of you have sent me notes of support. Many of you have responded to my requests for help. And I’m so grateful for every single one of you and the role you have played in making my life better and helping my dreams come true.
One of my favorite things about this year, is that I now have a folder in my Gmail inbox entitled, “Good Emails.” It’s filled with things that people, most of whom are strangers, have sent me. In that folder, are sentences like this:
“I, too, rely heavily on my faith, and dreaming bold dreams has been a big part of my life and how my parents have raised me. Listening to you speak, however, inspired me even more–not necessarily in a sports law career aspect, but more so in a life inspirational aspect.”
And this from SI’s George Dohrmann, who I emailed two days after starting RulingSports.com: “Seems like you have really gotten things rolling since we last talked. Nice work.”
And this from someone who stumbled upon my blog: “Your words ring true, and your writing has given me additional inspiration at a time when I often feel like I am not in control of my own life. The world needs authenticity. Thank you for yours.”
My favorite email in that folder, though, is from Kathy, the mother of a recent Colorado School of Mines graduate, Jessica. The subject line was “A different sort of request,” and in her well thought out and kind email, Kathy explained how what I’m working toward mirrored dreams she had for her own life and asked if I’d be willing to sit down with her daughter to talk about making plans for life. I loved that she used the word “serendipity” in the email, because I think it was serendipity that caused our lives to enter one another’s. That email confirmed the power of words and the power of a life well lived. It instilled in me the complete belief that I can do good things in this world and make a difference. And, most importantly, it helped me make a new friend. I wore the beautiful silver bracelet that my new friend, Jessica, gave me for my birthday last night, inside of which is inscribed, “…and she lived happily ever after.”
Happiness is a good word to describe where I’m at right now. Sure, there have been some tough moments over the last year. Like people on Twitter telling me to “die in a fire” or others creating fake Twitter accounts impersonating me. There have been tough moments with friends, too, as I’m away from home more often and my life gets more hectic. Two of my best friends admitted that they unfollowed me on their Facebook newsfeed, as to them, “all I do is brag.” That was probably the most hurtful part of this entire year, as I would never intentionally throw the opportunities in my life up at someone to brag, let alone my best friends. The fact of the matter is, that what I am doing here is no better or more important than what anyone else is doing. Rather, I have worked hard for these opportunities, am so grateful for them, realize they could be gone tomorrow and want to share them with my friends. This is my life. And the way it is now, involves a lot more travel, a lot more different people and a lot more sporting events.
I’ve found support in the strangest of people. Complete strangers ask to chat with me on the phone and are so congratulatory. Friends that I just thought were “on the fence” friends have been some of my greatest cheerleaders. Friends’ parents go out of their way to encourage me. My favorite judge in the courthouse where I work asks me every time I see him, “What are you writing about this week?” and makes it a point to read whatever it is that I do write about. People who I have asked favors of have met my requests with responses that were so far above and beyond what I needed that I was shocked. Messages from successful people doing what I want to do telling me they are proud of me give me hope that I am on the right path.
My parents, though, are my biggest supporters. My mom has driven me to the airport over 20 times this last year. She helps me come up with smart responses when people tell me to “die in a fire” or when my feelings are hurt. My dad, who doesn’t have a Twitter account of his own, reads every single one of my tweets. He is the first person I call when something exciting happens in this journey. Sometimes that means I call him five or six times a day. He picks up every time and is always excited to hear about whatever it is, no matter how crazy it is. They know that this makes me happy, and I think for that, they are happy.
It’s been a great second year. I sat down a couple months ago with a man who has been a sports journalist for 20 years. He looked at me encouragingly and said, “Alicia, you are going to do anything you want. This world is your oyster.” I pinched myself when I got in the car and drove away that night. I didn’t have that kind of belief the day before July 1, 2011.
This next year holds great things. I’m going to continue on with RulingSports.com, Forbes and The Huffington Post. I’ve been asked by CNBC to begin doing TV work for the network. And I’m hoping later this week, that I can make official a big announcement that I’ve been sitting on.
What I can say, looking back at the last two years, is to go after your dream–no matter how crazy it is. The only way to not achieve a dream is to not pursue it. Be brave enough to make mistakes, but learn from them. Be amenable to change and willing to transform the definition of your dream. Be kind to everyone and listen to what advice they have to offer you. Go out of your way to help others, even if they can never repay you. Make it a point each night that when your head hits the pillow, you know that you gave that day your all. Wake up each morning knowing that the day holds new possibilities that you could never even expect. Be hopeful. Be grateful. Refuse to quit on yourself. No matter how hard it gets.
Thank you all for joining with me or sticking with me on this journey. It’s been magical and I have you to thank for keeping that magic alive.