I sucked at this when I first 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 it was published. My school was far too small to support a student newspaper, and even if had been, I much preferred to be the one playing basketball than the one writing about it.
My plan for the longest time was to find a small school in Pennsylvania to play D-III basketball at, major in math and eventually get a job as a high school math teacher and basketball coach. Not exactly a storybook tale, but it was the plan I wanted.
But just because it’s what you planned doesn’t mean it’s what’s going to happen. I never got quite tall enough (but being 5-foot-11 does not make you a short king, contrary to popular belief), and realized that I had to move on to something else. At the same time, as I grinded through AP Calculus to get a 5 on that exam (which wasn’t worth it even if I did), I realized I would much rather spend the rest of my life talking and thinking about sports than agonizing over how to find integrals for 20 minutes at a time, which is a long story told short for how I ended up as a journalism major at Northwestern.
Having edited now hundreds of articles that have graced this site, I feel embarrassed imagining 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 piece that was OVER 2,000 WORDS ALONG IT ITS ROUGH DRAFT!!!
Thankfully, it could only go up from there (setting the floor low like I’m Rutgers football babayyyy). I don’t know specifically when it clicked for me, but I have an idea of when it started. Given that NBA X’s and O’s maestro Zach Lowe was my favorite writer back when I enrolled, I was thrilled the first time I had a chance to write a film breakdown for this site, even though I was spewing nonsense about football, a sport that I did not play growing up. Regardless, I devoured some Penn State-Iowa game film and gave some advice on how the ‘Cats should attack the A.J. Epenesa-led Hawkeyes.
Seeing that I was demented enough to enjoy film breakdown pieces, the powers of the time gradually let me test new waters with basketball game film pieces, often centered on the 2019-20 Northwestern women’s basketball team that finished with a 26-4 record and the Big Ten regular season crown.
First, I gushed about the complex Blizzard defense and how it operates. Then, I literally wrote an article for no other reason than to give myself an outlet to praise Veronica Burton with (a foreshadowing of what was to come, in all honesty). But one player profile wasn’t enough, and soon I dove headfirst into breakdowns of Abi Schied’s ridiculous three-point shooting and Lindsey Pulliam’s underrated defense.
Not only had I found the types of pieces that I loved writing about, I was getting better with each byline published. Before, I tried to write like a hot take artist, heavy on broad sweeping proclamations and spicy critiques of athletes. It took me time to realize the best version of who I am as a writer is not any different from the way I played on the basketball court — an intense, detail-oriented worker who knows that he has to be on top of every minute fact for the system to work (only add in the occasional self-deprecating comment so that I can keep y’all on your toes).
The key to my improvement as a “journalist” wasn’t by perfecting AP style or by reading 1,000 books. The key was realizing that I love sports, not writing itself, and constantly communicating that in everything I do. Whether it be talking and following other people with a similar obsession, building my entire online brand around said obsession or finding a way to geek out over every small detail that happens on the football field or on the basketball court, I tried to remind people just how much fun I was having by getting the chance to cover sports.
People make a big deal out of “attending Northwestern” or “being in Medill.” Quite honestly, I don’t think any of the classes I’ve taken at this school have made me what I am today as a writer, podcaster or overall sports media member. The most important thing Northwestern has done for me was letting freshman me know that he could sign up to be on Inside NU’s staff at the in-person publication fair back in 2019, because writing for this site was 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 times more helpful than anything a professor her has tried to teach me (was going to add more zeroes, but much like Illinois men’s basketball, I did not reach my ultimate goal).
A solid six-month start with Inside NU led to me landing a gig covering my favorite basketball team — the Philadelphia 76ers — at Liberty Ballers right before the pandemic first hit the States. After roughly 16 months of writing, talking and venting about them, I was hired as a basketball scout by Sports Info Solutions, where I quite literally get to live out my dream — getting paid to watch basketball all day and night.
That was only possible through this weird, wild, at times taxing but ultimately amazing website known as Inside NU. It’s been the starting point for this next chapter in my life, and for that, I am forever grateful.
There’s so many people to thank, so I hope won’t miss anyone here with this:
Huge shoutout to Noah Coffman for being my first EIC, promoting me to managing editor in 2020 after seeing my passion for this job and still being the most prompt responder to text messages that I’ve ever seen. Also shoutout to Avery Zimmerman and Joe Weinberg for agreeing with Noah that I was worth taking a shot on back then.
Great thanks to Eli Karp and Lia Assimakopoulos (definitely spelled it right the first time, definitely didn’t have to get a text from Ben saying that I messed it up and needed to change it in post) for being fantastic EIC’s and helping me through all my work on this site over the past two years. Both amazing people and amazing bosses.
Obviously, a huge thanks to my co-Editors in Chief in Mac Stone and Ben Chasen. I owe you both so much for being willing to work with me in running this site after I broke the news to you in the summer that I had just landed the great role with SIS and was going to need other people in charge of the site because I definitely could not do it alone. Mac, I wish the Bears a very don’t waste Justin Fields, and Ben I will leave you with a hearty “Go Dodgers,” as is tradition.
And of course, I need to thank all of you currently reading this article and those who have continually followed the 235 pieces that have been published under my name for this site in the past two-and-a-half years, not including the countless tweets that I hope give you some laughs throughout the day. It’s still mind-boggling to me how I was able to go from an occasional high school blogger who got excited when his NBA breakdowns cracked 100 views to a semi-professional who saw his pieces crack several thousand and even tens of thousands of views in a single day for this website. Just know that every positive comment or affirmation you left down below a piece of mine always meant the world to me.
That’s all for now, and perhaps all that will be for me here at Inside NU. Just remember:
- Veronica Burton is the greatest at anything ever.
- I was the first person to be right about Adetomiwa Adebawore, no I will not accept any arguments.
- The best version of Northwestern football is the one where the ‘Cats suck at scoring points but still win anyways (shoutout the 2015 team most especially).
- Everyone who contributes to the maintenance of this site is just a student finding time throughout the day, and it’s amazing that Inside NU continues to be good at what it does year after year.
- Go ‘Cats, baby.
The Doctor Daniel Olinger