The October 14, 2015 edition of RedEye hangs framed at the entrance to my bedroom. That’s the paper that was published after the Cubs beat the Cardinals three games to one in the 2015 National League Division Series, winning a playoff series at Wrigley Field for the first time ever. I had the game story in that edition of the paper, one of many career dreams that came true because of RedEye.
That night, I was trying to interview David Ross on the field after the game during the celebration when I heard a noise. I turned around and there’s Jon Lester with a mischievous grin in his eyes and a bottle of champagne in his hands. I held up my phone in self defense…why? I’m still not entirely sure.
Then, this happened:
I smelled like champagne and cigars for a week after that celebration. I’ve never had a better day at work in my career before or since.
So, there was some news about RedEye today, my freelance home for the past five years. You can read all about it here.
RedEye is changing, and that saddens me a great deal. Not because, as a freelancer for the past five years, I was ever financially reliant on my income from the paper.
Rather, RedEye has been the funnest freelance gig I, and I’m sure many others, have ever had.
For years, the commuter daily was a byline I aspired to just because it always seemed the writers were having so much damn fun. Within a day of starting an inside sales gig at the Tribune in February 2012, I made it a point to email RedEye’s then-sports editor Brian Moore to see about freelance work. I wanted to be one of them, I had to be one of them because those guys were the cool kids and, even though I had regular freelance work with ESPN.com at the time, I wanted so desperately to be one of the cool kids.
Brian took a chance on me and gave me a regular byline, even though my first sports column for the paper turned out to be…well, regrettable at best, in hindsight.
RedEye was never my full-time gig, but without it, I never would’ve enjoyed the career that I have had, never would’ve had the kind of audience I’ve been fortunate enough to build up or met some of my closest friends. Many of the most talented people I’ve worked with in this business I connected with because of RedEye.
Because the best thing about RedEye is that nothing — nothing at all — was out of bounds, no idea too silly.
One of my absolute favorite memories came in 2012 when Brian and I were among a handful of staffers watching the Air & Water Show test runs on the Tribune Tower’s 22nd floor patio on our lunch break. Off in the distance, Brian and I noticed a couple of window washers cleaning the windows of the John Hancock Center.
Seeing this, I turned to Brian and mused “I wonder what it’s like for the guys who have to change lightbulbs on top of the Sears Tower.”
He looked back and me and said “Well, I don’t know. Why don’t you go find out.”
So I did, heading up to the actual roof of the Sears Tower with a couple of engineers to watch them change lightbulbs high above Chicago, the kind of once in a lifetime experience most people only dream about and an experience that two of my colleagues and I actually lived.
That was far from the coolest or most unique experience RedEye has afforded me. I wrote a column in my buddy’s car on our way home from Game 6 of the World Series in Cleveland, profiled a professional foreplay expert, lost a poutine eating challenge, and paid tribute to my late mom just before Mother’s Day, a column that has lead to dozens of people telling me they’ve become closer with their parents as a direct result of. Those are just a few of many stories that I have, and I could easily go on for hours.
I’m hardly alone in saying this, but without RedEye, I don’t have nearly the kind of career that I’ve enjoyed. Without RedEye, I very likely don’t land freelance work with the Chicago Tribune or the Sun-Times, two papers I grew up reading and two bylines I’m proudest of on my resume.
The great thing about freelancing for RedEye was that no topic was off base. My editors have always given me the freedom to write about what I want when I want to write about it so long as it’s good and relevant to our audience. I haven’t been limited to a certain topic or subject matter, and for that I will always owe the paper a debt of gratitude.
So, thank you RedEye. Thank you for being awesome, for being fun, and for affording me the privilege of working with more talented people than I ever could have imagined over the past five years. I don’t know what’s in store for you next, but I have faith that it’s going to be awesome.