Words From TSFJ's New Editor-In-Chief

Way back in 2011, Eddie Maisonet III and Kenny Masenda (with a major assist from Joe Boland) were launching this new platform called The Sports Fan Journal. Having followed their collective and individual journeys, it was pretty cool to see TSFJ launch to be... something. A lot of us weren't entirely sure what that something would be, but we knew that the need for independent outlets for burgeoning talents could not have been stronger.

I say 'we' there, but I was not a part of the team from the absolute beginning. Though I was already growing a profile here in my hometown, the cacophony of New York City media can make it pretty hard to stand out sometimes. While the most diverse city in North America is home to over 8.6 million people across five wildly distinct boroughs - and an even larger footprint when you include the suburbs - the predominant voices and faces in our local media have been and still remain heavily white, heavily male and heavy on groupthink when it comes to its perspectives. Sameness in opinions remains the currency of New York area sports, even as this local scene added a handful more of women and minorities. It was hard enough being a beat reporter for an ethnic weekly newspaper with declining readership, filling in for a community radio station that most friends rarely thought about, and blogging away in the Peak Blog era with a really bad self-curated design. And all of that had been a side hustle as I had been burning both ends of the candle between full-time jobs as a media researcher and the freelance sports media life.

When TSFJ launched, the cadence was far different than anything I had put out in my own work. It was equally rambunctious and reflective, a mix of comical chicanery (one of Ed's favorite words) and measured candor. It was and proudly remains diverse, with a door open to anyone who had grown tired of the same things said by the same people at the same time. It was young enough to be irreverent, but mature enough to reach the elders that taught us these games we love. Most of all, it was begging to say something different.

It was two months after the site launch where I just finished covering my first-ever NFL postseason game where the New York Giants embarrassed the visiting Atlanta Falcons. On that bus ride back from the Meadowlands, I knew that there were other words I wanted to say beyond the expected copy about the game. I wanted to finally move beyond a lonely (but read) blog, an under-resourced paper and a since-shuttered website. (Big shout out to the Norman Einstein's crew.) So I sent Ed a DM.

My first piece was about Tom Coughlin, someone who may have not known my name or outlet, but probably remembered me for good questions and this viral moment. In the seven years I covered the team, Coughlin always gave me what I gave him at every press conference - respect. It was that very respect that had a kid who grew up a San Francisco 49ers fan (and hating the hometown Giants) fighting against Big Blue fans who wanted him gone. It was the first time in a while where friends who couldn't find the New York Beacon or missed appearances on Harlem's beloved WHCR had a chance to see why I plugged away so hard in this absurd media industry. It was also a chance to get some real attention via social media as everyone involved with TSFJ seemed to have a real hold on Twitter - especially Black Twitter, where we all know the good, bad, ugly and insane can get carved up or praised with the quickness.

The next week, there was another piece. And another. And another.

Ed then said "you have a good pen," and invited me to join the staff, with the full blessing of his fellow editors and writers.

That was seven years and two weeks ago. In that time, I've fully written and contributed to over 250 articles here. I've written fewer pieces here in the last two years due to a mix of life happening (especially this past year between marriage and our first child) and taking on larger roles here as editor, senior editor and most recently, managing editor. I've also moved on the cubicle life, spending much of the last three years fully immersed in sports media, with words written for a few other outlets as well as working for our great partners at Yardbarker as an editor and contributing writer. It's been great, horrible, fine, bleh and solid throughout all that time - sometimes, all at once - because when someone has passion and purpose for something, that's just the life.

I say all of this because as The Sports Fan Journal has undergone some cosmetic changes, it has also somewhat taken on a leadership one as well:

Usually with the announcements, there are promises and directives to tell the world about what a new EIC will set out to do. And in given time, you will see much more than a new paint job and a swapping of titles. However, I wanted to use the announcement as an opportunity to give thanks to every person who has ever and continues to support our movement.

My story, in some ways, is not all that different from many people in the media industry (sports or not) that have tried to find their way in manners that aren't exactly traditional. People who look like me, sound like me, think like me and act like me don't often have a seat at the table for these platforms; especially with larger known media companies. It's not only about race - though it's a large part - but a lot of purposeful people tend to be ignored because they dare to challenge accepted narratives. Case in point, not every Knicks fan is frothing with rage about the Kristaps Porzingis trade. You can still love football and hate the business. It's possible to not always root for the home team. Maybe we will embrace a transgender athlete with no conditions attached. And yes, we fans are complicit in "RINGZ!" culture.

TSFJ exists because we've always understood that fandom, just like sports, is not as clean and absolute as we're conditioned to believe. It's here because we believe in talented women and men who want to share stories that add color to the black vs. white nature of sports commentary. It's here because sports can still be inspiring, maddening, bizarre and flat out amazing. It's here because of the dozens upon dozens of people who wanted to be heard, and the masses who wanted to listen.

It's here because even with our demographic and geographic differences, we all share a similar desire to break out from the sameness of our industry.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to hold the mantle as editor-in-chief, but I'm far more grateful for the people who I've work with and for. With your continued hustle and our supporters' faith in this platform, it's time for The Sports Fan Journal to level up again and #ShockTheWorld.

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