by John Walters

Starting Five

Kyler Called

No idea if using the No. 1 overall pick to draft 5’10” QB Kyler Murray will turn out to be a brilliant maneuver or cosmically stupid—oddly, the Cardinals just got rid of a Heisman Trophy-winning Oklahoma QB who was a dud on the field and in the locker room—just know that it’s a huge risk.

You may recall that we called this pick about a month ago with absolute certainty. If Arizona can land a first-round talent for Josh RosenRosen, that improves this risk. For now, we would’ve taken Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams, emphasis on the latter.

N’Keal? N’kay!

Harry, 1, is a physical freak and will assuage the loss of Rob Gronkowski (lose one Arizona-based college player, gain another)

Mark this down: with the first pick in the first round, the Cardinals took 5’10” QB Kyler Murray. With the last pick in the first round, the Patriots selected 6’4″ wideout N’Keal Harry. Ask anyone around the Arizona State athletic department and they’ll tell you Bill Belichick got the better player.

If the Caribbean native Harry can adapt to the New England clime (plus guaranteed road games in Buffalo and East Rutherford), he can be a monster in Foxboro. Clip and save.

Defense Never Rests

Bosa was the first of 15 defensive front seven hotshots taken in the first round

Never mind Murray and Harry (Hey, you brought ’em up, JW), defense was the story last night. Twelve of the first 19 players were defensive front seven studs (a defensive 2ndary player did not hear his name until the 21st pick [Maryland’s Darnell Savage, Jr.] and a running back not until the 23rd [Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, who will be absolutely loved by Raider Nation]).

Bosa and Williams are locks to be great. Time will tell if Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell was a reach at No. 4 or if Houton’s Ed Oliver got unfairly dissed (picked 9th by Buffalo) over an unfortunate jacket incident caught by ESPN’s cameras.

Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery became the first Irish defensive lineman to go in the first round in more than 20 years. Two years ago, as his season was ending with an ejection in the rain at the Southern Cal game, few would have predicted this. He made a wonderful comeback.


Hondo vs. Clyde

Celtic legend John Havlicek, basketball’s original glue guy, passes away at age 79. Hondo was a small forward who came up GIGANTIC in big moments, from “Havlicek stole the ball!” to his burying of a jumper to force another overtime in the 3-overtime classic against the Phoenix Suns in the 1976 NBA Finals.

Growing up as a Knicks fan in the early 1970s (I actually remember them winning an NBA championship…it’s crazy), Hondo was the player I feared most. And never hated. He always seemed to make the right play, but the manner in which he performed courted nothing but respect and admiration. You’ll read in all the plaudits today how simply nice a man he was.

Havlicek played on a national champion Ohio State team (with Bob Knight and Jerry Lucas) in 1960 and then went 8-0 in NBA Finals. Even Jordan looks up at that figure. He always seemed to play for the winning team. That was no coincidence.

Eighty-Six Happiness

Not the author, but the hair color is about right

Much thanks for all the kind words on the Deadspin story. Funny enough, I’m working two shifts at two different restaurants today (part of my smugness, no doubt), which is why today’s column is so abbreviated.

I want to publicly thank Bob Roe, my guardian angel professionally the past six years and my shepherd on this story. No editor is better, as an editor and as a person. It’s a crime that he is not managing editor at a big-name publication. But this is what happens when you have a penchant for wearing funny socks. I love Bob.

Also a huge thanks to Barry Petchesky at Deadspin, whom I’ve never met in person. I’d been shopping this story to various publications the past three weeks. I was even telling editors I didn’t even care to be paid for it. I got a few “not in our wheelhouse” replies and even a few non-replies. If you are in a creative field and the rejection is getting to you, do two things: 1) keep polishing your work to improve it and 2) keep looking because there is probably a Barry Petchesky out there.

Also, Barry asked wonderfully probing questions that made the article stronger. Most of the trenchant commentary you see in there is because Barry pushed me to answer some questions I may have been too uncomfortable to initially explore. Thank you, Barry. Beers on me.

Of all the comments I’ve received, I thought Amy Lundy Dahl (a friend from my UConn book days) made the most insightful. She wrote, “It read like someone who had been set free.” Absolutely. In the past decade I’ve been liberated from worrying about whether I was living up to the expectations myself and others had set (Hey, why did those dudes make senior writer and I didn’t?!) and just learned to enjoy my life.

Some day? It’s already here. Take advantage.

Thanks for reading. And thanks to all of you who know who you are.

7 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. I thought the article was GREAT….but bittersweet! Does this mean you are no longer writing for The Athletic &/or looking to once again be fully employed in what was your chosen career? Well, maybe not a tragedy but it’s a TRAVESTY if true! It’d be like LeBron James not going to Miami in 2010 to begin 8 straight years of Finals appearances & domination of his sport but instead being dropped from the NBA entirely & spending the rest of his career in Lithuania! No offense to Lithuania (never been but I’m guessing it’s fine), but their pro basketball league ain’t the NBA!

    On the plus side, this does wet the appetite for your book! Or books. 🙂

    Also, I had not seen the comments under your DS article until this morning & well, thanks to Jacob, I went to take a peek & hey, they make me feel better about MYSELF! Not once in all the years I have read & commented here & on more than, ahem, a few occasions disagreed with the writer, have I called you a smug, privileged bastard! 🙂

    Anyhoo, your article prompted my same reaction as when I read Austin’s Atlantic piece – anger, disgust, & sadness at the current condition of “journalism”. SO many great writers are not being heard/read to the extent that they should or at all. No, instead we as a society are left with the ASSHATS that come up with “ratioed” & “side hustle”, both of which should, at the very least, prompt a visit to the Principal’s office &/or be noted in their “permanent file”. No wonder a “HUMAN GARBAGE” SOCIOPATH could now be wrecking havoc on democracy & LAW in this country.

    As long as you’re happy I should say I’m happy too & of course, as long as you keep writing MH, I am HUGELY HAPPY, but to think that the country if not the world will largely be deprived of the Prince of Puns, a MAESTRO of wit, a VIRTUOSO of the written word is just FREAKIN SAD! 🙁

  2. Loved the article so much I had to come and check out the blog. You have yet another follower. Great stuff. I hope to see more ” John In Real Life” articles.

  3. I can’t find a way to send the writer a thank you for his article “How to leaves sportswriting…”

    I really enjoyed it! I have waited tables a lot but I think I like it for a whole host of other reasons also.

    Thanks for writing it! 🙂

  4. Dear John,
    In the middle of multi-tasking a conference call, writing an email, answering texys and realizing I will not get out of this office anywhere before the sum goes down on a Friday afternoon – I came across your article “How to Leave Sportswriting…”

    I have never written a reply to a story. (and am a voracious reader)
    But this one really moved me.

    Beautifully written, but even more so, a courageous and vulnerable exposure of a soul who has found himself and truly broken free of the shackles society sets up for us.
    I too became quite successful in my chosen dream field, but was stunned by the fact that so many variables spin regardless on the roulette wheel of life which can abruptly take you away from the table. Without your chips…

    I was engrossed in your story, and the visceral recounting how writing for Sports Illustrated has been your dream since a boy. And caught myself deeply relating to them and the choices made.

    Yet each time I felt sorry for you, I instead was lifted up by your happiness. Your very rare ability to find honor and peace and meaning regardless of the trappings of prestige, titles, or “a job that gets you an approving eyebrow raise from a stranger at an airport bar “.

    Early on, long before climbing my own “ladder” toward those approving eyebrow raises, I had a series of job experiences which reminded me much of your jobs in the restaurants. And, like you, many of the people I had met hold a place of high esteem with me regardless of a life toiled at minimum wage and without pedigree.

    John, I commend you for writing this.
    And I congratulate you for finding what very few find.
    Right where you are.
    And a freedom.
    From a life no longer owned by others.

  5. Great article John. As someone currently going through a career re-exploration (fancy, eh?) your story gives me some added confidence that doing what I want to do, and not pursuing the allegedly “safe” option, will be the best course. New career officially starts this Wednesday, wish me luck!

  6. Hi John –

    Read your Deadspin article, loved it.

    I’m a huge women’s basketball fan, but was 15 when your book came out so didn’t know it existed until this piece. After some online hunting, I found a used copy that would ship to me in Canada.

    I’m looking forward to reading The Same River Twice. I grew up in a pro-Pat, anti-Geno household, so it should be fun.

    I just thought you should know your article resulted in one more, albeit used, book sale.

  7. LOVED the waiter story. I was a small town reporter in the mid-80’s and loved the work, but then a friend, who managed a college bar got in a big jam and asked me to cover a few shifts. I had no experience, but he was a great mentor and I poured drinks for over a decade. There is a rush to the food business I have never found anywhere else.

    Alas, I am now 62 and have left the profession to the young guys and gals. It is a noble profession and you explained it PERFECTLY.

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