Where does the time go? Seriously, where? I find it hard to believe that 10 years ago today I started this little hobby project called "Athletics Nation: Baseball Country." Yeah, that's what it was called the first day I launched the site via a free trial on Typepad and for some reason, Typepad asked for a subhead name for a blog. At the time the A's were running a campaign called "Baseball Country" and I just didn't know what else to do with it. It might've been one of the lamer promotions the A's had run in recent memory yet I adopted it. Go figure.
I always knew I loved writing but this blogging experience was beyond compare. I'd had training as a journalist but reporters were always expected to remain objective, or at least act as though that's possible for a human being. I realized quickly after my first job covering the NHL for a now-defunct hockey magazine called "Stix" that it was next to impossible to remain objective.
One of my early assignments was to write about Jeremy Roenick when he played for the Chicago Blackhawks. I was really green at the time and it was a tough exercise approaching professional athletes who I'd worshipped my whole life. I went in the locker room and the entire Blackhawks group was, well, let me just say, less than kind to me. In fact, Blackhawks defenseman Chris Chelios might've been the biggest a-hole I'd ever met in person up to that point in my life.
I remember realizing that, yes, I was a young kid writing for a tiny publication and giving me the time of day was not exactly something these millionaire athletes WANTED to do. In hindsight, I can't blame the Hawks for being outwardly hostile towards me given the media commitments they likely had, but they fulfilled every poor stereotype I'd heard about professional athletes. As time went on and I got a full time job reporting on high school sports for the Orange County Register, I discovered that somewhere along the way, the athletes lost that joy and it became a job. I also realized that daily beat reporters felt the same way, and nearly all of them tell you that they lost the sense of fandom and wonder for the sport years ago.
Fast forward to the creation of Athletics Nation and I felt like I could do things better. I could maintain an air of professionalism while clinging to the passion that made me a fan in the first place. I would always be up front about worshipping Billy Beane for the genius he is and never be shy about my favorite players. I'd lifted something I came to refer to as the "veil of objectivity" for years. Humans, by their very nature, are subjective creatures. We all view the world through our own skewed prism. Athletics Nation freed me from those shackles and I was able to be who I was, proudly sporting my green and gold goggles for the world to see and embrace or reject.
Thankfully they embraced it -- and surprisingly quickly. Yes, it's been 10 years now, but the audience showed up at AN pretty immediately. It might not have been huge but I was surprised at the level of interaction seemingly overnight. I felt like I'd found my calling in life.
And yeah, this little A's site eventually joined up with five more baseball sites to form the earliest version of SB Nation back in late 2004 (I don't think they officially "launched" on the Scoop platform until early 2005). Those sites were casually referred to as the original six of the network. A few of those great folks are still with us today (Hi Grant and Al- two of my favorite people ever!).
SB Nation eventually became Vox Media under our new CEO Jim Bankoff (yes yours truly was the CEO for the first five years of this company), who has maintained my initial commitment to both quality and technology to this day. Everything Vox does is 100 percent in line with how it started. He's taken that initial vision and made it truly exceptional; taking Vox beyond sports launching an incredible tech lifestyle site in The Verge with an amazing staff and a remarkable gaming site with fantastic writers in Polygon. It's given me more opportunities than I ever thought possible in my life. Jim always made me feel like a partner and someone who was core to what this was all about. He often called me the soul and conscience of the company. And I couldn't have more respect or admiration for a person than I do for him.
I always looked up to and revered Rob Neyer. Now he's writing for the company I started. Spencer Hall is a remarkable talent who gives the most unique and compelling voice to the best general sports site on the Web. Trei Brundrett, Chris Haines, Pablo Mercado, Ryan Gantz and Michael Lovitt made our technology better than anyone else's out there. And for their ongoing creativity, immense talent and passion to the original mission, I'm forever grateful. We wouldn't have wound up a quarter of a way up the mountain without them, much less at the pinnacle.
Yet none of this would've ever happened if not for my best friend Markos Moulitsas. He was the one who already had a blog and already had the technology. He introduced me to this blogging life and let me run with it. In short, he empowered me to do what I did. He was the best kind of manager in that he was so hands off that he just trusted me to build this thing (outside of a few scraps over domain names). I've told him throughout the years that I admire him because he surrounds himself with people who are his friends but who he's never afraid to trust in a business sense. That old adage about never mixing business and friends and family is bunk for him. He committed 100 percent to me in a way that I'd never had professionally. And thankfully, it wound up paying off.
Ultimately, though, Athletics Nation wouldn't be what it is today without people like Nico, baseballgirl, Alan, Alex and so many others who've done so much for this site over the years. Nico has been in charge of it now for longer than I was. I believe I officially turned the site over to him completely in 2008 or so, although he was contributing a ton before that. There are so many people who've come through here through the years that still stick around and I've created great personal relationships with. I met a few who have become like a second family to me, and you know who you are. Marlene, Jenny, Don, Louis, Margie...too many to name everyone but I truly do love these people even if I don't see them but once a year. You're my A's family.
And yeah, SB Nation has a ton of fantastic brands; hundreds of communities connecting in a deeper, more profound fashion than ever before. But there's one thing I always point out to those sites who claim bigger numbers or more online interaction (Hi Thorman brothers!). We have two couples who met through AN and are now married. One day, if we're lucky, there will be babies born because I made that fateful decision to start this crazy blog. Just stop and think about that for a little while. And yes, I've officially lobbied for "Blez" to be a middle name. It works, right?
Finally, when I thought of how to properly celebrate the blog that started it all, my only thought was that whatever it was, it must include Billy Beane. He's the person who initially validated what I was doing. Given Beane's track record for being committed to being on the forefront of everything, it's not all that surprising that he was probably the first executive with a pro sports franchise in North America to sit down for an hour-plus long interview with a blogger. There's a reason my home office is painted green and gold. I often say it's the "Office that Beane Built" because he embraced new media before anyone else did. It's funny because I consider Billy a friend now. I find myself passionately rooting for the A's to win it all now because I think he's the smartest man I know and I want nothing more than for his genius to be confirmed on the national stage. I know he doesn't care about this, so I suppose I shouldn't either but I can't help it. It's like wanting the world to know what you know as fact.
Still, the core of this place is community and in putting the video below together, we had to feature ANers prominently. And that's just what we did. It also gave me an excuse to get to the Coliseum as I haven't been there in two years or so. I couldn't have imagined that happening 10 years ago. 10 years. A decade. Let that wash over you for a little while. And thank you for being a part of this. It's been a true privilege for me.
Now that all the wordy stuff is mostly out of the way, enjoy the video. A big thank you to our incredible video team (can you believe we have a video team? not to mention the sites that cover tech lifestyle and gaming now? - look what you did, AN, LOOK AT IT!) but mostly Michael Bean for producing this for this site as well as one of the best partners one could ever have in this endeavor in Kevin Lockland who approved of us using budget to create this thing!