The first two stories Sports on Earth published were, perhaps fittingly, not on Sports on Earth at all. The date was July 27, 2012, right at the beginning of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and the site itself, with a gaggle of talented writers hailing from all corners of the vast journalism chateau, was not in fact ready to launch. So, in what would become the site's signature motif over the next five-and-a-half years, Sports on Earth went ahead and published anyway. The first two pieces, one a column by Joe Posnanski and one a media column by myself about the Olympics, were actually published on a beta site, sportsonearthblog.com, that no longer exists. No matter what, even if the full site -- which launched on Aug. 27, 2012 -- was not ready to post on, Sports on Earth was going to publish a story. This would always be the case. Whether there was a full staff or, for one perilous weekend, almost zero staff, whether it was a massive news day or a sleepy July Tuesday, whether four million people were reading or four were, Sports on Earth always, always published.
Today, Sports on Earth stops publishing.
After 2,009 days and over 14,000 stories -- an inexact number that doesn't include a bunch of posts on a couple old blogs -- Sports on Earth is ceasing publishing. It has been an honor and a delight to have the opportunity to write about sports every day for you for the past five-and-a-half years, which, for what it's worth, is about as long as The National and Grantland existed, combined. (Which is completely insane.) Only two people have been here from the very beginning: Myself and Matt Brown.
If you'll indulge me, I'd like to briefly reflect on the winding history of the site. The site has essentially gone through three different incarnations:
Incarnation One: The Posnanski Era (July 2012-January 2013). Joe Posnanski, one of the best sportswriters who has ever existed (and who can currently be found at MLB.com), was the headliner of Sports on Earth, and he helped bring with him one of the most respected rosters of intelligent professional journalists in the country. (And also me.) You want a fun time capsule piece? Here is an advertisement that ran in USA TODAY a month after Sports on Earth officially launched:
Remember back in 2012, when everyone hated blogs? That was fun, wasn't it? Sports on Earth was a joint venture between MLB Advanced Media and USA TODAY Sports at the time, and it had a thick, full staff, headed by Rodale's Steve Madden and Sports Illustrated's Larry Burke, as well as Emma Span, Nicki Jhabvala and Matt Brown. Most were full-time employees -- I was not; I was merely freelancing my media column while working for New York magazine -- and the site was widely seen as old-school media trying to reassert itself in an Internet world. (Think of it like The Athletic, but free.) The site was built around sportswriting warhorses like Posnanski, Chuck Culpepper, Gwen Knapp, Tommy Tomlinson, Mike Tanier, Shaun Powell, Dave Kindred and Leigh Montville. It was very exciting. This era ended when Posnanski announced he would be joining NBC Sports in January 2013, but the site itself was just getting warmed up.
Incarnation Two: The Classical Era (January 2013-August 2014). In the wake of Posnanski's departure, Madden and Burke made two major decisions.
First, they hired me away from New York -- though I am still a contributing editor there -- to write a column every day and to host a daily podcast. Our second-ever podcast was with Leigh Montville the day after the bombing at the Boston Marathon. The podcast ended up running more than 500 episodes with a guest list that spans just about every major name in the world of sports media over the past five-plus years, along with Patrick Stewart, Peter Billingsley, Peter Scolari and the acrobat Red Panda.
Second, and much more crucially, they opened up the site to more freelance contributors, many of which came from the extremely influential and often-esoteric site The Classical, which described itself as "post-punk sports journalism." This was quite a shift from the Traditional Newspaper Journalism model Sports on Earth had been founded upon, and there was often a tonal disconnect between The Classical crew's aggressive weirdness and the site's more brick-and-mortar game-preview-and-game-recap institutions. But somehow it worked, and Sports on Earth's additional regular writers from this period -- David Roth, Lindsay Gibbs, Patrick Hruby, Howard Megdal, Tomas Rios, Aaron Gordon, Michael Pina, Wendy Thurm, along with countless others I already feel guilty about not finding space for here -- are all over your sports Internet now and we're all infinitely better for it. This was as Wild West as Sports on Earth ever became, and it was a blast. We all felt like we were getting away with something.
It turned out that we were. USA TODAY Sports pulled out of the Sports on Earth venture in August 2014, and immediate changes had to be made. MLB Advanced Media decided to keep the site going, but Burke, Madden and others left, and the site froze its freelancing temporarily, leaving many of the writers looking for new gigs. It was the end of an era, but it was not, in fact, the end of the site.
Incarnation Three: The MLBAM Era (August 2014-January 2018). Gabe Guarente, who had been with the site since December 2012, took over the day-to-day editorial and, along with myself and Matt Brown, slowly tried to cobble it back to its previous heights on a smaller budget. For the first couple of weeks after the changes, the only people writing for the site were Matt and I and a few others, but, meticulously, Gabe reconstructed a staff, adding freelancers like Ross Tucker and Cliff Corcoran and Andrea Hangst and Alex Wong and Jason B. Hirschhorn and Kenneth Arthur and Michael Tunison and Cy Brown and Joe DeLessio and David Ubben and others and combining them with MLB.com writers like Anthony Castrovince, Terence Moore, Alyson Footer and others. Later, Mike Lupica joined the staff as a regular columnist, and, to come full circle, Posnanski even wrote a couple more pieces for us.
For all the talk of August 2014 being some sort of symbolic end of Sports on Earth, Gabe shepherded the highest-trafficked era of Sports on Earth, by a wide margin. He left in November 2017 to work in the non-profit space and try to do something worthwhile in this crazy world. Matt Brown took over for him to keep the ship afloat for the rest of its run.
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There are zero hard feelings about the end of Sports on Earth. To get to publish this much quality work for five-and-half years is a privilege and incredibly rare. SoE ended up publishing over 14,000 pieces during its run, which is an average of more than seven a day, an astounding number for a site that had such turmoil and wildly varying number of staffers. And while being able to publish this much this long is rare, being able to say goodbye on your own terms -- a site being able to write its own obituary -- is even rarer. We are lucky and beyond fortunate that MLB Advanced Media has given us this opportunity, today, and every day of the past 2,005.
I ended up writing 1,441 columns for SoE since that first one in July 2012, and I've been able to cover some of the most thrilling events in sports, from the Super Bowl to the World Series to the Final Four to every College Football Playoff national title game to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, one of the most exciting professional assignments I've ever been a part of. This actually puts me in second place on the SoE leaderboard: Matt Brown wrote 1,547, every single one of them smart. The freedom Sports on Earth gave me, and so many of its writers, is mostly unprecedented in this industry, particularly in this day and age, and we will always be grateful.
Housekeeping wise, the site's archives will live on. But this is now the final piece. Like many before it, this one is maybe a little indulgent, maybe runs a little too long, takes its sweet time to get to the point. But also like the rest of them, it is heartfelt and earnest and full of unabashed joy and love for the world of sports that we have been able to document for the past five-and-a-half years.
You'll be hearing from all of us for the years to come: We're all still going to be thinking and writing and publishing like crazy, because that's what we do. We thank you for the opportunity. The only reason we got to do any of this is you. It has been our honor and privilege to get to do this for you, and with you.
So that's it for us. See you around. There's a whole beautiful world out there. Let's go.
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