Revisiting the 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me, The Novel

Because there might be some folks who are coming here for the first time and because I happened upon it on my Facebook timeline the other day, I’m reposting the 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me. 

I think it was the fad of the day thing on Facebook at the time. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun with it.

1. I was born in Maine and lived there for five years. Then my dad was asked by work to move to Laconia, N.H. I went to school there from kindergarten through eighth grade. My last day in Laconia was my eighth grade graduation and prom. It was my first date ever, with a beauty named Adair McAllister. My first slow dance (and the first time my weenie sprung to life inappropriately) was with her to “Lady in Red.” I still think of her when I hear that song, even though she was wearing some kind of aquamarine dress that night.

2. My dad was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. He flirted with baseball dreams for a bit but decided he couldn’t live without my mom. He moved home, got married and began working for Jordan’s Meats in Portland, Maine. He worked there most of his life, retiring as a director of sales. My dad is my hero and my closest confidante. I miss him every day. He lives in Arizona with Mom now. He often dreamed of baseball and of being a teacher. He would have been a great teacher. I know he regrets his career decisions. I just wish he knew how special a person he truly is.

UPDATE: My dad lives in Maine now. He moved in with my sister Sue’s family after my Mom passed away in March 2012. We’re all still trying to get our rudder right after losing my mom to lung cancer.

3. I knew I wanted to be a journalist early in life. My sister, Dede, and I started a neighborhood newsletter, The Fenton Avenue Times, when I was in seventh grade.

4. I won a Society of Professional Journalists scholarship in New York City in 1994. I made Diana Sawyer, Anderson Cooper and Mike Wallace laugh with tales of the Fenton Avenue Times in my acceptance speech.

5. I have been struggling with my weight for most of my adult life. I played tennis for Fordham University, but have put family and work ahead of myself. Combine that with using food as a stretch crutch and I’m in a fine mess. I’ve been able to achieve anything I’ve ever put my mind to, except for losing weight. Still working at it.

6. I was selected to be part of a three-week student tour of Russia in 1987 as part of a delegation with the Samantha Smith Foundation. It was a life-changing experience – made me realize how good we have it in the U.S. and how much I enjoyed seeing the world beyond Maine.

7. My sister Dede is my kindred spirit. She had countless operations on a bum knee as a kid and has fought through debilitating illnesses for much of her life. She is the most selfless person on this planet. She would play teacher with me afterschool and made me bring home extra workbook sheets for her “class.” In her wayward years, she had me deliver a pot pipe across town to her friend. A cop followed me for most of the ride. As you can tell, I’m still a little bitter. All that aside, she is my best friend and an incredible inspiration.

8. My dad was in a near-fatal car accident when I was 11. He was hit by a drunk off-duty police officer driving over a reservoir in Troy, N.Y. His knee and hip were shattered and he needed a hip replacement. Never being able to run or ref a hoops game crushed him, but he’s still a scratch golfer and can beat anyone in foul shooting. He had a severe heart attack in 1997 – the medics revived him on the way to the hospital. Both events rocked my world. I can’t imagine life without my dad and am so grateful that I don’t have to yet.

9. Jim Rice is my sports hero. He is the reason I live and die for baseball. The Red Sox is my team. Whenever life is feeling too good, I break out the tape of the ball going through Buckner’s legs. It grounds me quickly.

10. I have a 1996 World Series ring from working for the New York Yankees. I loved working for the Yankees – I was their publications director for two years. I wish that I could have worked for them and still had a marriage, but George Steinbrenner required his employees to be married to their job. I still miss the job to this day, but don’t regret my decision.

11. I was a prominent figure in a 1994 episode of “Donahue.” The show was all about strippers wanting to form a union. I wouldn’t put my hand down to ask a question, so right before a commercial break, Donahue storms over to me and says, “And we’ll answer this very impatient young man’s question after the break.” He comes back from commercial and I ask the strippers why the man is keeping them down. The girls all gave me big smiles. I probably could have gotten laid that day.

12. I was Tootles in a local theatre production of “Peter Pan” in 1985. I ran across the stage laughing and chomping on a donut. The crowd loved it. It was my last stage role and probably the beginning of my food addiction.

13. I was a big shot for a Maxim-esque magazine called Gear. I went to model parties and lived a very swanky existence for a year and a half. I was way over my head there. Still, I miss those times. I still miss New York 1 day out of 30.

UPDATE: One of Facebook comments was from a former co-worker at Gear. He wondered why our 2002 night at The Red Light bar in lower Manhattan didn’t make my top 25. I remember meeting James Gandolfini there. That’s about all. Anyone willing to fill in more of the gaps, I’d love to hear them — as would my therapist, I’m sure.

14. I left my family at 18 and have been the satellite office of the Wood family ever since. My three sisters and parents lived within 40 miles of each other for years while I was in New York. I am to this day a homebody. Though I knew I needed to go to NYC to be a journalist, I miss my three sisters and all my nieces and nephews a ton. I wish I had been there to see them all grow up, especially my niece Amy. She never had a dad growing up. I cherished that role while I had it before we moved back to Maine.

15. I hate cards of any kind. I find them impersonal. Call me if you really want to talk. Yet, I am infamous in my family for Fed Ex’ing cards to my mom and sister. I know it still means something to them.

16. I was burned by women consistently as a young man. I never thought I’d find love and then I met Debbie Treubert at Fordham in 1991. I knew from our first date that I was going to marry her – sounds cliche, but it’s true. Nonetheless, I spent the next year doing everything I could to screw it up. Finally, I was given a shot to win her heart again in the fall of 1992. Three men vied for her affections. She dubbed them “Bush,” “Perot” and “Clinton.” I was “Clinton” and finally got another date with her on Election Day ’92. One of the best days of my life.

17. I spent most of my early 20s in a mad dash to make $100,000. I was Mr. Overachiever, the youngest ever exec with the Yankees, blah blah blah. I thought money was everything. My dad’s heart attack really woke me up to what really matters. The birth of my son, T.J., was the best day of my life. He is a gift. He made realize that a job is just a job. Seeing him and Debbie at the end of the day is all that’s important.

18. I was one of eight people that lunched with Bill Gates on the day of the launch of the XBox. I kicked his ass in “Dead or Alive 3.” I had a digital photo of he and I, emailed it to everyone I knew but have since lost it. 

UPDATE: Still haven’t found it. Please, Interweb, send it back to me.

19. I hate namedroppers, despite the fact I did just that in #4, #11 and #18.

20. I will learn to play the piano someday soon. I envy anyone with musical talent beyond Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

21. The worst day of my life was the day my friend, Frank Colasuonno, passed away in September 1994. He was an otherworldly piano player. He played Billy Joel better than Billy Joel plays Billy Joel. The rest of my senior year at Fordham was mostly a blur. I was unsure whether there would be a diploma in my packet on graduation day. God bless the Jesuits for getting me through that year.

22. I secretly loathe tall people and rich people who inherited money and piss it away. I know I would have been a college hoops player with six more inches of height. I also know I’ll do big things with money if I ever have a lot of it. Those who say “mo money, mo problems” have never been upside down in a mortgage or had a million-dollar idea but no money to explore it.

23. I love writing but spend way too much time doubting my talent. The upside: it makes me work hard every day, always feeling like it’s never good enough. The downside: I waste years off my life thinking it’s not good enough. I’d have a best-selling book written by now without all this self doubt.

24. I can’t wait for the birth of my second son in June. T.J. is such a good little boy, I feel like I’m tempting fate with another child. He just has such a pure heart and is so smart and full of compassion. I was very much like him and was teased mercilessly as a tweener. I was sensitive and never fought back. I’m trying to figure out how to teach him to bite back without losing his sensitivity. 

UPDATE: Jake is 4 now and a full-on super dude, TJ is the incredible older brother I’d knew he’d be (when he’s not tormenting him, that is). And TJ is still a good boy. Not so little anymore. I told him this morning he might be big enough to kick my ass soon, but it will never happen. I’ll always outsmart him. (At least that’s what I need to believe with my fragile 40-year-old ego.)

25. I feel way older than I am, though I still feel and act like a kid most of the time. It’s just that I’ve had plenty of moments in life that have showed me who my true friends are. I have very few close friends because of it and am more introverted than most people would think because of it, but boy, do I treasure those friends that stuck by me.

BONUS: I will have a fashion sense again, once I’m thin enough to shop at The Gap and Abercrombie and Finch. And I love the Lowcountry. I moved South for all the wrong reasons, but I wish I’d done it 10 years sooner.

Candidate profiles for the upcoming Bluffton Town Council election

It was fun to get back to basics and do some good ol’ fashioned reporting over the past few weeks. I took on a three-week project with my former employer, Bluffton Today, focused on candidate profiles for the upcoming Bluffton Town Council election.

Great getting to talk to a lot of former regular contacts and in terms of itching the journalism scratch, it definitely filled that void. Hope the articles reflect how much fun I had doing them.

Here’s the links to the profiles:

Wetmore 2.0 Ready to Win Back Voters

Brown Ready to be a Force For Change Again

Raymond Has Singular Focus On Bluffton

Toomer Wants More Say in Next Wave of Growth

Bensch Ready to Go From Behind Scenes To Spotlight

Moss Wants To Be Voice For Responsible Spending in Town

Hamilton Cherishes Second Chance to Make a Difference

Sad State of Affairs What’s Being Passed Off as “Journalism” These Days

I’ve held off on commenting publicly about being the subject of “reporting” by the wannabe writer behind the BR Report. There was a “report” published on this guy’s site that linked me to a number of statements about my former employer, Bleacher Report. (And where the writer admitted to creating a fake persona to trick me in to further correspondence).

Then, another “report” published today.

It pains me to link to this trash, but it provides context for my next 3,000 words. This BR Report post today mentioned a lot of people by name and attributed statements about them to me. That compelled me to write this post.

Beyond my initial five emails, none of what this guy published came from me. I had five legitimate conversations with the person behind BR Report that spawned from my initial blog post slamming Tom Ziller’s uninformed critique of Bleacher Report. He/she hit me up on Twitter asking for “answers” related to a post on the BR Report site concerning a private conversation between BR college football editor Rich Thomaselli and former writer Danny Flynn.

None of what he published in his two pieces that include me came from me. If he’d had an actual conversation with me, he would have actually discovered that.

I made a series of mistakes here. I should have never engaged this writer. The BR Report has been a hatchet job since the day it began. I naively believed that I could have a dialogue with the writer that would lead him/her to do more informed reports, to give the full picture of what Bleacher Report is.

There have been too many accounts of Bleacher Report out there that have not been fair or balanced, and largely, the assumptions made by those who attack the site’s business practices have been inaccurate.

But, I started a dialogue with this “writer” nonetheless. I exchanged five emails with the writer (which you can read below), each of them making clear that I would not have any meaningful discussion with the writer until he gave me a name other than the “Bleach” moniker he/she had used. The conversation ended when Bleach refused to give up a name or have a phone conversation. Or so I thought.

I was on disability leave for much of my final four months with Bleacher Report, battling a very serious illness that left me bedridden and very weak for most of May through July. One of the things that kept me energized during that time was a number of spirited debates I had with a friend about the merits of BR. He would later tell me that he’d sparked many of the calls just to get me fired up enough to fight through the illness I was dealing with. He was also my lifeline to the outside world, as I gave him access to my email accounts to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Without his help .. well, I don’t know what I would have done.

The topic of the BR Report came up quite often. I told him about the exchange I had with the phantom editor of the site. It led us to a debate on the state of journalistic ethics nowadays and what the norms are in terms of publishing and not publishing private conversations and what constituted something actually worth reporting. He argued that there were no ethics in today’s world. I argued vehemently that there were plenty of young reporters who still care about ethics — even if they are self taught bloggers, you don’t need to go to J-school for that. It’s a simple internal barometer of right and wrong.

Well, I later found out that my friend set out on a very slippery slope to prove me wrong. He logged in to my account and continued the conversation with the BR Report hack, who proceeded to give my friend a false name and told him that “you’re one of three people who know my true identity, so I hope I can trust you.”

My friend used just enough details from conversations I had had with him combined with a lot of outlandish statements that any legit journalist would check out before publishing (something about BR wanting to start a lifestyle channel comes to mind; it’s just plain idiotic for anyone who knows BR’s strategy to date). But then again, giving the Thomaselli/Flynn email that was published, that would be giving the BR Report hack way too much credit.

I’m not passing any buck here. I don’t blame my friend. He never thought any of that would be published, especially since he – like me – often said the conversations were off the record. (Another term that may be getting lost in today’s murky ethical pool, but I digress.)

This whole thing ultimately makes me look bad. My explanation is some kind of double catfish situation, where the one trying to fool the BR Report writer gets fooled right back. It is a mess and a lot of it is just plain stupid, but it reflects poorly on me.

More importantly, a lot of the statements made were derogatory toward former colleagues that I had and still have a great deal of respect for. I could go through point by point in what this jerk published on what I actually said and what was made up, but suffice to say, anything said about BR colleagues was made up.

Many encouraged me to write a rebuttal after the first piece involving me this writer published on BR Report. I just thought would be taking this hack’s bait and it’s just not my style. Instead, I wrote an email to those folks whose opinion I truly care about, to make sure they knew I was not the bitter gossip portrayed in these posts.

That email, published below, contained the five-email exchange I had with “Bleach”.

——-

If you’re getting this, you’re one of the few folks I actually care about in terms of what was said on The BR Report. Short story: that just wasn’t me. I know BR Report has very little credibility, but just in case …

I responded to a tweet from this BR Report guy who goes by Bleach as a twitter handle. He saw my post responding to Tom Ziller’s post and wanted some answers to some of the posts he’d put on BRR, specifically the piece targeting Rich Thomaselli. Refused to give me his name beyond Bleach.
This set off a five-email “blast” on Aug. 29-30, as I was still steaming about the Thomaselli post. I shouldn’t have responded to this guy, period. That’s on me. Just a bad idea on my part. In my response, I think I made myself more of a target.
The Turner stuff about the transition sounds like something I’d said to a friend in one of our many phone debates about the merits of BR. I own that. Shouldn’t be out there publicly, but that’s my bad for talking about it at all with anyone. I was upset after ending my B/R relationship and used this friend as a sounding board. So if there’s any morsel of validity to any of this in terms of sourcing, it may have come from my friend. Sounds far fetched, but that’s about all I can come up with. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of this. {I later found out, as stated above, that it was indeed my friend who had this exchange with Bleach.}
Anything else, it’s not me. Most of the other stuff just sounds stupid and petty and bitter, and that’s just not my style.
I ended my time with B/R amicably. If I really wanted to go low road, I could have made a big public spectacle without the help of The BR Report (about what, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t have needed this guy’s help).
Here’s the emails I sent to the BRR writer:

Aug. 29, No. 1:

OK, so before I answer questions and do anything on the record, I’d like a real name beyond Bleach.

I think Deadspin has taken a number of pretty pathetic potshots over the years. I could question as many of their practices, but going blow-for-blow just doesn’t get us anywhere if there’s not a baseline of mutual respect.

King and I have almost five decades combined in media, so we’ve been around the block asking these type of questions and answering them.

Bottom line, it’s the owners choice as to whether they cooperate. As I said in my piece, there are times when I would have done things differently on the PR front.

It’s their call as to whether they answer those questions. I’ve never seen any kind of breakdown of SB Nation’s writer base either. It’s their call as to how much of their model they want to divulge.

If, for instance, someone ever came at B/R with an honest comparison of SB Nation vs. Bleacher, they might be game for that. I know personally, I would feel much more comfortable that I would see a fair and balanced analysis done that way.

When you are singling out one company, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

As I said to Tom and in the piece, and as I believe Rich eluded to, some of the traffic tricks that SBN has pulled are so much more ridiculous than anything BR has ever done.

But it’s a part of the narrative that has never been explored. So that alone makes most if not all BR folks not trust that they’re getting a fair shake. SBN has by and large gotten a pass to date.

Hit me back with just a baseline of who I’m dealing with here and we can go from there.

Thanks-
Tim

….

Aug. 29, No. 2:

Again, off the record for now.

I can tell you this. You’re not going to get a whole lot from me related to Thomaselli. I don’t respect that a private conversation between writer and editor was published, that the editor’s name and freakin photo were put out there but you copped out with “The Writer.” That’s just not valid journalism.

You felt perfectly fine messing with a guy’s livelihood there with seemingly no regard for it, so the writer should be put in the same spot.

I’ve dealt with the writer, Danny Flynn. He has blown off paid assignments and shifts, left the editors in the lurch multiple times when he wanted to be a fan at a game live instead of a professional writer.

He left the site once after an unbelievably unprofessional meltdown with editors. Rich gave him another chance because Flynn was really hurting financially.

And this is how he repays him? Brilliant.

So if you’d publish Danny’s name with that original piece and put his career in jeopardy just like you did with Rich, you might get me to bite on the valid questions behind that exchange.

….

Aug. 29, No. 3:

Bleach,

Once again, everything below, this is off the record.

Gotta tell you, seeing your piece on the BR videos doesn’t really make me feel like there is a chance of a balanced article.

Leitch has been a BR hater for a long time, a great guy overall and we’ve had very cordial email exchanges because we’ve worked with and have mutual friends.

If he wants to throw out resumes when he sees Bleacher Report, it’s his prerogative. But he’d be missing a lot of high-quality writers.

But to use him as your source of media hiring BR writers, again, it’s a circle of haters continuing the hate. He paints a pretty broad brush in terms of “many, many others feeling the same way.” And you allow that comment to just linger out there without backing it up. To use a Deadspin guy on a Deadspin site (may not be technically, but you’re using Deadspin’s CMS so perception is that it’s a Deadspin site), it’s just lazy. We all know how Will feels, he wrote vitriolic pieces about BR at Deadspin and SoE.

If you had any more sources like from the Star Ledger or ESPN or NBC, just as random examples, instead of the incestuous circle of BR haters, it would come off as much more sound reporting.

And then you take a kid busting his ass to make it in the industry and you and Leitch have a good laugh. How is that useful reporting?

Leitch is a great writer, but there was a time when he was Josh Schoch. So to be tearing down a kid in print who apparently just walked in to a trap by trying to answer questions honestly, it’s pretty pathetic.

He told you he’s being paid, so instead, you start attacking his credentials.

I would LOVE to know how much SB Nation or Deadspin, for that matter, pay writers. I ran the budget. I know how much we paid writers and I feel pretty comfortable betting that in total, we paid writers more than either SB Nation or Deadspin last year.

In terms of writers moving on to other paid positions, I hired a good majority of the paid writers on the site and mentored many more unpaid writers. So I know they have moved on to other writing positions in the industry.

I know BR used to keep a directory of folks that have moved on to other media gigs, so I know it exists. But again, given how you handled Schoch, I would be very resistant personally to serving you up any other names to tear down.

….. 

Aug. 29, No. 4:

One last point, since I am catching up on your blog. Again, off the record.

B/R acknowledged the idea that writers might be pissed off about bringing in outside writers during our first wave of lead writer hires and our second wave of lead writers. I know. I had the conversations with countless writers. But these new writers were, at worst, new competition for paid gigs for our “homegrown” guys; and at best, a new bar to aspire to in a meritocracy among talent.

And in terms of homegrown talent, I could rattle off a large list of guys that have been promoted from unpaid to FT contract status (making a very solid livable wage).

As for Matt Miller, I love the guy personally and professionally. As much as I got tired of hearing Matt Miller this, Matt Miller that as the only human mascot of the success stories, I’m the first to say he is an incredible talent.

If you’re not willing to accept the premise that he got his big break and became truly nationally known because of BR, I don’t know where we go from there. He himself says he owes his career to BR.

People ARE reading you, but I can tell you that people at BR have largely been laughing at you, the same way you and Leitch had your way with Schoch. They just didn’t do it in articles published on the Web.

Your work comes off as so blatantly biased, and then you ask why you’re not being allowed to ask questions.

The vast majority of things you have put out there as “fact,” they are inaccurate. I have tried to offer up rebuttals in these emails to give you some clear off-the-record background information. But I have to say, the more I get caught up on your work, the more I just keep finding inaccuracies.

But I’m going to have to be convinced you’re actually interested in practicing legit journalism before I said anything on the record. For all I know, you could be Danny Flynn.

…..

Aug, 30, from Nose Bleeds:

Your rant was quite lengthy, so I just pasted it into Word and went to work on responding to everything.

Please, if we do proceed, let’s detach ourselves from emotion and “you” statements. Thank you.

Best,

Bleach 

….

Aug. 30, me to Bleach:

Again, off the record.

I wish you luck in your reporting. If you’re saying you are Danny, well, I wish you luck with your career but it’s hard to take you seriously beyond a revenge play.

I think there’s morsels of truth in some of what you’re saying, but your basic tenets of journalism are very shady. To start with, you as the reporter do not get anonymity when talking to a source. It’s not lazy of me to ask and I shouldn’t have to search it out. It is you being a responsible journalist. I highly doubt you got to Jim Bankoff without giving your name. If we can’t develop a basis of trust by knowing each other’s names, there is really nothing more to say.

I’ll respond to your points if and when we can establish that base level of trust. If you can’t trust me enough that I won’t reveal your name to anyone, there is no point talking. But don’t condescend me saying to take emotion out of it. That Thomaselli post was about as low as it goes and you were messing with a guy’s livelihood there. There is a much more professional way to go about that.

——–

That’s my full exchange with the writer. Initially, before I had talked to my friend, I thought my email had been hacked, which is why I responded to Bleach from my other email, letting him know that the conversation he published was with an impersonator.

Bleach published another part of the false exchange today, even after I had emailed about the situation. He/she said in the BR Report post today that I’m likely making excuses.

If I had things to say publicly about Bleacher Report, I’d own them. Again, there’s partial truths in his post today about my thoughts on writers, because some of that is exactly what I said to my friend. Would I ever want to see any of that published publicly? Of course not. I would never look to publicly attack writers that I had a lot of respect for. And anyway, I was largely responsible for hiring each of these writers, so whatever happened from there is on me.

Moreover, there’s timeline issues with these false exchanges with Bleach. I’m not going into all of it, but one of the more amusing discrepancies comes in an email that says I’m in the mountains and mostly out of cell range. But at the same time, I sent a tweet  after seeing “The French Connection” at my local theater.

Bleach also says that because the emails were in one chain, it had to all come from me. That’s technologically ignorant. If someone has your sign-in information on Gmail, it would still all appear in one chain.

I don’t know what my future in journalism is. There’s a lot of what’s going on right now that disgusts me and makes me ashamed to be part of the industry. So perhaps I go another route. All of this BR Report crap might hurt my chances of getting future work in the industry. If I’d seen this stuff about a perspective hire, I wouldn’t want to work with them. I’m certainly embarrassed to even be linked with it.

At its core, I still love the feeling of committing good journalism and reading good reporting. It takes me back to sixth grade when I first fell in love with newspapering and set out to make it my career.

When I see pieces like Bleach passed off as journalism … well, even if it didn’t involve me, it would discourage me. If this is the future, if these are the fast-and-loose rules today’s journalists are playing by, it might be time to find a new career path.

I’m sorry to those diehard defenders of B/R who read this BR Report debacle and thought I’d sold them out. To them, I’d say I’m still the Tim that implored you not to hit Twitter and lash out at every detractor. I still take a great deal of pride in my work with B/R and am honored by the hard work you put forth in building Bleacher Report.

If I cared enough about this Bleach writer, I’d seek some legal recourse for this mess (though given his/her anonymity and false email account, I think my efforts would be in vain). I’ve always believed in karma. If this is the set of moral rules this Bleach hack is playing with, he or she will be exposed soon enough.

How A Movie Moment Unlocked A Wonderful Memory of Mom

I love to write but I hate to write. I am often paralyzed by my past and by my pain and my self doubt.

I often use my local movie theater to unlock that paralysis. Seeing a well-done movie is instant inspiration. It makes me say, “That was awesome, but I could have done it even better.” Soon, I’m typing away.

“Enough Said” did that for me. It is a tale of finding unexpected joy at a dreaded time of loss. The masterful writing is brought to life beautifully by Julia Louis Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini, two middling middle-aged divorcees shocked to find love as they struggle to let their only children go off to college.

There is a sequence in the movie where Dreyfuss’ character is sitting in her daughter’s room, soaking in the memories before packing the final suitcases. Her daughter comes in, sits on the bed with her mom and they sit silent, water welling in their eyes.

Soon after, Dreyfuss is at the airport, stealing every last moment she can with her baby girl before she heads through the terminal gate. The connection is so real, the music is so perfectly scored, it left me in tears and flooded with memories.

My mom passed away from lung cancer on March 28, 2012. I am still struggling to accept a world in which she’s not a presence in my life. So while I think of her everyday, I keep a lot of the emotions bottled up because it is still too difficult to truly deal with.

It takes me to a dark place that isn’t the memorial she deserves. She was taken too soon, dammit. There’s so many shitty people left in this world, but yet this wonderful, caring woman was taken from us at 71. Why the hell could she never stop smoking?

If I let myself stay in that moment for too long, soon I am fixed on her last moments. I was the only one there as she passed away. My dad and I had gone into her hospice room earlier that morning. They had told us that the time had come. So I watched him battle for the third straight day to say goodbye to his 55-year soulmate.

My sister Dede was unable to come to Phoenix but she had left a voicemail on my phone that she wanted me to play for Mom. I was singularly focused on keeping my dad together, so I left the phone at the house.

So my dad reluctantly drove me back to the hospice but asked to stay in the car. When I returned, my mom was laboring intensely to catch a breath. I sat down next to her, held her hand and stroked her hair just as she had done to me so many times to put me to sleep instantly as a child.

I put the phone to her eye and played the message. While I tried not to listen, I could hear my sister crying and telling Mom that it was OK to let go, that we would find our way from here and try to honor her everyday.

I then played a song for her, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.” Dede said it was a song she loved and though Mom had never mentioned it, I wasn’t about to argue or disobey a wish in this moment.

Then it happened. The nurses who I’d heard respectfully standing in the doorway moved in as the flatline monitor noise took over the room.

My dad soon came in and grabbed me as I sobbed uncontrollably for 90 seconds. Though he apologized profusely, I was glad that I was the one there. He had cared for her for 18 months, through the chemo and radiation, as hope turned to the realization we couldn’t beat this.

He should not have been the one to see that. He had seen his one true love deteriorate enough.

To actually get those words and thoughts out of me, it doesn’t seem so dark now. And it takes me to a wonderful memory that “Enough Said” unlocked.

I was the first of four children to go away to college. So while my parents had dealt with their daughters leaving home, they were still close enough to monitor and help see through the transition.

I was hell bent on going to New York to pursue journalism. It had been my focus since sixth grade. In high school, it became equal parts career ambition and a mission to get out of Maine and see the world.

That dream was realized when Fordham accepted me.

My parents could have objected on countless fronts – the financial commitment and the idea that their Mama’s Boy homebody son was going to The Bronx being at the top of the list.

I remember at least 10 different times when I know my Mom was about to say, “Please, don’t do this.” But instead she just stared at me and hugged me.

All that tension finally came out when we got lost in The Bronx trying to find Fordham. We got off at an exit near Yankee Stadium to get our bearings about us and were greeting at the end of the exit ramp by a homeless man with a squeegee.

The normal person would lock the doors and keep on rolling. My Dad rolled down the windows and struck up a conversation with the man.

It set my mom off. “What the hell are you doing, Barry? You’re going to get us all killed and I don’t want to die in this shithole!”

There was very little talk over the next hour as we found our way to the Fordham campus. The bags were emptied from the trunk, pleasantries were exchanged with my residential advisor.

I don’t remember much other than trying to hide my fear. The reality of a Dickies-wearing, far-from-worldly hick being dropped in an ethnic melting pot, it flooded me. But I knew I couldn’t let my Mom see that.

She too was less reserved than she had been back in Maine. She was looking for any reason to stuff me in the car and return to our white bread bubble in South Portland, where she could protect me forever.

I just remember pride, handshakes and hugs from my dad. My Mom was tearing up but there was a calm in her eyes just as my expression had turned to panic.

There were no words, just emotion and love.

“You can do this.” That’s what I saw. I didn’t believe her and I wanted to jump in that car as bad as she wanted me in it.

But the look just kept getting stronger. The tears were flowing, the hugs were suffocating but when we made eye contact, her look just kept getting more resolute.

“You were born for this. Go get ‘em.” All communicated without a word and in the moment, I believed her.

My parents got in their car. It was minutes before the car started. I was simultaneously talking to my R.A. about my room assignment and waiting for them to come get me.

It never happened. Soon, they started rolling slowly down the cobblestone path leading away from the dorm. My dad would later tell me Mom told him five times in that slow roll to stop. What the hell are we doing leaving our son here?

That’s the beauty of a good film. That instant on-screen unlocked a wonderful memory, one that I much prefer to focus on when thinking of the beauty of my mother.

Sitting by her side in the hospital, I wasn’t so brave. I begged God to not take her. I didn’t show the restraint and grace my sister had on her message or that my mom had letting her youngest child and only son become a man.

Over the last 18 months, I have often wished I could have been braver for her. I just didn’t want to let go. Still don’t.

I know a similar moment is coming down the road with my 10-year-old and four-year-old sons. I see the brilliance already, I know they were born to see the world.

I only hope I’ll find the courage to share that message the right way like my mom did that day in the Bronx.

I Love Tom Ziller’s NBA Work, But His Bleacher Report Critique Is Lazy

One of the few components of Tom Ziller’s blog post that I found useful was his disclaimer, so I’ll co-op it here:

I write for Bleacher Report, a site that once saw SB Nation as direct competition. No one at Bleacher Report sanctioned, requested or even knew I was writing this.

It must be lonely in the elitist clouds. I read these anti-Bleacher Report blog posts from time to time and it evokes a number of emotions.

First, I laugh. It amuses me because Tom, a talented NBA writer for SB Nation, worries that B/R is the future of sports journalism, and yet, I worry even more that posts like Tom’s are the future of sports journalism.

It’s lazy, built on assumptions and written from such an elitist soap box pandering to the minions in Ziller’s Twitterverse that have made it a sport to take potshots at Bleacher Report.

Ziller, like so many before him, use words most folks have to look up on Google like “exegesis” and, hey, it must make sense because he’s using SAT words. (Though I must thank Tom for giving me another Scrabble word that will stump my competitors.)

It also amuses me that Tom cops out and says he doesn’t know how most of the former B/R writers left because “there’s little I hate more* than talking business with internet friends,” but he uses these writers as a centerpiece for the latest hatchet job in taking down the evil B/R.

Once the laughter passes, I get angry. I think of all the work that my colleagues and I have put in to building Bleacher Report, all the work that countless writers and editors have put in to continually raise the editorial standards at B/R and it angers me that they have to feel even the slightest bit of shame for calling B/R home.

Then I’m proud once the emails and Gchats start coming in from writers. They want to defend B/R on Twitter or on their personal blogs. And most times, I have told them to take the high road.

It’s an edict from above, and given CEO Brian Grey and VP of Content Dave Finocchio’s track record for making correct business decisions, I respect their PR approach, though it’s different than my own personal strategy.

I would have liked nothing more than to get out in front of telling our story when pieces like the SF Weekly story came out, another story filled with inaccuracies — but one where our company could have helped our cause by talking to the reporter as part of the piece, in my opinion.

In fact, the day the SF Weekly piece came out, I found myself on the first panel discussion at Blogs with Balls, an ever-growing online sports media conference. When the inevitable discussion of the story came up, I absorbed a couple lowblows from panel moderator/SB Nation employee Amy K. Nelson and took the high road.

Now, I find myself parting ways amicably with B/R — they wanted a managing editor based in San Francisco instead of South Carolina, while I am a displaced New Englander trying to get back north instead of west.

So while I’m sad to be parting with B/R, the upside is I can speak out a bit more when I see pieces like this.

I grew up in a journalism world where competitors didn’t feel the need to eat their own to make themselves look better. Sure, there have always been media wars, but nothing like we see in today’s online media.

If we got beat on a story, we bought the guy from paper B a beer and said, “I’ll get you tomorrow.”

But this notion of SB Nation being the elite media property … well, it once again makes me laugh.

Folks like Ziller speak of B/R and use words like algorithms and Googlebait. They use B/R’s past mistakes to make their argument, but have never bothered to give B/R another look. Tom’s “x”-ing out of stories is more about his allegiance to SB Nation than it is to actually giving B/R a good look again.

I’ve said this many times to those who would actually listen. Things like the slideshow making light of a tsunami, they were mistakes. But as media properties grow, they make those mistakes. We used that as a teaching moment at B/R and an impetus to speed up growth in editorial standards and changes to our publishing technology.

Those that have taken the time to give B/R another look, to see behind the curtain, they know there’s no supercomputer robot spitting out headlines.

It’s called analytics, knowing what the consumer wants and delivering more of it to them. We have built our analytics team and have some of the smartest folks I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with on that team. These are folks with strong sports backgrounds that just happen to be better at maneuvering their way around analytics spreadsheets than most people.

And, to toot the horn for a minute, it’s a large part of why B/R has left competitors like SB Nation in the dust. I spent the bulk of my day in constant contact with editors on conference calls, online group chats and video calls, and the editors in turn spend most of their days talking story ideas with writers.

We have an assignment structure, no doubt. The concept that this is a bad thing? Well, Tom and I will once again have to agree to disagree. I saw on his SB Nation profile that he loves freedom and I’m glad he gets that at SB Nation (and I am also rooting for the taco truck to get to your house quicker, Tom).

Our editorial structure is quite different than SB Nation, so any kind of comparison is a bit suspect to start. SB Nation advertises itself as a collection of independent blogs under one roof. It’s like Subway, one company with an overriding philosophy that has a lot of franchisees running their own shops.

Bleacher Report is owner operated and sets the rules for the one really big shop they run.

B/R has a structure that combines our analytics learnings with old-school budget meetings. We’re constantly talking about what our readers want and trying to deliver that to them.

In the middle of that discussion, writers are always bringing up story angles or opinions that may not be trending on Google right now, but nonetheless, need to be told. And editors are given the freedom to make judgment calls on where to mix those assignments into the writers’ daily work flow.

B/R has a foundation in operating under Google’s rules for search traffic. But search is just one part of the operation. Where in their earlier days, B/R was more dependent on search traffic, it is but one part of the operation now. Their Team Stream app and newsletter program have exploded, as has direct traffic to the site.

While B/R always valued its relationship with Google and with search, it’s become much less prominent as the brand has grown.

And I’m not going to talk about search like it’s a four-letter word. I’ve told this to countless up-and-coming writers — if you’re snubbing your nose to SEO best practices, you’re giving up a huge advantage. The best fishermen know where the fish are biting. The best online writers know how fans search for their work, and they use SEO not to trick or game the system, but to actually use the system to best build their personal brand.

That mouthful said, did B/R appear in way too many Google searches a few years ago? Yes. Why? We got too good at search optimization, and I’m not going to apologize for that. Part of the reason there’s less B/R at the top of search results is not because Google somehow penalized them. It’s because all other major sports properties have finally caught on that search is a valuable component of the traffic mix.

Let’s talk about gaming the system. I’ve seen SB Nation specifically publish the kind of empty-shell “Googlebait” Tom describes in droves around big events — to the tone and volume Bleacher Report would never have dreamed of.

In terms of quality work, I’m not arguing Tom’s point. SB Nation does great work and has an outstanding stable of writers. When I see that great work, I find myself sending that writer a virtual beer and it makes B/R work that much harder to “get ‘em tomorrow.”

At the end of the day, Bleacher Report writers are unique. Their accomplishments are too many to list, though King Kaufman does a great job of it in his blog. One I’ll add to that is Mike Schottey’s great work reacting to the ESPN/PBS debacle, the kind of hustle that was called out by Richard Deitsch.

As for the former B/R writers Tom mentioned, they’re all great. As he well knows as an editor, writers move on to different gigs and sometimes, it’s as simple as the relationship not working out. The Jimmy Spencer situation, I can’t speak to specifics as to why the relationship ended as I was not involved. I recruited Jimmy heavily and as a reader, I’m very frustrated that he’ll very soon be writing for some other site than B/R.

To use the NBA writers to paint a broad brush against B/R, it’s just lazy.

Are there things that B/R needs to improve? You bet. I agree with Tom on one point. The “top writer” rankings on sport section fronts, based on page views, need to go away as B/R evolves its writer base. And knowing B/R’s strength at evolving, I bet they will.

But there again, I’m not going to apologize for the gamification (ooh, another evil word, apparently).

It’s a corporate buzzword and I hate corporate buzzwords, but the concept is genius. Writers are among the most competitive people out there, and I know from personal experience that even with 23 years in the business, I still loved watching myself rise the top-writer rankings.

Does there need to be an evolved way of measuring “best” writers beyond just reads? Absolutely. But the idea of writers rising from level to level, it’s just one of the brilliant components to the B/R model.

One thing I know, having seen the work that B/R does: they will improve. I’ve never seen a more impressive group of individuals come together as a team with one goal in mind: constantly evolving to be the best sports site they can be.

Just once, before the next Tom Ziller takes the next potshot, it would great if they’d just take the time to study the evolution of B/R.

Stop putting the tsunami screenshot out there, stop eating your own and just do the work. If and when there’s an actual balanced critique, I can’t wait to read it.

There’s plenty of things Bleacher Report has done wrong, but I know from seeing it firsthand that they’ve owned the mistakes and learned from them. And at the end of the day, there’s plenty more that B/R has done right.