I’ve always hated intros—since writing papers in high school, really. You don’t want to be too formulaic, but you gotta let the reader know what it is they are reading. I’m sure if I actually majored in journalism I would have a better grasp at explaining that. I guess it doesn’t matter now.
This is my last post for Cincy Jungle.
I can’t properly sum up what that means to me, because how in the world do you encapsulate seven of the most transformative years of your life when you’re only 26?
At 19 years old I was just some dweeb studying business economics at the University of Cincinnati, a major I landed on due to a lack of direction. I hadn’t the faintest idea what I wanted to do in the real world. No one really does when you’re stumbling around campus and sneaking unopened boxes of Bud Light Platinum you found on the side of the street into your dorm. Those tasted like liquid gold that night after spending an hour scrubbing them with any cleaning product we could find.
It wasn’t long afterwards that Dadio Makdook (the coward changed his last name from McDuck because he was scared of Disney), found me on Twitter—just some kid with about 70 followers and a lifelong passion for the Cincinnati Bengals. As many of you know, Dadio is one-half of the original duo that makes up D&H Sports, now known as the #1 Bengals Podcast. He was once a handsome cartoon, now he’s a belligerent puppet with an addiction to trans fats. Perhaps the loose-leaf just hid his curves better. Regardless, Dadio invited me on the show to discuss the Bengals’ 2016 NFL Draft class.
My God, I was absolutely terrible to listen to. I felt like I was speaking at 100 miles an hour, using verbiage that didn’t sound natural, and didn’t even want to show my face at first.
He loved it, for some reason, and invited me back on as a regular.
Video content was cool and all, but writing was what I became interested in. I grew up reading all the big players in Bengals media. Geoff Hobson’s been doing it for as long as I’ve been alive for Bengals.com, which used to look a lot different back in the day, but a lot of my writing form comes from him. You have your Paul Dehner Jr.’s, Jay Morrison’s, Coley Harvey’s, and Kat Terrell’s of the past and present that all get mixed into your composite style as well. That’s what’s great about reading from multiple perspectives; they all have something to offer any hopeful creator of content or reporter of news.
Going back to the mothership site for a minute, there used to be a link that took you to the official team message boards. My friends would show them to me when I was in middle school. I was hooked instantly. I must’ve posted nearly 20,000 times on the ole boards.bengals.com. Stupid mock drafts, Andy Dalton propaganda, and a godless amount of ignorance only a prepubescent fool could conjure up. What else is there to do post on a message board?
That was my gateway to content creation, and now I had an opportunity to take it to the next level. I reached out to Dadio about writing for Cincy Jungle, who put me in contact with Rebecca Toback, the former sheriff ’round these parts. A couple of trial fanposts later and boom, I was a contributing writer.
I don’t think I was a complete victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect, but I was somewhere near the top of the curve. I wanted to make informative content that I would enjoy reading, and I had the perfect platform to do it. Thankfully, the initial responses were overwhelmingly positive, especially when I kicked off the Weekly Lineman series for the 2016 season.
Can I stay on this for a second? Because I really wanted to do Film Room-style content surrounding offensive and defensive line play here, and God responded by making the Bengals’ offensive line a massive problem for the rest of eternity. Or maybe it was Mike Brown. Who knows. In 2017, I tasked myself to grade every single play for every Cincinnati offensive lineman. The memories still make me jolt a bit.
No matter the seemingly infinite Cedric Ogbuehi and Alex Redmond buffoonery I went over, it was always enjoyable putting a product out there for you all to consume. And you did, every single time.
Two years went by and an opportunity to do more became available. Our guy Jason Marcum approached me to become the new Deputy Editor, his second-in-command. Again, I wasn’t in college for journalism. I took English II as a requirement, and that was the highest I went. To say I felt under-qualified to edit other people’s work would be, well, an understatement of the highest degree.
I did it anyways. I’m very happy with my choice in retrospect.
In July of 2018, I started the position that I’m now leaving. It feels like a literal lifetime ago, but anyone remembering anything before the pandemic likely feels the same way. My first year receiving a legitimate paycheck for doing what I loved was also Marvin Lewis’ final year coaching the Bengals. I became a fan pretty much the year he was hired all those years ago. It felt poetic to say the least.
Zac Taylor’s first season was the first year I was working and not going to school. The freedom was fulfilling, and it countered out covering 11-straight losses and the franchise quarterback getting dumped on his freakin’ birthday. What a whimsical year all around.
And then panic struck.
The thrill of writing Joe Burrow content with the knowledge he’d become the Bengals’ new QB was soon overblown by massive uncertainty with COVID-19. Not just uncertainty about football, or I suppose the health of my loved ones and myself, but about my job.
Sports media is already an industry defined by high turnover and a perpetual grind for low wages. Layoffs are frequent regardless if there’s a global incident that impacts the viability of sports being played. I wasn’t a full-time employee. I had no idea if I was going to keep my job down the road when Covid first hit, and I was far from the only one worried.
That’s perhaps what I’m most grateful for—to have kept the same job for nearly five years and experiencing the luxury of progressing on my own accord. There are several idols of mine in this field who can’t say the same. It’s a strange world we live in.
The job on its own was amazing. The opportunities that came with it were even better. Three Senior Bowl trips were made, totaling in one Brian Callahan story being broken by yours truly, via Jon Gruden of all people. Those weeks were always fun, but the truly special experiences involved gaining access to the Bengals like I never dreamed of.
Connecting with the club’s Director of Communications Emily Parker opened doors I thought would be locked forever. The very first time I received press access, I got to ask Mike Brown questions one-on-one. I was invited to Mock Turtle Soup media day a few years later. I went into the press conference room to talk with Zac Taylor along with Jake Liscow and CJ alum Nick Manchester. I even got to meet Elizabeth Blackburn and see the new jerseys in-person along with some of the most prominent names in the Bengals community and write an exclusive story on it. Too many moments to be thankful for.
I’m also thankful for the Bengals eventually becoming good again. For a minute I thought it wasn’t going to happen until I stopped doing all of this.
The last two years have been an absolute blast. It goes beyond just being busy in January and writing about wins more than losses; the whole city feels the impact as well. Fans are more invested than ever, and that includes consuming the content we put out. It will never get old being out in Cincinnati and having someone recognize me from Cincy Jungle or co-hosting the Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast.
Wait a minute, how did I gloss over OBI?
July of ’18 was also when the great Anthony Cosenza reached out to me about being a guest host for the show he birthed. In all honesty, I didn’t foresee myself being on for more than a few times. Not only was I still lacking confidence on camera, I just didn’t know if I could commit to a weekly show. But Anthony took a chance on me, and I won’t forget that.
Nearly every Wednesday (and now sometimes Monday and Thursday) I’ve been talking ball with Anthony, an absolute OG of this space, and it’s a bedrock of my life. It will continue to be even now that I’m taking on a new challenge.
As of March 1st, I’ve been writing Bengals content for atozsports.com. That will be the bulk of my role, as well as writing *ducks behind a couch*
Steelers content as well.
Don’t worry. It’ll be objective... to my standards.
My day-to-day life won’t change very much, and neither will yours. You’ll all still be here at CJ because it doesn’t matter how many writers come and go, the foundation here was built to last. When I told Jason about me leaving, he mentioned this site was great before us and will be great after us. I don’t even have to agree because it’s a stone cold truth.
Cincy Jungle is the standard for Bengals content on the internet. I hope I made it just 1% better over these last seven years.