When I started Wrong Side of the Pond close to seven years ago, I didn’t really have a plan in mind.
I had just moved to Louisville for a non-soccer related job, and I was looking for a way to pass the time in a new city where I didn’t know anybody. Keeping a blog to spill the many, many thoughts I had about the beautiful game seemed as good a hobby as any. And to be honest, I knew and was cool with most people not really caring to read those thoughts. But for the few who did care to — a handful of friends I’ve met in my decades of playing, my mom — it at least kept me from having to write the same email six or seven times.
It didn’t take long for me to discover how enjoyable it was to write about the thing I was most passionate about. And doing so from an American perspective, something that was in short supply on the footballing internet of the day, seemed a proper mission. The blog even allowed me to justify poking around in Photoshop again. And perhaps more importantly, it offered me a much needed creative outlet that my new job did not during a lonely and tough time in my life.
Eventually though, I returned home to Cincinnati. To be fair, my heart had never really left. But despite again being surrounded by friends and family, I kept up with the blog. And by that point, the hits were still pretty minuscule. But it took a series of impeccably well-timed opportunities for this blog to morph into something more than just a hobby.
My first ever legitimate scoop. An idea to start a crowd-sourced soccer bar directory giving me a high-profile partnership. Suddenly, and almost without warning, an increasing number of people were stumbling across my little corner of the internet.
Even then, this site still very much lacked a plan. However, over the last four years or so, it became clear that if I developed one… maybe this pastime could turn into something more.
Admittedly, my goals for that plan haven’t always been the same throughout. They’ve evolved, much like the site itself. Initial targets ranged from simple desires like
“drawing 20 unique visitors a day” to “being taken seriously”. But as elementary targets were achieved, they eventually gave way to legitimate career ambitions
However, whatever end goal I was working towards, the reason for chasing it never changed from the very earliest days of the site: telling the story of soccer from the American perspective.
Cliché as it may sound, soccer courses through my veins. With all do respect to my lovely wife and daughter, soccer is my first true love. And sharing the many amazing tales that this sport has to offer has been my small way of giving back to and helping to grow a game that has given me so much over the last — gulp — nearly 30 years I’ve been enjoying it.
Amazingly, I’ve been incredibly lucky to see the effort I’ve poured into Wrong Side of the Pond give a lot back to me, too. Free gear here and there, an MLS Cup, two MLS All-Star Games, inaugural games for teams in four American leagues, standing on stadium pitches across the country, press box access, getting to meet some of my childhood heroes… I’m well aware that not everyone who has poured themselves into a blog has been so fortunate.
Too, I’m not afraid to admit that at times this thing has felt like a burden. Seven years of semi-consistent posting can wear thin on you from time to time, especially when you have to squeeze it into a life that already contained a full-time job, a social life, and eventually a family. But that I’ve kept at it, despite all of those hurdles, shows to me that it meant something more than just ambition or a hobby. I’ve found that when talking about one’s passion, it can be hard to set down the microphone. So even through bouts of writers block, stress and busy periods at work, I felt an obligation to persist with the pumping out of stories about the beautiful game.
Well, all that’s about to change.
Wrong Side of the Pond, as it currently operates anyway, is likely going away.
Today, I can announce that the plans I’ve laid out for WSOTP have finally lead me to one of the many goals I’ve pursued with this site: gainful, full-time employment in the world of professional soccer.
After many discussions and much consideration, I’ve decided to accept an offer from FC Cincinnati to become their first ever Director of Communications.
I’m obviously thrilled and humbled by the opportunity Jeff Berding and FC Cincinnati are presenting me. Being handed the chance to quit my day job and instead fully focus my efforts on helping professional soccer be successful in my hometown? To call it a dream-come-true doesn’t really feel like I’m doing it justice. Plus, the club not having a well defined narrative to this point gives me a fairly blank canvas to work with, and that’s incredibly exciting. That said, I’m well aware that there’s a lot of work to be done. And I’m not afraid to say I’ll need to learn a lot in the coming months to get that work done. But it’s a task I couldn’t pass up tackling.
But due to the level of commitment I’ll need to put into my work with the team, that leaves this site in a bit of a quandary.
Due to the nature of my new gig — privileged access to information, becoming a representative of a club — my impartiality has been compromised a bit. Too, I’ll need to be mindful of how my opinions could reflect on the club that I’ll not only be representing, but that’s also paying my bills.
Worry not: the site itself isn’t going away. I’ve already paid the next year’s domain registration fees at bare minimum. And I still have a plan to regularly get original content up here. There’s also pub atlas to maintain, plenty more stadiums to profile and a podcast to record. My shared thoughts will just have to be a bit more vanilla when it comes to topics that revolve around FC Cincinnati, USL and the American lower leagues. As it has many times before, Wrong Side of the Pond will adapt and evolve.
More on my future plans for the site will forthcoming, too.
Now, as you might imagine, some other things in my life will be impacted by this decision. And much of that is pretty bittersweet.
First and foremost, I’ll be quitting my full-time job to pursue my FCC opportunity. I’ve spent nearly six years making some amazing friends at my previous employer, and I still very much believe in the work they’re doing. Had the team not come knocking, I’d be happy to stay there doing it with them.
But perhaps even more heartbreaking, my story beginning with FC Cincinnati means that my story with the NPSL’s Dayton Dynamo — formerly the Cincinnati Saints — is coming to a close. For the last two and a half years, I’ve invested a lot of time, energy and emotion into their project. From calling their games on TV and webstreams, hosting 8000-person watch parties to completely designing the club’s new identity from the ground up. And in turn, the Saints/Dynamo have given me even more. I’m forever indebted to David Satterwhite for giving me the opportunities he has with his club; I wouldn’t be writing this article without his belief in me and WSOTP. Trust me when I say it kills me that I won’t be seeing out the launch in Dayton.
And while I’m tossing around thank you’s, there are a few more people I want to thank, too.
I owe a hefty portion of my early successes to DC United’s Chris Rolfe, as covering — and sometimes breaking — the Dayton-native’s career moves and time in Denmark gave the early site much of its early traffic. Also deserving of thanks are Aaron and Mark from Rhinehaus in Cincinnati, who have graciously allowed me to brand and host all sorts of events in what has fast become not only one of the city’s best soccer bars, but sports bars in general. And of course, there are countless friends and family members — particularly my mother — who have shown me so much belief and support in my pursuits.
Lastly, there are two more people for whom I wanted to save special praise.
First up is my podcast co-host Jeremy Lance. Here’s a quick fact: most of my biggest WSOTP successes to date have come after the introduction of the #Pondcast. And I don’t know that I would have ever worked up the courage to take the step into the audio realm that was necessary to get here without Jeremy proposing it to me one fateful day watching Wigan in Piqua. He’s taught me a lot about the formal sports journalism world that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So thanks for everything buddy… and, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve still got lots of recording ahead of us.
And last but not least, my wife — the famed Mrs. WSOTP, a name which she despises. I very much doubt that any other woman in the world would put up with the amount of crap I’ve put her through over a soccer blog. She’s dealt with me watching countless hours of soccer, writing at times inconvenient to her schedule, and frequently dealt with our growing family on her own while I chased soccer stories and dreams all around the country. It certainly helps that she shares a love of the game, but I know it’s been taxing on her. I’m eternally grateful for all the encouragement and understanding she’s shown for this obsession.
To be honest, there are probably many I’ve left out so far that deserve a public acknowledgment. Nothing personal: I’m trying to keep this thing under 2000 words. But just the same, to any of you who have taken time to read, look at, listen to or share the stuff I’ve thrown up here over the years, I couldn’t have done it without you.
I also know this won’t sit well with everyone out there. I’ll undoubtedly be called a sellout. Others will opt for traitor. Some will even be waiting for me to fail. Plenty more will remain completely indifferent, too. And I’m okay with all of that. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Haters gonna hate”.
I don’t know what the future holds for me with FC Cincinnati. Personally, I’m crossing my fingers for loads of success. But in the meantime, I’m just going to focus in on following the plan that got me here, and that’s continuing to tell stories about the sport I love.
They’ll just be a little more topically focused moving forward.
And while I can’t promise Wrong Side of the Pond will be same from here on out, it’s not going anywhere either. Here’s hoping you stick around and see what where we go from here, even though the plan has changed once again.