My name is Dan Levy and I am a part of Bleacher Report.
Reading that first line over and over again in my head feels like I'm saying this to a room full of strangers, and I look down and see a "Hello My Name Is" tag on my chest before slowly realizing I am not wearing any pants.
Me, the guy who has publicly ripped this company on my podcast, in writing and on Twitter more than almost anyone in the last three years, is now part of its Lead Writer Program. I am a part of Bleacher Report. This is not a dream.
Certainly this is real, but the longer I've been out in San Francisco getting a sense for what this company is trying to do, the more surreal it feels. The new Bleacher Report offices are straight out of a Hollywood set-designer's back pocket for a movie about an up-and-coming Silicon Valley dot-com, right down to the ping-pong table and rooms named after sports legends with giant murals you can see from anywhere on the floor. It genuinely feels too good to be true, but it is true. Like it or not, the existing model of Bleacher Report is working.
Suddenly I can't for the life of me figure out why I'm here.
When I got an email and subsequent call from B/R in late spring, I seriously took the time to discuss their new idea out of nothing more than due diligence. When I stopped producing new shows and writing every day, I knew I'd come back to something eventually. When B/R contacted me, I had the "thanks but no thanks" boilerplate response in queue, but one email turned into one phone call which turned into an ongoing dialogue until they eventually won me over.
More than anything, they got me with their plan for this program. And unlike almost any other place I've ever worked in my life, they actually listen. They took my ideas for this job and my suggestions for the other lead writers and they delivered.
They got Bethlehem Shoals and Josh Zerkle to do this. How am I going to say no?
In two months' time I went from feeling like I was doing Bleacher Report a favor by spending 30 minutes on the phone talking about their new program to sitting in their offices wondering how in the world I'm going to keep up my end of the bargain for a company I genuinely believe is going to be the next place everyone in our industry is going to want to work.
The only real problem with the way Bleacher Report has built their brand—something that has always been my point of contention—was that the back-end genius was always leaps and bounds ahead of the front-end product. To become the fourth-largest sports site in the country with no high-profile names writing for you, all while fighting a less-than-favorable (and perhaps a bit unfair) perception from certain media types, is beyond incredible.
The content side of things had to become a bigger point of focus, especially for a company that is trying to grow more organic traffic. It doesn't matter how smart your engineers are—you will always need more talent on the front end to have long-term success in this industry. But the cool thing is they've gotten a lot better at it in the last year. Sure, stuff has gotten through the checks and balances in the past, but they showed me layers upon layers of people who are employed specifically to make sure the quality gets better every single day.
And that's where we can help. We are here to continue to make this place better. Bleacher Report hired us because they want to compete with ESPN and Yahoo! and Sports Illustrated and the other huge names of the industry. A website that has 20 million monthly readers and over 500 million monthly pageviews just asked ME to be a huge part of making their product better. They think I can be a part of what makes their company bigger, better and (perhaps most importantly) more respected in the industry. And I get to work with some of my best friends in the business. The nervousness and humility I'm feeling right now is something I've never experienced in my professional career.
I became a member of the media because I woke up one day and decided to be one. It has taken me years of really freaking hard work to get to this place. If I had to count the number of days I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to write two articles and get a podcast produced for little to no money (note: there were many more days of no money than little money) I might never stop counting. This Internet writing nonsense is not an easy gig. For all the people who say you shouldn't give away your work for free, I'm a testament that working for free is a tough but smart path to developing your voice and growing your brand.
That's the next step now. I'm being asked to share my voice at Bleacher Report to grow my brand through theirs. I'm not being asked to react to the same junk you see talking heads debate on TV—though I'm sure there will be some of that. I am being asked to drive the discussion and to initiate the conversation that ends up being debated by talking heads on TV. This is going to be pretty cool.
Taking over the sports corner of the Internet is the goal here, and with the infrastructure they've shown us, I wouldn't doubt for one second their dream will become a reality someday. I'm most concerned with putting out a good quality product.
I want to write well, I want to bring back my podcast and make it better than it was before—and better than everyone else who is doing what I did before—and I want to try new things that people in this industry maybe haven't thought of yet. And the best part is I know the people here are going to listen.
My name is Dan Levy and I am a part of Bleacher Report. No, this is not a dream. Yes, I am wearing pants.
You can find my first article at Wide Left on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Wide Left plans to add contributing writers.