15 years ago, I picked up a fallen torch and ran with it.
“It” was northern Illinois high school sports’ internet fanbase. We had NCIpreps for a few years, but new ownership abruptly shut it down and left a lot of regional sports message board posters, such as myself, without a regional sports home.
15 years ago today, I put together a Network54 message board, called it “NCIpreps” and restarted what was meant to be a temporary replacement for what was supposedly “under construction.” That “construction” never materialized, and these boards stayed. After a few days, I was informed that the NCIpreps name was actually trademarked, and I had to think of some other name.
Northern Illinois Sports Beat was a big part of my life for 10 years. When my journalism career was meant to be destroyed, burned, and gone after leaving Sauk Valley Media the first time, I stuck with my guns and put together my usual slate of game stories and features how I had been doing them. It was what I was good at doing, and I didn’t want to give that up.
Northern Illinois Sports Beat brought me to many sports environments in my territory: small town, large town, metro area, poor schools, etc. Places from Rockford to DeKalb to Ottawa and the Quad Cities, and everywhere in between. I’ve covered 1A and 7A football games on the same day. Met many great athletes who have gone on to do great things in their personal, professional and athletic lives.
For many years, I was “that one guy” who covered games that looked like I didn’t belong there because I wasn’t always there. I had been labeled a “basement reporter” and a “dot-com.” Sometimes I was looked down upon because I wrote and published my stuff for free.
At its peak, NISB had a staff of three contributors, a message board moderator and myself doing both. The desire to monetize NISB was never realized. Advertisements, subscription fees, fundraisers, etc. never panned out. Soon there came a time when I grew older and had to dedicate my life to more important things.
When I couldn’t do NISB anymore, I had tried a watered-down version, and even a local version, but none worked. Eventually I was hired to write some articles for the Sauk Valley Sun, and got my old job back at Sauk Valley Media – where I worked in sports from 2014 to 2018. This year is my first strictly doing everyday local news.
This coming football season will be my 18th roaming the gridiron sidelines with press pass in hand. I also look to bring back my weekly Cutter’s Corner column that I had worked on for the first 4 months since joining the “news side;” I had to call it off when staff got short over here.
These last 6 months have been VERY strange for me, having largely been out of the high school sports loop. District football is coming, and March Madness will change once again. I still feel like I got a lot to offer, when I have the time to do it.
Meanwhile, I am a survivor in this profession, and I have the Northern Illinois Sports Beat community to thank for it all.
If you were a message board poster; frequent visitor; player, coach or administrator who helped promote my efforts; media member; or anyone who is associated with Illinois high school sports in some way – THANK YOU! With all my heart.
Serving the public readership always will be my No. 1 priority.