PFT is getting old. Which means I’m getting old.
So old that I nearly forgot that today is PFT’s birthday.
Twelve years ago today, the Citynet servers flipped the switch on ProFootballTalk.com.
The content back in those days was sparse. I’d get up extra early before what used to be my real job, post two or three items based on the modest (i.e., small) network of sources I developed during six months with ESPN.com and a year before that with SportsTalk.com (which went belly up in early 2001 and was bought out by Bristol), along with a set of 15-20 “one-liners,” which were and still are one-sentence links to various news items of interest.
It was a two-hour-a-day hobby that didn’t cost much money. And at $500 up front and $50 per month, it was cheaper than most other hobbies. (Especially golf. And Shrinky-Dinks.)
Over time, the traffic grew. Which caused me to find other times of the day to post content. Which caused the traffic to grow. Which caused me to find other days of the week to post content. (Initially, we rarely posted much on weekends.)
Eventually (as in, after two or three years), opportunities arose to make money. Which caused me to put more time into it. Which resulted in more traffic and in turn more money.
From late through 2001 through 2005, it wasn’t much money. But the hobby that cost $500 up front and $50 a month at some point in 2004 became a hobby that was generating a modest amount of side income. Enough to buy a pinball machine. Which has been sitting there for two years now with a busted flipper. (Does anyone know a good pinball machine mechanic?)
The change came in early 2006, when a short but significant email arrived from Ted Moon of Sprint. He loved the site, he wanted to explore a partnership, and within a few weeks a deal was done.
The money increased. The output increased. The traffic increased. What had been a slow-rolling snowball began to gather momentum and size.
From 2006 through 2008, we tried to find another Sprint-style benefactor, fearful that at some point without much warning the Sprint gravy train would go off a cliff. (Eventually, it did.) Instead, NBC entered the picture in early 2009.
We’d worked from time to time with Rick Cordella, who joined NBC after NBC bought Rotoworld. When he was promoted to whatever his title was at the time (he’s now in a much bigger job), he had the opportunity to make a run at bringing PFT under the NBC tent.
I didn’t want to do it. I feared the idea of being “mainstream,” of forfeiting independence, of losing the ability to say whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, however I wanted.
I made a big deal about not giving up editorial control, assuming (hoping) it would scare Cordella away. It didn’t.
Still, I was reluctant and I delayed and I waffled and I lollygagged until the launch of free agency, when our servers imploded in what will forever be known in these parts as the Great Hamster Massacre of 2009. After diverting our traffic to SportingNews.com (I was writing a couple of columns for them per week and they’d made overtures about buying the site) and promptly blowing out multiple servers there, I contacted Cordella. NBC basically let us crash on their couch for the weekend, where we were able to serve the PFT readers who had gone from ringing the bell to rapping on the frame to banging on the door to trying to kick it in throughout what otherwise are our busiest traffic days of the year.
At that point, my stubbornness subsided, we had a deal in place by late May, we signed it in early June, and the partnership began on July 1.
More than four years later, we’ve now been around 12 total years. And that wouldn’t be happening without you, the folks who click the links or type in the domain name or open the bookmark. We know you’re out there, we appreciate that you choose to spend time here, and we’ll never take for granted the fact that, of all the available options, you make time for the site that started as a hobby that cost $50 per month into a business that allowed me to quit practicing law, to spend a lot of time doing something that really isn’t work, to travel to Manhattan every week of the season, to go to every Super Bowl and draft, and to do plenty of other things I never would have been able to do if you hadn’t found this place and kept coming back here.
Plenty of people say “thank you” without really meaning it. When I consider what’s happened over the last 12 years, I couldn’t mean it more. Without you, it just doesn’t happen. And for that I’ll be grateful long after I move on. Which hopefully won’t happen for a long time.