A year down and hopefully many more to go. 30 members deep, representing over 10 universities across the country, the Sideline O family has grown at Philip Rivers’ family-esque levels.
Last Spring I was a ~contributor~ for the Odyssey Online. While the significance of my time with the online publication can be conveyed with a mere LinkedIn bullet point, it was a chief inspiration for the creation of the Sideline. My articles for the Odyssey were admittedly self-preachy and spelling error-riddled commentary that I considered to be New Yorker-esque scripture. But upon reflection probably equated to the wisdom of a DJ Khaled self-help snapchat story.
To see what I envisioned as sincere and thoughtful writing be buried under countless articles like the Top 10 ‘The Real Housewives’ GIFs Everyone Will Relate To and If The Bible Can’t Convince You To Save Sex For Marriage, Maybe Science Will that were composed chiefly of gifs and meaningless platitudes was disheartening to say the least.
So I came back to Bethesda, MD last May internshipless and with too much time on my hands. Through a stupor of pong and drunken banter, I pitched to my fellow unemployed friends that it might be in our best interest to start a blog. Under the inherently ambiguous topic guidelines of sports and culture, we could theoretically write everything interesting that we discuss daily, putting hot takes on paper.
We convinced ourselves that the blogosphere was yearning for our insight of privileged, Bethesda guys who just finished their freshman year of college. Thus, a group chat was made and the first meeting was penned in.
Then, on a late May afternoon, the first Sideline meeting took place. We didn’t have a website or a name. (Our initial idea was the Rock and Radnor… publication names wasn’t our forte.) We called the initial founding group the Hateful Eight (still not sure why). Nonetheless, to continue the poor choice of names, there were actually nine of us. We miscounted.
Eventually, my mind stumbled upon the name: The Sideline Observer. It encompassed the idea of discussing events from an outside perspective, aka off the field. We weren’t necessarily the players or performers of the happenings we debated, but mere observers who couldn’t help but watch from the sideline.
We debuted our first article, Journalism: Re-birthed, as a manifesto for our platform’s conception. From there, the rest is history as we went on a full year-long bender that Diet Coke-drinking John Daly could even appreciate.
Rarely, do we find things that really give us a drive to work intrinsically. People ask me all the time: “Does the Sideline O pay you?” Well hey, if I was looking for money, I certainly would not be spending my time trying to blog. I would make more money in a day of washing cars than I would blogging for a week.
Nonetheless, the Sideline O has grown into much more than a passion project for us. The shared successes and great people that are a part of the daily occurrences of the Sideline serve as a currency of fulfillment that we could not appreciate more.
At the end of the day, the only things that are going to provide us any sense of gratification from the Sideline are the accolades and goals we set for ourselves. Regardless of whether you try to build a startup or work at your parent’s personal finance company, there’s one factor in your success that you can always control: effort.
I cringe as I write that last sentence, but if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last year, the cliche holds truth. Setting and obtaining tangible goals to validate your effort is the cornerstone of success. The Sideline O gives us that opportunity, whether it’s a generous compliment from a drunk friend at a bar preaching that we are going to be the next ESPN, or having people reach out to us about internships, all these small moments remind us how far we have come.
With that message, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of our first year at the Sideline.
Last summer, with the help of Koa Sports, we were able to host a 3v3 basketball tournament fundraiser. It was a grand success as we were able to raise $100 in donations to support the Capital Gazette shooting victims’ families. Team Swish was the victor, as they won the championship 21-0. No one is quite sure where they came from, but they essentially embodied the Golden State Warriors playing a group of YMCA dads with knee issues.
If there’s one thing we do well, it’s selling clothes. This past winter, we were able to sell over $1,000 in merchandise in just four days with around $2,000 in total from all of our sales combined. I can’t thank the Sideline community enough for always coming out to support the brand. More threads are coming this summer. #StayTuned
5K on Instagram
Now, we are ~social media influencers~ While we wished our dedicated Instagram fans alsoooo looked at the website more, it is truly a blessing to see how quickly we have gotten our foot in the door as far as Instagram notoriety goes. One night, a DC United clip racked up over 16k views, which was by far the most excited I have ever felt about anything soccer related.
For a long time, the #FireErnie movement was a staple of the Sideline. We put our videos, articles, and podcasts ripping apart one of the worst leaders in Washington. With the help of a quite a few beers, we were able to metro into downtown DC and make a scene in front of a bunch of Wizards and Heat fans in the name of sports fandom.
However, it all came together when on April Fools we posted that Ernie had been fired as a joke. Our fans and the greater DC sports community shed a tear at our cruel joke but everyone was equally shocked when the next day, Ernie Grunfeld was actually fired. What then followed was a sense of mass hysteria as we pretended we had any actual scoop that we knew Ernie was on the hot seat all along. We completely lucked out as our dumb joke highkey placed us in the spotlight of one of the biggest days in recent Washington Wizards history. To top it off, the Ringer mentioned us too.
For us, things are just getting started. With enough members to field a youth football team, I could not be more grateful to have this group be the future of the Sideline for years to come. Our new site is up as well, making our initial wix site look like it was done with a broken Etch-A-Sketch.
The goals we’ve set for this summer are high. More fundraising, more charity, more merch, more content, and enough grand platitudes to make Beto O’Rourke smile. Importantly, we hope to further from the minuscule perspective that our predominantly Bethesda, MD demographic has to offer so we can provide fresher, more diverse, nuanced insight — and be the best platform we can be.
At this point last summer, I wasn’t planning on the Sideline making it through August. But right now, I have no idea where it is going. All I can do is trust myself and the team that we’ll get it done in one shape or another. In the end, we put it all on the floor and trust where this all takes us.
To every writer, fan, click, follower, and member of the Sideline community, I appreciate you.