Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A year in the life

One year ago today, on June 20, 2005, I boarded Northwest Airline flight # 1032 to Minneapolis (en route to Cleveland). Having been a road warrior for the previous three years, my pre-flight routine was well established. After traversing the litany of check-in and security lines at the Ontario International Airport, my final stop was always the newsstand to pick up a copy of the LA Times and the USA Today.

Any road warrior knows that there are a lot of long hours that are spent in a crammed seat at 30,000 feet. Digging into the sports sections of the local paper and the USA Today help pass a few of those hours. The LA Times Sport section always came first. Had to read about my struggling Dodgers (who at the time has just been swept by the lowly Kansas City Royals and then the Chicago White Sox). The Times coverage was about the most in-depth coverage available on the Dodgers on a daily basis. It pales in comparison to the way that other papers around the country cover their respective home team (I love the way the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel covers the Brewers).

As an avid fantasy (5x5 roto) baseball player, I then needed to catch up on the rest of the National League and the American League West action. For that, I turned to the USA Today. While their coverage is marginal, it was the only game in town as far as catching up on the previous days sports action across the nation.

I quickly dispensed with the Times sports section and then in turn that of the USA Today. Took me about an hour. My flight must have been somewhere over Utah when I started longing for the old “National Sports Daily” which had ceased publishing fourteen years earlier. The “National” was so far ahead of its time in the way that it covered daily sporting events. They had full stories on every game, every day (as opposed to the “summary” paragraphs that are common in both the USA Today and your local daily) as well as expanded box scores and even scorecards for local baseball games.

I sat there at 30,000 feet and pined for an out-of-circulation periodical the way that a 14 year-old longs to see the object of their affection after Summer vacation. With apologies to 50 Cent, I loved “The National” the way “a fat kid love cake.”

That’s when inspiration struck.

Why not do something about it? What if I could replace the National with a newer, richer sports daily that could be produced via a PDF? I grabbed the 3x5 notepad that I carried with me when I traveled and began to write down ideas. At that point ideas began to flow through me like a river running down stream.

I initially envisioned having a four page (8.5 x 11) spread for every game. That idea has pretty much grown to about twelve pages for each game. I envisioned rudimentary graphics that have since developed into professionally designed, kick-ass layouts (thanks Ryan).

A funny thing happens when you come up with an interesting idea. You start looking at it and you begin to get tunnel vision. The idea begins to grow on you, and you wonder, “if this is such a great idea…why hasn’t anyone already thought to do this?”

I began talking to everyone I knew partly looking for validation, partly looking for someone to give me valid reason why my idea wouldn’t work. One by one, something amazing began to happen…people got excited.

One friend wanted to know immediately if I was looking for investors. At the time, I hadn’t even considered how to structure any kind of investment opportunities. Ultimately, that friend helped co-found XXL NATIONAL and contributed $10,000.

I had lunch with another friend who I knew was a smart guy, he had an MBA from Pepperdine for cryin’ out loud. After telling him about the XXL idea, he informed me that he was about to complete 20 years of employment with an aerospace company. He let me know that he was free to leave anytime after that to help with the XXL dream. That guy is now our CFO.

I told the XXL story to friends at a pizza joint in Pomona, CA and at the Lobster festival in Maine. I shared the story with buddies of mine while watching a Brewers game at Miller Park in Milwaukee,WI and in a friends swimming pool in Corona, CA. The XXL story was told at a Coco’s restaurant in Carson, CA and at a sushi restaurant in Tampa, FL.

I met with one friend of mine who I have known for 30 years who is the CIO for a multi-million dollar company to tell him about my crazy idea for a sports publication. He stopped me after about 20 minutes and said, “You don’t have a sports company here, what you have is an internet technology company. Now am I the right person to help you take your ‘idea’ and make it practical, working company? Yeah, I think so.” That person helped put our upcoming website together and is a co-founder of our company.

Everywhere I turned, the XXL family got bigger and the dream picked up steam. A friend of mine in Fayetteville, AR called me and told me that I HAD TO meet a friend of his in Kansas City. After a 90-minute conference call, I boarded a plane and flew to meet this new friend. We ended up having a lunch that went so long, that the waiter offered us dinner menus after we had been there for five hours. That KC friend is now our Executive Editor.

On January 31st (the 16th anniversary of the launch of the old "National Sports Daily") we began putting together preview editions of XXL NATIONAL so that we could work out the look and feel of the publication. In the meantime we also began to look for investors who could help us take our preview to launch.

We met with investors in Tampa and West Palm Beach as well as in Las Vegas. Our journey took us to investment companies from West LA to San Diego and a few points in between. All the while we have had a handful of faithful partners who have helped propel the XXL NATIONAL Sports Daily dream forward.

So here we are, one year later June 20, 2006. I have learned a few things over this past year.

First, it doesn’t matter who promises what to you, you can only rely on what you have in the bank. I have also learned that there is wisdom in surrounding yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses. A team can do things much quicker (and usually do a better job) than one person alone.

Finally I have learned that when a team of talented, passionate people enroll themselves in a vision, there is no stopping them. When someone grows weary, you always have someone else ready to tag and assume the load.

We have a great team here with XXL NATIONAL. We have been through the proverbial ringer over this past year. There have been highlights and heartbreak. Throughout it all, there is our love for the game. Some of us are diehard baseball fans, some think that the NFL should be played year-round. Some have a serious basketball Jones, others are NASCAR motorheads. Hell we even have NHL fanatics in our fold.

We love the game. That’s why we are here for the long haul. We are looking to officially launch in early July. Keep an eye on us. XXL NATIONAL Sports Daily is on the verge of doing something memorable for sports fans just like us.



At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Tim said...

"The measure of a successful man is how quickly he goes from one failure to the next"

Theodore Roosevelt

You and men like you are the great leaders of this country. Not afraid to take a risk.

We try to live in faith one day at a time. God tells us to fear nothing. He is in charge not us. He is the director, we are mearly players.

Our ultimate daily goal is to love and to serve.

Keep running the race. Keep up the good fight. Rely on Him.

God Bless you.



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