Well, I think it may be time to step back and be a fan again.
That was my first thought a couple of weeks ago when the news broke that Vox Media, the parent company of SB Nation, would no longer be financially supporting many of its team pages – including Orlando Pinstriped Post. It has taken a bit of time to collect my thoughts, but the conclusion I’ve come to is clear: I can be a fan again, and I have a lot of folks to thank.
It may seem strange to read that from someone who put content out for a ‘fan page’, someone who grew up in Central Florida in the ‘90’s with the expansion franchise since its infancy, someone who celebrated with friends in bars downtown when the franchise reached its second NBA Finals by sending home LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But I’m not a fan, or at least I haven’t been in some time. I guess that started during the 2017 season when I began writing for a website that I had visited for many years, Orlando Pinstriped Post. It just so happened that the site was going through a transitional period, and many of the writers that had been covering the Magic for ‘OPP’ had stepped away, moved on, or at least had moved away from Orlando. So for the last six seasons, I’ve been fortunate enough to live out a dream that many never get even close to experiencing. Covering a professional team they grew up passionately supporting.
However, this wasn’t fantasy camp – it was a grind. I didn’t have time to get caught up in the awe of where I was working, or who I was working with. I had a job to do, and providing fair, unbiased, and authentic coverage of the Orlando Magic was something I took very seriously.
Of course, I wouldn’t have come to this realization so quickly if not for the true professionals that I was lucky enough to learn from, such as Josh Robbins, John Denton, Keith Smith (my go-to authority whenever I mentioned the salary cap in a piece), and Dan Savage to name a few.
My first conversation with Josh (Robbins) occurred in the tunnel prior to the first game I covered at Amway Center. He came up to me, introduced himself, shook my hand, and commented that he appreciated my professional attire – especially my jacket. Over the next five-plus years, there wasn’t a game I covered that I didn’t wear that blazer. I hope Josh realizes what an exemplary role-model he was for me, and how much I learned about covering a team by just watching him work.
And that’s how it went, or at least that was my mindset. I’m not there to cheer on a team that I’ve followed for over twenty-five years, to become emotionally invested in a particular outcome, or to be fanatical about supporting certain players and/or coaches. My role was to provide balanced coverage of a team for fans and supporters of my writing.
Leaving Amway Center, where just over an hour ago, the Orlando Magic selected Paolo Banchero first overall pic.twitter.com/nvCCgm0To0— Aaron Goldstone (@AaronGoldstone) June 24, 2022
Covering the Orlando Magic has been one of the absolute thrills of my life. It’s not going to be today, but at some point I’m going to look back at this time period in amazement when I think about the coaches, players, staff, and members of the media that I’ve been able to build relationships with. I put a lot of thought into whether this experience, which started as a hobby and has now developed into a passion, is something that I want to come to an end.
Truth be told, I could have continued to put out content for Vox over the last couple of weeks. Following the decision to no longer financially support the writers that work at Orlando Pinstriped Post, the company stated that we could continue to write and post content to the site for the rest of the season if we wanted to (we just wouldn’t be paid to do so).
Look, I’m not going to try and lead anyone to believe that the financial support that I previously received from Vox/SB Nation was enough to pay any kind of bills. As many of you that have followed my work over the years know, I’m a full-time teacher and have never depended on the money I collected from writing for financial security.
But I did commute over one hundred miles every time I covered a home game in Orlando, and a little bit of compensation to at least cover gas is at minimum the kind of support that I needed to keep providing coverage.
Unfortunately, that no longer seems to be possible. And in a much broader context, I think it’s in bad taste to provide content without being paid (at least something). It sets a dangerous precedent and devalues the work that so many brilliant and talented writers put out across professional sports.
It still remains to be seen if this is a ‘goodbye for now’ or a ‘so long for good’ for me. But I thought I owed it to so many readers that have loyally supported me over the years to formally thank you.
In fact, there are quite a few people I need to make sure to thank:
-Evan Dunlap and Zach Oliver for taking a chance on me and bringing me in to write for Orlando Pinstriped Post
-Zach, Will Ogburn, and Preston Ellis for putting up with me during our ‘Do You Believe in Magic’ podcast run while I was constantly driving, shopping, or doing anything else distracting while we recorded.
-Joel Glass, George Galante, Trish Wingerson, and the rest of the Orlando Magic Communications Department for allowing me the opportunity to cover the team. First class all the way around!
-David Steele, who I shared an elevator with the first minute of my first day covering the Magic. David is as genuine and sincere of a person as you will ever find in the industry. A true Magic Hall of Famer! And Dante Marchitelli, who couldn’t be a nicer guy. Of all the people I’ve met and/or interviewed, I think my wife was more impressed that I knew Dante than anyone else...
-The three Orlando Magic head coaches that I covered: Frank Vogel, Steve Clifford, and Jamahl Mosley. All three of these coaches helped me become a better writer in their own way(s).
-Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily for helping this rookie ‘learn the ropes’ back in 2017-18 when I first started, the ultra-talented newsman Luke Hetrick (Spectrum Sports) for his contagious energy and enthusiasm, and Khobi Price (Orlando Sentinel) - a dominant force in the industry who is destined to become a star.
-My OPP editor Mike Cali, who I’ve been texting with for years now (despite never meeting). Thank you for your leadership, direction, and constant support of my work.
-My Mom and Dad, friends, and family for their continued support throughout this process.
-And without a doubt, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my wife Lauren. None of this would have ever been possible without your universal support. Thank you for the countless nights at home with the girls taking care of dinner, bath/bed time, and everything else while I carried out a dream.
So yeah, thank you everyone. I don’t know if covering this team again in the near future is something that’s going to work out or not.
But things are really turning around for the Orlando Magic. The team is comprised of young players with high-character and big games. The roster is getting healthier, and the league is starting to notice what’s going on in City Beautiful.
And for me, I can be a fan again.