Fly Is Open, Let’s Go Peay!


If you visited CFB Huddle in recent weeks and noticed the lack of new content, apologies. The site focused on providing original coverage and commentary of college football isn’t going away, just changing its game.

When I launched CFB Huddle in 2014, I was on the beat for USC and UCLA football at Bleacher Report, but I have long had a passion for the entire college football landscape. This was intended as an outlet to share that passion with readers who were equally as passionate; to provide an oasis of fun, thoughtful dialogue in a sea of empty takes and soulless copy-paste disguised as news.

Well, I have to be honest and a little vulnerable with you, dear reader. Last season, keeping CFB Huddle fresh wasn’t fun. Please don’t mistake that for me losing my love of college football — however, providing the most interesting coverage of the sport on this outlet became burdensome for a variety of reasons. As I took on more freelance opportunities, keeping CFB Huddle to date devolved into a chore. That was never its purpose, and it was a disservice to the audience.

In short, it’s impossible to convey fun when you aren’t having it.

I recently have thought at length about my youth and the moments that shaped my interest in both sports, and sports journalism. Like much of the world, I scoffed at the curmudgeonly attitudes of two beat writers who publicly criticized the child reporting from the Sweet 16 for SI For Kids. The idea of two adults feeling so inconvenienced by an adolescent asking a couple questions over 30 seconds was absurd enough on the surface.

But the more I contemplated, the more this brief Twitter kerfuffle prompted some introspection. Surely Dennis Dodd and David Caraviello were once enthusiastic; long before deadlines and comments sections and declining ad revenue and Tech Bros. and every other negative of the business jaded them to a point that they’d publicly lambaste kids. I reflected on myself and my changing place in sports media, and I thought of my earliest days getting interested in the medium.

My dad bought me SI For Kids when from age 9 until I was roughly age 12. I initially enjoyed it for the photographs and pull-out trading cards, but as I got older, started to appreciate the articles, which humanized my favorite athletes in a way I could digest as a youngster. I credit SI For Kids for my first celebrity crush, Oksana Baiul.

As my reading comprehension improved, my love for sports journalism took off. I graduated to Sports Illustrated at age 12, at the same time I had my first girlfriend. That same year, I pulled a book off my dad’s desk that remains a personal favorite years later: Heaven Is A Playground.
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Rick Telander’s book focuses on the culture surrounding the New York City basketball scene of the 1970s, with tangential coverage of James Fly Williams. Fly’s game was shaped on the NYC streets, and he revolutionized college basketball when he took his Rucker Park flare to little Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Fly was a forerunner to later small-school heroes of March; the predecessor to legendary names like Fennis Dembo, Mouse McFadden, Harold “The Show” Arceneaux and even Steph Curry. In 1973, Austin Peay became a Cinderella story at a time when the label applied only to a fairy tale book and cartoon. As Williams routinely dropped 30-plus a night, the chants following him went:

Fly is open! Let’s Go Peay!

I have loved that cheer from the first time I read it. It nicely captures the exciting, fun style Fly brought to the basketball court. Its joyful silliness captures the essence of sports; the essence that brings us to these games in the first place.

In the spirit of Fly Williams, CFB Huddle is getting open and changing the game. Welcome to The Open Man.

College football fans will still find original, entertaining and perhaps thought-provoking coverage of their favorite sport here, but you will also find basketball, baseball, movies, music — everything that encompasses the full spectrum of passions around sports culture. I hope you will have as much fun reading The Open Man as I am going to have bringing it to you.