In 2004, inspired by the movie Office Space (seriously), my wife and I finally decided to get off the grid, mustering the courage to get out of the cubicle world and suburbs of Indianapolis. In true “you all are insane” fashion, we quit our jobs, sold our dream house and most of our belongings (I still miss the pool table and bar), and then moved our family of five to about the most random place we could find…Dahlonega.
I guess it all started in 1992 when I discovered fantasy sports and immediately became addicted. With the popularity of fantasy football these days, if you know how to get to iDigDahlonega.com, you probably know what fantasy sports are.
In short, you get together with a group of 11 other folks (ideally friends, but random folks on the Internet also works), divvy up real athletes between the group, and the owner who puts together the collection of players with the best real stats wins.
Back in ’92 there were no computers to run stats for you. The commissioner of your league would run stats by hand out of the USA Today once a week, when the paper would run all the relative numbers for every player in each sport.
For basketball, I’d wake up Wednesday at 5 a.m., pick up a USA Today at the Village Pantry, get out a highlighter and yard stick and go to work. I’d usually finish up that week’s stats by about noon, go to the local copier store (pre-Kinkos) and pay 10 bucks for a set of copies, and then arrive at my actual job and distribute the numbers to the other 11 guys in my league.
Flash forward ten years later to 2002 and fantasy sports websites were starting to pop up around the web.
You could go to Rotoworld.com for constant streaming news and an annual draft guide that would tell you who to draft, who was injured and who was set for a decline in value.
Yahoo! and CBS started managing leagues for us, computing the stats not only on a daily basis, but also with live scoring – a minute-by-minute update on how your team was faring against the rest of your league. This was a huge deal and cleared the way for fantasy football to become one of the all-time most popular pastimes for adult males, while baseball and basketball also exploded.
And it was about this time I became determined to change my hobby (and addiction) into a job. I started emailing my favorite writers and bugged them for a chance to write for their site. I offered my services for free and was finally given a break by a guy named Matthew Pouliot, who was basically writing all the news for the small, indie site I mentioned earlier: Rotoworld.com.
I’ll never forget writing a news blurb about Dirk Nowitzki on a Tuesday night back in the day and seeing it posted on Rotoworld for the entire world to see. What a rush. I took feedback, didn’t ask for money and kept working away, gradually adding more and more shifts to my schedule, and making myself invaluable to them at the same time. It was an interesting chore to balance writing Rotoworld blurbs at 2 a.m. and then being at my desk for my “real” job by 7 a.m., but I did it for almost two years. I even wrote a basketball Draft Guide, the equivalent of writing an entire magazine by myself, for about $1,000 early on.
And it was about this time the Alexanders checked out. No one thought it was a good idea for me to quit my job to make an attempt at a career in ‘fantasy sports.’ At that time, most people didn’t even know what the term meant.
My parents, co-workers, friends and family were all treating me like I was Ron Livingston’s character, Peter, from Office Space.
And I was like; “Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.”
Once we got settled down in Dahlonega, due to my suddenly nonexistent work schedule, I was given more hours than I could handle at Rotoworld and was actually paid for my work, mainly because I had the courage (or stupidity) to quit my sure thing of a job and go do something I loved.
And then in 2006 the tiny fantasy sports website I was working for was purchased by NBC Sports and was designated as their fantasy news site.
Along with that came a big raise with a three-year contract, benefits, 401K and pension, along with a promotion to Senior NBA Editor.
I’ve been doing it ever since and actually turned my passion into a job that pays (most of) the bills. A lot of people tell me how lucky I am to be able to work in my bed and to have landed a dream job. And they’re right.
But I also believe in making your own luck. And by getting in early and on the ground floor, working for peanuts for several years, staying quiet, making myself invaluable to my employer, doing good work, and by taking the risky and life-changing chance of quitting a good job, I turned a cool opportunity into a full-time gig.
If you have a goal and a passion for something, given today’s world and the fact that more people I know work at home instead of in an office, you can do anything you set your mind to.
It’s not easy and a lot can be said for being in the right place at the right time, but making contacts in your field of interest, being low maintenance and putting your time in without expecting much in return can pay off in a big way over time. And if you can do it without having to make a drastic life decision, all the better.
So that’s my story. If you’re interested in giving fantasy sports a try (football, baseball, basketball and hockey are the big ones), come see my colleagues and I at Rotoworld.com and give it a whirl.
It’s a great time, and I play in leagues with men, women, children, television sports personalities and rock stars.
And if you have a passion for something and you’re bored or unfulfilled with your current job, send out some emails, make some contacts and start doing what you love in your spare time.
You never know where you might end up. For me it was Dahlonega, GA, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Has anyone seen my red stapler?
Editor’s Note: iDig doesn’t own any of the above Office Space, NBA or Rotoworld related images. We don’t even own a red stapler.