Fans With Benefits

A few years ago, I started this blog because I wanted a place where I could share my experiences–the stories behind the stories, if you will. When I come home from a reporting trip, the questions my friends ask, the things they really want to know, are rarely answered in the 2,000 words that make it into The Magazine. So I try to answer them here. And hopefully provide a little behind-the-scenes access to the folks who are kind enough to read my posts. (Hi, mom!)

The day I launched this “On the Road” blog, I was in Napa covering the Oakland Raiders. It was scorching hot. It was a long day. And I hadn’t been home in a couple of weeks. But just as I was about to complain, I overheard a fan say he had dropped $20,000 in a charity auction so that he and his family could attend a day of training camp. The same day of training camp I was being paid to cover. My job is unique, and I am acutely aware of this fact. I try never to take for granted the fact that even my most vexing tasks would fulfill someone’s adult Make-A-Wish. I am a sports fan with an all-access pass.

And that’s why I love The Fan Issue.

Two years ago, we published our first Fan Issue and sent our first Fan Army on the road. I had a blast credentialing my friends and sending them to report on sporting events. I was so excited when we decided to bring the Fan Army back this year. Here was another chance to play Fairy Godmother and give a new crop of diehard fan friends the chance to choose one game in any sport and play ESPN reporter for a day. The only rules: Dress professionally, act professionally, no cheering in the press box and put that pass to use. My advice to each of my five friends: Do one thing you will remember for the rest of your life. Man, they listened.

And let’s just say that after reading their stories, my colleagues and I are worried about our job security.

To read “Fans With Benefits” as it ran in the magazine–with photos!–you’ll have to pick up a copy when it hits newsstands Wednesday, January 27.

To read the awesome, unedited versions of my Fan Friends’ stories, click on their names below. Read them! They are guaranteed to make you smile–and a little jealous. Every one of their stories gave me goosebumps.

CHRIS MAY, Cleveland, Ohio … Chris watched the Browns beat Big Ben and the Steelers for the first time in the history of the universe. (Okay, it hadn’t been quite that long.)

JENNIFER MAY, Cleveland, Ohio … Jenny learned what it’s like to interview superstar athletes in tiny towels after watching her Cavaliers down the Trailblazers.

MONICA PAULL, Los Angeles, CA … The star of the opening photo spread, Mons did double duty for The Mag, covering the Suns at the Lakers and the Stars at the Kings.

SEAN SULLIVAN, Los Angeles, CA … A lifelong Steelers fan who grew up in Cali, Sean took his first trip to Steel City to cover an historic rivalry: Raiders at Steelers.

JEFF YANCEY, Atlanta, GA … Jeff made a full day of his chance to cover the 2009 Iron Bowl in his hometown of Auburn, Alabama. He actually might still be there.

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