Today is #MyTwitterAnniversary. For many people that may seem like not such a big deal. For me, it’s the perfect day to write a story that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while now. My story. The story of how I got here. The story of how being a Raptors Fan Changed My Life.
The Basketball Part
Technically, the story starts more than a year ago. My dad’s philosophy is if-it’s-classified-as-a-sport-it’s-on-my-TV. My siblings and I each had a sport we watched with him. For my brother it was hockey and for my sister it was baseball. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you mine. I grew up on basketball, the Detroit Pistons to be specific. When I moved out on my own it was the beginning of a total basketball hiatus that would last ten years.
My ex-husband is the next player in this part of the story. He also grew up a basketball fan. Unlike me, his fandom had included no such interruption. Basketball was back in my life. He was a Raptors fan so naturally, that’s who we watched. Seven seasons later, he feels like because #WeTheChamps, he never needs to follow basketball again. My Raptors and basketball fandom has far outpaced his.
The Fibromyalgia & CFS Part
In November of 2016, I got sick with a bad flu. It took me out for two weeks. During those two weeks, I had no reason to believe it was anything more than… well… a bad flu. A few days after going back to work I couldn’t get out of bed. It took another week before I felt well enough to head back to the office. After only one day, I again was unable to get up. At that point I took medical leave from my job and began the 19-month process of getting a diagnosis. I had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I was only 31 years old. The symptoms had presented themselves 10 to 15 years earlier than average. That ‘flu’ was more likely a viral infection that had triggered everything.
My life as I knew it was over. I had to quit my job because I was completely unreliable. I had no idea how I would feel from one day to the next. Not to mention the cognitive dysfunction that goes along with fibromyalgia made it impossible for me to continue doing the very mentally demanding job I had been doing. At the time, because I hadn’t yet learned to manage my condition, I had many more bad days than good.
The Raptors Fan on Twitter Part
One year ago today I opened my Twitter account @auxiliarythings. Really, I should say one year ago last night sometime after midnight. Because that was when the Raptors clinched their first-ever NBA Finals appearance. I needed to interact with other Raptors fans in real-time.
That was when Fred VanVleet made the comment that became my Twitter handle. I can’t find the clip now, but he was the on-court post-game interview on our local broadcast of the sixth and deciding game of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Freddy used the words ‘auxiliary things’ to refer to the poor calls the referees made in that game to avoid the fine. I loved it and opened my Twitter account as soon as I heard it.
Here is where I would have inserted my first ever tweet but Twitter isn’t letting me pull it up…
So, very anticlimactically after I spent the last half hour trying to access my first tweet, I’m moving on…
The Matt Moderno Part
Shortly after joining Twitter, I happened to see a Tweet that Fansided was looking for writers. They offered me the opportunity to write for their general NBA blog, Sir Charles in Charge where my first article published on July 30, 2019.
My then-husband had spent a lot more time reading basketball articles online and was familiar with Fansided’s work. His thoughts when I told him I had applied? “You’ll be better than anyone they already have writing for them.”
He was almost right. While at SCIC I met fellow basketball fan, Matt Modderno. Not to throw shade at Fansided but facts is facts. We started getting each other’s feedback on our articles because frankly the editor was dealing with too high a volume of articles to have time to edit to my or Matt’s personal standards.
Matt was the first sports professional to tell me I was good. I was still unsure of myself and what I was saying. Did I really know enough about basketball to be writing what I was writing? Matt told me to stop using phrases like, ‘to me’ and ‘I think’. He told me to make statements. He also passed on something one of his professors had asked him that I now use every time I put fingers to keyboard. I don’t remember it exactly as Matt said it, but this is how it lives in my head:
“Do I need all of these words to maintain the impact of what I’m trying to say?”
Not only do I use that when I write, but I pass it along to new writers in my capacity as Editor in Chief for Belly Up Sports. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today, I consider Matt a good friend and we catch up with each other regularly. He is that first professional contact I made who I can vent to, who I can discuss my professional dilemmas with and who I can run ideas by. He keeps up with whatever I have going on in my professional basketball life and vice versa.
Thank you for everything, Matt! I couldn’t have done it without you. I know you’ll say I could have and would have, but you don’t give yourself enough credit.
The Reuben Part
Reuben was the first guy I dated after separating from my husband. It was short-lived, very short-lived. He’d had no intention of swiping right on my Tinder profile but it mentioned basketball and in his words, “I had to.” If I hadn’t been a Raptors fan, I never would have been writing for SCIS and I never would have included basketball in my job title on Tinder.
He is now one of my dearest friends. It was him who made me realize I was good enough that I should be working for a site that would be willing to pay me. You see, SCIC was only a foot in the door. They had told me that up front; it was a voluntary position.
I would have eventually moved on from SCIC on my own but I can’t say when that would have been. It certainly wouldn’t have been as soon as it ended up being without him. To this day, Reuben calls me Nash because he sees me as someone an organization will benefit from keeping around, someone good enough to build around. I never would have thought of myself in that way. They say timing is everything. Well, if not for Reuben, maybe the timing wouldn’t have been right for the reality that encompasses my roles with Belly Up Sports.
The Belly Up Sports Part
At the time Reuben put the idea in my head that I should be looking for more, I remembered that not too long prior @BellyUpSports had followed me on Twitter. They were the first sports media company to follow my Twitter account other than Sir Charles in Charge. So, I went and visited the, ‘Join the Crew‘ page on their website.
On November 15, 2019, I got my login info. On the 17th, my first article for Belly Up Sports was live.
Little did I know, that was just be beginning. Within a month I was an editor. The day after that, the Basketball Department Head position became open. I was thrilled and humbled that after so short a period with the company, both Penny Guevara and Paul Casanova had suggested me for the open position. Today, along with being the Hoops Department Head and Editor in Chief I’m also the Director of Personnel. It’s been such a privilege meeting and mentoring new writers. I’m getting the chance to pay it forward to other people like me who just might need someone to offer them the right opportunity.
Belly Up has also been a place where my very opinionated self has had the opportunity to combine with my drive to have a measurable impact on my work environment. The types of conversations I’ve had with Mike Brown, Co-Founder of Belly Up Sports have been enough to get me fired more than once in the past. Not because I’d been insubordinate or a trouble maker. Because the places I worked wanted silent followers instead of vocal leaders. It’s been an amazing feeling to not have to bite my tongue and have my ideas and opinions really heard and valued.
But beyond the professional advancement are the personal relationships I’ve been able to build because of being a part of Belly Up Sports. You guys and gals rock! I have to single out Mike Parent here. We’ve discovered that in a lot of odd and unique ways, we’re basically the same person. Hard-working, 420-friendly, process-driven, empathic, foodies. No matter what happens within Belly Up Sports for either of us, I know I’ve made a life-long friend.
The Other Twitter Raptors Fans Part
Being a part of Raptors Twitter has been so much fun! I only met Matt Sawinger because of being a Raptors fan on Twitter. (Sidenote: if you’re a Raptors fan on Twitter and you’re not following him, you need to rectify that situation. Actually, that goes for any and all of the Raptors Twitter accounts referenced in this article.) Now, he is one of my Hoops Department writers and a friend. I also got the chance to interact with Peter from @lifeinrepeat and recently contributed to a collaboration article on his site; Raptors Playoff Satisfaction Roulette.
If I hadn’t been a Raptors fan, these awesome guys and I never would have crossed paths.
The Hardcourt Hunnies Part
But for being a Raptors fan and that leading me to Belly Up Sports, I never would have had the idea that I might like to try my voice at podcasting. Which, in hindsight is crazy because I can literally talk and debate basketball for days.
In any case, Hardcourt Hunnies was born. Our 20th episode will be live tomorrow. I’ve developed another strong relationship with Taylor Loeks, my HCH partner in crime. The kind of fun relationship where we never talk without having a good laugh and we can make fun of each other’s fandom without anyone ever getting offended.
Taylor loves to poke fun at just how huge a Raptors fan I am. Writing this article, finally putting it into a narrative has made something clear to me. The scope of how being a Raptors fan impacts my life every single day has never been more obvious. The Raptors are the reason I ever met him in the first place. Their impact on my life goes way beyond games.
The South of the 6ix & Raptors Queens Part
Not to mention, the Raptors specific podcasts I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. South of the 6ix was my first guest appearance on a podcast the day after COVID-19 shut down the NBA. Host Adam Corsair is a great person to know and so much fun to talk Raptors with.
The ladies of The Raptor Queens Podcast have been an absolute joy. Their Raptors knowledge is beyond on point. They’re exactly the kind of people I need in my life. Sarah, Esi, and Sonali have been a laugh riot to record with. All such kind, fun, professional, knowledgable, strong women.
But I have to give a special shoutout to Alison for my being included as one of the Queens. She was the first of the Queens to follow me and we were discussing our respective podcasts through DM before the ladies decided they wanted to add a fifth woman to the group. She asked me if I knew of anyone who might be interested, figuring my other obligations would mean I couldn’t join them myself. Well, I was able and willing and the rest is her-story.
Being a Raptors Fan Changed my Life
I wasn’t in the sea of people at Jurassic Park at any point during the Raptors playoff run. I didn’t have the chance to be at any of the many satellite Jurassic Parks that cropped up across the country either. Even so, I still felt like I was very much involved. Thanks to technology, I was there for every possession, every whistle, every crap call. I was there for “The Shot” and when Nick Nurse switched Kawhi onto Giannis to catalyze the reverse sweep that put the Raptors in their first NBA Finals.
Being at the parade wasn’t possible but I was there as much as I could be watching the hours of coverage on TV. Drunk Marc Gasol. “One more year!”, chants. For the majority of Raptors fans, the playoff run and the parade were moments or periods in their lives. Memorable moments to say the least but moments all the same. They went back to their jobs and families, their regular lives. The Raptors didn’t continue to be that large a part of their everyday lives.
My reality is very different. The results of being a Raptors fan affect me every single day in ways I never would have dreamt. Fandom can be so much more than rooting for your team. It can affect every aspect of your life from the professional to the personal. I’m proof of that.
Thank you to everyone who has played a part in my journey, especially those who I couldn’t mention and still keep this article a reasonable length.