On Montlake, we know Washington's story is worth telling
Introducing Washington Huskies football coverage in a new place, from a familiar face
Ever been punched in the gut?
I have, just once, at about 9 a.m. last Friday.
That’s when The Athletic, my employer since July 2018, informed me that it no longer intended to cover the University of Washington football team. Just like that, I was out of a job. To say I was blindsided would be like saying Byron Murphy did a nice job of getting Britain Covey on the ground.
I won’t lie: it hurt. It still hurts. They can tell you it’s not a reflection of your ability — that it was merely a business decision based on cold, hard math — and that can be true, but you still wonder. No matter how hard we try, many of us can’t help but allow our work to define us. When someone else takes that identity away, it’s jarring in a way you can’t fully prepare for.
Plus, it was just a really good job. It was fun. It paid well. They sent us hoodies and hats and coffee mugs.
What’s that favorite coach saying, though? E+R=O? For the uninitiated, that’s Event + Response = Outcome, a principle espoused by Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The idea is that we don’t control what happens to us, but we all can control our response and in that way dictate a favorable outcome. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Chris Petersen mention it before. (Urban Meyer is big on it, too, but don’t let that stop you from buying into the message here.)
Welcome, then, to On Montlake, where a subscription will grant you access to the kind of compelling UW football coverage I’ve built my name on. If you subscribe(d) to The Athletic primarily for my coverage of the Huskies, then you already know what to expect in this space. Unique, differentiated stories that you can’t find elsewhere. Big-picture analysis informed by data and statistics. Exclusive interviews with administrators, coaches and players. Practice observations. Comprehensive game coverage. Historical perspective. Humor. Zany mailbag questions.
Whatever we want, you know?
On Montlake is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I’m going to continue thinking and hustling and digging. You might not know this, but when UW’s public records office responded to a request for documents regarding Jimmy Lake’s firing last year, it included a single page. I knew that couldn’t be right, so I pushed back and received a trove of emails and text messages in return. The resulting story doesn’t get written otherwise.
You’re subscribing for that kind of tenacity and creativity, for context-rich stories that can only be told by someone who watched games at Husky Stadium with the bleachers crumbling and the track separating the stands from the field. For the deep dive into Reggie Williams’ recruitment. For the profile of Captain Husky. For the exclusive interview with Jake Haener’s dad the day he announced his transfer. For the detailed breakdown of athletic department finances. For the details on the offensive coordinator’s new contract.
For access. For objective, reasoned analysis. For stories that prompt you, after weeks of deliberation, to finally click that subscribe button — something so many of you did over the past four-plus years.
I’ve been out here, man. My dad was a season-ticket holder. I graduated from UW in 2010. I covered the 0-12 season for the student newspaper, then criss-crossed the state: I covered WSU at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and Spokesman-Review, documenting Mike Leach’s first season-plus there. I covered UW at Seattlepi.com and then The (Tacoma) News Tribune. I’ve loved every stop and learned plenty along the way. And with Kalen DeBoer, Michael Penix Jr. et al gearing up for what could be a special 2023 season, I know I can’t walk away now.
I like writing about other Pacific Northwest programs, too. I like basketball. I like softball. I like good stories, period. UW football will be the glue that makes this site what it is, and my goal is for On Montlake to become so essential to your Huskies content consumption experience that it won’t feel complete without a subscription. Hopefully, you already feel that way. But I also hope to surprise you every now and then with something you didn’t know you needed.
If you’re unfamiliar with Substack, here’s the gist: everything I write will live on the website, but a subscription assures my stories also will be emailed as a newsletter directly to your inbox upon publication. “Say Who, Say Pod,” the weekly UW football podcast I co-host with Danny O’Neil, will remain outside the paywall for now, and I might also publish some free posts, at least initially. This largely will be a paywall venture, however. (I have a mortgage and a 2-year-old daughter, after all.)
I’ve been heartened — and a little overwhelmed — by the number of you who have reached out in recent days with well wishes and encouragement, from family to friends to readers to coaches to staffers to administrators to (ex)-colleagues. A million thank-yous wouldn’t be enough.
It lifted my spirits. Also, it’s been instructive.
Your appetite for quality coverage of your favorite team is plain as day. Your replies to my tweet last week, comments on my last story and posts on message boards made that clear.
Let’s channel that. I think we can have a lot of fun here. I want you to be part of the experience. I want to write what you want to read.
Understand: I have not been uniquely aggrieved. Working at The Athletic was mostly a blast, and always a privilege. It challenged me in ways that have become part of who I am as a journalist, and put me in contact with the most talented sportswriters around. I still believe it to be the premier sports journalism company in the country. I’m better for my time there.
The business, however, is the business. We all know when we start a new job — especially with a media company — that said company reserves the right to cast us aside at any moment.
The Athletic made that decision for me last week.
It has no say in what happens next.
You do, too.
See you at spring practice.
Logos by Meghan Plog, my sister in law.
Not sure I've ever been more surprised by an editorial decision in sports journalism than I was by this particular move by The Athletic. That reflects both how I feel about Christian's work and the expectations and importance of the program he covered.
I'm really excited that he's going to keep covering the team. I say that selfishly as a devoted fan of the team, who reads everything he writes, but based on what I've learned about self-publishing, I think there's a tremendous business opportunity for Christian and I am absolutely here to support that.
Let’s go, Christian! So happy to continue seeing you tell the stories, and dig into the details, of UW Athletics.