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Go Long into Season No. 4...
We've got big plans for 2023. Thank you for joining our community.
We all felt the same terror deep in our guts. The unknown. Damar Hamlin received CPR on a football field, was whisked away in an ambulance and — for one night — everyone shared in prayer: The Buffalo Bills safety needed to survive. We also all knew the cold reality that accompanied this life-and-death moment. If a sport so central to our lives killed a player on national television, that sport would also die.
Hamlin, of course, woke up and asked three words: “Did we win?” Games were played six days later. The safety even returns to the Monday Night Football glow this week as the NFL kicks off its 104th season. Remarkable. When I sat down to fill you in on what’s happening at Go Long this season, I couldn’t shake the memory of Jan. 2, 2023, of aimlessly walking around on that Cincinnati Bengals field late into the night.
Like you, I wondered what in the hell we’ve been doing investing so much of our lives into a sport that sent a 24-year-old into cardiac arrest.
As a life hung in the balance, 11 p.m. to midnight to 1 a.m., it was refreshing to see the inherent good in mankind. Folks of every background, political belief, ethnicity came together. Our previous profile of Hamlin started making the rounds and, in all honestly? I hesitated magnifying the story with a tweet because everything felt too soon. Too raw.
Yet, quickly, it became clear people loved learning about Damar Hamlin, the human. Behind that facemask was a son who lost a loving father to prison for 3 ½ precious years of his childhood. A friend who said “more than half” of his peers died before the age of 21. A big brother who stayed at Pitt to serve as inspiration to his little brother, despite 48 scholarship offers. A football player who overcame a maddening mystery injury in college and — despite being the No. 212 overall pick in his draft — was determined to use his NFL platform to show an entire generation of kids in McKees Rocks, Pa., that they don’t need to turn to the streets. One of Hamlin’s comments justifiably stuck with people. “The way I grew up,” Hamlin said, “teaches you to cherish everybody in your life because you never know who you’ll lose. You could lose anybody. Everybody I talk to, I say ‘I love you.’”
So, along the 450-mile trek home to Western New York, I started saying yes to any radio station reaching out to chat. It was a no-brainer. People needed to know Hamlin was no cog in the NFL machine. He was a man who wanted to spread positivity long before 99.99 percent of the country even knew who he was. It became obvious that football is uniquely positioned as a vehicle for so much good. There are many more Damars throughout the NFL inspiring kids in neighborhoods across America.
Reflecting back, how this singular moment forced people in the U.S. (and beyond) to hit pause on life is still chilling.
This was a reminder that those 22 players on the field are not indestructible robots. A reminder that all beauty and all scars should be revealed because that’s what the populace deserves. If football is this unbelievably powerful, than it should be covered through a relentlessly raw lens.
Not only are you carving out a chunk of your paycheck to pay for tickets, parking, a beer. You’re investing emotion. The entire mood of a town is often dependent on Sunday’s outcome.
Go Long exists to deliver substantive stories beyond the spam that pollutes our screens.
With Season No. 4 on the horizon, I’m thrilled to share that we remain completely independent because of you. Free from ads, VC money, corporations of any kind, we’re growing. This company will forever be 100-percent fueled by readers because the goal — always — is to deliver unvarnished coverage of the sport you love.
Keep an eye out for more announcements throughout the week.
Let’s get right to our 2023 gameplan…
What to Expect
Longform is the foundation. Humanizing player profiles. Deep dives into the inner-workings of teams. Authentic stories that lift up the curtain will always be the No. 1 goal. Your investment is put directly back into the business. We’ll travel around the country in search of unique stories worth your valuable time.
Columns. Q&As. Discussion threads. Sunday Gameday Chat. Zoom Happy Hours for subscribers. All of this will continue. Is there a player you loved growing up? One you’d want to share a virtual beer with? Let me know. We’ll get him on the Happy Hour. What a fun offseason it was with Warren Moon, Jamal Lewis, Rob Johnson, T.J. Lang and others.
Bob McGinn is BACK. The Pro Football Hall of Fame sportswriter will continue to bring his unrivaled perspective to Go Long. Expect more detail in a separate post. We’re going to team up for a weekly podcast again — exclusive to subscribers. The “Ty & Bob Pod” will examine the entire NFL with, of course, a keen eye directed at the team McGinn has covered since 1979: the Green Bay Packers. All season, McGinn will also head into his museum of a basement to sift through the notebooks and share what NFL scouts said about various current players in the news. (First up this week: Jordan Love.) You’ll again get his spectacular NFL Draft series, too. This will mark his 40th edition. Finally, you never know what bombs my friend will drop on a podcast. You heard it here first that the Packers would be moving on from Aaron Rodgers. Despite conflicting reporting to the contrary, McGinn absolutely nailed it.
Podcast with co-host Jim Monos continues. Each week, the “Go Long Show” will continue to analyze the league through a front-office lens… with the occasional rant on selfish imbeciles who do not return their shopping cart or deplane by row. Monos is a football rarity as a man more than willing to share how the NFL truly works behind the scenes. He worked as an area scout for the Philadelphia Eagles (under Andy Reid) and New Orleans Saints (under Sean Payton) before serving as the Buffalo Bills’ director of personnel. Today, he’s the XFL’s senior director of football operations. He always brings a fresh opinion.
A third show! Stay tuned for this announcement. Isaiah McKenzie is off to the Indianapolis Colts — those eps are now archived in the “Podcast” tab at GoLongTD.com — but we’ll have another player-driven show this season. A former player, that is, who’s also enshrined in Canton. He will not disappoint. This is also a good time to mention that I’ve upgraded our podcast equipment at Go Long HQ and hired a producer.
Inflation may soar but we’re not going to raise prices here.
If you’re new, we’d love it if you supported our independent journalism today:
Also: You can always become a VIP subscriber. Choose our premium option and I’ll mail you a Go Long sweatshirt (crew or hoodie), a signed copy of my book (“The Blood and Guts: How Tight Ends Save Football”) and you’ll gain live access to that third show that’ll be announced soon. Ask this legend anything you’d like after each show.
Here’s how each week will unfold…
Monday: “The Morning After” column wrapping up Sunday’s games.
Tuesday: Go Long Show.
Wednesday: Ty & Bob Pod.
Thursday: Our main feature story moves up one day. Again, this will be our signature piece of the week.
Friday: A wild card of sorts. You may get a Q&A with a player, another column, a Zoom Happy Hour with a former player or have mailbag questions answered. Let’s keep this day open-ended. The plan is to also provide audio narrations of our main weekly feature. That way, you can “read” stories while on the mower or shoveling snow.
Sunday: Live Gameday Chat inside the Substack app. We’ll analyze the action in real time all day long. Meet fellow subscribers from around the world. It’s been so freakin’ cool to connect with readers from Buffalo to Wisconsin to San Diego to London and Scotland and Sweden. This is another great way for us all to hang out together:
A few of the very best writers covering the NFL weigh in on their Go Long subscriptions…
“If anyone would ever want to read a long-form story on me - they wouldn't - I would want Tyler to write it. No one is better at going in-depth on an issue, a subject, or a controversy than Ty Dunne. And his website is a perfect example of that. His dedication to telling the readers just a little bit more shines through brightly. A great website to bookmark if you want to know everything about the best stories in the NFL.”
— Ian Rapoport, NFL Network Insider
“I started covering the NFL in 1984, when the football-media world was about one-twentieth of what it is now. (When it was a sane world, actually.) Today, there are free sites, pay sites. There's a network devoted to pumping the NFL's tires. ESPN has an NFL show every day, even when teams are shut down in the summer. The Sunday shows are out of control. You've got to be judicious in your NFL media consumption or you'll go stark raving mad. The reason Go Long is a regular part of my football education is because he's smart, his stories are smart and different, his involvement with readers/experiencers is perfect for this day and age ... and one more thing. I like people in this business who love their jobs. Tyler Dunne loves writing about this game and talking about this game. It seeps into everything he does. All of that contributes to me clicking on his stuff consistently. I'm grateful for it.”
— Peter King, NBC Sports
“I’ve been a subscriber since day one and always will be because I enjoy everything Tyler Dunne writes. He is one of America’s premier NFL feature writers, and his opinions and perspectives on the game are captivating.”
— Dan Pompei, The Athletic
“Tyler Dunne is the best of what you'd want in a football writer. He is grounded in the game's past and aware of its future. He is equally gifted as a crafter of prose, an analyst and a columnist, with the even-handedness of a true 30-year veteran. I start my day with Go Long because I know Tyler will have something worth my time, and he always delivers.”
— Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated
A final thought…
There were many awesome people at Bleacher Report. I enjoyed my four years at the company and am very grateful for the platform they provided 2016- ’20. Writing NFL features on a national scale is a major reason why I was even able to launch Go Long.
The final year of my tenure, however, it was clear their vision was changing.
It was early March 2020, a week before Covid-19 took off. Down in Orlando, I had a conversation with Sammy Watkins that effectively blew my mind. We discussed demons and aliens and alternate dimensions and etheric bodies and astral realms late, late late into the night for a wild feature that was nearly killed before pen was even put to paper. A couple of my excellent editors were just as excited as myself but there was also a nebulous programming department that made it clear they wanted a mere 800 words on Watkins’ thoughts on free agency. Not 6,000+ words on all the above. It didn’t interest them.
The powers that be who worked in numbers believed the attention span of readers was too short.
I disagreed and pushed back. Thankfully, the story ran in full.
To their credit, Bleacher Report eventually got out of the storytelling business. Everyone who wrote features was let go.
This inflection point sticks with me because B/R is not alone in their logic. So many of my sports writing friends have had the same conversations with their bosses at mainstream outlets. Maybe the bottom line demands a fast-food approach, but that’s not how I wanted to live. So, in November 2020, I launched Go Long as a home for longform journalism. After a decade covering the NFL at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Buffalo News and Bleacher Report, it was time.
Breaking transactions has never been what jolts me out of bed in the morning.
Rather, the human condition. Stories that stir emotion.
As much of sports media shifts further… and further… and further away from writing, we’ll continue to cut against the grain here. The bet: People will want to take their brains back. Deep within our biology, I believe we all still harbor a desire to learn something we didn’t know before. Metrics may inform conglomerates to chop story lengths down. To compile lists. To spam social media with gifs, memes, other iterations of garbage that (they hope) keeps you addicted to their Instagram posts. I don’t know, man. That doesn’t seem like a healthy use of our time on this planet. As legacy media obsesses over social-media algorithms and manipulations, I’m banking on a snap back.
Going completely independent has been liberating — and I am so, so thankful that you all have responded with such loyalty and support. Here, we will post those 6,000-word stories and hour-plus-long podcasts that aim to deliver football in the raw. Kevin Kolb’s chilling concussion accounts. Zay Jones nearly throwing himself out of a window 30 floors high. Urban Meyer threatening to cut players over nonsense. What happened those 13 seconds in Kansas City. The DNA Dan Campbell seeks in Detroit. Why it’s Jordan Love Time. The fight for Erik Kramer’s life, from attempting suicide to a sham marriage that cost him $700,000. We can love football, yet also can be critical of something we love so much.
Everything further crystallized this summer reading Simon Sinek’s exceptional “Start with Why,” an absolute must-read for all. So many anecdotes had me typing thoughts down in the Notes app, including Sinek explaining how the Wright Brothers became the first in flight. Sure, they’re immortalized in history now, but at the beginning of the 20th century? Nobody knew the Wright Brothers. The man everyone expected to soar through the sky first was Samuel Langley. He was the astronomer who was friends with Alexander Graham Bell and Andrew Carnegie. He had the national press covering his every move. The U.S. Department of Defense even granted him $50,000 on his mission to figure out a way to travel through the sky. The best engineers of the day were all on his side.
And yet? It was Orville and Wilbur Wright who first reached altitudes of 120 feet in 1903. They had no funding. No governmental support. The brothers were simply fueled by a concise Why. Whereas Langley sought fame, the Wright Brothers believed in a purpose bigger than themselves. Sinek is right to state that this thinking applies to any business in any walk of life — the drive must be intrinsic.
We either punch in, punch out, waft through the motions for superficial reasons.
Or when that alarm blares, there’s something greater driving us. Adrenaline takes over. You can change a son’s diaper, put a pot of coffee on and slide into the office with a rush of excitement.
OK, so we’re writing about a sport. Not exactly revolutionizing travel. But Go Long will always be driven by a genuine pursuit of raw stories that bring you as close as humanly possible to real pro football.
This company only succeeds because you actively choose to subscribe. Not because of an ad slapped over the words. The content must be compelling enough to make you stop whatever you’re doing to read for 20-25 minutes — that’s what I love about our model. This site only grows if it produces stories/podcasts quite literally worth your time. Thus, zombie-marching through locker rooms and compiling a handful of bland quotes in group interviews will never cut it. Accepting whatever overly sanitized messaging a head coach shares at the podium will never be enough.
We need to always dig beneath the surface. We need to be original.
And you know what? That’s what fans deserve. You are all the ones pouring your hard-earned money into the NFL. My promise is to lean Go Long harder into this belief system. Your support has been amazing.
For those new around here, I’d love to welcome you into our community.
Let’s share a drink on a Happy Hour soon.
As always, reach me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @TyDunne.
We’ll have more season preview features up to Week 1.
Miss anything? You can catch up below:
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