I hope this note (and post) finds everyone doing well, staying safe and healthy, while thinking optimistically – better days are ahead, everyone. I believe it!
Today, I am writing to announce a site update for the remainder of 2020: we will be closed with plans of restarting our blog (and site) next January!
Additionally, our rebranded podcast – The Matt Noonan Podcast – will not begin its second season until next January (at the earliest!).
To say these past few weeks and months have been tough when it comes to daily, weekly and monthly coverage would be an understatement. But I am extremely grateful to everyone that has provided both my colleagues and I with the opportunity to produce some positive content during these unprecedented times.
Additionally, I want to thank everyone that has joined me, both recently and over the past few years for podcast interviews – I truly appreciate our various guests carving out time to join me, as well as answer a slew of my questions. And for our listeners (at home or in the car), thank you for tuning in – hopefully I didn’t say “um” too many times (fingers crossed!).
While this was certainly not an easy decision, I do believe this short break will allow me to comeback reenergized to produce some content that I love, but also enjoy sharing with my colleagues, friends, family members, and fans. And while I have said it before, I will say it again, I am extremely thankful to everyone that has provided me an opportunity to cover their respective athletic teams and programs to those that have granted me access to some amazing events over the past 11 years.
Please continue to stay safe and well, everyone, and I hope you all have a wonderful rest of 2020 while enjoying some holiday cheer either in-person or remotely!
With great excitement, I am proud to unveil some new content for Noontime Sports this evening – this is the first chapter of our first-ever fictional web series called “A Season With The West Stockbridge Rangers.”
The story takes place in a fictional town in the Berkshire – West Stockbridge, to be exact! – and is about a high school football team that has not won a state championship let alone a county title in 30 years. But with a new coach in town, perhaps their chances of winning a state title could change, right?
We’ll have to wait and find out, but here is the initial chapter of our first-ever fictional high school football web series – please let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or engaging with us on social media!
Chapter One: Welcome to West Stockbridge Football
For nearly three decades, the West Stockbridge high school football team was an afterthought.
No one feared the Rangers like many did during the 1970s and 1980s when West Stockbridge would barrel over its local opponents, capture multiple Berkshire County championships and then head east to tangle with some of the best high school football teams in Massachusetts with a state title on the line.
West Stockbridge was not just the team to beat or watch in the Berkshires during both decades, but also a program that every young man in the county aspired to join when they entered their freshman year of high school. Being a member of the West Stockbridge football program provided the players with some sense of what it must have felt like to stroll down Hollywood Boulevard.
No matter who you were or what position you played, if you walked around West Stockbridge with a royal blue and white letterman jacket, then people would stop and ask you for your autograph, as well as a photo, too.
But after the team’s 1989 season concluded with its eighth state championship, the long-time and local coach, Roger Collins, would make an announcement that would impact the future of the Rangers’ football program.
“I’m retiring,” he said with a big grin on his face after the Rangers trounced Norwood on a cold and windy afternoon in December in the D-6 state championship, which was held at Bentley University.
The word “retiring” sent shockwaves across the state, but mainly throughout Berkshire county – how could one of the state’s winningest coaches call it quits when there were more state championships to be won?
While no one really knew why Collins was ready to call it quits, rumors began to circulate weeks later throughout town that the legendary coach was being considered to start a new program with East Stockbridge high school, which was scheduled to open its doors next summer.
The rumors – and yes, the various murmurs at the local diner and coffee shop – were indeed true when members of the town saw a picture of Collins smiling on the front page of the Berkshire Herald weeks later below a headline that read the following: “Local Legend Leaves West for East.”
Members of the community on the western side of town were furious – how could Coach Collins do this to us?
While many were outraged over Collins’ decision to leave a program that he had once competed in, they were amazed at how he was able to continue his winning ways with a new and no-name program that would eventually become the best team in the county in less than five years.
With Collins on the sidelines, the Eagles of East Stockbridge would go on to win five state championships in 15 years while his former team struggled to muster at least one, maybe two wins per season. West Stockbridge would hire five new coaches during that particular stretch and none of them were able to beat Collins’ Eagles, especially when the two schools would meet on Thanksgiving Day.
In 2005, Collins would again announce his retirement, handing over his headset to his assistant coach Brian Murphy, who played for the legendary sideline boss during the team’s initial season in 1990. But unlike his last retirement, Collins would never return to the sidelines again. However, his winning ways somehow continued for the Eagles while the Rangers became what many coaches in the area deemed the laughing stock of Berkshire County.
Murphy and the Eagles would win three more state championships over the next ten years while the Rangers of West Stockbridge tallied just seven victories.
Some people in town felt Collins cursed his former team – they’ll never win another state championship in our lifetime! – but on a warm and humid afternoon in July of 2019, the Rangers’ program was about to begin an improbable turnaround when a two-time New York High School Football Coach of the Year honoree by the name of Steve Cohen walked through the dusty hallways of West Stockbridge high school.
Cohen, who had just moved to the area from Albany, New York, was accompanied on this particular morning by his wife Melissa and two daughters, Maddie and Caroline. Upon entering the school’s gymnasium, the family was greeted by two members of the town’s school committee, Principal Danica Jones, and Arthur Moskowitz, who was the athletic director.
“Good to see you,” Jones and Moskowitz said in unison.
Cohen smiled at both Danica and Arthur. “It’s a pleasure to see you both.”
“If you are still interested, Steve,” said Arthur, “we would like to offer you the opportunity to coach the Rangers’ football team.”
Cohen smiled again. He would eventually respond to Arthur’s offer but needed a moment to glance around the gymnasium – he couldn’t help but marvel at what Coach Collins and the Rangers had accomplished from 1964 to 1989. Maybe one day one his team would have a banner hanging in the same gymnasium, too, along with a team photo next to the 1989 state championship squad – man, wouldn’t that be special, Cohen thought.
“Arthur,” said Cohen, “It would be an honor to lead the Rangers on Friday night.”
Welcome to the second installment of ‘Inside Noontime,’ a weekly series that tells our site’s story about how I (and others) built Noontime Sports, along with the lessons we have learned over the past decade.
This blog has provided me, along with others, an amazing opportunity to pursue our love for storytelling, as well as video and podcast production, too. And that is exactly where we pick-up with our weekly series!
Months after our site launched in May 2009, I had returned to campus – Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, to be exact – for the start of my senior year.
I was excited for my final two semesters of college but eager for graduation day to arrive quickly so I could begin my content creation journey that has featured many twists and turns.
Over the past few months, I blogged occasionally for the site – maybe three to four times per week? – but not as much as others I knew (or would eventually meet down the road) that produced five or six blogs per day. I was a college student – well, more a college senior, to be exact – and I wanted to have some semblance of a social life before I departed campus with a piece of paper that said I met the necessary requirements to graduate Wheaton, including a foreign language class that I barely passed after scoring a six on a midterm exam.
As the fall progressed, I continued to stay connected with a few friends that were helpful with generating content during the first few years of the site’s existence, including Andy Lindberg, who I considered my right-hand man. Andy to me was more than just a friend, but a colleague – he was passionate about sports writing and would often produce blogs that were so well written that I often wondered to myself, “why the heck does this dude want to write for my little unknown site?”
Like Mike Riley and Hayden Bird, who I mentioned in my initial post of the ‘Inside Noontime’ series, Andy challenged me to be a better writer and thinker. I credit Andy for his tutelage during the first few years as the site’s owner and editor. Andy was instrumental in helping me launch the site’s podcast – you know it today as Noontime Sports the Podcast, which can be heard on various outlets, including Apple Podcast and Spotify. We would record the show via Skype and then post the recording as a blog post.
Did anyone actually listen?
As the first year progressed, I became more and more obsessed with content creation – I really wanted to do what I was doing for Noontime Sportsfor a local or national outlet. So when I received an email in April 2010 that I was being considered for an entry-level role with NESN, I immediately wrote back that “I would love to interview for this particular job.”
Unfortunately, I did not get the job. But the interview experience – and yes, the process, too! – provided me a better understanding of what I needed to do the next time I was in the running for a similar position. And I realize now how lucky I was to sit across the table from three amazing individuals, including a gentleman by the name of Mike Hall, who did some truly amazing things for the site, but also the outlet’s digital brand.
As I drove home from the interview, I kept telling myself that pursuing a career in this field would still be possible. Think positively, Matt – you can do it!
The search for that so-called “initial job out of college” continued for the next few weeks, and eventually, I was able to accept two positions: one with the Pittsfield Colonials, who were an independent baseball team, and another with WEEI.com. Both positions were so helpful in shaping future content for the site you are currently reading – honestly, if it had not been for these two positions, then maybe Noontime Sports would not have lasted more than a year. Who knows?
With the Colonials, I was able to produce some content on the players, as well as the manager, BrianDaubach, too, which I am still unsure if anyone read other than say, my family? While I was an employee of the team, I felt as though I was their in-house journalist with my blog – I am not sure they knew I was producing daily blogs about the team, but it certainly helped me learn a thing or two about being a beat writer.
But one of my fondest memories of telling stories about the Colonials was hosting a weekly podcast with Kevin Tuve, who was the team’s scout. Tuve knows the sport of baseball inside and out – trust me, this guy would be a valued member of any professional scouting department if he was given the chance and was extremely instrumental in helping Pittsfield go from the bottom of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am) standings to first place.
With Tuve’s assistance, the team not only won a playoff series but also secured a spot in the championship round. Unfortunately, they would lose to the Québec Capitales but discussing both the series and season with Tuve was something I cherish to this day. The podcasts were usually 30 minutes and also posted into a blog post shortly after the conversation concluded. To me, it felt like talking about a major sports franchise with millions of people listening – did millions listen?
As the summer became the fall, I found myself in a similar position as I was a few months earlier: I needed a job as soon as possible! But while I constantly searched for similar jobs, along with positions a 22-year-old straight out of college was not qualified for, I decided to use the time to produce a post titled the ‘Daily Noontime,’ which has taken on so many different versions since I started it.
The ‘Daily Noontime’ was somewhat similar to a post I did when I was on the clock with WEEI.com as an intern. It was basically the equivalent of a modern-day email blast that linked back to various news stories and videos. And I think people read the post if I recall!
But one thing I do recall doing at the end of 2010 was making a slew of videos – something I had not done until I purchased a camera and tripod after college – while welcoming a variety of guests onto my unknown (and no-name) podcast, includingBill Hancock, who is the executive director of the College Football Playoff and was certainly the site’s biggest guest. Bill was a wonderful guest – I am so glad we connected! – and I still cannot believe he made time for me, someone he did not know. But that experience of interacting with Bill, both on the podcast and after the show was recording, remains with me to this exact day.
Eventually, I found a job – in fact, I found a few, to be exact (and honest!) – and as my first two gigs out of college, they also began to shape the site’s identity, including a freelance opportunity with ESPNBoston.com.
Next week, we’ll dive into how the site decided to switch gears from covering national stories to college and high school sports in Massachusetts, as well as other parts of New England.
Somerville, Mass. – With great excitement, Noontime Sports, which has focused the past 11 years on content creation on various New England small colleges, high schools, and amateur sports, is excited to announce they will be launching their first-ever sports league and tournament – possibly a field day, too – next summer.
An exact date and time for the Noontime Sports Social Experience will be announced early next year.
“Today’s announcement about adding a Noontime Sports social experience – an adult sports league, tournament or field day, to be exact – is extremely exciting,” said Noonan, who launched Noontime Sports in May 2009.
“For the past decade, the team and I have solely been focused on content creation – blogs, podcasts, videos, and photos galleries – but adding a new element such as an actual sports league is something we have discussed previously, but also an initiative we look forward to creating and providing for our future players.”
The Noontime Sports Social Experience will focus heavily on the players’ experience, according to Noonan, who wants to provide a similar atmosphere they were accustomed to competing in college and high school.
“I see this league has an opportunity for not just our players to enjoy a similar, but competitive feel they endured while competing for their respective college or high school sports team or program, but also something we as fans are used to seeing in both professional and minor leagues,” said Noonan.
“Our biggest goal is to create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone with an emphasis on social when it comes to social sports.”
The Noontime Sports Social Experience will begin with a flag football league, but the team plans to add on additional sports and events, including 3-on-3 halfcourt basketball, floor and roller hockey, 7-on-7 touch rugby, lacrosse, and tennis, both singles and doubles. Noonan also hopes to provide prospective players with other options either later next year or in 2022 such as swimming, water polo, and cross country.
“We are very excited about today’s news regarding the official start of our Noontime Sports Social Experience leagues and tournaments, but also know there is a lot of work to be done,” said Noonan.
“We look forward to keeping everyone updated with future posts and videos, along with some podcasts updates, too.”