I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn’t be my style.
You caught me. I didn’t actually write that. It’s basically a borrowed line from the underrated sports movie The Replacements starring Keanu Reeves playing some echo of Jake Plummer. Despite those not being my own words, somehow it only seemed appropriate in my final Suns Retorter column to start it off with an obscure pop culture reference.
For the better part of the last week I’ve stared at a blank word document with the cursor blinking as if it were taunting me the way A.C. Slater taunted Zack Morris by calling him “preppy”. I just couldn’t quite figure out how to encapsulate what five years working for the team I grew up rooting for meant to me and why I’ve decided to move on.
It wasn’t until I re-read my very first Suns.com piece that I found inspiration.
When I started this job on September 1, 2011 I had a simple mission, to make the organization the most social and fan focused in all of professional sports. I wanted to be the fans’ eyes and ears inside the organization while being a fan myself. While it is up to you whether or not I fell short on my initial goal, and I deeply apologize if I did in your eyes, I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. For me the journey was always about reminding fellow fans that this was never life or death, it was all about fun and trying to recapture why we fell in love with this team in the first place.
During that quest I got to dunk with the Gorilla, be choreographer for Suns Dancers auditions, play Devin Booker in NBA 2k, attend Grant Hill’s documentary premiere with Steve Nash, have my work on social make the front page of ESPN.com, be part of the Suns radio team, and cover three All-Star Weekends and two Ring of Honor ceremonies. What was the point of that list? A humble brag. OK, not just that. It was also because each step of the way, during each of those things, I tried to approach it all with the same sense of wonder and awe that 10 year old Espo had every time he walked into this building.
There were a few memories along the way that brought out that little kid in me most. Simple things like upgrading a mom or dad and their kid from the last row in the arena to lower level seats. Getting to meet and interview my childhood idol, Charles Barkley, and having him not smash the illusion I created in my mind in my youth. Becoming friends with a man, Al McCoy, who had a huge influence on my decision to pursue a career in sports. Walking into the arena and seeing the Ring of Honor every morning as if the Suns greats were watching over me like Ferris Bueller looking after Cameron. Traveling cross country and getting to watch Alex Len play one on one in Central Park with a young Suns fan who was battling leukemia. Getting a chance to watch a future star, Devin Booker, stand in awe at center court in Toronto as he soaked in being part of All-Star Saturday Night as a 19 year old. Having a chance to publicly honor my father for helping foster my love of the Suns and getting to watch a brand new father light up the opponents when he played in front of his son for the first time.
So why am I leaving what seemingly is a dream job for me? Simply put, it’s time. Time to go start a family. Time to go work a 9-5 job where I can run my own digital and marketing department. Time to be more Greg than Espo. After five seasons, tens of thousands of tweets, hundreds of articles and podcasts it was time to move on and find a new challenge. Much like the jokes of the 1990s TGIF sitcoms of your youth don’t hold up as you get older -- looking at you Fuller House -- sometimes you outgrow the dreams of your childhood too. The realities of adulthood become more powerful than the nostalgia of a 10 year old boy.
Was it an easy decision? No. This team was my first love, a fact that was always a delicate one to bring up with Mrs. Espo, and it’s never easy to move on from that and it always holds a special place in your heart. The other part that makes it tough is I’m leaving at a time where, for the first time in my 5 years, I believe this team has the young foundation to build right for the future.
So as I sit here, ready to more drastically change my life than recasting Aunt Viv a season into The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I wanted to just thank a few people. First I want to thank each and every one of you -- so really about 12 of you in total -- for reading, the organization and Jeramie McPeek for giving me a chance to make dumb and cheesy jokes as the voice of their brand, my co-workers for making me look better than I deserved, Paul Coro for teaching me how to act sitting courtside on press row and look good while doing it, Jon Bloom for being my co-host but more importantly my best friend, Mrs. Espo for putting up with my 9 AM to 1 AM work days and missing more than my fair share of holidays, events and nights at home. There are a million more people I could thank but I really would like to avoid making this a Bill Simmons sized column -- not that we’d know what that looks like anymore since he hasn’t written in well over a year.
So I could end this the way I began by saying something like “Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever.” But it feels more appropriate to end it the way the great Mr. McCoy ends all of his broadcasts by simply saying …
So long … for now.