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Finding the "good ones"

Hi friends,


In our effort to be transparent, we’ve talked a lot about the not-so-great co-workers and managers we’ve encountered throughout our time in sports. Those who create unnecessary competition, toxic work environments, or cultures of fear. Like the regular news cycle, the “bad” has gotten far more coverage than the good.


Yet we’ve been blessed with some incredible people in our lives. Women and men who go out of their way to stand up for us, bring us along for opportunities, and make sure we have a seat at the table. Those people don’t get the praise they deserve.


One of my first such encounters with someone like that game during my ESPN internship. If you’re a soccer fan like me, you’ve definitely heard of Paul Carr. He’s an absolute legend as the sport’s premier statistician (and arguably my favorite follow on Twitter). His work has been featured on virtually every major soccer broadcast, he’s been interviewed on Men in Blazers, and he’s covered multiple men’s and women’s World Cups. So imagine my surprise when I walked in on the first day of my internship in the Stats and Info Group (SIG) and found out that Paul Carr - the Paul Carr - was in my department. I was starstruck.


Prior to a new employee or intern starting in SIG, everyone in the department gets a personnel email with a brief bio on the person. Mine mentioned my soccer career and love of the sport, so naturally Paul Carr (I always have and always will refer to him by his first and last name because he’s such a superstar) went out of his way to say hi. After my initial awe, we began having regular conversations about our shared passion. We’d discuss the Premier League, our favorite old-school MLS players (anyone else remember Damani Ralph?), and of course, the 99ers.


Now as I’ve mentioned, Paul Carr was known for his work and was incredibly well-respected within the department (and the industry as a whole). I wouldn’t have blamed him if he didn’t have time to talk to, let alone go out of his way to support, a 21-year-old intern. And yet, he became an incredible mentor to me. He took time to teach my our soccer research tools, show me what went in to prepping game notes, and introduce me to others at ESPN who worked in soccer.


My internship happened to fall during a Women’s World Cup year. The US and Japan were slated to meet in the final, and Paul Carr asked if I knew where I was watching it. I happened to be off that day, so I told him I’d probably just be at at the dorms where the interns were housed. In response, he invited me to watch with him, Julie Foudy, Kate Margraf, and Kristine Lilly in a green room at ESPN. He explained the three former USWNT stars would be doing live media hits throughout the day and after the game, so they were all watching together near studio so that he could provide real-time stats and answer any analytical questions they may have.


By now you know that I’m obsessed with the 99ers. Have been since that incredible WWC final against China. So you can imagine my emotions when he asked. After I had time to process the invite and attempted to contain my overwhelming joy, I accepted and thanked him profusely. As I rushed to tell my parents, teammates, friends, and virtually everyone I knew that I’d be watching the final with soccer legends, I was struck by what a generous offer it had been. He didn’t have to do that. I was only a few weeks into my internship, I didn’t know enough to be helpful from a research perspective. If anything, my presence would be just one more thing for Paul Carr to attend to during an already insane day. Yet he never viewed it like that. He knew how passionate I was and how much it would mean to me and so he asked. I’m sure he never gave it a second thought because that’s the type of guy he is - a genuinely good person who goes out of his way for others in an industry that often rewards doing the opposite.


Of course, the day of the final was incredible. He introduced me to Julie, Kate, and Kristine and they treated me like one of the gang. Julie gave me a lollipop from her snack bag (see left) before the game started, which I promptly (and discreetly) snapchatted to everyone I knew and vowed to save forever (but ended up eating in the second half). Kristine engaged me in conversation throughout. And all three provided brilliant and insightful commentary, inspiring me to think about the game differently than I ever had before. Just being there was an amazing experience. After the game, though Paul Carr had plenty to do, he asked me if I’d like a picture with my idols (uhh, obviously!). It was another sweet gesture that most people wouldn’t have even thought to ask about.


Since then, I’ve considered Paul Carr a friend and mentor. He’s one of the best in the business and an awesome human. While we’ve both moved on from ESPN, we’ve stayed in touch and he always thinks of me when cool opportunities come up. For example, a few years after I left ESPN, he offered me the chance to travel and work with Fox on their Women’s World Cup coverage. While I had a full-time role in football at that time, I was grateful for the offer and touched that he’d thought of me.


Most recently, we ran into one another at the NFL Combine. Though we hadn’t seen each other in years, we fell back into an easy and natural conversation. More than that, he learned about my football research business, Character Plus Consulting, and became my biggest cheerleader, introducing me to contacts at the Combine and championing my work.


Now all of this is to say that we need more people like Paul Carr. As I’ve gotten older and grown in my career, I’ve realized how important it is to have those people in your corner. Not only that, he’s inspired me to try to be one of those people for others. So here’s to Paul Carr and those like him who mentor, champion, and support those around them. I hope you find your own people, the ones who advocate for you and are always in your corner to remind you that you’re awesome and you belong here.




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