In one of my first writing classes at college, a successful and respected journalist gave a guest lecture. Near the end of his visit, my professor asked him a very original and brilliant question: “What advice would you give to the kids here who would like to have a career like yours one day?”

The reporter didn’t hesitate. Believe it or not, he’d been asked the question at least once before. He replied, “There are three things I would say: Tell the truth, never write in the first person, and never ever use an exclamation mark.”

Well, I already broke rule #2 in the first sentence of this column. And I can’t think of a better time to break rule #3. Why?

…because it’s the 10th Annual Joey Awards!!

That’s right! 10! Double digits! If the Joey’s were a person, they’d be a 5th grader (on Zoom), trying to teach their old man (me) about TikTok!

And here’s the crazy thing: the first time I wrote one of these, I was in 5th grade. There’s a little full circle action for you. I dove back into the archives to see how this storied and much fabled tradition began, and here is how my 5th grade self kicked the whole shebang off:

“2011 was a year filled with incredible games, outstanding performances, and unbelievable moments. Who and what stood out above the rest? Find out in the 1st ever Joey Awards!”

As you can see, the writing here has really gone in the gutter the last decade, but still, you’ve stuck with me. So, as long as we’re getting a little sentimental, I must thank you all for your generosity as readers. It’s thanks to you—as well as my overflowing reserves of ego—that we’ve made it this far. I’ve got to say, the 5th grader in me thinks that it’s pretty damn cool we’re still here.

When this all got started, the site was called A Kid’s Take on Sports, and I wrote because my old English teacher told me I couldn’t. I’d gotten a bad grade on a paper, and so I fumed at her, “I only can’t write well because I don’t like what you make me write about!” She was unimpressed and looked me dead in the eyes. “What do you want to write about then?”

Like most things when I was little, the answer was sports. I went home and wrote a column, trying my best to mimic the LA Times’ Bill Plaschke, about what it meant for the Atlanta Braves that their manager Bobby Cox would be retiring. I formatted it on a Word Doc, then made a cover, and asked my sister to draw an advertisement (She claimed to be selling a book about how to take over the world titled, ‘Hitler Shmitler: Haley’s Guide to World Domination’). I printed my homemade Sports Illustrated and brought it to school the next day. My teacher read it and said it was much better than my other essay. She told me I should write another one, so I did. Pretty soon, my grandparents got wind of what I was up to and demanded copies of their own. Not wanting to waste time stuffing envelopes with my primitive zine, I started this website.

The first Joey’s came about on Christmas Day of that year. It was the afternoon, and we were at my grandparent’s house. I was much better at keeping a regular posting schedule then, and I was supposed to have a column up that day. Watching an NBA game, I asked Dad for suggestions. He told me to do an end-of-year column, an award show, and I should call it the Joey’s. It was better than nothing, so I did it. Then I did it again.

And here we are.


The Joey’s changed as I did. They started off stat heavy and as of late have become more focused on telling narratives. They’ve grown into a giant, ridiculous beast of a column. They’ve made up rules (No Aggies or Sooners can ever win! No exceptions!) and changed tone and become more and more elaborate.

The first step in creating each new edition has always been to read last year’s and figure out what awards, exactly, I normally hand out. Last year, while looking through the site, I realized that we were approaching the Joeys’ 10th anniversary. It caused me to rethink some plans. With last year rounding out the 2010s, I figured the Joey’s could be an opportunity to give out some awards for a full decade of sports, rather than just one year. But the 10th anniversary might be a better opportunity for the walk down memory lane rather than 2019. I called my friend Berg to discuss the dilemma, and I’m grateful he pretended to care.

“Save the review thing,” he instructed. “There’s a lot to write about from 2019, and who knows what’ll happen next year.”

Looking back on that conversation now, I’m convinced that Berg is the wisest man I know.


Stuck in quarantine, every now and then my thoughts have drifted toward the upcoming celebration of all things Joey’s. First came the question of style: What should this thing be called? Should we stick with the formal 10th Annual Joey Awards? How about JOEY’S 10? Or, winner of the So-Bad-It’s-Good Joey Award, we could name it the 10EYS. In the end, I settled on some combination of all three because deciding things is hard and because it’s my award show and I’ll do whatever I want.

But then came the more important decisions: Who would win? What format would it take? How do you sum up 10 years of sports?

I tried doing the usual, figuring I could just hand out a Joey for the best athlete, the best team, and the person who has spent the last decade earning themselves the Bud Selig Memorial, Oh No! I Might Have Just Ruined My Sport Award (Selig’s successor Rob Manfred is the winner in an upset over Roger Goodell). But looking at an outline, it felt like something would be missing, as if this version of the 10EYS would just be a surface-level recap of what happened. It also seemed like it would be a whole lot of LeBron James (Best Male Athlete, Best Play, Best Team, Most Impressive Performance, Best NBA Player…).

So here’s what we’re doing instead: every other day during the next few weeks, I’m going to post an essay here about an athlete, team, or moment that says something larger about sports over the last 10 years. These essays will explore the characters that made up this last decade—in true Joey’s fashion, that means both the best and the worst. And don’t worry, we have a lot of material to pull from.

What’s that? You want a quick refresher. Here goes…

*Deep breath* During The Joey’s Era, we saw the Bobby Petrino scandal mark one of the great SEC moments in recent history, and the dude at the Cleveland Cavaliers victory parade eat horse shit because why not?  We watched Jason Collins and Michael Sam come out, Lance Armstrong apologize for doping on Oprah, Derek Jeter earn our RE2PECT, and Luis Suarez develop a biting problem. We heard, “AUBURN’S GOING TO WIN THE FOOTBALL GAME!” and Vin Scully sign off for the final time. We celebrated the Cubs’ World Series, and the Yankees’ decade of futility. Linsanity happened. The Astros banged on trash cans, and Tom Brady deflated footballs. The NFL used replacement refs, and then the real ones lost the Saints a playoff game. We lost Ali, Kobe, and Maradona. We fell in love with the USWNT. UCONN won a National Championship on back-to-back buzzer beaters, and Villanova hit a shot for the ages. The Golden Knights turned Las Vegas hockey crazy, and the Rams returned to Los Angeles. Sports betting became legal. The Clippers forced Donald Sterling out, and the question of whether or not Colin Kaepernick was right in kneeling during the National Anthem became the most divisive debate in the country.  Whew. Oh, did I mention that the Cubs won the World Series?

So, please join me as we explore these last 10 years of Joey’s through these 10 essays. You can read the first one, about Roger Federer and the era of GOATs, below. And keep checking back until we’re done.

This should be fun. That’s what the Joey’s are about, right? And for the sake of getting the party started, let’s say it one more time…

It’s the 10th annual Joey Awards!

If there was ever a time for an exclamation mark, that’s got to be it.

The Joey's by the numbers

10

Years of Joey
Awards

32K

Words written for the Joey’s

188

Joey Awards handed out

13

Joey’s awarded to LeBron James

The athletes, moments, and trends that have defined The Joey Era

Read the essays

The 10th Annual Joey Awards

Roger Federer

“This was the era of GOATs, but curiously, the one thing all of them shared is that they excelled while showing us their vulnerabilities.”

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The Butt Fumble

“With nearly a decade of remove, it’s clear that the play was one of the first examples of how sports would exist in the digital age.”

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The Block

“Looking back on it now, you can pause the ball midair and draw a line at that moment, LeBron suspended above the rim. On its way up, there’s one NBA; once it hits the backboard, it inhabits another league.”

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Color Rush Uniforms

“The axiom to never wear the same thing twice has come to define the decade of sports, but it’s antithetical to everything a uniform stands for. During the Joey Era, uniforms were more a suggestion than anything else, a template built to be tweaked.”

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2015 Missouri Protests

“Those events showed what an impact athletes—even student athletes—could have on the world, how much louder their voices echoed than others.”

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Sochi Olympics

“The games have always been a little silly, a whole lot of pomp and circumstance for handball, curling, and archery, but recently, organizers have been hitting all the wrong notes.”

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Serena Williams

“Those athletes have found a way to use their experiences to outsmart opponents; Serena still tries to pulverize them. Where other athletes have found new ways to win, Serena simply refuses to lose.”

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Sports Illustrated

“It’s impossible to separate the story of The Rally Caps and the Joey’s without talking about Sports Illustrated.”

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2016 Chicago Cubs

“In nearly all of those interactions—and in everything written about the Cubs World Series win—there was mention of how singular the victory was, how no other sports moment would ever come close to matching the momentousness. That’s where I disagree, and that’s where we might be able to find some meaning in the memory.”

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Check back soon for the next installment of the 10th Annual Joey Awards!