It was a Thursday, in March in 2016. The 76ers were peak process on their way to a 10-win season. Sam Hinkie was still the gm for the team as of now. I was living life like nothing was wrong. We had an exercise on base, we went to 24-hour coverage, played war games dressing up in chem gear and stuff trying to fix jets with dumb ass gas masks and stupid gloves and shit. I lobbied my way into working 3rd shift. 11 pm to 7 at night.
Today that shift sounds awful, but it was perfect for me. Not only did I only have to work 3 days instead of 4, there was little leadership on that shift, and since I was leaving at 7 am they couldn’t drug test me that Sunday. Testing started at 8, I was smart about that shit.
Thursday night was a boring shift. We hid in the shop, played corn hole in the crew chief lounge and dumb ass me thought it be funny to take scoops of pre workout through out the night. This was nothing new, we did dumb stuff like that all the time. I left at 7 am drove over to my boy’s place and scooped a ball (cocaine). I had an idea, I was going to party a little bit, hit up AC till about 1 or 2 then go home get some sleep and head back to work. Boy was I wrong about that plan.
Next thing I knew it was Saturday morning, my guy made 2 more deliveries, I was in a hotel room at Caesars with only half a bottle of vodka left and now money. Regret began to fill my insides, I knew I was in trouble at work for not going, and my wife (then GF) was at home with my 2-month-old son. The night before I almost called a veteran hotline, but my guy showed up in the nick of time with some more stuff and I was off the races. What happened that night doesn’t matter, but I was intent on driving home and giving a tell all to my family.
I was going to come clean, get help, and fix some shit. However, I still wasn’t of sound mind, I shouldn’t have driven. Apparently, I was about 10 minutes from home, but I was blacked out and fell asleep, drifted to the other side of the road and hit a guy in a pickup truck head on. That guy turned out to be an off-duty cop in that town. I was screwed, got my second DUI, and assault by auto charge (thank god was dropped), lost my military position, and my full-time job. And should have lost my family.
That 20 something hours and that accident changed my life. I went from a guy making 75k a year to making 0, went from partying my ass off to changing diapers full time. I wen from a full on want to be rock star to a family man in a matter of a few hours. I don’t remember much from my accident, but I remember getting picked up at the police station, and my son in the seat carrier, and being dropped off at my parents and being told that my son’s last name would be changed. That fucked me up, my dad had died a few years before that, and I already had regret because he had died while I was in Afghanistan and my dumb ass didn’t call home that week. I didn’t get to say goodbye and now the one thing I knew he would be proud of me for, was no longer a Manoff. Fuck everything else, that was the worse blow.
I ended up in a crises center, and then went to some rehab for a week and was sent home due to insurance issues. It’s not an easy process to fire someone that is a federal technician, so I worked for a few more months. My wife stuck by me, my son kept his last name, and I became a stay at home dad.
I was fucked, I couldn’t drive stuck at home with a 5-month-old for 12-hour stints, Sam Hinkie stepped down, the sixers won 10 total games, and it looked like Joel Embiid may never actually play a basketball game. I started treatment for PTSD and depression, but life still sucked. I fucked up a lot of lives. But the Sixers had the number 1 pick. And the debate of Ben Simmons vs Brandon Ingram was spewing all over twitter. People that were pissed Hinkie was forced out were battling back and forth with anti-Hinkie people. It was like sports talk radio at my fingertips but better, I didn’t have to wait on hold or be so nervous I couldn’t talk.
I dove in. I followed everyone I can, I discovered the Bodner’s and Tom Moore’s of the world. And sometimes these guys responded to me. At the darkest time of my life I was able to talk sports, specifically 76ers, with people and they didn’t know or care what I been through or what I was going through. It was just talking sports. I became obsessed, I was always a big sports fan, I remember where I was for Iverson getting drafted, the 2001 Finals, I was at game 6 of the 2012 NBA first round when the Sixers beat the 1 seed Bulls. But here I was, stuck in a house with a thing that only pooped and cried and refused to sleep, with no real interaction but a group chat of some friends and twitter.
I have said before that the process saved my life. My family, my son, my wife, and luck have the most to do with me being alive. But I will say this I don’t know if I would have made it through sometimes without The Process and Sixers twitter. I didn’t have hobbies. I played basketball, worked, and partied. I still played through this time, but it was hard to find rides to and from and a babysitter. It was me, my son Ben, and twitter. I read everything I could, I listened to a podcast for the first time in my life, I wanted in. I was a 31-year-old fan boy.
I started to think I could do what these guys do. I was wrong. I didn’t have the writing skills or work ethic at the time to do what these writers and podcasters did. I wrote about the Sixers as much as I could. I had a notebook I would scribble shit into, or sometimes would use the note app on my phone, I watched videos of Ben Simmons as much as I could and wrote about it. I still read and listened to everything I could, and deep down I wanted to do that. I wanted people to read my thoughts, I wanted to be on a podcast, but I refused to tell anyone.
I started back in school using my GI Bill, they VA bought me a computer, and I took a comp 1 class. My professor loved my writing, I got an A+. I was thrilled and thought maybe this could be something. I too comp 2 next semester and boy was I wrong about my skillset. I hated it too. Structured writing about some shit I didn’t care about, boring as hell, and bland. I failed. I failed badly. But the professor was cool. And innovated, instead of handing in paper copy or emailing him our essays, he made us create a word press and post our essays under an alias so our classmates could read, and peer edit it. Turns out this was the worse thing for me, when it came to schoolwork.
Instead of writing my essays for class, I blogged. Still didn’t tell anyone I knew but people on word press would read it. I wrote about everything I could, depression, sports, the Sixers, drugs and addiction, I even wrote about being pissed off about something that happened at one of my basketball games. I was thrilled I saw the stats that people viewed my post, but I hid it from friends, family, and the twitter world.
One day I decided to get crazy. I wrote a 2019 76ers preview piece. I was fired the fuck up for this team. This was going to be the year. By this time, I had gotten a decent number of followers, and even some podcast and blogs followed. I asked my twitter people if I posted a preview that I wrote, would they read it. I got a few yes’ and I decided to take the plunge. After posting it, two sites decided to DM me and offered to allow me to write for their site. I had no idea what I was getting into.
Yellow Jacket Media dm’d me and me and John had a conversation where he told me about his site and said he would love to have me write. A little but after the guys at Broad Street Bullies reached out and offer to allow me to post on their site. 2 different people wanted me to write for them. It was like Christmas. I went with Yellow Jacket because I was already in conversation with them. Dead ass, that decision changed my life.
I posted my preview and people read it. I started writing more, I included videos, I broke down plays, I did a few player profiles, it was awesome, and I was having a great time. Then John from Yellow Jacket told me he was getting a few of us credentialed, and I would be covering 76ers games for the site. I did the very first game we had, 76ers vs the Timberwolves. Nervous as shit I had no idea what I was doing.
I found my way to the media room of my first game, and there was Tom Moore sitting in the same room as me writing. I had to introduce myself and he said hi and said if I needed anything to ask. He treated me like a colleague, like me and him were on the same field, and that’s because we were. I was a credentialed media member for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Before I go on, I have to give big thanks to Sixers Adam and J Blevins, who showed me around, showed me where the press conferences were, and showed me how to get to the court, and where I was going to be sitting. If I ever become a famous sportswriter those two will be instrumental along with my family, Yellow Jacket, and Broad Street Buddies in my story.
To date I have covered 2 Sixers games, was in a locker room interview with Robert Covington, heard live in person reaction from Joel Embiid after he fought with Karl Anthony Towns, and had a conversations with the great Derek Bodner sitting court side on the 76ers floor while Ben Simmons 5 feet away shooting corner 3s. I even been on a few podcast, shout out Process Potables and Cracked Bell Crew. I started by being a bored, depressed, failure reading Bodner’s article and writing thoughts on Ben Simmons in a notebook to literally living a dream.
Sitting here today, locked down in a house, not allowed to go anywhere and it’s just like 2016 all over again. I decided to tell my story, because this time being quarantined, I am not the only one. Everyone is in the same position, stuck home, no real sports, trying to find a hobby or something to do, and things look bad. It’s a very easy time to slip into depression and go down a dark place. But I challenge you, anyone reading this, use this time to do something you have wanted to do but maybe a little to afraid. If you want to write, do it. Want to learn photography, learn it. Put yourself out there, because even in times of darkness and quarantine some great shit can come out of it. I say this sitting on my porch, enjoying a coke a cola, writing this, watching my son on the trampoline, while my daughter naps inside, as someone who stumbled into a dream through the darkest time of his life.