Welcoming Shaun Church to Revenge of the Birds

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals fan and writer Shaun Church joins SB Nation for the 2013 season. Read his story and welcome him to Revenge of the Birds!

Hey gang, I'm Shaun. Some of you may be familiar with my work over at Bleacher Report or Yahoo! Sports, but I'll be here at Revenge of the Birds for the 2013 season trying to uphold the solid reputation Jess has built.

Background

I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1984, but my family moved to the Valley when I was about three years old. Football has always been in my life. Watching games Sundays and Mondays with my dad was the highlight of my week, and nothing could stop me from sitting in front of the tube to catch whatever game was on -- you fans know it was never the Cards game due to blackout rules.

But it was a rocky start to say the least, and if I were any less of a man, I may not be here today.

My first significant football memory is of former Los Angeles Raiders fullback Napoleon McCallum bending the wrong way and completely shredding his knee on the opening Monday Night Football game of 1994. I happened to be on the phone with my mom at the time, and as I began crying at the sight of a man's knee bent 90 degrees the wrong way, she asked what was wrong -- worried for her eldest child.

I don't recall what I said, but I remember it not being clear as I stuttered through the tears to explain what I had just seen.

You can see the video below, but I warn you, if you're squeamish seeing this kind of thing, just avoid it.


While McCallum's unfortunate injury tragically ended his promising NFL career, it was the beginning of my love affair with the sport. As gruesome as it was, I needed more and couldn't get enough.

Writing

The story of how I became a sports writer also begins with my dad. It was Feb. 2011, and I had just lost another dead-end job at a West Valley gas station. He came over to my small one-bedroom apartment to have a heart-to-heart with me about my life's direction. He asked what I wanted to do with my life and how long I wanted to keep scraping through life with next to nothing.

I had no answer other than, "I'm sure I'll come up with something."

He then threw out an idea that would change my life forever. I had always been a good writer throughout school. Even in grade school, my teachers would praise my ability to paint a picture using only words.

One assignment in eighth grade called for me to wrap 20 vocabulary words around a story, using them in the proper context and ensuring it made sense at the same time.

What I came up with was a tale of a man trying to escape the grips of hell postmortem. I don't remember all the details (and I should dig it up, because now I'm curious), but my teacher was so impressed he had to show it off to the other English teachers at the school.

There was only one problem: I hated writing.

Despite having the talent to do it, I could not stand sitting and writing out stories, book reports or anything of the like. But the love of sports was always there. I'd rather watch the baseball game than write up an essay on a book I skimmed through.

"Why don't you combine the two?"

The words pierced through my soul and sent chills all throughout my body. As soon as the sentence rolled off his tongue, I knew that was my life's calling. He suggested I start a football blog and put my thoughts in writing. I couldn't wait to get started. The next problem?

I had no computer.

How could I be a writer if I don't even have a computer? Well, I had to ride my bike two miles to get to the Glendale Public Library so I could use their computers.

My first day there, I started a blog called The Red Zone Express. Looking back, my writing was very raw. I'm a little embarrassed that came from me, but everyone has humble beginnings I suppose.

For months, I would trek the two miles almost daily, searching football news and researching football statistics when I should have been pounding the pavement in search of employment.

And, for months, I lived on unemployment money while apathetically searching Craigslist for odd-jobs around the Valley. When I'd get frustrated at finding nothing after an hour, I'd cheer myself up by writing a blog post.

That was my life until Oct. 2011, when my dad graciously forked over the money for the laptop on which I'm writing this post.

By then, I was two months into a gig at Football Nation, where I covered the Cardinals and other random NFL happenings. Having the laptop made my life much easier, as you can imagine.

It also allowed me to hone my craft. Spending time at the local public library is bad enough when you're there three hours searching the Internet for a job while also writing articles; taking the time to read countless articles written by others to pick up the sports-writer jargon would have been too much to bear.

I hated the library. I hated every second I had to be there.

Yes, I realize now it was the best -- and only -- thing for me to do, but months of repeating the process of riding up to this place in 110-degree heat to do something I was new at was taxing.

The laptop provided me the opportunity to spend as much time as I wanted reading others' work to see how it's done. I've taken little things from many different writers and made them my own. My style works for me and, as I've recently realized, it works for many of you as well.

I have been with Bleacher Report since Dec. 2011, and in the year and a half since then, I have learned more about the game than in my previous two decades of fan hood.

The 2013 season and beyond

Going forward, I hope to be here with you all as long as you'll have me. I understand this site was built for the fans, and I will do my best to interact with all of you as much as possible.

I continue to cover the Cardinals for B/R and Yahoo!, and the 2013 NFL season will be my busiest to date. But that won't keep me from providing ROTB fans with as much Cards coverage as you can handle.

It should be a fun season at University of Phoenix Stadium, and I'll be right there with you every step of the way.

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