Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

by Mike Tanier

You were here in December, 2004.

You were here before before FoxSports.com, before ESPN or The New York Times.

You were here before Pro Football Prospectus or Football Outsiders Almanac. You were here before any of our current Football Outsiders writers, besides Aaron Schatz himself. You were here before Bill Barnwell or Doug Farrar, before NFL’s Top 10, before press credentials, before book deals, before credibility.

You were here before money. You were here before my youngest son.

You were here when I arrived, nearly eight years ago. You were here when a 34-year-old math teacher, frustrated with his attempt to find readers, arrived at the FO doorstep and decided to give writing one more chance.

Thank goodness you were here.

I had spent three full years stringing for a fantasy sports service, earning a little money but no bylines. It was uncredited punch press work: scouting reports, voiceless game previews, news roundups. It was blogging in the last days of dialup, and all it got me was plagiarized: some loser was taking my work, uncaught typos and all, slapping his name on it, and pawning it off on one of the early aggregator sites, the kind where anyone could pretend to be a sportswriter, even without writing anything.

It was humiliating. Nobody knew about my work. Few knew my aspirations. Friends nodded politely about my hobby as a "football writer." It was hard to even justify the time expenditure to my wife: we could make the money up elsewhere, with less hassle, if all I was doing was chasing my career’s tail.

A friend told me about this site, so I thought I would check it out. Aaron read my samples, accepted my pitches. He published a long, semi-interesting, error-filled article about the weakest playoff teams in NFL history. It appeared with my byline in the winter of 2004.

And you were there. You responded. The message boards from some of our earliest articles are lost, but I remember that there were 40-50 comments. There were corrections, criticisms, discussions among readers. And there was support and encouragement, from you, actual readers, strangers who invested leisure time and effort into reading odd little explorations of football history.

Readers are a writer’s most precious resource. The hierarchy goes: spouse, children, readers, everyone else. And that’s when we’re emotionally healthy. Editors fit in there somewhere, but editors will fix all the format and spelling errors in the world with a smile if the readers are satisfied. If the readers are happy and engaged, the writer is happy and fulfilled. If the readers are disappointed in the work, the writer is disappointed in himself. If the readers go away, well, what is a writer without readers? He (or she, but it sounds more desperate for "he") is in the back of the coffee shop, with the beret and patchouli, or hanging out in his bathrobe in the basement with the other stereotypes. A writer without readers doesn’t feel like a writer.

You know where this is going, by now. I’m not going to pull a Trapper John and leave without saying goodbye, or without making one last M*A*S*H reference. The frustrated math teacher just signed a full-time contract with Sports on Earth, the new website being launched by USA Today and MLB Advanced Media. My work will start appearing there in a day or two. This is the end of Walkthrough, though I will still be a contributor to Football Outsiders Almanac in the future.

The great opportunity to join the Sports on Earth team came because of you. That’s not the ridiculous humility Aaron Rodgers warns about. Yes, it is because I am a good writer, and because Karen supported my endeavors (and during the dog days of the lockout, the family). It’s because Aaron gave me opportunities, Doug, Bill, Michael David Smith and Russell Levine and the others were here to create an atmosphere of good writing and good ideas, and so on. But this all happened because you came, and you stayed, and you kept coming back.

This great opportunity arrived because you encouraged me, and MDS, Russ, Doug, Bill, and everyone else who passed through Football Outsiders on the way to other things. You demanded great work, and rewarded it. You contributed important ideas. You reassured us. During the Fox days, I got scads of emails every week telling me how stupid I was, how lame my humor was, and offering the usual insights into my sexuality. For real insight into whether my ideas were funny or worthwhile, I came to you.

Memories of events that happened here, on a website in cyberspace, among you, are sometimes more real to than events that occurred in my "real life." Remember the great Falcons Fan Invasion of 2006? Some of you may have joined us during that siege. Others may have arrived later. To fill you in: the Falcons started off the 2006 season 5-2. DVOA, which then provided the power rankings for Fox, ranked them very low: 14th or so. Well, Football Outsiders message boards fell under attack the moment our rankings appeared on the Fox main page. Arguments roiled for days. We spent a week hearing and reading about how stupid we were, how lame our ideas were, and what haters we were.

It hurt. It felt scary. It felt like we were three more Falcons wins from being the laughingstock of the Internet and losing our credibility (and jobs). I don’t remember much else from fall of 2006, but I remember that: logging on to defend our ideas, calm the crowd, and write content that stuck to our guns. And I remember how you stood up for us, not because we are always right but because you knew we were always trying. And we all remember that the Falcons finished 7-9 that year, even though it was a lifetime ago. Three lifetimes for Michael Vick.

A year earlier, I spent Halloween night on the front porch with a laptop, then-toddler CJ wiped out after one of those hour-long trick-or-treat sessions children later misremember as all-night marathons. In between handouts, I wrote a zany story about the dumbest cliché in all of sports: "swagger." It was heavier on comic beats than anything I had written up to that point. Writing it on that brisk autumn night was a pleasure, because I knew you were going to be blown away. And you were: you were overwhelmingly appreciative, even when we re-ran it once or twice. You taught me it was okay to experiment, to tone down the hard science a little bit and to play.

All these times we shared are very real to me, very visceral. Getting a text message about Steve McNair’s death while barbecuing, then putting a comedy Walkthrough on hold to write something more appropriate. Live blogging the Pro Bowl. Seven a.m. writing sessions in the classroom. Hangover mornings at the Combine. Checking in from O’Hare airport, from Mobile, from family vacations down the shore. Reading your comments during 3 a.m. infant feedings. Reading your comments as diversions when loved ones were sick or dying.

Over the years, things changed. The newspaper demanded more of my attention, and signature work. There were suddenly other readers. But you were always the home team. You were the intimate crowd, the coffee house. You gave me a chance to share smaller ideas: the frustrations of the lockout, the dirty words hidden in Avengers movies, the biggest, evilest issue facing America today (Everyday Math). When I left teaching, you became the people I spoke to the most in the course of a week, besides my family. During the lockout, you kept me from going stir crazy.

But we cannot go on like this, because my new project demands and deserves monogamy. And seven-and-a-half years at one site is a hell of a long time, Internet-wise.

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This is not really goodbye, of course. I won’t be hard to find at Sports on Earth. I hope you visit me (A LOT) and post some of the comments there that you post here. You will find me in FOA every summer.

And I will keep coming here as a reader like you. Rivers, Danny, Andy, Vince, Ben, Mike Kurtz, Tom, and the college guys deserve the same opportunities you gave me and the old guard: to be commended, criticized, amended, pushed, inspired. This is where the stats are, where the fresh-and-focused ideas are, where the other smart readers are congregating. After over seven years, after watching competitors rise and fall, this is still the only site I trust for in-depth analysis of how teams are really winning and losing.

It’s one of the few sites on the Internet, on any subject, where I feel compelled to read the comment threads.

I am grateful for the chance to entertain you, talk to you, argue with you, and otherwise be a part of your football life for so long. And I look forward to doing so for years to come, at a different URL. Thank you.

Big Statement

I suppose I should make some big statement before powering down.

Two tangential-to-the-field football stories have dominated the news during my last eight months at Football Outsiders. One is the Saints Bounty scandal/concussion issue, which I label under the big category of player safety. I have written about that subject, seriously and in jest, several times. The other is the Penn State scandal, which I have consciously refrained from discussing for many reasons, the main one being that I have not wanted to nor been obligated to.

Both of these stories touch on grave issues. Both have generated hundreds of thousands of words of commentary, strong opinions, righteous zeal, genuine insights, and calculated histrionics and callous self-branding by sports talk personalities; I leave it to you to sort out what percentage of airtime and bandwidth was devoted to each of those categories. I believe that grave issues must be treated as grave issues: researched carefully, discussed with measured respect for the complexity of the subject matter. That’s not how our business operates in most cases, so I have tried to keep my mouth shut.

Ultimately, these two big stories converge and pose two important questions. These questions are far more important than statue removal or the parsing of Gregg Williams’ pregame speeches. They are questions about moving forward, not itemizing the sins and tragedies of the past.

The first question: how can I make football, sports, or community activities in general as safe as possible for my children?

The second question: how can football remain a positive, meaningful part of my life?

The first question is dear to me as a parent who drops kids off at karate, or basketball camp, or vacation bible school, then returns four hours later expecting to see nothing more than a bruise from an errant elbow or a tummy ache from too many rice cake loaves and Swedish fish. Every responsible parent is vigilant when it comes to looking out for Sandusky-level evil, but the player safety issue reminds us of fresh worries: concussions with gradual effects, coaches that preach Cobra Kai tactics when the parents leave, and so on. And of course, all the vigilance in the world can only do so much to stop a predator, someone who becomes an expert liar and manipulator in his quest to infiltrate the very institutions where parents drop off kids and feel safe rushing off to the mall for a few hours.

Question One is complex, multi-faceted, and unanswerable. That does not mean that it is a waste of time to ask it or to think about it. I can think of some partial answers. We should make more of an effort to volunteer and participate in youth sports. More volunteers means more eyes, more ears when the coaches speak to the teams, more opportunities to send good messages, more chances to get to know local kids, so that we can tell when something is wrong.

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We should make a better effort to attend school board meetings, so citizens have a more direct relationship with the local district than the annual budget vote. If the school is hiring a crisis counselor, or installing cameras in the locker room, or sending 15 coaches for first aid training, you will know. If they are trying to cut budget corners on items like those, you will know. Attend some high school games, and you can get a feel for whether the head coach is the kind of guy who makes "kill the head" speeches, and you can meet some more parents so the first time the community comes together is not when something awful happens.

There are other things that must go on behind the scenes in answer to Question One: technology, medical practices, hiring practices, background checks, incident reporting practices. These things must be constantly reviewed, questioned, and approved, but few of us are in the line of fire for such matters. Question One comes down to being the best possible neighbor and citizen, being as informed as possible, and recognizing that life is one long exercise in risk management. We must demand the best practices from our youth sports leagues and educational institutions. We must put every effort into making it possible for them to do their best, by being good, active participants.

Question Two is more subtle. Football is a brutal sport. It is not healthy for the players, and never will be, no matter what helmets or rules we dream up. It invites corruption, often sends bad messages to young people, takes up too much of our time and money and sometimes leaves us with more hostility than joy. Our love of football creates men with the power to cripple each other for profit, and Sandusky-types who can operate with the impunity of archdukes in their communities, their suspicious actions unquestioned because of their notoriety and success in this all-powerful sport.

Football also means more to me, and probably to you, than any other pastime in the world. It informed my childhood, spurred my imagination, and inspired a passion that spurred a midlife career change. It has provided life-affirming, character-building experiences for the hundreds of young men and three or four young women I taught who played football in high school, the vast majority of whom never played at the FBS level. We can argue that soccer or baseball could provide the same experiences, those sports are also vulnerable to the same abuses and many of the same health concerns, and there are some young individuals that will never select a sport that does not allow them to drill someone. You and I find football fascinating and downright life-enriching, and we all want to keep feeling that way about it.

Hundreds of years ago, bull baiting was a socially acceptable sport. Even 100-120 years ago, dog fights would be covered in local newspapers; not in the Michael Vick way, but with play-by-play. Soccer was essentially an inter-town blood feud in the Middle Ages, and so on. Two centuries from now, people may shake their head at barbarians like us who forced young men to risk concussions for money and who turned our universities into gladiatorial training grounds. But I want to remain a man of this century, plop my butt on a stool or the press box on Sunday, and watch Troy Polamalu hit people hard.

Question Two is no more answerable than Question One. We can boycott to no avail, write angry letters to provosts, wait in vain for helmets made from vibranium, pray. We can do all the things suggested in Question One and hope they provide a lot of spillover to Question Two, and they might provide a little. We can consign football to our guiltiest pleasures, but we love the sport too much, and there is something too precious, magical, and awe-inspiring about it to label it a vice.

There is one thing I tell myself when Question Two looms. These players risk their health for a few years of wealth. In college, they risk their health for a scholarship. The risks often pay off, in the form of wealthy NFL players and college athletes who get a useful education and some local notoriety in exchange for their labor. (Yes, that does happen sometimes.) Most of these young men know the risks as well as any 18-22-year-olds know any risks about anything. The Saints and Penn State scandals are about unanticipated risks –- that the minor bumps on the head are building to something terrible, that the opposing coach preaches a sermon of brutality, that the iconic coach who befriends you in youth league is really a creature from a nightmare. But football is a sport of everyday risks. Major injuries. Too much wealth too soon. A vagabond lifestyle. A college sport that makes studies a distant second. The possibility of finding yourself 30 years old, forgotten and directionless, with health and financial problems looming in the middle distance.

These are football’s forever risks. As long as the sport exists, young men are going to assume them. It is my job, at the very least, to appreciate those young men for assuming those risks. These young people make great sacrifices to entertain and enthrall us. Those of us who devote our Sundays to them, stay up nights thinking about them, or feed our families by writing about them should never take those sacrifices for granted.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. It makes us active participants. It puts us in the frame of mind to invest thought and energy in fixing problems, even if just at the grass roots level, instead of just complaining about them.

Football is our sport. If we love it, it is our duty to nurture it and improve it. I leave here hopeful that the scandals will make us stronger: society can be better, football can be better, and football can be a better part of society. We can do our part by being good citizens, good neighbors, and great fans. It doesn’t sound like much, but it could be everything.

Take care, gang. Visit me at the new apartment.


194 comments, Last at 09 Oct 2012, 1:02pm

1 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

All I know about Sports On Earth is that it is what Joe Posnanski left SI for. Now I know you are there. I'm already liking the sound of it.

In the last 12 months, I have had two of my favorite sports online journalists leave their current station (the great DZ/Deshawn Zombie/Nate Dunlevy from 18to88, and now you), and both instances have effected me far more than they should have.

I really don't know how to react. The Walkthrough, while the least stat-heavy, was almost always an excellent read. I will forever remember both your Walkthrough's post-deaths. The one you mentioned about McNair, and the one you wrote about three special Jim Johnson games after his death. I'm sure there are countless other great one's along the way (the Colts QB top-5 last year and the "Dear John" Stan parody for recent ones). One day, I will sit down and read the old walkthroughs from an earlier era, before DVOA was as accepted as it was now, before Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees turned the NFL into more than a two-man QB show, and before Bill Belichick stopped being a defensive genius and started being an offensive one.

If Bill Simmons has done anything for me, it was have Aaron on that podcast of his back before the 2007 season. That was the first I had heard of Football Outsiders, and I was hooked since then on. The discussions of the validity of the stats have always been there, and will always continue to be, but the Walkthrough and the incredibly smart readers and commenters are what really sets Football Outsiders apart from other stat-heavy football sites (pff).

Thanks for making Wednesday (or occasionally Thursday) fun for five years for me. Good luck at Sports On Earth.

Just one request: come back and do WR Top-5's next summer.

3 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Geez Mike...And here i was hoping a receiver top 5 or defensive top 5 was the next great tanier installment!

In all sincerity, i speak for all the readers when I say that its been you thats been providing us with a great service. For many of us who started as college students and eventually moved on to jobs that have internet service, your walkthroughs were great avenues for escape, for debate, for comedy, and food for thought. They poked and prodded, gleamed, and rebuked. It was really a column almost devoted to the peccadilloes of football, things we think of casually but never really stop to think over. Thanks for helping us think.

Not all of us will, but im sure many of your most avid readers will follow you wherever you go and we wish you the best of luck!

2 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Oh shit, hm and good luck!

Sometimes I had to close my office door for laughing to loud and I really enjoyed your writings the last 5 years. Do it, but do not forget where you started and keep your content free, than I will follow you the next 20 years.

Johannes from Austria

8 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Farewell, Mike; I came to FO off of an Easterbrook link, interested primarily in the stats. You were a big part of the reason I stayed. I look forward to reading your stuff at the new place, but I expect it will always feel like Joe Montana in Kansas City to me.

Will you still be contributing emails to Audibles? It just wouldn't feel right without Mike Tanier Suicide Watch.

You already cited the "Swagger" piece, but no trip through the history of Walkthrough is complete without linking Who Watches the Walkthrough, Enter the Elam-verse, and The Walkthroughtape Letters.

98 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Elam and The Siege from Fort McNabb.

I arrived in 2008 as someone who had watched the NFL in its 1980s UK heyday and followed it casually, and knew the game as little as you'd expect from that. I got obsessed with trying to work out how things really worked because of, as much as anything, FO, and, as much as anything, Walkthrough. (And, as much as anything, fantasy football, and, as much as anything, going to write about New Orleans post-Katrina, and, as much as anything, The Thinking Man's Guide to Pro-Football. It would not do, on FO of all places, to be reductive.)

I feel emotional-slash-bereft. It is ridiculous.

6 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Mike and Joe Poz will be writing for the same site? All I can say is "wow" and "oh my goodness." What a treat that will be.

And I'd like to give appreciation to whoever gave the Hitchhiker's reference to the lead in to the column on the main page.

7 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

One of my favorite columns of Mike Tanier: The Fantasy Football Hall of Fame.


24 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Rocco, thanks for reminding me of this. I didn't remember Mike's first piece, but I clearly remembered this so I guess it was sometime in 2005 that I found FO.

Mike, my thanks and I guess I'll have to add another bookmark to my browser. I think ... I feel good about it.

31 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Just realized in that article Mike was prescient.

""The run-'n'-shoot was an unqualified success in the NFL," Parks explains. "Someday, an offensive genius like Kevin Gilbride will bring it back.""

If you've read Chris Brown at Smart Football, that's pretty much what Gilbride has done at New York- he's basically running a modernized, more functional version of the offense. Take a bow, Tanier.

9 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Good luck! Wow, that's awesome, just sad to see you and the Walkthrough go. Alas, what misspelt musings of a drunken Raider Joe will populate the comments without a Walkthrough?

11 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Sad day for FO. Tanier, you're awesome! Best of luck, and I'll be seeing you on this other website, whatever it was! Hopefully they don't cramp your style.

12 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Mike, you're the best football writer working in any medium right now (at least as long as Dr. Z is on IR), and I wish you success in this new venture.

14 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Good luck, Mike. I won't really miss you since I will definitely be following your new web site. Really looking forward to seeing what you can do without those prim and proper NY Times and Football Outsiders editors looking over your shoulder!

15 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Holy crap, I've been reading this for that long?


was a personal favorite of mine. Anyone can think about football, or write about football, but writing about thinking about writing about football takes a special talent.

(I also like the Eagles)

16 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Good luck M. Tanker. FO will not be as interesting. Still good though but not as gerat. Going to drik tonight and think of the fun times

37 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

And a new record for keyboard-mangling, "utocroewcted" - Looks like it could be the name of some rare but very serious disorder of the female reproductive system.

Much as I'll miss you here, I hope you'll be even more successful at your new digs. And I hope FO retains links to the past Walkthroughs; I'd like to reread The Walkthroughtape Letters fairly frequently.

22 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Wow. Best of luck, Mike. You were (and should remain) my favorite NFL writer out there. Your intelligence, humor, and voice (I can always tell one paragraph into an FOA team chapter if it was written by you) is a wonderful mix that cannot be duplicated.

Hopefully, the Walkthrough column is retied from FO along with you. I don't think it's possible for anyone to live up to the high bar you set.

19 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I'm pissed off about this, Mike was the finest writer on the site.

Grumble, grumble grumble.

I suppose I shouldn't sulk and the done thing is to offer Mike my best wishes. Good luck Mike.



Best Walkthrough: Who Watches the Walkthrough.

21 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Will you still show up occasionally in Audibles At The Line? I'll miss Walkthrough, though I will read everything you write there, but one of the things I love is the running gag of the Eagles doing some thing wacky (so, you know, any Sunday), and everyone wondering if you've finally gone insane. Or misspelling your name on your new iPad.

23 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I am disappointed to lose Walkthrough - what sane individual with a functioning sense of humour wouldn't be? Congratulations and thanks are in order though so, well done for all these years and columns Mike. I'll be following you to your next site, you are the best football writer on the interwebs and your success is entirely deserved.

Not goodbye but au revoir.

25 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

We got a Hitchhiker's Guide reference on your exit. You are still too awesome for words even when you're leaving.

I discovered FO when I was looking for someplace to read something about football that did not relate to Michael Vick during the dogfighting scandal, and the main reason I kept coming back and eventually became a regular was Walkthrough.

My grades in both undergrad and law school might have been better if Walkthrough hadn't been around, but, in all seriousness, the joy I got from "little" things like Walkthrough and Woody Allen movies were at times life-saving.

I will follow your future endeavors, of course, though it is still sad to see Walkthrough go.

I would wish you luck, but it's a bit condescending to suggest that someone of your talents needs it. See you around, Mike.

26 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Congrats, Mike. Glad you'll still be writing somewhere. I'll just have to remember to find it. You're the best.

27 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I don't comment here as much as I used to, but this requires it.

I've enjoyed your writing (and the Eagles misery in Audibles), and looked forward to reading Walkthrough each week. (My personal favorite: Ramblin', Gamblin' Man.) Not only has it consistently been the best writing on the site, but the humor in the reply threads is higher quality than most other sites' content. I'm sad to see you go, and I'll miss Walkthrough, but I'm sure many others will join me in visiting your new digs.

29 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Thanks again, you guys, thanks again.

I don't think I will be involved in Audibles, esp. since I may have a Monday morning column of my own to write (not sure yet). I am sure that I will be in FOA 2013. And I will be haunting the message boards.

32 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

In looking for a diversion on the day my grandmother dies, I come to find that Walkthrough will also no longer be with me. A sad day, indeed. But this is life, and I will surely enjoy your writing for Sports on Earth as much as I have enjoyed it here.

Congratulations, Mike, on your new opportunity.

33 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Geez, thanks for ruining my afternoon, Mike.

Seriously, Walkthrough is...well, was, I guess, dammit...the only internet column that I read without fail. Your blend of knowledge, insight, humor, and authenticity is a very rare combo that I'm going to miss greatly. And--like me--you teach math and are an XTC fan to boot, so you're all kinds of awesome in my book.

I wholeheartedly wish you the best at Sports on Earth. I guess the positive to all this is that I have a new website to visit regularly.

34 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

First of all, congrats. It's always nice to see talent rewarded.

Second, for those of us who know nothing about Sports on Earth, what can you tell us about it? What will your role be there?

39 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Reading this made me more sad than I'm comfortable admitting. It's strange to feel like you know a person you've never actually met. Thanks, Mike, for the laughs, the poignant pieces, and the insights. And thanks especially for being Wonko the Sane in the world of football punditry. See you at Sports on Earth.

ps Will you still perform your Raiderjoe bit hear at FO?

40 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

And I was having such a good day....

Over the last ten years, I have stopped reading King, Simmons, Easterbrook, Magary, among others. It got to the point where the schtick was so predictable, I could have written it myself -- often times better than the author did. Walkthrough was the only weekly column that avoided that fate. It was my favorite read of the week, every week. I'll miss it tremendously, and I thank you for it.

So good luck Mike. I hope you're happy at the new address.

140 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Pretty much this.

Good luck on the new gig. I sincerely hope you keep writing a Walkthrough-style column at the digs, because Walkthrough is far and away one of my favorite things to follow. While I'll likely be reading your stuff at Sports On Earth (wtf kind of name is that, anyways? Did we really need it to be made clear that we're not covering Sports In Space?), I really hope the Walkthrough format stays alive.

44 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Great farewell column, and I'll see you on Sports On Earth. I remember the first Walkthrough. I believe I may have been one of those 50 or so posters. This feels like the end of an era, but it's truly the dawn of a new day for us.

This has been one of my favorite columns for the last several years now.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

45 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Walkthrough has been my favorite football column for years, and though I'm sad to see it go, I trust that it's because you're replacing it with something better! Or something that will grow into something better. like Futurama after the Simpsons.

46 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Congrats! I'll miss you here, but Posnanski and Tanier is a hell of a start for a sports website. glad to here you'll still be part of foa and i'll miss your presence on this site. They should add an emeritus twitter feed for you, farrar, mds, etc on the sidebar

49 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I will add my voice to those above in saying that you're my favorite football writer and will be sorely missed. Wish you nothing but the best in your new venture.

50 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven


This column brought back terrible memories of reading Bill James's farewell message at the very end of his last Baseball Abstract! I'm still not over that heartbreak.

Best of luck at the new site - I'll be following you there. And, as a professional investor who owns the parent of that site for his clients, I couldn't be happier!

52 Fare thee well

Thanks for all you've done. It's been a pleasure, week after week.

As for the column I remember most fondly, it would be Save the Craters. I won't miss Al much on this site, God rest his soul, but we'll all miss you. :)

53 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I throw a huge internet high-five your way. I've enjoyed the hell out of your FO writing, and I'll go to the new site. It just won't be the same, though.

Thanks for all the laughs, insight, and the occasional ego-gratifying retweet.

54 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I wish you well at the new job. I'll be sure to follow you there. I'm a Johnny-come-lately to this site and I lurk a lot more than I post, but the Walkthroughs have always been my favorite read here. I went back and read many of the older ones from before I started visiting this site (Who Watches the Walkthrough has to be my favorite).

I really enjoy your writing style and I think you are very capable of branching out into writing about more diverse topics if that is of interest to you. You have written eloquently and poignantly about serious topics, but most of all I enjoy your comedic sensibilities. I hope you will continue to inject some comedy into your writing at this new site.

Best of luck.

55 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Honestly, I am shocked. More shocked than I should be for a person that I do not know now writing for another URL, so that basically nothing changes for me.
Nonetheless I am shocked.
Who watches the Walkthhrough was my favourite!!!
Best wishes, Mike

56 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Gregg Easterbrook first introduced me to Football Outsiders through TMQ at some point in 2003 and I've been visiting and (occasionally) commenting ever since. I always enjoyed your writing and have been happy to see your profile getting bigger and bolder over time.

While I will miss you here ... CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! I can't wait to check out the new home.

57 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven


I skim most of the hundred or so items that show up in my RSS feed every day. Yours is one of only two bylines that prompt me to read every word.

Congratulations on the new gig.


59 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven


I'm happy for you and disappointed for me. Best of luck at the new gig.

And Swann and Stallworth deserve more credit than you give them. ;)

61 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Thanks for all the awesome walkthroughs. I hope you make millions at your new place. I signed up for the email list and added it to my bookmarks (ahead of Grantland but behind FO).

COLUMN IDEA- now that you have no affiliation with ESPN, take a transcript from ESPN analysts talking about football. Point out why everything they say is meaningless hyperbole. Or just translate it e.g.

Analyst 1: Well, he swagger swagger, just wins.

Analyst 2: If you look at this random statistic that I am considering completely out of context from the offense his teams runs, his personnel, and playcalling, then it looks like I am saying something smart and contrary.

Analyst 1: But, clutch clutch, leader in the locker room, and besides he went to clown college so I have to represent


63 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Holy crap. I'd LOVE to see someone really destroy the sports punditocracy for once. What the hell does "they want it more" mean?!? Does "So-and-so is 15-3 on Monday Nights" really mean anything when that stat goes back to 1992? Yes, please, someone do this.

128 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I was thinking this myself and was planning on posting it at some point.

It's an obvious publicity stunt by two people who love to get their name out there (Bayless and Cuban), but still Cuban absolutely shreds the "who wanted it more" argument.

164 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

"X won because they wanted it more" may be bullshit in any number of ways. It's possible that all or almost all professional players always play as hard as they can. It's possible that the importance/impact of will and desire on performance is illusory at every level, professional or amateur. But really, you don't know what it means? You've never played in a sports match of any kind in which it felt to you like the less talented team triumphed because they were more motivated? More, you really believe that never actually happens, even in pick-up games? Impossible to quantify in practice is not the same as meaningless.

166 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I played highschool basketball and we had lost to teams we thought were inferior. With that said, at the time anyways, I never felt like as a team we collectively stopped trying as hard or threw in the towel. I don't think you think like that mid game as most of the time your attention feels so focused on only a few things going on.

On a professional level, im pretty sure a qb isn't thinking about choking or legacy when he tries to complete a pass or when a offensive linemen tries to set up a block in the heat of the moment.

169 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

The way it's usually bullshit is because it's back-fit based on hindsight; It provides a ready made rationale once you know the outcome. And it's the partner with "X won because they were looser and just having fun".

So if you have two teams playing - one that comes off serious and driven, and the other more relaxed and calmer - you've got a ready made story no matter who wins; And no matter whether or not it's accurate.

171 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

It could happen, but generally there are much more obvious, rational reasons why supposedly inferior teams win.

Take Super Bowl XXXVI. Sure, it is easy to say that the Patriots won because they tried harder, or the Rams took them lightly, or they were more motivated and played (and were introduced) as a team.

The more rational reason is the Rams turned it over three times, missed a field goal and Mike Martz didn't run against dime packages.

Or Super Bowl XLII. Sure, it was extra motivation that might have made Osi, Robbins, Tuck, Strahan adn Cofield all play superb, but it wasn't a lock of fight, or less motivation or energy or extra pressure that made the Patriots o-line play like garbage. It was just them losing an individual matchup.

I think there is a much better chance of it happening in an amateur, pick-up atmosphere, but usually players who's motivation wane like that if they feel superior are weeded out. Even the most talented players have to be highly motivated and clutch and all that other stuff to make it to the pro level.

175 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

This pretty much sums it up well, but it also explains why so many times, offensive juggernaughts can be beaten. Sometimes, you face defenses that are able to apply more pressure than the qb is use to which completely gums up the system. Again, no qb is going to be effective running for his life and in the times he does have a clean pocket, hes probably feeling perceiving pressure.

These pts are far more subtle and rooted in actually watching games so sportswriters at large would rather gloss over it with pseudo psychological reasons about why so and so didn't want it more. I mean, its funny but, if rodgers didn't win the sb last year, I guarantee he would be thought of as a choker. I was already hearing it when people brought up his losing record in close games as a sign of not having "it". Meanwhile, tom brady could have 5 more sub par playoff games and he'll never be called a choker. Its just access to the results.

178 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Don't get me wrong: I completely agree that it's vastly overused and misapplied as an explanation, and may even have no relevance to professional sports at all. It just struck me as strange that Lance said he didn't know what it meant. P is false and P is meaningless are very different claims, and I would have thought anyone who'd ever played sport knew what it meant.

62 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven


It makes me truly happy that you've gotten this opportunity. I've been reading FO for about six years or so, and certainly looked forward to your writing. One thing that always struck me was how throughout those years, you'd offer little glimpses into your life. You were a math teacher who, on the side, wrote about football for a nerdy website. I don't know how you felt about math or teaching, but I always got the sense that somewhere in there your "I'm a math teacher" gig wasn't what you really wanted, even if you put lots of effort into it and approached it in a professional manner.

I can only imagine, but there must have been the greatest personal satisfaction to be able to say "you know what, I am someone who writes about football" and once and for all put down the textbook and chalk. And now, I'm sure you've even happier at having the opportunity to take all of that even further.

USA Today is, well, USA Today. When I was in college in the early '90s and I was running my house's fantasy football league-- this in an age before there were fantasy football magazines or websites or, indeed, even mass access to the internet-- I'd head to the local Minimart on my way to class early Monday morning and grab a copy for fifty cents (along with my Diet Pepsi, of course). I'd rummage through the paper briefly and then toss it saving only the red sports section, since that was the only thing the paper was good for. I'd do all the points calculations by hand, and it was only possible because that was the only place I could get the box scores for every game.

After awhile, I grew to like the paper. Not because of the rest-- their opinion section is dreadful, and the entertainment section is almost like paid advertising for various TV show and movie studios. But their sports section was the best I'd find anywhere, at least in terms of covering all sorts of stuff from all over the country. And if you're a guy from Oklahoma living in Philadelphia (and hating Philadelphia sports) that was a blessing.

So I have confidence that this new endeavor will have success and I expect you'll be a big part of it. Do please drop by the FO forums once in awhile, and perhaps make an effort to finish up your "Top 5" columns. I actually have some of them bookmarked any was looking forward to the rest-- WRs, OLs, Defensive players (or however you wanted to do it).

Anyhow, this is just a public offering of congratulations. It's nice to see someone who deserves to have success actually have it, and I hope it continues.


64 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Hey everybody. Just wanted to note -- there isn't reason for everyone to be sad. Mike will still be doing great writing, but somewhere else. You still get to read it. He can't participate in Audibles, but you are probably getting his thoughts about Sunday's games on Monday morning anyway.

The person who should be sad is me! Because he's not writing for my site anymore. But the fact is, I just can't pay Mike what he's really worth, and USA Today Media Group can. It's awesome that they're going to let him stay involved in FOA 2013 and beyond. I'm glad he'll still be on the internal FO staff mailing list to bounce ideas off of. And god forbid, if SoE crashes and burns, he always has an open door to return.

65 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Is there still going to be something like walkthrough on FO? Then we could get Tanier on Monday and someone new on Wednesday. He/she can make Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm references, be an expert in WR footwork and safety coverage, and leave his/her job as a Magic: The Gathering pro tour player behind.

Mike Tanier's mutant doppelganger- please step forward.

66 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

You also should be congratulated. The fact that plenty of former FOers are moving on to greater things reflects impressively on your choice of writers to produce content for your site. You want a website with top quality writing and give outsiders a chance with great results. This is a very good thing and it wouldn't keep happening if it were an accident. Kudos sir.

67 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

It's that long already.
All the best - it's been a pleasure reading your articles.
At my previous job, I would copy and paste them into a word document so it looked like I was reading something important. That job had a HQ in Philadelphia. I once ordered the The Philly Fan's Code and had it deliver to "the water cooler". It's still there.
Thank you.

71 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Best wishes Mike - I've been on this site since the very first article from Aaron popped up and when you gave Easterbrook a home. I'm a bit of a lurker and read your articles a lot (and laugh in my office sometimes). Thanks for the good times.

Live long and prosper.

PS: Aaron - please link to Mike early and often!

78 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Thank you so much for all the great work, Mike; you are without a doubt my favorite sportswriter.

I can't for the life of me find it now, but I still remember the first Tanier column that made me go back and take special notice of the byline. There was a section wherein Mike had a handful of high school girls critique some new NFL uniforms for that year (and then a joke at the end about how we should check back next week when a panel of toddlers would let us know which bobbleheads tasted best). Since then I've consciously sought out everything by Mike on this site. I'll do my best to keep up with him at his new home, but I know I won't remember to as much as I'd like, so this is kind of a sad day.


79 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I don't care what Aaron says, it is sad. I never saw this one coming.

Great news about the raise, though.

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

81 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Thank you.

Thanks for the writing. Thanks for making me laugh. Thanks for making me smarter. Thanks for making me cry a couple of times.

Thanks for giving me the honor of participating in Walkthrough a long time ago. You still have no idea what that meant to me. The little things matter so much to a writer who is struggling, and you were always good to me. The first time I saw my name mentioned any place that matters, it was because you mentioned it.

God Bless Walkthrough, and God bless Mike Tanier.

82 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Congratulations, Mike. I may not have always commented on your columns, but I always read them. I've been reading Walkthough from the very beginning, back in ancient times when I had a different handle and I thought your name rhymed with "brainier." You were the best writer on this site, and the funniest, and the most insightful. Good luck in your new venture, and you can be sure any site that has you and Posnanski is a site I will be reading.

84 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I forget when I started reading FO (I think I was linked to it by TMQ), and Walkthrough is one of the columns I've always read. This site is known for its quantitative analysis, but I think its qualitative analysis is just as good.

This is the first time I've been legitimately sad over a writer leaving FO, because Mike is a great writer, and I'll miss Walkthrough, but I'm happy that you got the new gig, and I'll be sure to check out Sports on Earth when it launches.

Thanks for everything, Mike!

85 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I'll never forget the details your kids gave you as you interviewed them over a bowl of Ochocinco's. I was in your home that morning with that kind of detail. Thanks for letting us in the door. Thanks for the humor and football info. Glad to see your "gamble" has paid off when you left teaching... it wasn't really a gamble you know. Simple probability.

86 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Best of like Mike - and I plan on following you there.

Also - glad to see that I think we can officially say you made it on your goal of sportswriting full time rather then returning to teaching :)

88 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven


You've been a great writer here for a long time and I have loved your articles! Thank you for being part of what makes this site my favorite football reading in the world.

FO Staff:

I'm looking forward to the new writers who will fill the gap. You have a way of finding (or making) great ones!

91 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I will miss you here Mike. It's also a great shame that your last season on audibles was watching the eagles do what they did.

One of my favourite walkthroughs was where you diagrammed preventing your children from running away when you were shopping with your wife. That and the Dan Orlovsky one. And the cowboys one with 15 in the box and one on one coverage outside. Ok I loved them all. Good luck Mike, if I win the lotto tomorrow I will pay for your salary to come back.

92 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Thanks and congratulations, Mike. This has been my favorite place on the interwebs since 2005, and I'm sad to see it go. I'm sure I will love your work at the new site, but I fear it won't feel quite the same with you writing for a different audience. Seeing the "play diagrams" of your kids made me laugh harder than anything else I've seen in a sports column.

93 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

It has been a pleasure reading your work and cracking up over and over and over again during the process. Good luck at your next place; I'm sure that I'll check it out if your work is there.

126 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Thank you justanothersteve. Of course if ever wrote a column would have words spelled coredctly which almost mebevr happens when writing in comments sections. Look out for The Raiderjoe Challenge 2012 in the discussion forum soon.

95 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Worst. Walkthrough. Ever.

Congrats on the new gig, Mike. Not a commenter here, but looked forward to the column every week. Will follow you over to the new place, and hope there's space there for something that reads like Walkthrough.

96 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Hey, I'll become a Gannett consumer again, which I would have bet a bottle of Laphroaig against 10 minutes ago!


99 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Like most people here, I'm pretty sad. I really didn't expect that reading a farewell note from you would have that kind of effect on me, yet it did !
Also disagree with Aaron, it IS sad. FO and its community won't be the same without Tanier, and reading a potential Walkthrough on a new,(feature-rich) website won't be the same.

100 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

WTG! Hope things go well there. What exactly is a Viking's fan going to do to feel better now that I can't read your audibles while the Dream Team goes down in flames. That is all that got me through the year. Or when you got your blackberry or whatever and were Taniet (or something like that) for a while. I feel bad for you, Aaron, lol, just go find yourself another Jr. Seau. Good luck both!

156 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

1. This is excellent news.

2. I have remembered another favourite bit of Walkthrough.

(Kaepernick and Carr pre last season don't seem to get who Alex Smith is in a work out.)

Smith: No, no, no! I am a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers! And even though I am a free agent right now, I want to return to the team, and I am willing to invest a lot of my energy and my own money into building team camaraderie and demonstrating my commitment to this franchise and this community.

Kaepernick: Gee, I am sorry. From everything I have heard about Alex Smith, I would have expected someone less ... functional.

Smith: What, you assume that just because a quarterback cannot hold onto his starting job he is some kind of stumblebum who cannot do anything right? Just because my arm isn't top notch and I go into slumps, I must be some kind of all-around weakling uninterested or incapable of organizing activities, leading teammates, or contributing anything of value to humanity?

Kaepernick: Yeah, that's pretty much what I assumed.

Smith: Well, take it from me, Colin. You'll have some early career setbacks, too. Talk-radio guys will bash you, bloggers will make fun of you, and everyone will act like a six-year career as an off-and-on starter at the highest level of competition in the world is a reason to feel ashamed. Well, it's not. Faded quarterback prospects can do a lot of things well, and we have a lot to be proud of. Right, David?

Carr: I guess so. I was playing with my smart phone while you were talking. What did you say your name was?

103 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

There have been some cracking writers & columns on FO over the years, but I'll miss Walkthrough most I think. Thanks Mike, good luck with the new gig, and 'see you on the other side'...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

113 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Selfishly, I'd rather have Aaron selling 2 million copies each July (I'm sure Aaron would too) so he could keep Mike in the family. On the other hand, I was the guy who was expressing wonder a few weeks ago that certain language and football challenged consumers of overrated coffee and beer, when not using security guards to get over on 10 year olds, could have the most visible NFL gig for a gigantic media conglomerate, while a wordsmith and football polymath like Tanier labors much less prominently, so I guess it was predictable that our favorite prematurely retired math teacher would leave the OTC market and get listed on the NYSE, so to speak.

120 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Yep agreed, and it's great to see real talent rewarded-but I don't have to like it leaving FO.

Apart from anything else this is just about the only site on the web where I post (infrequently) and read the comments threads (religiously). The new gig has 'Foxsports Comment Thread Hell' written all over it...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

134 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I kind of miss the Fox Sports comments. I remember we used to have a kind of competition for who could find the most stupid or insane post each week.

Hopefully we'll get extra points linked to the articles so we can discuss them without having to venture into the internet at large.

108 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Mike, you leave some incredibly big shoes behind for someone to fill.

I've been around since the first time Easterbrook mentioned this site in his byline somewhere close to a decade ago. On the one hand, that's an eternity for the modern world. On the other hand, there are many others who were regulars already and are still here. That speaks to the consistant quality Aaron has been able to produce.

I am concerned, though. I hate to cheapen the subject with pop culture references, but this feels like the last, biggest star on Saturday Night Live leaving the show in the hands of a bunch of unknowns. The place already isn't the same without MDS, Lewin, Farrar and those guys (I'll even include Barnwell in his own way there). You were the last link to that golden era, Mike.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Aaron will continue to find for us great analysts. Ben is certainly the new standard-bearer there. But finding someone who can give us great analysis AND genuinely great writing to boot? That's a tall order. Guys like that are rare.

So congrats, Mike, and while I can't imagine that this will be the start of something better, hopefully the new site can match FO in quality. Your byline will always be mandatory reading regardless of where you end up. Part of me hopes that some day you'll end up at Sports Illustrated and get a chance to breathe life into the Point After column that was so great when we were kids and desperately needs someone like you to return it to its former glory.

Aaron, you don't need my advice but I'll give it anyway. Don't try to find the next Mike. You won't. He doesn't exist. Instead, find the first someone else. We'll all know when you succeed.

And since I'm getting all maudlin I may as well throw out a thank you to you simply for making this site the success it's become.

138 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

As long as there's no Jean Doumanian period...

And Dean is absolutely right about this:

"Aaron, you don't need my advice but I'll give it anyway. Don't try to find the next Mike. You won't. He doesn't exist. Instead, find the first someone else. We'll all know when you succeed."

109 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Though Walkthrough has been based on then-current events, it has had a timelessness and relevance that many posters on this thread have confirmed. When do we see "Walkthrough - The Book"?

110 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

So long Walkthrough! It's like losing your favorite neighbor. Though as this is the internet, it's not like moving across the country, but just over a couple of blocks. The old street will not be the same

112 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

I'm also sad that Mr. Tanier is moving on, but happy that I'll still be able to read his work. Two phrases Mr. Tanier wrote that had me in stitches:

"Nor is last week's starter, Samkon Gado, who showed promise when he saved Frodo from that giant spider but isn't an NFL-caliber starter at this point."


...drat...I can't find it with the Google machine. It was basically describing a street in the suburbs after a windy trash day. It was funny because it was true! Maybe someone else can dig it up, but between the phrases "trash talk" and "garbage time" I'm striking out.

Anywho, best wishes and thanks for the great writing here.

114 Re: Walkthrough: All We Know of Heaven

Congratulations, Mike! Looking forward to the new site.

In the meantime, I just printed out a bunch of old columns recommended by commenters which predated my discovery of Walkthrough. Cheers!