When most of us think of how our lives will be remembered after we’re gone it’s a common theme. Did we make an impact on people’s lives? Did we make a difference with the life we lived?
Last year, I lost a mentor, colleague, and friend. Matt Loede the co-founder of Northeast Ohio Sports Insiders passed away on September 29, 2021. A year has gone by and searching for the words to describe Matt is still impossible. I have typed this story dozens of times, dozens of different ways. I told myself it had to be perfect. Anything less than perfect wouldn’t do justice to Matt’s memory.
Then I reflected on those questions I posed on how we want to be remembered. I had an answer for Matt’s. Sixteen answers to be exact. A group of fifteen people plus myself. This is where I found Matt. He is still with us, still making an impact, still making a difference in sixteen people’s lives. The Cleveland media icon is alive in us.
How is that possible? He left behind a gift that not many give. The gift was his immense willingness to help those fulfill their dreams. He gave that gift to me years ago and I am fortunate to be able to give it in his honor now.
I reached out to Matt several years ago to inquire about writing for him. My background was in political writing, and I wanted to make the leap into sports coverage. I didn’t anticipate a response from Matt, yet he immediately gave me a chance.
He showed me how to turn my passion for sports into stories. I didn’t want to simply recap games I wanted to write about things that interested me. Matt helped me make the transition and regularly would share his knowledge with me.
When Matt was diagnosed with cancer the strength he showed was different than I’d ever witnessed. He spoke openly about his diagnosis, his treatments, and his faith. That faith never wavered. In fact, it appeared to grow stronger with each medical setback he endured.
When I saw him, he cared more about how others were feeling than talking about his own health struggles. Matt wanted to make everyone laugh and smile despite his pain. The love he had for the Lord shined in all he did.
When I say many don’t give the gift of the willingness to help others pursue their dreams, that is true in the sports industry. Matt was different than many media members. There are those that feel above the audience they write for. Matt was the exact opposite. The esteemed sports writer was refreshing and down to earth. It wasn’t a competition for him. He wanted everyone to succeed. Matt never made anyone feel less than.
What Matt gave me
Matt began to call me a “firecracker” from the beginning of working with me. I asked him if that meant I was too outspoken for his liking. He laughed and told me that my outspokenness and my ability to stand up for myself was a necessity in the industry. He said “if I was a sparkler and not a firecracker I would be easily fizzled out.”
His belief in who I was as a person gave me the confidence I needed. To this day I push to be treated equally. I can never thank him enough for that life changing invaluable gift.
I was given a chance by Matt which opened doors for me that may never have been broached.
He cared. That’s what made him different. People walk past others without even an acknowledgement while Matt did the opposite. He took time to get to know people. That’s where he shined. The personal connections he made with his colleagues was genuine. Matt had friends not co-workers.
When I heard the news that he had passed I felt in shock. Despite knowing he was ill for so long it just didn’t feel possible. Not Matt, he was the ultimate fighter. It couldn’t be true.
Paying it forward
Yet when I began to come to terms with the loss, I knew I had to do something. For months I would periodically look at his website. It saddened me to see the amount of posts dwindling. The thought of it being gone completely tugged at me.
At the beginning of the 2021 Cleveland baseball season, Matt had texted me that he wanted NEOSI to be the number one site for baseball coverage. I couldn’t shake that once he was gone. I didn’t want to see his work fade away. Although I had no idea how to begin, I did know that I had to pay if forward. I had to try to help others the way Matt had helped me.
With that being said, I knew I could never get even close to filling his shoes. However, I was going to do everything I could to honor him. That’s the least I could do for all he gave me.
At the beginning of 2022, I reached out to Matt’s longtime friend and co-founder of the website. We spoke in length about my desire to take over where he had left off. I was aware it would be a tall task. A task that I haven’t even cracked the surface of.
I began the search for writers to assist me in bringing the website back to its glory. The way it was prior to Matt’s medical battles and the way he envisioned it. I contacted every former writer, and most had moved on to bigger positions. Many credited Matt for their success. Their stories all had a common thread…Matt Loede.
I didn’t find past writers to join in the journey, so I began to search for a new team. There was one thing, that was the most important quality, they must be in it for the right reasons. They had to hear the backstory and want to join our team because of it. We would be a team, there would be no competition, no egos. We would be a reflection of Matt.
After struggling to find anyone to steadily contribute suddenly a core group seemed to appear. Looking back now I believe Matt sent these individuals our way. The writers and photographers that currently contribute to NEOSI all hold traits of Matt. Together this group is Matt.
One of Matt’s passions was for high school sports. We have developed a team that goes out each week to cover games across Northeast Ohio. The addition of four photographers gave us the opportunity to have our own content. Devin Lowe stepped into the role of managing the high school team. Each week he coordinates the credentials as well as which writer/photographer duo will cover specific games. On Friday nights the team hits stadiums and provides live coverage. They then follow up with game articles and photos.
During the games as the writers tweet their live coverage I often sit and think how Matt would feel. I am overcome by emotions of happiness as I know how proud he would be of them.
Matt also worked closely with the Ohio Media School. He would offer interns a chance to gain experience. I am honored to now be able to do the same for OMS students. We’ve expanded our internship to also include Tri-C and Ohio State.
Watching these talented and selfless individuals strive to keep Matt’s site going is so rewarding. I have had to hold back tears witnessing the moments that have meant so much to them. The first Guardians game they got to photograph, the first Crew game they were able to cover, their first article being published. All of these moments would not have been possible had it not been for Matt.
It’s humbling to look back at the hundreds of people who he single-handedly helped succeed in the industry. Or who’s dream he provided a road to. Or simply who he was a friend to in their time of need.
When he gave me a chance years ago, I never could’ve imagined I would now hold such a responsibility. It’s not how the website performs that is of importance, it’s the people who are a part of it. People that I have grown to care about and want to see succeed.
I know Matt would be enamored with the young Cleveland baseball team. He is missed in the press box and his memory is preserved there. These are pictures I took on Opening Day this season.
He wrote a piece on the 25 most popular Cleveland baseball players in 2019. This article still gets views almost every day on the website.
I had prepared to give the long list of Matt’s accomplishments. Then I planned to write about all the highlights of his career, the awards he won, the books he wrote. While those are beyond distinguished something kept pulling at me not to go that route. Yet instead show that Matt Loede may not physically be here with us however, he is very much alive in the people of our team.
Some of NEOSI contributors wanted to share what this journey has meant to them. I’ll end with their words and this- as Matt would put it – thx u!
“I did not have the pleasure of knowing Matt Loede. Those that did hold him in such high regard, and I am privileged to contribute to the publication he founded and meant so much to him. I’m just a middle-aged father chasing a dream, but I’m able to do that because of Matt and the kindness and opportunity he showed that is now being paid forward to me and I am forever grateful for that.”
“I never had the pleasure of meeting Matt, but he has had an enormous impact on my life. His passion for high school sports and Northeast Ohio sports in general has provided a platform for myself and others to hone our craft and follow our dreams. I hope we can continue to grow this platform and honor Matt’s legacy with quality content and professionalism. I cannot thank him enough for all he’s done.”
“Matt was a genuinely amazing follow. Great writer and blessed person. His sharing his struggles with us all in a public way was sad, beautiful, and heroic! I miss his stuff and hope I am just 1/8th the writer and person he was. His faith in Christ was unwavering. That’s why I write for this site.”
“A few years ago, someone I didn’t know started following me on Twitter… this was around the time that I started to post high school soccer and football pictures. Even though I didn’t know this person, it was kind of cool that someone out in the social media world wanted to follow me. I pulled up his page and saw that he was a sports enthusiast – that person was none other than Matt Loede! He loved high school sports and loved his CLE teams. His branding, Northeast Ohio Sports Insiders, was a site to follow and to get your fix on sports. I followed Matt and his stories whenever he posted something.
Then the day came when Matt informed all of his followers that he had cancer… However, Matt did not let this stop him nor his NEO Sports Insiders outlet. I looked for his postings every day whether they were related to sports or how he was faring during that day’s cancer battle. The day that Matt finally succumbed to cancer, was truly a sad day for all of us, as he is a true inspiration to the industry.
Earlier this year, I found out that NEOSI was starting to bring back the stories of high school and CLE sports from one of Matt’s teammates who wanted to continue his legacy. Natalie Turk, a writer that Matt took under his wing a few years back, wanted to give back to others what Matt had given to her. I happened upon a post from Natalie, looking for photographers, and knew immediately I wanted to be part of this group, a part of what Matt’s legacy, by bringing strong content and images of sports to the reader. I feel fortunate to be a part of this story that is starting anew, with our very own angel watching over us.”
“Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting Matt in person but, through the words of his friends and colleagues alike and the wonderful things spoken of him, I feel like I know a part of Matt. Not only was he an incredibly talented writer, but he was a genuine soul, a brother in Christ full of passion, with many characteristics that people often strive for. I write to keep his legacy alive and I can only hope that we can offer a fraction of what he did and that he is proud of the team today.”
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