As I do many times, (probably too many for the good of my own mental health), I opened Twitter the other day and saw a tweet that I had been anticipating for a bit now but still stung to see in the physical sense. At the top of my Twitter timeline, I saw that Katie Nolan tweeted last Wednesday that she had left ESPN.
For loyal fans, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing that she had become less and less visible on their airwaves since the cancellation of Always Late With Katie Nolan. We still at least had a twice-weekly chance to connect with her on her podcast Sports? which even she would admit vaguely discussed the subject. Not long after the pandemic began ESPN began massive layoffs and even that familiar family started to disappear and change a bit. One by one the KAJ, an acronym made of Katie and her producers turned co-hosts Ashley and Jay’s first initials as they were let go one after another. Katie adapted as she always does and new faces came into play and The Union was formed.
Then just a few weeks ago another one of her producers turned co-hosts announced his departure from the company. Not to mention that Highly Questionable which was the one on-air program she had been appearing on had been canceled around the same time. The writing appeared to be on the wall for her eventual departure as well.
My love (as well as other members of The Turf family), has been fairly well documented on this site before, but after I let the news sink in and had some time to process it I found a desire to take to the keyboard and express just how much she and the KAJ and The Union have meant to everyone. Especially me since I’m the one writing this.
When I decided to move back to Michigan in October of 2019 I started making a bucket list of the things I wanted to make sure I did and saw as a resident of the great city of New York before I left a mere 7-ish weeks later. Towards the top of the list was to go a taping of Always Late. It was free and fairly easy to get into. Needless to say that I had so much fun the first time that I went back again. I even got Kevin Morin to go with me. And I got a shoutout from her for wearing my USWNT training pullover to the Seaport that day.
Famously Audio Medium
Once I returned to Michigan, Sports? and Always Late became kind of a link to the life I had lived for over a decade. And just a few months later when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced us all to retreat inside and face a new version of reality, it took on new significance. It became a few hours every week where I could escape from the stresses of becoming a full-time caretaker, from having to deal with leaving behind all of the people that I loved and were closest with outside of the family I had come back to help out. As time went on it began to represent even more.
It’s not just Katie’s humor, quick wit, and unique takes that make people relate to her. In fact, I would argue that it’s quite the opposite. I’m not alone when I admit that I’ve struggled heartily with my mental health over the last 18 months or so. And what my next step in life will look like. Add into that the stresses of a global pandemic, extreme isolation, caregiving for a parent, a heaping dose of heartbreak, and you have the perfect makings of a complete breakdown. These are many things that she has been and has become increasingly transparent about.
Shortly after she expanded to two episodes per week, she lost Ashley and was tasked with figuring out how to fill two episodes of content without the two people who had helped the podcast gain so much popularity in the first place. One way she did this was to interview friends and other ESPN personalities. While we couldn’t witness these interviews you could feel both the guests and Katie’s authenticity come through over a “famously audio medium”. More often than not, her guests would compliment her ability to listen carefully and be able to pull the best out of whoever happened to be on that day.
Katie Nolan’s vulnerability is what echoes most with her fans. Never afraid to admit that she’s not perfect, or that she’s struggling with life and all of the complications that come with it. When I felt my most broken she gave me a home. A comfortable and supportive community to be a part of. One that makes you laugh just as much as it makes you cry. One that helps you see yourself more clearly through the eyes of those you haven’t ever met personally. And one that makes you recognize that it’s ok to not have everything figured out.
Rest In The Most Peace
Sports? was the place I went to escape from all of my forms of grief. I even left a review. And it got read on one episode. Did I freak out a little when I heard it and heard their reactions? Yes. Did I tailor it to appeal to Travis so it would get read? Also yes. But what I got out of it was two women (shoutout Christina as well) who empathized with what I was going through at that moment. They gave me a way to see joy through the wall of tears that clouded my vision at the time.
She might be gone from ESPN and though she might be taking a break from the public eye for now Katie Nolan will ineviteably resurface on some other platform. She will once again make us feel safe, seen, and secure in that being perfect isn’t the goal. Being authentic is what we should strive for.
As I titled my review, “From One Katie To Another”, I love you, Katie Nolan. And boy, do I mean it.
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