Let me tell you a story.
A person starts the job of his dreams at the historic staple of sportswriting and reporting in America: Sports Illustrated. He is new to this industry, mind you -- clearly inexperienced compared to those around him. Despite the bravado and confidence he might think he possesses, he is still raw. A sheep entering the lion's den. He knows it and they know it, but this person is determined to make a difference.
This story is not about the person, but rather the shining light that eventually becomes his mentor, his colleague, his co-host, his confidant -- through the bad and good -- and most importantly, his good friend.
His name was Grant Wahl.
To most of you, Grant represented the true heart of soccer writing. Passionate, fearless, raw, honest and dedicated to the one singular quest: to tell the truth and connect. You don't need me to tell you how impactful this man was to the industry. It's right there, printed everywhere, voiced everywhere, reported everywhere.
It went beyond journalism, too; it was social commentary at its finest. It was the ability to not just talk about the game or the player, but rather what they represented. You also don't need me to tell you how inspiring he was as a professional. Young writers everywhere looked up to his pieces all the way from his early days at Princeton.
I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to tell you about the person. The human being who cared so much, perhaps too much, about everyone else. Including me.
Back to Sports Illustrated.
A few months after joining, the company decided to create a show for soccer fans: the video digital version of Planet Fútbol. Grant would naturally lead the way. But Grant's first wish? Not the content, not the studio space nor the quality of guests he could welcome to the door.
He wanted a partner. He wanted me.
"I believe you and I can create something truly unique here, Luis Miguel. Your voice is needed," he said. I always loved how he said my name with that adopted American-Argentinian tone.
See what I'm getting at? Grant was more than a titan and one of the most important voices in our sport. He was a warrior for voices that wanted to be heard. He didn't just talk about the journey; he opened the path for you. This is why you're getting all these messages on social media. All these wonderful, diverse voices recalling their experiences with Grant. They all point to one thing: his selfless desire to make you better.
I am here right now, working in this industry and at ESPN, because of him.
Were there sad moments? Difficult ones? Sure. Did I do enough to show my support? Was I good enough of a friend to help him? I carry this weight for the rest of my life because I honestly don't know. All I can hope for is that he's looking from above and smiling, "Luis Miguel. Por favor. Stop it."
We had lunch a few months ago in New York City. Talked about the good days with the podcast and the tough days during the pandemic. We talked about soccer, of course. About his love for his wife, Celine, and his brother and family. Obviously, photos of his dogs, Zizou and Coco. Grant had lost both his parents in the past few years, and he knows about my experiences with that too, as I also lost them at a young age. We related to all of that and so much more.
In the end, I just want you to know that Grant was my mentor, my brother and my friend, but the wonderful thing about him, the incredibly unique characteristic is that when you met him, you also felt this way. It didn't matter if you were a veteran of 20 years or an intern. He cared about all of us. He believed in all of us.
So let's remember how he lived, with the hope that we live our lives the same way.