By Will O’Brien (TM ’07)
With the NFL season halfway through and the NBA getting started, a pair of former St. Thomas More classmates are among the scribes chronicling Wisconsin sports teams for fans around the country.
Evan Western and Mitchell Maurer, both graduates from the Class of 2005, are the managing editors of Acme Packing Company and Brew Hoop, closely followed Packers’ and Bucks’ blogs published by SB Nation. Running the websites has provided the duo a creative outlet to express their fandom and led to surprising developments, including a new job.
Western is a manager in the Health Physics Division of Cardinal Health, a large international health services company headquartered outside Columbus, Ohio. He moved to the area immediately after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering and a master’s in medical physics.
Western started reading the SB Nation blogs during college and, thanks to his connection to Maurer, began writing for them his senior year. In 2013, when the previous Acme Packing Company manager moved on to other things, he picked up the responsibilities and now puts in about 15 hours a week overseeing a staff of 10. They publish a wide variety of articles and analyses year-round and are paid a stipend for their efforts.
The real reward, Western said, is getting to write about the Pack.
“We’re all doing it because we love the team, and that’s the attitude we try to bring to our writing,” he said, describing the knowledgeable, fan-focused tone of the blog.
Though Western does most of his reporting and editing from home, the gig has taken him to NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis several times. Involved with music and theater during his STM years, Western said the website is good exercise for the right side of his brain.
“I just really enjoy writing — to an extent I didn’t even realize until I started doing it,” Western said. “I’ve loved the Packers my whole life and I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible.”
Interviewed in September, Western said the Packers and their revamped defense looked bound for the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl.
Maurer, a project manager in Apple’s information technology division focused on training, lives in Austin, Texas, where the company has a major presence. He secured the position thanks, in part, to his efforts with Brew Hoop, specifically a wonky series of articles that quantified the dollar value of wins in the NBA.
“I mentioned it off-hand in the interview,” said Maurer, who’s been writing for the SB sites for nearly 12 years.
The interviewer was impressed with the thought process, methodology and deadline management that went into the project, and Maurer got the job.
A member of an undefeated, conference-winning football team when at St. Thomas More, Maurer enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before transferring to Rutgers and meeting his now-wife during the first week of class. The couple has two sons (5 years and 10 months old).
Thanks to the Bucks international roster, Brew Hoop has readers around the world. Staff writers have gone on to major newspapers and to work directly for major-league teams, Maurer said.
Maurer got into basketball in 2001, when the Bucks made it to the Eastern Conference finals and faced Allen Iverson’s 76ers. After that, “the Bucks just stuck with me,” he said.
Having endured years of mediocrity — the disappointment of T.J. Ford, Brandon Jennings and several first-round playoff exits — Maurer is well pleased with the Bucks’ resurgence and the MVP-level play of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Maurer was intrigued though admittedly unsure about Antetokounmpo when he joined the team.
Now, “it’s impossible to see him and not marvel,” Maurer said.
Both Western and Maurer plan to continue with the SB Nation blogs for as long as they’re able. Outside the blogosphere, Western is an avid curler and Maurer is involved with the Texas Democratic Party.
SB Nation blogs are published by Vox Media, an international network of more than 300 websites, including sites dedicated to every NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL team.