COLUMN: A Word of Thanks and a New Beginning

After a year-plus starting and growing Cowbell Corner, publisher Joel Coleman is headed for a new, exciting adventure.
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It’s a question we all get as kids: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

For me, the answer was simple. I wanted to play for the Atlanta Braves. Well I eventually got to high school and realized there isn’t a demand in Major League Baseball for a 5-foot-7, slow third baseman with very little pop in his bat. So I had to choose another goal.

In August of 2003, I went to college. The new dream? I didn't just want to work in sports. I wanted to be a full-time Bulldog and work for Mississippi State athletics. There have been plenty of twists and turns over the last nearly two decades. But today, I write this to say I made it.

This is my final week here at Cowbell Corner. I’ve accepted the position of Assistant Director for Communications/Senior Writer within the Mississippi State athletic department. Starting Tuesday, my days will be dedicated to bringing you – the Mississippi State fan – detailed, informative and entertaining content at HailState.com. I’ll be joining a department that already features some of the most talented and creative individuals in all of college athletics. It’s my goal to add to that by telling stories that highlight the student-athletes and coaches you pull for, as well as tales of all kinds that bring you a greater appreciation for Mississippi State and the people that wear (or have worn) the maroon and white.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take just a second to thank a few folks. I’ll be forever appreciative to Mississippi State Director of Athletics John Cohen, Deputy A.D./External Affairs Leah Beasley and Associate A.D./Communications Brandon Langlois for giving me this opportunity. It’s my hope that before long, my work will prove to be good enough that each of them think, ‘Man, we should’ve hired this guy a long time ago!’

I look forward to working with each of them and alongside those in the Mississippi State athletic department – many of whom I already know and consider friends. Now, I’m honored to call them teammates.

I wouldn’t have gotten to this place though without passing through where I’ve been. I’m grateful to the folks at Maven/Sports Illustrated who trusted me to try and start up Cowbell Corner. As a one-man show with a tenure that took place fully during a worldwide pandemic, let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. Aside from the challenge of covering sports during the COVID-19 era in and of itself, I dare say somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of the over 1,200 pieces of content I’ve posted the last year-plus was put up with at least one of my three children (all ages four and under) providing plenty of background noise. My then-newborn daughter’s wail on a Zoom call did at least get me some parenting advice from Mike Leach. Now that I guess we’re coworkers, perhaps Leach and I can rekindle that conversation, but I digress.

Back to the point, I’m incredibly proud of what we built here, and when I say we, I mean you and I. In only the third week after the site launched, Cowbell Corner was fourth in a then-37-team college network in terms of page views. Now there were certainly peaks and valleys in the weeks and months that followed. But the bottom line is many of you came to Cowbell Corner and then kept coming back time and time again. And in the process, every time you clicked on this website, you helped support me and my family. For that, I can’t thank you enough. Whether you came here once or hundreds of times, sincerely from the deepest portion of my heart, thank you.

And thank you to Starkville Daily News sports editor Danny P. Smith – the man that gave me my first-ever full-time sportswriting gig. I guess I should thank him twice. He hired me two times the last decade. He’s one of the most kind-hearted individuals you’ll ever meet and I certainly wouldn’t be a Bulldog this coming Tuesday if not for him being willing to take a couple of chances with me.

I think back further and am so appreciative for former MSU athletic marketing staffer Chad Thomas who helped me get my foot in the door in athletics when I was just an undergraduate student. He later hired me as his graduate assistant in marketing, helping pave the way to my master’s degree. Soon after, there was Don Williams, the former general manager of MSU Bulldog Sports Properties, who brought me onboard his sales staff for a year-long position. Both Chad and Don were key in my professional growth as they opened doors and let me fail and succeed under their watches.

Now that I’ve gotten this deep into this, I realize I probably never should’ve started naming folks. Honestly, there are so many I’d love to thank publicly in this space. From colleagues I’ve learned from, to teachers, to friends that have just allowed me to bounce ideas off of them – thank you all.

I will name one last individual. Brian Hadad has been the Thunder to my Lightning on our daily podcast the last three years. I’m sure some of you reading this might wonder what will happen to the show. Well, it will continue…but it will continue without me.

I’d like to think if nothing else, Brian and I built Thunder and Lightning into a show where you could count on complete, unfiltered opinions and takes. You might not have always agreed with those opinions and takes, but you knew they were our best attempts at objectivity and truth. I have no doubt that you’ll continue to get those objective viewpoints from Brian and his new cohost (I’ll let Brian reveal his new sidekick when he deems appropriate). And if they’ll have me, perhaps I can stop by and offer up an enthusiastic, ‘WOOOO!’ every once in awhile. Brian and I are slated to record one more edition of Thunder and Lightning together on Friday night (May 28). So you'll have all weekend to listen before the new era of Thunder and Lightning kicks off with Sunday evening/Monday morning's episode.

As for me, I’m off to hopefully help give you a better perspective of Mississippi State sports than ever before. I’m not sure what all forms that’ll take. There’ll certainly be stories you’ll want to read. Perhaps that’ll soon be complemented by new audio and video elements as well once I settle in at State and my role evolves.

One thing that is certain for now is that I imagine there have been very few people, if any, more excited to become a Bulldog than me. I hope that shines through in every piece of content I’m able to produce for you all.

See you on campus and at HailState.com. And that reminds me to say.…HAIL STATE! Man, that felt good.

Joel Coleman has been the publisher/editor of Sports Illustrated’s Cowbell Corner since its launch in May of 2020. Thank you for coming to Cowbell Corner for coverage of Mississippi State sports.