For John Anderson, it was something he just felt like doing. Something cathartic.
The longtime SportsCenter anchor wasn’t expecting the response he received.
This past weekend, Anderson was reading his hometown Green Bay Press-Gazette online, as he does most days, and he saw an article about the local Sears store closing. He was heartbroken because that particular store literally changed his life.
It brought Anderson back to his childhood when his widowed mother moved his family from Mason City, Iowa, to Green Bay after a neighbor had moved there to take a job at the Green Bay Sears. And he’s always felt that if not for that store, he may have never become a sportscaster.
So after thinking about it all day, Anderson got home from working the late SportsCenter around 1 a.m. and started typing what was originally going to be a letter to the editor to the Press-Gazette. He wanted to get his feelings out.
“As often as I’d told the story to my kids and as well-known as it is in my family and certain other people I know that I’ve crossed paths with in life, I just thought, ‘This is a bummer,’” he said. “If it wasn’t for that place, I’m probably a farmer in Iowa. It’s really almost that cut and dried.”
He finished the piece the next morning and sent it to the newspaper. Soon Anderson was surprised to learn that the Press-Gazette had turned it into a first-person piece in the paper.
Though “Twitterless John Anderson” famously isn’t on the social platform, he quickly became aware that his story had resonated.
"It’s more than a store. It’s my story."
A nice read on how Green Bay's Sears closing affects an ESPN anchor, from John Anderson himself: https://t.co/qO2g4RBpnM
— Audrey J. Kirby (@ajanekirby) January 10, 2018
Pour out a brandy old fashioned for @espn John Anderson’s childhood.
If you were born in suburbia before 1990 or so, you’ll appreciate the details of wandering around on your bike to loiter around and blow what little money you had on frivolities. https://t.co/4kGVniBbhS
— David Mandl (@MandlDA) January 10, 2018
The reaction was positive and uplifting as people identified with the story, which ran in several other newspapers as well. But one person Anderson forgot to notify was his mother, Karen, who still lives in Green Bay but had traveled to Florida to attend a funeral.
“I called my mom and she said, ‘Apparently something’s hit the paper because I’ve gotten all these messages and all these beeps on my phone and at first I thought something terrible had happened while I’m down here in Florida,’” he said. “So I’ve gotten word that it’s been out there.
“It wasn’t so much lamenting the store closing, it was just this was the place,” he said. “Sears wasn’t my life, but it changed it. And now I have Packers season tickets instead of a combine.”