Kevin Kaduk of Midway Minute Chats with Vivid Seats
For a certain segment, sports permeate every facet of life. Whether that’s watching, playing or reading about the game(s) they love, sports are more than minutes on the hardwood or a speeding serve, they’re a driving force. While Chicago-based writer Kevin Kaduk never made it to the big leagues, he did accomplish the childhood goal of millions of young boys and girls: making a living in the industry he’d always adored. Vivid Seats spoke with the longtime writer and purveyor of the Midway Minute newsletter about his career, the state of sports media and more.
Vivid Seats: Start from the beginning. Who is Kevin Kaduk?
Kevin Kaduk: Wow, getting deep right from the start! I guess my elevator pitch would be that I’m a guy who loves Chicago sports and has a few loud opinions about them, some right, some wrong. (I’ll usually never admit to the latter.) I also love bringing people together, whether that’s on different online platforms or in real life.
VS: How did your time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shape your career as a writer?
KK: The Badgers have experienced a lot of success over the past three decades, but it’s hard to imagine I could’ve been at Madison for a better four-year period. As an editor at The Badger Herald, I was able to cover two Rose Bowls, a Heisman Trophy winner (Ron Dayne), the basketball team’s surprise run to the Final Four and a nationally-ranked hockey program featuring Dany Heatley. Being there gave me the practical experience of covering big-time sports and access to both the Milwaukee and Chicago media markets. By the time I graduated, I had already covered the hockey program on a regular basis for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and made a lot of valuable contacts back in Chicago.
VS: Your primary topic is sports, but you’ve always found a way to make your writing personal. What writers shaped your style?
KK: Every idiot writer who grew up in the Chicago area wanted to become the next Mike Royko and of course never could match the G.O.A.T., so let’s just acknowledge that obvious point and move on. I’ve always been a fan of writers who did a great job of bringing the reader to the event and tried to show, not tell. Guys like Hunter S. Thompson and Norman Mailer. Much more closer to earth, I love participatory journalists who are great with dialogue, description and understated humor. Growing up, that was Bernie Lincicome and Bob Verdi in the Tribune. Later it was Steve Rushin and Wright Thompson, the latter of whom I’m proud to call a good friend since our paths crossed at The Kansas City Star in the early ‘00s.
VS: You’ve been a sports writer for over two decades. How have you seen the industry change over that time?
KK: How long do we have? I think the easiest way to put it is this. It used to be that a writer’s most challenging work was everything that led up to sending the piece to your editor. Now it’s everything that comes after. The selling of your own work on social media and advancing your brand on so many different platforms so that your work gets read.
VS: Where do you think it’s headed?
KK: People are busy and social media can be a confusing mess of information. I think trusted reporters and curators will have an advantage over the next decade. Whoever can design products that their audience what they’re looking for with as little friction as possible will win.
Also, after a few decades of the big national outlets owning the online space, I think we’ll see a lot more sports sites be based around one city and the local teams inside it. Being nimble, efficient and not afraid of change is the name of the game right now.
VS: Tell us about your newsletter, the Midway Minute.
KK: That’s a great segue because everything I just described in the answer above was baked into the creation of Midway Minute. Simply put, it’s a short and informative Chicago sports newsletter I send out every weekday morning containing a take on the biggest sports news in the city, results for the previous night’s games (when we have games, of course) and links to some of the best sportswriting being done around the city. It’s been a lot of fun to write each night and it’s received a great response since I started it in February. You should subscribe and join in the fun if you haven’t already. (It’s free.)
VS: Let’s get to the real stuff...favorite teams, favorite players and why.
KK: The teams that affect my mood the most are the Bears, Blackhawks and Badgers, but baseball is still my first love. My personal Chicago sports Mt. Rushmore is Walter Payton, Frank Thomas, Jonathan Toews and Stan Mikita.
VS: What advice do you have for those trying to break into the industry?
KK: Meet as many people as you can. Look for different ways to network. When you do, show people how their organizations will benefit from working with you. Always look ahead to what’s next.
When I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, I wasn’t able to line up a single summer internship. So I got on a plane to Baltimore and stood in the lobby of a hotel where the Associated Press Sports Editors convention was being held and passed out packets of clips. A few sports editors took interest in me and invited me along to the bars that night. I landed two gigs out of that trip and almost everything good in my life can be traced to making that one decision to step out of my comfort zone and talk my way into the room. Some people won’t write back or be responsive, but that’s OK. All it takes is one person to open up a possibility you didn’t know existed.