Jamie Reidy's memoir as a pharmaceutical salesman, “Hard Sell,” became “Love and Other Drugs” starring A-list movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. His two follow up non-fiction books led nowhere. So in the summer of 2013, as a “middle-aged, unemployed and lonely bachelor wallowing in self-pity,” instead of doing the sensible thing and getting a job, he set out on an adventure of attending 365 sporting events in 365 consecutive days.
Reidy said he “failed miserably.” Instead of shelving the book he planned to write, he completed “Need One!: A Lunatic's Attempt to Attend 365 Games in 365 Days,” available on Amazon.com. Along the way he saw a Heisman Trophy winner play basketball in a men rec's league, watched an inner tube water polo match, discovered women's indoor volleyball and learned some life lessons from wounded vets.
Reidy's goal was to hit a sporting event every day, whether it was high school, collegiate, amateur or professional. The criteria was that the activity had to have a referee, umpire or a judge. His first event was the NFL kickoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos on Thursday, September 5, 2013, in Colorado.
“I used the NFL schedule and the college football schedule as my skeleton for the first three months because I knew I could then fill in major league baseball playoff games,” Reidy said. “I knew I was driving everywhere, so looking at the map and stadiums I hadn’t hit yet, I could fill in the gaps. I said, 'Okay, I have three days here between Washington D.C. and Orlando, Florida. I have three days to kill, what can I see along the I-95 Corridor?' That became the fun and exasperating challenge, finding events.”
Reidy had some sponsorship “early bites” from sports websites and Fox Sports, who was looking for content because he was going to provide a daily blog and videos. But they eventually declined because he wasn't focusing solely on pro sports. Because of his lack of sponsorship, he was starting out on shaky ground.
“When I left Manhattan Beach on September 3 (2013) , I knew I wasn’t going to make it if I didn't get sponsors,” Reidy said. “I knew I was a dead man driving. It’s like I knew if I wasn’t going to get the organ transplant I wasn’t going to live out the year.”
Reidy had little money in the bank, but he needed cash to cover gas, hotels, food, tickets and, of course, beer. He raised only $19,000 of his $100,000 goal on Kickstarter. Then he went to Indiegogo, and fared worse, raising $9,000. Already $75,000 in debt, he tried to attract sponsors via social media. But all he heard were crickets. While in Nebraska, he realized attracting a social media following would be tough.
“I assumed when I got in the car that I was going to be able to tweet or put on Facebook 'Hey people in southwest Nebraska: where should I see a game Tuesday night?' Then someone would respond with a game. But it just never happened like that.”
Yet the internet did help him on one occasion. He was driving from Reno to San Francisco at around 9 p.m. and he thought he was stuck.
“I discovered bowling fit my rules and I had already gone to that well four times,” Reidy said. “I tweeted sports social clubs San Francisco and I found one and tweeted at the founder. He got back to me in 30 minutes, 'Go to this gym,' and I saw the worst co-ed volleyball game I had ever seen, but it kept the streak alive.”
Giving back to vets
After graduating with an English degree from the University of Notre Dame, Reidy joined the Army. He had attended school on a ROTC scholarship. During his sports adventure, he also wanted to give back to wounded veterans. Through the help of a friend, he was able to take a veteran suffering PTSD to a Dallas Cowboys game.
Also, in November, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America got him in touch with a veteran, a former Army sergeant, who suffered from PTSD and was wounded in 2006 by an IED. His lifelong dream was to see a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field. But the veteran couldn't drive because of his PTSD and had to bring his grandfather to the game so he could drive.
Many people helped Reidy along the way, but there was a financial burden when buying three tickets to a Packers game. But one of Reidy's close friends, local chef David LeFevre, who is from Wisconsin, was able to come up with a donation. LeFevre also attended the game as Reidy's "Wisconsin ambassador."
“Every once in a while I'll see a post on Facebook from the veteran, 'It's the anniversary of my first trip to Lambeau, thanks Jamie and Chef Dave,'” Reidy said.
Events like those kept Reidy going through more than 20 states, crisscrossing the country. But, on the 111th day of the journey, on Christmas Eve in Hoboken, New Jersey, he knew it was over. As he headed to his parents' home, the impossibility of finding an event that night hit him hard.
“My initial plan was to be in Hawaii because I wanted to see a surf contest, go to the Hula Bowl and take red-eye flight back to California after the game to LA or San Francisco to see the Lakers or the Warriors. But with my budget, no way was I going to fly to Hawaii.”
Reidy's father suggested contacting Jewish leagues or organizations that might have activities planned on Christmas Eve. There was little feedback, so he went back to the trusty Montvale Lanes bowling alley. But there were no leagues on Christmas Eve.
Dejected, he saw a van pull up. An older man lowered a ramp and helped two teenage boys in wheelchairs. Reidy then learned about the Leo brothers who suffered from a rare degenerative disease. After talking to them, he noticed the dad had a separate bowling ramp for each boy.
“I idiotically asked, 'Why two ramps?' (The dad) said, 'Would you share your brother's baseball glove?'"
Reidy realized he wasn't thinking about the boys as brothers or athletes or competitors, but was defining them through the lens of their handicap. The older son, according to his dad, was upset because he couldn't try out for the baseball team, even though he could barely lift his right arm.
His sports streak was interrupted that night, but Reidy learned a great deal.
"(Those boys) epitomize sports because they want to do their own thing ... It was the best lesson I could have learned. They just want to be normal kids,” Reidy said.
Reidy still wasn't quit ready to call it quits. He had two NBA games on Christmas, other scheduled games months ahead, and through a stroke of luck, a free ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII, Denver Broncos versus Seattle Seahawks.
By this time Reidy had revised his goal, from 365 events in consecutive days, to 365 events during the year. That meant three events in one day could make up for missing a day or two. But when the Super Bowl rolled around he was going deeper into debt, even borrowing money from his parents, which was a “real low point.” He had received a solid job offer as well.
“I was already into debt when I started and I was going on maxed out credit cards,” Reidy said.
In “Love and Other Drugs,” Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, a traveling pharmaceutical salesman, who meets a Parkinson's patient, played by Anne Hathaway. The movie is based on Reidy's “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman,” about his career with Pfizer and Eli Lilly and Company, which was published in 2005. The film hit theaters five years later.
Reidy followed that book with “Bachelor 101: Cooking + Cleaning = Closing,” a bachelor's cookbook, and the memoir, “A Walk's As Good As A Hit: Advice/Threats From My Old Man.”
Reidy intended to write a book about his sports journey. Just days into his trip, Reidy realized driving and video editing took up most of his time. He kept a daily Tumblr page and posted videos, but he didn't know if he had enough content for a book.
“When I finished, I felt very much like: I’m a loser,” he said. “I only made it five months, nobody wants to read about this, so I shelved it.”
Then about a year ago when one of his friends, a Kickstarter donor, inquired about getting the signed copy of the book that was promised, Reidy realized he owed those donors.
“He said it once but it knifed through me,” Reidy said.
But Reidy soon realized he had too much for a book and spent some time editing.
“I met a lot of interesting people a lot of wacky people, heartbreaking moments … but by failing I think I learned more than if I made it the whole way,” he said.
Another benefit of his journey? He was at dinner at MB Post, staying in Manhattan Beach to save money for the trip when he received a late text about a party. There he reconnected with an acquaintance, Amy Lloyd, and now they are in a relationship.
“I was just staying in my apartment when I got this late invite ... we rekindled things because of that,” Reidy said.
For more information about “Need One!,” visit http://amzn.to/2ntZaOW.