• Max Saito

A Tribute To Chris Wesseling: An Inspirational Voice Passes Away

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

In heartbreaking news, it was announced yesterday that Chris Wesseling, long-time NFL journalist and podcast host, passed away at the age of 46 on February 5th, 2021.

NFL.com writer and podcast host Chris Wesseling died on 5th February 2021 after a long battle with cancer. We pay tribute to the journalist today as he was an inspiration to many who love the NFL and writing about the sport.

By Max Saito

If you’re reading this article, then there’s a good chance that you are a UK-based NFL fan. And if you’re a UK-based NFL fan then there’s a very good chance that you are, at the very least, tangentially aware of the Around The NFL Podcast.

I know I speak for myself and many of us here at Gridiron Xtra when I say that the ATN podcast has been a foundational piece of my NFL fandom and the way I enjoy the sport. I watched my first Super Bowl in 2013, started rooting for the Packers in 2014, and started listening to the ATN podcast in 2015.

It has been a source of insight, comedy, and even companionship for me ever since; particularly since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, I have found myself listening to every episode religiously and delving deep into the back catalogue on an almost daily basis. If you were to ask the average NFL podcast host who they were inspired by, almost all of them would tell you that the ATN podcast’s mix of brevity, camaraderie, and knowledge.

Wess, one of the four cornerstones of the podcast, was a particular source of inspiration. He spoke about the game in a manner that gave it a real weight, that made it feel far more deep and meaningful than it ever had any right to be, and without which I would never have begun to write about the sport that holds so many of us captive.

Wess’ knowledge of the game’s history was evident and nigh on unrivalled, and he was as skilled a writer as he was natural and relatable as a podcast host. It is hard to imagine that the ATN podcast would have reached its current level of popularity without his encyclopaedic wisdom, quick wit, and fiery resolution.

It’s ever harder to find the words to describe a person with Wess’ innate talent, but he would have been able to. Perhaps the closest I can come is to say that he was eternally your favourite sportswriter’s favourite sportswriter, which is a phrase I’m sure he would have hated.

Above all else though, Wess seemed like one of the most grounded, compassionate, kind, and generous people you could ever hope to meet. His loss has left thousands of people from all corners of the globe grappling with the thought of bereaving him as they would a close friend, despite never having met him in real life.

In a world where people online gain tremendous fame through a persona that they put on in front of the camera or microphone, Wess always felt genuine, with a heart of gold. In a time of great personal loss to many people on an almost unimaginable scale, it speaks absolute magnitudes to see the outpouring of grief and love for a man who many have never even met. Dan Hanzus put it best: “There was no bullshit with Chris Wesseling, and he set an example for all of us”.

Wess was and will always be, irreplaceable, and at least for a while, trying to enjoy the sport will always come up with a bite of sorrow. But I think we can all take something away from the way that Wess was: educating ourselves, reading books, being kind to others, and being unapologetically passionate about the things that mean the most to us.

Having lost my best friend of 18 years last June, my heart breaks for Dan, Marc, Gregg, and so many others, as I know that COVID-19 can leave us forever feeling that we never had the chance to grieve properly, but I hope that they know how many of us share their pain and love for Wess.

Our love and thoughts go out to his wife, Lakisha Jackson-Wesseling, and his baby son, Lincoln Wesseling, who will always have a global community to support them and to tell their own personal stories of how Wess impacted them and changed their lives.

You can give to Lakisha at https://www.gofundme.com/f/For-lakisha-and-lincoln?utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link-tip. Over $25,000 dollars have been raised overnight.


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