Being a sports fan isn’t always living in the moment.
Sometimes something is so spectacular, or so agonizing, that you have to find some sort of memento to stand the test of time.
And on occasion, over time, you can come across that keepsake and smile – or have figurative indigestion. I mean, Julius Erving’s “rock the baby” slam dunk is still mesmerizing 40 years later, while Joe Carter’s home run is just as aggravating.
Rob Knox, a 49-year-old Chester native, husband and father currently based in Maryland, has spent most of his life storytelling and scrapbooking moments from Philly sports. It’s a skill that also serves as a hobby and has taken him all over the communications industry – from sportswriter at the Delco Times, stats manager at ESPN, and athletic communications at various universities to senior director of Strategic Communications for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to being the second Black president of the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Knox loves preserving history and finds it both an honor and blessing to tell someone’s story. He considers it a big responsibility.
“To know that that’s going to be what they will be reading and looking at 10, 15, 20 years from now, is really something special,” Knox said.
John Gump, whose time coaching volleyball at Kutztown University overlapped with Knox when he was the school’s sports information director, spoke to Knox’s storytelling skills, saying he has the ability to make you feel like you’re somewhere you weren’t.
The two still keep in touch and Gump says even when he texts Knox about things like Philadelphia sports, it feels like a form of storytelling in itself based on the detail he provides. He also, according to Gump, is a fan who takes things to heart.
“I was texting with him and said, ‘If the Phillies went 154 to 8, you’d be mad about at least six of those losses,’” Gump said.
“He is like the quintessential Philadelphia fan. He rides that roller coaster, but he also enjoys every minute of the ride.”
What sparked it all
Knox has been a Philadelphia sports fan for four decades — sparked by success in the early 1980s. As for many fans around his age, the 1982-83 Sixers NBA Championship with Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones, was one of the first memories of his fandom. Further enhancing Knox’s love for sports was a state title for Chester High School boys basketball at the same time.
Knox has been saving newspaper clippings and programs since high school. He puts the clippings in scrapbooks to preserve them.
“My wife [Trudell] she’s funny,” Knox said. “She was like, ‘Oh gosh, you’re going to your scrapbooks again … I’ll see you in two hours.’”
Knox has two tubs of scrapbooks.
“I’m a big nostalgia person,” he says. “I’m a big person that loves to go down memory lane.”
To Knox, it’s preserving history and a moment.
“He wants to be able to experience even when it’s not actually happening,” said Gump, who said Google is his friend when texting with Knox due to his vast knowledge of Philadelphia sports history.
This past Eagles season, one that fell one win short of a championship, was a little tougher to scrapbook because he doesn’t live in the Philadelphia area to consistently buy newspapers. But, he did purchase books on the Birds.
Knox believes the scrapbooking hobby of his storytelling skill is not only fun but a blessing. He feels like the career aspect of his storytelling has been like a dream.
And at this point in his versatile career, Knox is doing life changing work for many people through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund – something that is very important to this HBCU graduate and Lincoln University Hall of Famer.
Over the past year, Knox’s work won him the College Sports Communicators Mary Jo Haverbeck Trailblazer Award and the NCAA Champions of Diversity Award.
“[The Thurgood Marshall College Fund] is the perfect place for him,” said Gump. “It allows him to use the talents that he possesses, which are huge, but also to use them in a way that is meaningful not just to the things that are really important to him, but also really touch the lives of lots and lots of people. And I think he’s in a place now where he can create a legacy, which I think he has already started to do.”
While Knox paves the way for that legacy, he has more Philadelphia sports to add to his scrapbook – someway, somehow.