ASHBURN — The Bears picked defense early in last week’s NFL Draft in Las Vegas — and Chicago sports fans picked two brothers from the South Side to cover it.
For eight years, Joe and Scott Lewis have run a Bears podcast called “79th & Halas,” a nod to the founder of the Bears and the street they grew up on. Fans of the podcast paid to send the sports-talking brothers to their first NFL Draft.
A GoFundMe for Joe, 31, and Scott Lewis, 33, raised more than $2,000 — enough for the lifelong Bears fans to cover the team up close.
The brothers said the experience was a milestone for their grassroots platform and a testament to up-and-coming young Black creators in the predominantly white sports media industry.
“It’s not sacred to cover the Bears. It’s not something that’s reserved for a select few,” Joe Lewis said. “Me and Scott aren’t special or different from anyone else. We just got an opportunity.”
Scott Lewis applied for NFL Draft credentials on a whim and was surprised to get approved, putting up a GoFundMe so “we could try to do this and still pay rent,” he said. Donations and messages from longtime listeners and lifelong Bears fans started pouring in, Lewis said.
“It doesn’t get more special than this, that people like our content enough to send us there,” Scott Lewis said. “You’re reporting and doing so much, you forget there’s people who listen to it.”
Scott Lewis said he and his brother grew up “in the middle of Bulls mania,” and their love for sports started with Michael Jordan.
That passion continued with other Chicago teams: They’d head to White Sox games when St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Woodlawn would buy tickets for kids to go. Their dad spoke the world of Walter Payton, and every week he took Joe and Scott to Mr. Ellis’ barbershop in West Englewood, where sports talk was in the air.
“The barbershop was the No. 1 place to have conversation amongst Black men in the neighborhood,” Scott Lewis said. “That’s the origin of us hearing sports conversations, people not pulling any punches.”
In 2014, Scott Lewis moved to Los Angeles to work in entertainment while Joe Lewis stayed in Chicago. The brothers started recording “79th & Halas” in 2015 on “crappy computer mics” as “therapy to talk about the team that put us through so much stress,” Joe Lewis said.
“When Scott went away to L.A. … I cried. We grew up together, same grammar school, high school, we even went to the same college for a period of time,” Joe Lewis said. “The podcast helped us deal with our sadness with the Bears and helped us remain closer.”
Scott Lewis said the podcast’s following “grew organically.” In 2018, the brothers launched their own independent sports media company: the Barber’s Chair Network.
At the draft, the Lewis team stuck to their usual gameplan: Joe Lewis in front of the camera, Scott Lewis working behind it.
Scott Lewis said reporters are brought to “one big lunch room” where they compete to file scoops on picks and meet draftees in interview rooms.
“Everyone is sitting at their table locked-in, trying to get the information out, trying to be one step ahead of the reporting,” Scott Lewis said. “It was cool, and then it was the job.”
Working alongside notable NFL media personalities like Ian Rapoport and Trey Wingo, the Lewis brothers got to ask questions of the Bears’ top picks, including second rounders Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.
“The thing I’ll probably tell everyone is just the pure size of the people who are drafted. Video doesn’t do it justice,” Joe Lewis said. “I saw the nerves on their faces. Reality is hitting and now it’s time to perform. Hopefully that reminds people these are also kids.
“You want them to do well, because they’re just trying to do a job, like me and Scott are trying to do a job.”
Joe Lewis said he was encouraged to see other Black journalists and content creators in the draft room. He is thankful to the fans who brought him there.
“For young Black men and women in the South Side, to covering the draft, the best thing we can do is open doors for each other,” Joe Lewis said. “White people are so used to hiring more white people, they don’t think about us. We’re going to have to open doors for ourselves, and bring up the people behind us.”
Scott Lewis said his favorite draft moment was “seeing players hugging their families, accomplishing their lifelong dreams.” It was surreal, he added, and he feels “thankful to be part of that moment.”
“Everyone in the nation is trying to get to the draft, so this is a huge milestone for us,” Scott Lewis said. “Now it’s like, why can’t we cover the Super Bowl? Why can’t we cover an NBA Playoff game? This is our springboard.”
And they’re ready with the analysis of the Bears’ performance at the draft.
“The Bears were like a C-plus,” Joe Lewis said. “They always got great players on defense, but they are not addressing what a team needs in the modern NFL, and that’s offense.”
Scott Lewis was slightly more pessimistic.
“I give it a C-minus. There’s so many holes on offense. You’re not giving Justin Fields an option to play well in his second year, ” Scott Lewis said. “Granted it’s the draft, so you never know.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: