Like most Red Sox fans, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Curt Schilling pitched his famous bloody sock game against the Yankees in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series (answer: I was in my college dorm room watching on a really crappy TV and was totally delirious). So it was nothing short of bizarre when, a few weeks ago, I found myself talking to Schilling not about that 2004 Sox team’s miracle run, but about the sudden and shocking failure of his video game company, 38 Studios.
We spoke for roughly two hours and the conversation was incredibly wrenching — not only was the state of Rhode Island out the $75 million it had loaned Schilling to lure his business there, but 38 Studios’ abrupt end put its nearly 400 employees in a terrible position. Most staff members worked without pay for over three weeks before finally being laid off in May and many were left in a frightening lurch when their healthcare suddenly disappeared. Schilling was obviously aware that he’d ruined — or at least made vastly more difficult — many people’s lives. He seemed fairly broken himself.
The big question looming over 38 Studios, of course, isn’t just why it failed, but why it failed so dramatically. And why, when it was clear that the company did not have enough money to survive, it did not unwind responsibly by paying back creditors and giving employees plenty of advance notice and even severance.
I talked about all these things with Schilling and — drawing on that conversation, many others with his former staff members, and a remarkable string of private Facebook messages between former 38 Studios employees in the wake of the crash — have the answers in my piece in the August issue of the magazine, End Game. If there was one thing I was surprised to learn, it’s that Curt Schilling led 38 Studios to failure for many of the exact same reasons that he led the 2004 Red Sox to glory.
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