Thursday, December 14, 2006
Blogger Interviews: Matt Ufford's With Leather
We're starting a new segment here at The Big Picture where we'll interview some of the biggest names in the sports blogosphere. What's the point? Well, these guys spend countless, thankless hours writing, so a little recognition from time to time is well warranted. Think of this as the blogger's version of a reach-around or something.
Up today is Matt Ufford from, well, where the hell isn't he from? Matt blogs over at the wonderful Kissing Suzy Kolber (under the alias Captain Caveman), talks Seahawks football over at the NFL FanHouse and is the editor of With Leather, a full-time gig. Please welcome Matt with open arms and go support KSK in its quest to win the award for Best Sports Blog.
1. The rundown:
Name: Matt Ufford
Location: Park Slope, Brooklyn
Occupation: Blogger, though sometimes I say "writer" to feel better about myself.
Favorite teams: Seahawks and Mariners.
Links to your favorite all-time posts you've written. (3-5)
-Trash Talking 301: Taking It Up a Notch
- The Manning Bowl: A Look Back on the Greatest Event in NFL History
- The NFL Is Looking for a Few Good Organ Donors
-The Tom Brady Tribute Video (I'm proud of this one -- With Leather was the first site to post it)
Time per day spent blogging and perusing the blogosphere: Anywhere from nine to 15 hours, depending on how much is going on and how much coffee I've had.
2. You're a professional blogger. Meaning they're paying you. Like real money. How awesome is this job?
There's no getting around it: I'm a lucky son of a bitch. Like any job, there are things I can complain about -- like, I actually miss the social nature of an office, interacting with people without the aid of a computer -- but that would be pretty shortsighted and ungrateful. I get paid to surf the Internet, check my email, and call rich people assholes. All without having to put pants on. It's a charmed life.
3. How'd you hook up With Leather as a paying gig? Did they approach you? You approach them? Or did you sorta meet in the middle?
It was a combination of dumb luck and me seizing an opportunity. I sent Ryan Perry, who runs the link-dump site GorillaMask and owns Fat Penguin Media, an email last August when he made a passing mention that he was a Seahawks fan. Basically, I said, "Nice to see another 'Hawks fans on the Web, here are a couple links from Kissing Suzy Kolber that I think you might like." He wrote back (I'm paraphrasing), "I know your work from Deadspin, and it's funny that you wrote, because I'm thinking about starting a sports blog, and I'm looking for writers; there might even be a possibility of full-time work."
I think the sports blog was something that was sort of on the backburner for him, something on the horizon, and he was just starting to put out feelers, but I emailed him explaining my vision for the site, the voice that I would use in order to appeal to Fat Penguin's target demographic, how it would compliment the network's other sites, and why I should be the editor. I probably came off as totally insane, but I got the job anyway.
4. Take us through a typical day of blogging for you.
It varies. Lately I've been too restless to sleep past 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., so I've been using that to get a jump start on the day. The first thing I do is go through my email for tips and read all the new posts from blogs I subscribe to via RSS. This helps me organize my thoughts as I try to figure out what stories I'll address throughout the day, which posts I need to do first, et cetera. Then coffee and a light breakfast. My first post usually goes up around 9:30, give or take a little bit, and I post about every 45 minutes to an hour (sometimes a little longer) until I'm done with the days' posts.
Once I'm done with my WL posts, I go to the gym, eat, then come back home and take care of the rest of my writing -- I usually write between two and four posts a week for KSK, about three a week for the Seahawks FanHouse, and I dump little bits of ephemera that amuse me on my personal blog, Karmic Payback. (Or sometimes I say "Screw it" and go out with friends. That's a lot more pleasant.) I try to go to bed by 2:00 so I can (in theory) get six hours of sleep.
5. How'd you get involved in the blogosphere? It seems that you and other avid Deadspin commenters started Kissing Suzy Kolber and from there things took off, but how'd you first start getting involved at Deadspin?
I found Deadspin because I used to read Gawker. I'm not sure I was even really aware sports blogs existed until I found Deadspin. It was great; it changed the way I wasted time at work.
Not long after that, I started writing for 12 Seahawks Street (Captain Caveman's still on the roster there, but I haven't written anything for them since I joined the FanHouse). From there came the Deadspin comments section, where Big Daddy Drew and I became virtually acquainted. He thought that the NFL, for all its popularity, didn't have a worthy representative in the blogosphere, so he recommended we start a blog that was strictly devoted to making fun of the NFL, because the league takes itself so seriously. We recruited Unsilent Majority, Monday Morning Punter, and Footsteps Falco to start the site, then Christmas Ape and flubby joined us after Falco disappeared and we started getting stretched too thin.
6. Dream job? Go.
Does Scarlett Johansson need a breast polisher?
Seriously, I've got my dream job. Although if it were a better dream I'd be making a lot more money and have a book deal.
7. There are all sorts of wonderful blogs out there. A few of your favorites?
Oy, there are so many. I'm really happy and proud to be a part of KSK; now that I work from home, the email threads I have with those guys substitute for hanging out at the water cooler in a real office. Every time somebody writes "New post is up" I go there immediately.
For general sports: Deadspin and The Big Lead deserve special mention. For the NBA, I'm astounded by the depth and volume and quality that TrueHoop produces. In MLB, it's all about The Dugout, which I think is actually the single-best sports blog in terms of originality, creativity, and humor -- I can't say enough about how much I like it. And Every Day Should Be Saturday makes me want to be more of a college football fan.
I subscribe to a lot more than just these, and I refer you to With Leather's blog roll for the rest of my favorites, because I already feel like an ass for not mentioning The Mighty MJD and The Basketball Jones and We Are the Postmen.
Oh, and The Big Picture, of course.
8. Quickly explain your ties to the Northwest and being a Seahawks fan. With that, the NFC is weaker than Barbaro's legs. Who's your pick to rep the NFC in the Super Bowl?
I was born just outside of Tacoma, and my parents live in western Washington again after a two-decade detour around the country (my dad was in the Air Force). I've never really had a home with roots, so I've always considered the Northwest my default home. Plus my dad was born in Oregon and raised there and in Washington, so I inherited his teams.
I don't dare make serious predictions: I'm always, always wrong. As good as the Bears are, I don't see Grossman raising his game to a playoff level. The Saints have a very good QB, they look really solid and generally play hungry, but they seem too recently cobbled together. The Seahawks could conceivably get everything together and get the #2 seed, but even now as they get healthy they've been barely pulling out games. I guess that leaves Dallas: a very tough D, and I've heard Romo is the second coming of Christ. I guess I'll pick them if my jinxing powers are in effect.
9. Your sites, from the get-go, seemed to get tons of traffic and comments. A piece of advice to some smaller sites how to get prolific readership?
Well, it helps when a more heavily-trafficked site likes the work you do. For a couple months, we'd have (relatively) slow traffic days on KSK unless we got a link from Deadspin. And now that I write With Leather, I get help from GorillaMask, which links to my posts a couple times a week.
But writing a blog shouldn't be about getting linked to by a bigger site or feeling good because you got X number of page views or 10 or thirty or a hundred comments on a post. It should be about putting forth your best work with every post and consistently creating original, passionate content that people can't get anywhere else. That, I believe, is what will keep people coming back once they find a site.
10. What's the ultimate goal of running your sites?
I'm not entirely sure. I really enjoy blogging, and I take a lot of pride in the work that I do, but I don't want my blogs to be the end-all be-all of what I write. I moved to New York a little over two years ago with vague aspirations of being a writer. More specifically, my memoir about my experience in Kuwait and Iraq is sitting half-done, waiting for me to finish checking my email so I'll finally finish it. So I guess that's a specific goal: to write something that gets printed on real paper.
11. With Leather gets all sorts of strange, funny stories from the world of sports. Where the hell do you find these stories to fuel 8+ posts per day?
The very best things I get are from readers who send me tips; I get really incredible links from people who search out the oddest little nuggets on the Net. And I've learned to let myself wander around YouTube, where I've found some pretty good stuff. And of course BenMaller.com -- it's the go-to place for sports rumors.
12. KSK was recently nominated for Best Sports Blog and may even win the damn thing. Cool feat or just some BS award?
Oh, both. Definitely both. It's funny because we're absolutely NOT the best sports blog. Friends of mine who aren't fans of the NFL but have gone to the site to see what I'm doing have no idea what the hell we're talking about. We post photos of cheerleaders and make up new words for parts of the human anatomy. Big Daddy Drew wrote an entire post about defecating into a Tupperware container and giving it as Christmas present to a kid he didn't like.
Which is precisely why I'd love for us to win. I think we'd have a lot of fun with it. We're probably the only blog that would inappropriately bathe in the extra attention and heap imagined glory upon ourselves. Sites like Deadspin and Baseball Musings offer readers worthwhile insight and information. We'll stick with the gay innuendo, thank you very much.
13. We'll get you outta here on this: who'd you rather do? Suzy Kolber or Bonnie Bernstein?
What, Siragusa's not an option?
I have to say Suzy, not because she's thick in the britches or because she's cuter, but because I'd feel like a traitor if I chose Bonnie. But who knows? Maybe a new generation of roughnecks can start a competing blog called Banging Bonnie Bernstein, and they'll feel differently.
(Past interviews: Dawizofodds).