Friday, May 25, 2007
Blogger Interviews: The Dugout
We're running a 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.
Joining us today is our boy B from the hilarious -- and "official" -- MLB Chatroom, The Dugout. B answered the questions in part for himself and also for the other guys at the site. His words are sure to make you laugh. Play nice, motherfuckers. If not? Well, let's just say these guys are good with creating nicknames.
1. The rundown:
Name: B (Brandon Stroud)
Location: Cleveland, OH
Occupation: Highbrow professional author; foodserver
Favorite team: Baltimore Orioles
Links to your favorite all-time posts you've written. (3-5)
Picking favorites by Jon and Nick is tough, because writing alongside them is the absolute best thing about doing the site.
-One from Jon: Corey Lidle's New Home
-One from Nick: That's Assault, Brotha
-A lot of the fan favorites are the character pieces, and nothing beats an appearance by PECOTA.
Because "I Took Pills" is a Boring Resolution
I'm happiest whenever I get to go completely off-topic and make fun of WGN or TBS rain delay programming.
Time per day spent blogging and perusing the blogosphere: I've been using the Internet to look up professional wrestling news and naked pictures of celebrities for about ten years. In 1997 it was Yokozuna joining the Hart Foundation and Jenny McCarthy sitting on Santa's lap. In 2007 it's how many stars American Dragon's match got and Anne Hathaway as a nude, troubled teen. I didn't know what a "blog" was until last week. I've been calling them "Xangas."
2. The Dugout isn't your traditional blog. (Hell, maybe "blog" isn't even the right classification). Either way, why the different look and format? Is it to stick out? Is it that, like you say, you'd "rather suck and be different, than be mediocre and just like everyone else"?
I don't think we've ever considered ourself a blog. It took me a while to even classify us as a webcomic. In the simplest terms, what I do with the Dugout is try to make my friends laugh. If Jon or Nick read a strip I've done and tell me it was funny, my job is done. If my girlfriend reads it and laughs, I feel great. Recently we've gotten a lot of coverage and people sending us e-mails about how we've changed their perspective on baseball, especially on individual players, and that they get their baseball news from us. That's so flattering. And weird, because we're more likely to report on someone getting pissed and vomiting in the street than we are to compare someone's OPS to someone else's VORP. We're easy access to the bottom line of inconsequential baseball stories. We're like those sticker books full of badly peeled Jose Canseco rectangles for the digital age.
3. Tell us about how The Dugout started. Why baseball? How'd you guys all hook up? You guys like hang out and stuff now, or is the geographical separation kinda fuck that up?
The Dugout started through a Progressive Boink article about the Cubs in the playoffs in 2003. Jon was screencapping the game, and capped a picture of then-Cubbies relief superstar Kyle Farnsworth messing around with the rosin bag, staring down at this hand. It looked enough like Kyle was checking his cell phone, so Jon turned it into an instant message conversation. It was a funny segment, and appeared again a few months later in an article about Alex Rodriguez becoming a Yankee. In that piece the chatroom was simply christened "The Dugout," because what else would baseball players call their official chatroom? That rationale ends pretty quickly, though, when you realize that every professional player in the sport has given themselves an esoteric, Bermanesque pun for a screenname. If we were being more realistic everyone would be ProPlayer2425 and Farnsworth's handle would be something about Godsmack.
Jon lives in Louisville, Kentucky, Nick goes to Virginia Tech by way of Boston, and I'm a Virginia native living just outside of Cleveland. How we ended up finding the exact same execution of a female cop having the hell choked out of her is beyond my realm of understanding. We've hung out several times, including a year or so when Jon was my roommate and making me laugh every single day, but I don't get to see them nearly enough. That's a shame.
4. What's the deal with Progressive Boink? Is The Dugout part of that? A spinoff?
I've written for popular-culture websites for years, making jokes about how Sailor Moon is more like Gay-lor Moon, and building a small, loyal, sexy fan base. Eventually that grew to include the Internet's "Boiskov" and "RageGuitar99," who became Jon Bois and Nick Dallamora. We decided to write together and push the boundaries of what "what do you think of my opinions you guys" can be, be it a more honed, unique viewpoint on something everyone
remembers, a ground-up creative overhaul (like recreating the livejournal of a man who survives the apocalypse only to be stuck in a closed room with nothing but a TV and a copy of You Got Served), or whatever. It's been so creatively rewarding and we've gotten some national coverage from the stuff we've done there, but it is a LOT of work. Like, a lot. Like sitting in front of your computer going OH GOD BE FUNNY for a half a day.
When we realized how funny the Dugout comic was and made it a weekly, then daily feature, we also realized how much less work it was, and how many more readers we could get by not writing 300 intense, layered paragraphs. There's nothing we three love more equally than baseball. It became less about what we wanted to do, and more about what we could do best for everybody else.
5. Somewhat related, what's up with the National Lampoon Humor Network? How's The Dugout fit in?
They offer slightly more capital than Google Ads, only they never send you the money.
National Lampoon approached P-Boi about joining their online collection of humor sites and we accepted, because we are all poor, and because it's pretty cool to tell people you meet that you "work for National Lampoon." It's better than "I have a website wherein the baseball stars curse at each other." The Dugout is a subsection of Boink (hence the URL), so the "click Paris Hilton's wonky eyeball, win an iPod" adverts for National Lampoon's PLEDGE THIS! also appear there.
6. What goes into putting together a post? (Post?) Do you need a decent story -- like Clemens/Farnsworth, for example -- to get the ball rolling? Or can you turn anything baseball-related into a good chat?
The trick to writing a good Dugout is to just start writing it, and don't stop. If you stop and look at what you're doing, you'll see that you're making Luis Matos and Melvin Mora flee in terror from a zombified Carl Pavano, and you'll stop, because Jesus Christ. But if you keep going and put it up before you start second-guessing yourself, somebody likes it, and you are vindicated. For me, the Dugout is organic. 90% of what I do, at least, is off the top of my head. 80% of that 90% is me going to the MLB section of ESPN.com's little news section and looking for something interesting that doesn't have anything to do with the Yankees or Red Sox, because at any given time we have just used the Yankees or the Red Sox.
The hardest chats to write are the ones about the most obvious subjects. When Barry Bonds dresses in drag as Paula Abdul, how are you supposed to make that YOUR funny? It's Barry Bonds in a dress. You can't do a lot to make that funnier than it is. When Dontrelle Willis starts pissing in the street, how do you approach that? It's tough, man. Some days I click
hoping there's a story about how David Wells wants a bunch of money, or a story about how Sidney Ponson killed and devoured a toddler. Makes my day.
7. There are all sorts of wonderful blogs/websites out there. A few you'd recommend?
I will use this spot as a Method Man quality shout-out to the friends we met and made speaking at the Varsity Letters event in New York City:
Gelf Magazine; Dan Shanoff; With Leather; Faith and Fear in Flushing; Deadspin.
8. Most rewarding parts of running a website? Most frustrating?
The most rewarding thing about the Dugout is that we never seem to get hatemail. I'm still getting hatemail for something I wrote about Mariah Carey seven years ago. Everyone seems to like it, and when someone like Dan Shanoff or Matt Ufford comes up to us and tells us how much they love us, that is fucking incredible. The constant reassurance, that's the best part.
The most frustrating thing is that moment or day when you're sitting at the computer, trying to wing something about how the Yankees are more than likely a gaggle of homosexuals, and it just does not compute. Writers block is the most frustrating thing about anything we do. If it wasn't for airplane turbulence and the band "Crazy Town," it'd be the worst thing about life.
9. What's the ultimate goal of your site/your writing?
To make people laugh. That's it. I want to say something dramatic and profound about art, but fuck, if I can make you laugh, it makes me feel okay.
10. Dream job? Go.
"Rich person." Indiscriminate rich person. I am dying to figure out a way to have that job. I've been poor forever. Someone be my mysterious benefactor!
(Also, I say "rich person" because my real dream job is "The Flash.")
11. How'd you guys initially get readership? Word of mouth? Message boards? And how about a piece of advice to smaller sites on how to get good traffic.
I have no idea. I'm shocked by the amount of people who know who we are. We've been helped out a lot by places like Deadspin, where Will let Nick write after the Virginia Tech thing, and the Something Awful Sports Argument Stadium, who got together and sponsored Jim Thome's page last year in our honor. Those guys are great. I don't know, we just make each other laugh.
That's the best advice I can give to anyone. Make your friends laugh. Don't "try to be a writer." Don't try to make jokes if there isn't a joke. Don't force it. Just make your friends laugh, and you'll make everyone else who cares laugh too. There's a basic joy in fraternity that people can pick up on, and they can tell if you're fake. Don't ever be fake. Just be honest, and make sure Jon IMs you the next day to tell you how he had to stop reading because he was laughing so hard.
12. Let's finish with some baseball. Some of your favorite story lines a fifth of the way into the season? What teams will keep up the good start and play into the Fall. Any teams sub .500 right now that'll make a run sometime soon?
I am increasingly depressed by how many times we've had to use the Lady Cop in Dugouts this season. We use this African-American lady police officer picture as our go-to "cop" in the Dugout, and she's made a few appearances in the past to deal with Dmitri Young, but it seems like we're using her every day now. Jake Peavy, Dontrelle in the street, Alberto Callaspo, Orlando Cepeda, and now Elijah Dukes. If we were doing a football or basketball comic she'd be in the goddamned thing every day, but baseball is supposed to be slow and boring and apt for contemplation, not full of crazy drug murderers. Where have you gone, Mickey Tettleton, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.
As far as who makes a run and who plays into the Fall, I have two allegiances: One, to the Baltimore Orioles, because I was three when they last won a World Series and Cal Ripken Jr. was awesome on his logoless macaroni and cheese box baseball card. They're mired in that pack of almost-second-placers with the Yankees and Blue Jays and...uh, the Devil Rays, but I love them like a fat kid loves golden cake and will support them blindly in the name of Jim Palmer and Larry Sheets until the end times. The second allegiance is to the Indians, because I live 15 minutes from the Jake.
(Past interviews; also found on right sidebar: Dawizofodds; Matt Ufford; The Mighty MJD; Jamie Mottram; The Big Lead; The Cavalier; Will Leitch; Dan Shanoff; Dan Steinberg; Brooks; Unsilent Majority; J.E. Skeets; Henry Abbott).