Thursday, November 01, 2007

Blogger Interviews: JoeSportsFan

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.

We got a goody today. Joining us is Matt Sebek, one of the great minds behind the wildly-hilarious JoeSportsFan. Sebek spoke on behalf of his colleagues and represented the site nicely. JSF has many great features, namely the JSF MediaSpace pages, JSF Radio and the Worthless Card Collection. You can learn more about JSF here. Through this, and other columns, they successfully "Celebrate the Absurdity of Professional Sports." Feel free to poke fun in the comments...

1. The rundown:

Name: Matt Sebek (conducting the interview because -- quite frankly -- I'm the most intelligent and best looking of the crew), Josh Bacott, and Pat Imig with contributions from Jason Major and Alex Fritz.
Age: Collective average of 25.433
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Occupation: Web Developer, Professional Blogger (I prefer the standard "writer" or "journalist"...but Imig is pushing me to use "professional blogger" whenever possible in hopes that it enters mainstream lingo sooner than expected so it can get him laid).
Favorite team: Cardinals, Blues, Rams, MU Tigers...blah, blah, blah. Big shout out to the Meredith Gorillas too -- the self-proclaimed best rec-league softball team this side of the Mississippi. We flat out rake.
Links to your favorite all-time posts you've written. (3-5)

My favorite all-time JSF column is Josh's "Softball Guy" piece. We owe a lot of our early success to that column and it still makes me laugh every time I read it.

I know Pat's favorite stuff is the "SC" radio skits. It’s always a good time to picture SportsCenter and ESPN in a "high prime-time drama" setting because they sometimes take themselves too seriously. Okay, lots of times.

We also have to pimp the JoeSportsFan Worthless Card Collection -- which is probably our collective favorite content on the site. It was Josh's creation, but we all share in the fun these days. It's a surreal experience to walk into a baseball card shop and ask for the "shittiest card you got."

From my collection of "Fans of the Week," my favorite is the historical encountering of two of the greatest tattoos to grace our fair city.

Time per day spent blogging and perusing the blogosphere:

3-4 hours a day, with the exception of Imig -- who hasn't sold out to the whole "get a real job to make money" sort of thing.

2. JoeSportsFan 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? And, if not a blog, why the association with the blogs?

When we started the site in 2003, the idea of a "blog" was still in early development, so there really wasn’t a standard format to use. We aren’t the typical blog in format, but in terms of point of view and the style of our content, we’re on the same page -- meaning that we try not to take ourselves too seriously and we make fun of Chris Berman a lot.

We have made attempts to produce more content per week, and we maintain an open website format to allow ourselves to promote other sections of our site -- like the MediaSpace pages, JSF Radio, and the Worthless Card Collection. For the most part, we don’t view it as a "blog" or "not a blog" because, as silly as it sounds, we really strive to carry out the site motto -- "Celebrating the Absurdity of Professional Sports." We all share the belief that the writing will remain enjoyable when that’s the theme and direction of our content. If we’re not having fun, you can pretty much bet the readers aren’t either. And as we all know, having fun is one step closer to being like Brett Favre. All that sure means a whole helluva lot these days.

3. JSF MediaSpace and JSF Radio give us about as big a laugh as anything on the Internet. How'd you guys come up with those? How do you actually design the MediaSpace pages so they look, well, like a MySpace page? And how is the JSF Radio recorded? Who does it? The Coach K one is precious.

True story: the MediaSpace pages came about when I was on a flight home from Florida, and I was messing around on my laptop -- changing my desktop wallpaper and other mindless crap. I set my background to a picture of Albert Pujols -- because that's what heterosexual men do these days, and envisioned that somehow, somewhere, Sean Salisbury was doing the same thing -- only with Brett Favre, and with no clothes on. The MediaSpace pages evolved from there.

The pages themselves are one of my favorite pieces of the site. As I said, I'm a web developer by trade, so I built us kids a nice little system that allow us to go in and create MediaSpace profile, assign "friends," leave comments, etc. Basically, a mimic of the real MySpace behind the scenes -- which makes the creation of the content the simplest thing.

As far as producing the content within the MediaSpace pages, they're usually hashed out among the three of us via email, and we usually fight over who gets to post Tony Romo asking every single respective MediaSpace member if they want to be friends.

The radio bits are pretty much all done by Pat Imig, who has more time on his hands than my retired Grandma. He uses Cool Edit Pro to edit everything and uses a basic microphone to record. And oddly enough, the Coach K Phone Call was never planned, it just happened spontaneously. Listening to his press conference on the ACC web site the day after Tyler Hansbrough was bloodied by Gerald Henderson was the inspiration. The guy acts so annoyed and disinterested with everyone.

Truth be told, Imig is our site's heel for internal banter, but the guy is absolutely freaking talented with recording and editing. If he actually had a resume, he could list me as a reference and I'd say the exact same thing.

4. Why start the site? Why not just create a regular blog like the rest of males, 18-35?

We started in 2003 with absolutely no expectations, just as an outlet to write about sports from our own point of view. The way the site is set up now gives us some freedom to do pretty much anything we want -- long-form columns, short blog-style posts, alternative stuff like JSF Radio, MediaSpace and the Card Collection, or just to post a picture of a guy that has Busch Stadium tattooed on his back fat.

It’s also important to mention we feel fortunate to have the working relationship we do with one another. We're all close now, but none of us knew each other prior to working together, so it’s cool to be able to work with people who are all trying to build something bigger. Added bonus: it’s fun to introduce each other as "some guy I met on the Internet" in public settings.

5. Dream job? Go.

Making a living from JoeSportsFan in a variety of different mediums -- online content, radio, and television. If you can’t convince yourself that any of that stuff is possible, it’s really hard to succeed (at least, that’s what John Madden once least we think that's what he meant). You might as well fool yourself into believing it can happen.

6. There are all sorts of wonderful blogs out there. A few you'd recommend?

If I was forced to name five of the big sites that we all check frequently, I would say Deadspin, The Big Lead, With Leather, SportsbyBrooks, and Mr. Irrelevant. I know it sounds really cliché to list all of those in our "top five," but there's a reason why every single one of those sites are successful. As popular as Deadspin has become over the past two years, the one thing that is often forgotten is Will's writing skills. There's a reason he is where he is today. Matt Ufford from With Leather is someone that I really respect from a comedic perspective. The guy's joke transitions are seamless, even when they start with things like Lance Bass and end with Rex Grossman.

We also enjoy the Sports Nation blogs for our hometown teams (Turfshow Times, Viva El Birdos), as well as Fire Joe Morgan and BallHype. The Sports Hernia is also solid and we’ve long been fans of the Sports Pickle -- he has a new book out, by the way. We also have to give mad Stu-Scott-hugs and hand-pounds to The Sports Frog for being the first real sports blog out there.

7. Most rewarding part of the site? Most frustrating?

Most rewarding is when you hear other people say that JSF is on their list of sites they go to daily.

With so many sites out there that offer quality stuff, having our name amongst them is very satisfying. The most frustrating part of the job is when you write until 1:00 a.m. on a work night and then realize that it's not your full time job. But then when you find out someone read it on the crapper, it’s all worth it again. The crapper is prestigious real estate, and to have a piece of JSF with them...well, it's just brings a tear to my eye.

8. What's the ultimate goal of the site?

The ultimate goal is to take JSF to the point where we’re doing this full time. And we’re talking about all sorts of stuff -- writing, radio bits, TV, anything and everything that we can make funny/entertaining. Who knows if it’s realistic, but if its not, it’s going to take a hell of a long time before we admit that to ourselves.

One of things I enjoy the most about JSF is that we don't really have a defined format, and being a web developer allows us to get creative with the powers of online media. We spend a lot of time pumping out daily content that we're proud of, but we're just as proud of the aspects of JSF that are unique -- MediaSpace, JSF Radio, and The Worthless Card Collection. We hope to incorporate these unique aspects of our work wherever we go.

9. We imagine JSF gets a great readership now. If not, it fucking should. The content speaks for itself, but it needs to get out there somehow -- especially at first. How'd the initial promotion of the site go? Message boards? Email strings? And a piece of advice, if you will, for some smaller sites how to build a steady, interactive readership?

Initially there was no promotion. The "blogosphere" wasn’t really in existence like it is now so we basically relied on word of mouth, e-mail blasts, etc. Links on some of the larger link-sharing sites are important this day in age as they can send thousands of readers. RSS feeds are fabulous and allow for immediate promotion of the site. We recently developed our RSS feed, and it's done wonders for our site.

My advice would be to consistently pump out quality material. You’ll get a better feel for what you’re good at and what your audience wants, plus no one wants to go to your blog and see week old posts on there. That’s a key thing: you can get all the links and publicity you want, but if the content isn’t solid, readers won’t come back.

Specifically, for The Big Picture, I think something like this interview series is wonderful (down to Question No. 9, and time to suck off the guy giving the interview. If only Peter King was this lucky)...and I think the response you've gotten is legit. The interviews have given people a chance to get to know the intellect behind their daily reads. And, it's given some great exposure to sites that you may not have heard of before.

10. Is JSF a paid gig? If so, um, yeah, you hiring or what?

Right now we pay our writers in Pete Vukovich rookie cards.

11. You're having dinner with four people -- two athletes, one hot chick and a dead president. Name 'em. And, of course, why?

Athlete 1: Brett Favre, to see if he picks up his wife and runs around with her on his shoulders after washing the dishes.

Athlete 2: Stone Cold Steve Austin, with the guarantee that he stuns Suzy Kolber while offering a sideline report during a MNF broadcast.

Chick: Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, I still like to think she's turned on by tight-rolled Guess jeans, blond butt-cuts, and Bayside Tigers' gear.

President: William Howard Taft -- my God, that was one doozy of a mustache. Plus, he's the guy credited with starting the wave, so I'd like to slap him with a 16 ounce strip steak.


GMoney said...

Another excellent job, zach.

Boston Jim said...

Fantastic interview. I've been a reader of JSF for some time now...and it's nice to get to "know" these guys a little better.

Jason said...

JSF is on the list of sites that I go to daily, frequently from the crapper.

twins15 said...

Excellent interview as always!

The Sports Hernia said...

Thanks for the mention Matt, we appreciate it.

And you obviously already know that when we discovered JSF it was like when Millhouse met the other Millhouse and said, "So this is what it's like...when doves cry!"

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