Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blogger Interviews: Hugging Harold Reynolds

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're joined today by Ren McCormack from Hugging Harold Reynolds. HHR Consists of three Editors, co-founders Ren McCormack (General/Philly Sports) & Fat Willard (General/NY Sports), and the chief (Offbeat/Boston Sports); as well as regular contributors: Rev. Shaw Moore (NCAA), Rusty (NASCAR), CR Dunbar (Horseracing/Michigan Sports), Cadillac Mescallade (General/NBA), Ariel (Pop Culture), Cubbie Chaser (Female PoV/Chicago Sports) & Throw the Flag (NCAA FB). HHR is one of the best blog names in the business and attracts readers on name alone. With the solid feature, Iron Ref, HHR is a staple of the sports blog community. Welcome them with open arms...

1. The Rundown:

Name: Ren McCormack

Age: 29
Location: Trenton, NJ
Occupation: Highly Trained Political Operative
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite posts(3-5):

Our First Big "Find":
Any of the cheif's Power Rankings:
HHR's White House Visit:

GMT Fave:

Time spent per day blogging/reading blogs: 3-4 hours

2. HHR is gotta be one of the best blog titles in the sports world. Explain how you came up with that gem.

I came up with the name before the idea of actually creating a blog entered my mind. I really think it just came to me in the shower one day. It's stuck, though. People that may not read the site but who have heard the name, remember it.

For the record, HR got a raw deal, but continues to persevere.

3. Iron Ref is a brilliant idea. Do tell the thought process behind it and how you go about get guests and coming up with topics.

First of all, Iron Ref IS a brilliant idea. But only 25% ours. As we said in the beginning, the idea comes from a site called Iron Clef, which uses a similar format - only related to music. One of our editors has contributed a few times to it, and enjoyed doing it so much he figured we should do something like that. Then instead of doing something like it, we decided to basically do the exact same thing only with sports.

After receiving the blessing and encouragement from Iron Clef, we launched Iron Ref. At first we thought we needed big names every time - which is a tall order for three at a time. Then we realized it would be better to mix it up, older blogs vs. new blogs, high traffic ones vs. smaller ones. It's great. People get to meet people and put out some damn fine content as well. Plus everyone links everyone else and you get one of the few situations where everyone involved wins. Plus the Chief - who organizes it for the most part - doesn't have to do all that much work.

We put out an initial "want ad" to some of our favorite blogs & blogger friends. The response was tremendous. Going on the 9th installment (at 3 writers a pop), we still have people in the queue.

4. HHR began in July, 2007. You just roll out of bed, shout a, "fuck yeah!," and start a sports blog? Or did the creation of the site come about in a more well-thought-out way?

Before starting the site, our "sports blog" exposure was limited to Page 2 and message boards. We had no idea what we were getting into.

Fat Willard, after stints as a personal trainer and thermometer salesman (both true), was able to convince a newspaper group (despite no formal training or experience) that he was "editorial material" and got a job as an actual blogger (also true).

(We had toyed around with a website similar in content probably about a decade ago – long before the term "blogging" was in the popular vernacular. It pretty much centered around fantasy league exploits that no one but league members "got," and it eventually died a quick, painless death).

Anyway, shortly after Willard got the aforementioned job he asked, "Want to do a sports blog?" I responded, "I have the perfect name for it." Like most sports blogs, it started as a place to rant and for our own personal amusement. To our knowledge readership was limited to a circle of about 20 friends (half of whom were contributors).

One morning I got a frantic call from Willard screaming that we had over 100 hits already (big traffic for us at the time). Turns out SportsbyBrooks had picked up a story. Shortly after that, we got a link on Hot Clicks (a story my wife - of all people – had penned). We still have no idea how either of them found us.

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

Once we got going, we learned of the sports blog hierarchy, and realized our place in it. Problem in this "biz" is that with most stories and features that are newsworthy, everyone's doing it; everyone has their take on it – bloggers big and small. We realized two things: 1. If we posted some big news item, our handful of readers probably already saw it at one of the top blogs already; and 2. There are some seriously creative and off-beat sites doing some damn fine work that I actual like as much, if not more.

The Sports Hernia and Tirico Suave are hands-down my two favorites. Dreamboat Baby is one-of-a-kind and in a class by itself.

Of the "big boys," I prefer The Big Lead and Awful Announcing.

In terms of those associated with papers, I like RandBall (Star Tribune) & Jim Baumbach (Final Score at Newsday) – both honest and accessible, and, despite their old-media affiliations, still "keep it real."

As a Philly Sports fan, The 700 Level is a daily stop.

6. Most rewarding parts of blogging? Most frustrating?

Rewarding: the clichéd "escape from reality." One thing our site prides itself on is that, save Willard (and that's debatable), we all have jobs independent from either journalism or sports – thus truly making us feel we are still "common fans." Yet, I think we've held our own.

The frustrating part is when you actually put time and effort into a well-thought out piece and no one bothers to read it. But if you bang out a top-10 list or find a video of a dog pooping on Tito Landrum's lawn, it spreads like wildfire.

7. Dream job? Go.

I'd love to find a way to make this blogging gig allow me to quit my day job. Having a political science degree has more than prepared me for the life of a sports blogger – it's opinionated and total bullshit. Think about it poli sci folks out there: every paper you ever wrote in college was nothing more that your spin on someone else's philosophy and work.

That said, I've always wanted to run the community relations shop of a pro team.

8. What's the ultimate goal of your site/your writing?

When we started picking up steam we were worried that our lack of any kind of focus or direction would hinder us. Whether it has or hasn't, we're not sure.

What started out as a senseless hobby became a hobby requiring more consistency, time and thought. We're still naïve to a lot of the financial and structural elements of the site, so we have been reluctant to tamper with the current format too much.

The first goal is to continue to put out good, creative content.

Second, is to continue to grow in terms of keeping referred readers. I'm sure this is a challenge for all bloggers.

Lastly, we hope to be able to build more content-specific sites off of the "HHR Brand" (see:

We have a forthcoming site that we have spent a lot of time developing in terms of usability, content and (more importantly) marketability. Essentially we have used our real-life knowledge and created a business plan for it, and are in the process of lining up authors and investors, and studying competition and market trends.

9. Baseball's coming down to the wire. Let's get some picks for the four playoff spots from each league and then a World Series pick.

Granted, I pray for and anticipate a Mets collapse, but I'll try not to play homer…

AL EAST: Red Sox


AL WEST: Angels

AL WC: Rays



NL WEST: Dodgers

NL WC: Phillies

World Series: Angels

10. You're on a deserted island with a dead president, athlete, celebrity and hot chick. Who are they and why?

I'm all about surviving.

Dead President: Abe Lincoln. He was 12-feet tall and could help me pick fruit and coconuts from high tree branches. Plus, maybe he could build a log cabin.

Athlete: Michael Phelps so he can swim his gangly ass off the island and find me some help. Plus, he wouldn't render any competition with my "Hot Chick."

Or did you want a dead athlete?

Celebrity: Jane Goodall.

Hot Chick: I take my wedding vows very seriously. But if my wife is lucky enough to not be stranded with me, I'll take Amanda Beard. See Michael Phelps.


GMoney said...

Well done, love that this feature is back.

JMC said...

I just want to know who came up with their name first, KSK or HHR

rstiles said...

Very good information...

Hugging Harold Reynolds said...

jmc - Based on whos been a blog longer, Id wager on KSK. Honestly, prior to our foray into the medium, we really knew little about the "competition." But now, Id say any comparison of the 2 sites ends with the name.

Zach - Thanks again for the oportunity. Had a lot of fun with the interview.

World of Isaac said...

good interview

DCScrap said...

I hate those guys

Russianator said...

Very good read - love Gem mint 10 too.

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