An interview with Fox Sports’ Ben Maller


Ben Maller does your dirty work. As a blogger desperate for a good story, his
Fox Sports site is the one we constantly turn to. He compiles some of the juiciest rumors and best under-the-radar items beneath one roof, making it easy to find blog-worthy material. While not putting together the site, he’s a radio host. You can hear him on “The Third Shift on Fox” here. And he’s on MySpace, too! Go say hi.

1. The rundown:

Name: Ben Maller
Age: Early 30’s
Location: Los Angeles
Occupation: Radio Talk Jock and Web Sports Gossip God
Favorite team: Dodgers

2. First off, we’re awfully curious how you parlayed BenMaller.com (unpaid) in to a job with FOX Sports (paid)? You approach them? They come to you? Meet in the middle over some drinks and overpriced appetizers?

I had been blogging away on my own for years (unpaid) when I was contacted by an executive at FoxSports.com. He said they where big fans of my work and wanted to pay me lots of Rupert Murdock’s money to have it under the FOX brand. I had actually drawn interest from other
major sports websites, but felt more comfortable with FOX because of my radio work.

3. Your résumé must be loaded to have the radio gig as well as the .com job with FOX Sports. Take us through your career path, starting with your schooling, internships, first jobs, etc.

I could say go to school kids and study hard. That would be a big fat lie. I had a big plan to do the university thing and learn my craft. Things didn’t work out that way. Had an internship at a major West Coast sports talker in San Diego (XTRA 690am – 77,000 watt border blaster via Mexico). Around the time it was ending they offered me a coffee boy job. I worked my way up from running the board on San Diego State basketball, to covering high school football games. Instead of acquiring thousands of dollars in student loans, I was a jock sniffer who made no money but had the time of my life. As they say in Toledo: the rest is history.

4. Take us through a typical day of work for you, if such a thing exists. And give us some insight to how Ben Maller’s rumors are put together. Do you get emailed tips? Scour the depths of the Internet looking for the best content? How does putting together the rumors factor in with your time on the air?

Wake up mid afternoon. Surf a few of the major sports sites to see what big stories happened while I was hibernating. Exploring possible topics for my radio show. This all takes about an hour. Then head out to grab a combo lunch/dinner. Get back into my office 5ish. Start
writing radio show notes. Meet with my producer Greg Bergman about that night’s show, write my monologue. Then begin work on the next day’s rumor page for FoxSports.com. At 10pm its off to the Auto Zone studios of Fox Sports Radio for that night’s show (11pm pacific time). Meet again with my producer after the show about how terrible things went. (Sometimes it’s good!) Then drive 95 MPH back to my office near Dodger Stadium (no LA traffic at 3am) to continue building the rumor page. Work till 8am putting it all together. Spend about an hour winding down and head to bed.

I’ve been contacted by scouts and executives from a handful of teams. Many of the “Insiders” for broadcast companies have become great sources of info. I interviewed Dodgers GM Ned Colletti last year on my old radio show, he commented (unrequested) on the air about how he
reads the rumor page. I scan give or take 180 newspapers a night and probably another 20 to 30 sites for NASCAR and sports gossip news. Get an average of 10 items a day from tips via e mail.

5. Dream job? Go.

I’m living my dream.

6. Read any blogs? Which ones?

Well of course this one, since you are interviewing me. I really don’t have much time to check them out. Some of the old blogs I would read have become major sites. Heck many newspapers these days have a bunch of guys pretending to be bloggers. Guess I don’t know what a regular independent blog is these days.

7. Where you are at FOX Sports with the radio show and Web portion, at your age and with your experience, what’s the next logical career step?

You never wanna stand still, but I’d like to keep building my name brand by doing these gigs for a long time. I love late night radio, the callers are better, the vibe is more fun. Most radio during the day is too stiff for my tastes.

8. We’ve dabbled with the idea of getting in to sports radio because, frankly, we can’t think of a job that’s more fun: you get to talk about sports all day (or night). Is it as dreamy as we think or are there the pet peeves and downsides that come with any job?

It’s the best. I always have an excuse. Sorry can’t do something, (i.e. shopping with girlfriend, house work) have to watch that NFL game for WORK.

As for hosting the show, its not just about doing sports; anyone can do that. It’s about doing a good radio show. That’s what separates the bad hosts from the guys who make it big in this business.

9. Has being a FOX Sports employee led to access to any noteworthy sporting events, parties with Playmates or run-ins with celebs?

I hung out with Jay Mohr (he’s a fan of the website) at a Clippers game and have spent many nights at Dodger Stadium talking baseball with David Lander (aka Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley) does that count as celebrity run ins? Kind of pathetic if you ask me. What happened
to the Playmates and models?

10. You’re having dinner with a dead president, professional athlete and female celebrity. Who are they and why?

William Howard Taft, Babe Ruth and Marilyn Monroe. Taft is the last fat president, I’m guessing he knows a good meal and loved baseball. Babe can eat and he has to tell me how many of those stories are true. I need to see Marilyn to know if she was as beautiful as the legend goes and also hear some of those crazy stories.

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An interview with author Steve Reilly

A few weeks back, our people were contacted by Steve Reilly’s people about setting up an interview at this site. Since we usually approach others about an interview and the Reilly Party thought high enough of this blog to approach us, we welcomed a Q&A.

The Fat Lady Never Sings is about a high school baseball team that makes up for a disappointing year on the football field. If you like sports, high school and things that involve sports and high school, this book is for you. If you don’t like those things, this book is still for you.

Reilly has spent the last 20 years as an assistant high school baseball coach in Connecticut. He lives in Seymour, Conn. where he has spent the last 10 years coaching. You can buy your copy of The Fat Lady Never Sings here. If you don’t? Your penis might fall off.

1. Steve, take us through a typical day of writing, if such a thing exists.

I haven’t had a typical day of writing yet. The first draft of The Fat Lady Never Sings was written on nights and weekends and whenever else I could sneak time in at my office computer or my laptop. My numerous rewrites post a professional critique, a professional full edit and a professional proofread were done during lunchtime at a local Subway restaurant (which resulted in my clothes usually reeking of baked hearty Italian or parmesan oregano bread), and at home at night on my laptop. I made great use of thumb drives. Sometimes, I had pulled an Al Bundy and retreated to the bathroom to review and rewrite draft pages clipped to a cheap clipboard.

Most of my writing about the book (including the blog tour I’m currently on), as well creation and development of the book’s website and my MySpace account, is done either at night or on weekends unless I can sneak a few minutes in during the day.

2. You’re a high school baseball coach and also an author. How do you juggle the two?

You mean, how do I juggle all three? I am also a lawyer with a solo practice.

During baseball season, my life’s really imbalanced. Before the spring season starts, I try the best I can to maneuver my law schedule to have mostly early day and night appointments and Court matters after the spring season ends. During the spring season, I get up, go to my office, work my tail off. At about 1:45 p.m. I change out of my suit as fast as I can, put on sweats and sneaks and my baseball cap (unless it’s a game day where I throw on the uniform), jump in my car and head out for our field or our opponent’s field. If I’m not late, I’m sometimes lucky enough to stop for some coffee or bottles of Snapple and some Bazooka Joe or Big League Chew to get me through wacking fly balls, ground balls and pitching batting practice. After practice or a game, I drive back to the office where I meet my wife and then we go out for dinner, followed by my return to the office to work or meet clients. Sometime around midnight I finally go home and watch Yes Channel reruns.

If I’m lucky enough to not have any work to catch up on and my wife doesn’t either (she’s the Executive Director of a local YMCA) we also take in a movie. I’ve been lucky to have a very supportive wife. It may sound strange, but although its hectic during a baseball season, I actually relax more. During the games or practice, I’m able to concentrate on what’s happening and not worry about the stress of practicing law. The diamond never changes. That’s one of the great things about baseball, it’s timeless.

3. What was the process like, not only writing a book, but publishing, marketing, etc. Tell us about the entire process.

After I decided to write the book, I mulled over an outline for a few weeks. At the same time, I starting reading every book and magazine I could get my hand on about writing. The book On Writing Well by William Zinsser was probably the first. Its one of the classic guides on writing non-fiction. It has a chapter in it about sports writing. Almost every issue of Writers Digest and The Writer has something helpful in it. I also downloaded Nick Daws e-book Write Any Book In Under 28 Days; it was helpful. Take a look at his synopsis of the e-book here and you’ll see what I mean. ( No, I’m not a reseller). I played with the outline trying to see how the story might sound from different starting points and different points of view. One weekend, my wife had to go to a YMCA conference in Albany so I decided it was a good time as any to start the book. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

It took me about six to seven weeks to write the first draft. I sent the manuscript to a professional editor in Washington state and asked him to critique it. After I got back his critique, I asked him to give me a more in-depth critique which goes chapter by chapter. It was then that I learned the difference between a critique, a full edit and a line by line proofread. (Industry lingo, which if I had fully understood before jumping into publishing might have saved me some cash). My editor was very adept at not discouraging me while at the same time offering very insightful as well as constructive criticism. Critiques and edits can take months to complete. I had three goals for the book. The first was to get the book out by the 15th anniversary of the season I was writing about. The second, was to get the book out before I turned 50 (just a life goal I guess) and the third was to get the book published before the World Series began last year because I felt that once the World Series was over, no one was going to care about baseball anymore and the launch of the book would most likely have to be delayed. Fortunately, my editor was not insulted by a cash offer to complete his full critique faster.

While I was awaiting for the full critique, I started reading everything I could about the publishing field and its inherent delays as well as other options. I decided — after having it critiqued by the first editor — to publish it through iUniverse, where, after an additional full edit, a professional proofread and some prodding by myself to have the book out before the World Series, it came out on October 2, 2006. After that, it ended up being an Editor’s Choice, Reader’s Choice and Publisher’s Choice Book of iUniverse and was a finalist in pubinsider.com’s 2006 Indie Excellence book contest.

As for the marketing aspect, I think the biggest challenge any author faces is to get someone to actually buy their book. People will read my book, tell me they love it, but then tell me they got it from somebody else and are passing it on to someone else. I think people love to read books; stories are what life is all about. They just don’t want to pay for them. You know what I’m talking about. Go into any Barnes and Noble or Borders any day of the week and its like a library with benefits. You can talk all you want and sit and read, at least until the store starts to experiment and slowly pull away the chairs without any music to see how it affects sales.
I’m just as guilty. I went to a Barnes and Noble last night and thumbed through about ten magazines and about ten books, (after checking my book out — I just can’t help it) but at least I bought two magazines albeit with my wife’s discount card.

What most people don’t realize is that unless your somebody like John Grisham, or a celebrity, the marketing is mostly done by the author. Whether or not your book sells is up to you. It won’t sell itself. So after reading several books on book marketing ( the best is John Kramer’s book 1001 Ways to Market Your Book), I started on a campaign to get book reviews posted on Amazon.com, online interviews and radio and Internet radio interviews and advertised on a great Connecticut Internet sports radio site: www.SportingnewsCt.com where this past summer I was a commentator for them on broadcasts of American legion baseball games. I created a web site www.TheFatLadyNeverSings.com through a company called www.Inspiredtype.com and also created a MySpace site.

I had book discussions at the public and a private library in Derby where I was able to have many of the characters of the book show up and converse with readers and also gave talks at Derby High. I contacted the local Rotary Clubs and they were very receptive to allowing me to speak and get a free lunch. I consigned the book at a local Sports store (mentioned in the book), a hospital gift shop, a train station coffee shop, a local newspaper stop (mentioned in the book), and a Hallmark card shop. I sent an advance copy of the book to a local newspaper who ran a column about it and helped publicize my speaking engagements.

In addition, since iUniverse has an affiliation with Barnes and Noble, I was able to get the book into three local Barnes and Noble stores. I also had bookmarks professionally printed up which I left at libraries and printed up postcards myself and sent them out to everybody I thought might be interested in the book. I also printed up business cards for the book which I passed out and put into my bills payment envelopes and stuck them on every info board I could find in the surrounding area.

I purchased a giant baseball glove from a company called Akadema (it’s the same company that produces Manny Ramirez’s glove) and I use it as a prop at all my events. It’s an instant conversation piece to lead into the subject of the book. I just got back from “The Big E,” the largest fair in New England. I was one of the featured authors in the Connecticut Author’s and Publisher’s bookstore in the Connecticut Building. I met hundreds of people, many of whom loved baseball, pitched my book, allowed many of them or their kids to have a picture taken with the gigantic Akadema glove, talked to them about how Jason Giambi of the Yankees could use it or how the Red Sox catcher could snag Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball easier with it, but…in five hours only sold four books. To sell those four books was a challenge.

From everything I’ve read and learned about writing and publishing, it seems as if the secret is to get the book published in New York but market it in Hollywood. If you can get a celebrity to endorse it, any celebrity, even My Life on the D-list Kathy Griffin, I believe your book will outsell over ninety percent of them out there.

4. Why write The Fat Lady Never Sings nearly 15 years after that remarkable 1992 season?

I always thought the story of the team should be told. I think all of us have unique experiences we want to share and say to ourselves “I should write a book.” After fourteen years of thinking about these remarkable young men and their coaches and what they went through, I decided to do write the book and try to get it published before the season’s 15th anniversary. (Also before I turned 50).

5. Ever check out sports blogs and websites? If so, which ones? If you don’t, why not?

Sure. Who doesn’t? I regularly review all kinds of sports websites, but the ones I save as favored sites are about high school or college sports such as sportingnewsct.com, www.maxpreps.com, baseballamerica.com , or about baseball or teaching baseball such as Beabetterhitter.com, pitching.com, baseballstrength.com, batspeed.com, webball.com, theathleticpitcher.com and a host of others I use to keep me updated about what other baseball coaches are doing or thinking or find new drills.

Some of my favorite baseball blogs are http://frommersports.blogspot.com , baseballblogs.org, Baseballmusings.com, http://www.thecompletepitcher.blogs.com/ I just added yours to the list. (I’m not a Red Sox fan either and I like your polls).

6. What was the hardest part about the writing process?

The editing process by far. Sometimes it felt as if I was dragging my feet in a desert without a compass or a hat. It sucks the life out of you. Each time I looked at all the red lining, arrows and highlighted areas of a draft, it was just a mirage. The end was never really near. But every once in a while, I’d see a new sentence that I created and think, hey that sounds pretty good.
Early on in the process, whenever I sent a draft, I would hear back, “you need more dialogue, you’ve got to have more dialogue.” I felt like I was listening to Christopher Walken on Saturday Night Live. “More cowbell, Steve, more cowbell!”

During my editing process, James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces got trashed when it was discovered he exaggerated some of the events he wrote about. It forced me to do a lot of thinking and research about what actually transpired back in 1991/1992 so that my book was as accurate as I could possibly make it. I can see where Frey probably got tempted and may have convinced himself he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He might have been hearing a similar voice telling him, More cowbell Jim, it needs more cowbell.

7. If you could go back and change one thing about the book, what would it be, if anything?

I would have started on a cover concept earlier as that aspect took more time than I thought it would. Unless a cover designer has read your book, it took me more time than expected to get across the book’s concept. For example, the first cover submitted to me contained a rather large football helmet on it. Although my book does have a football aspect to it, the predominant story concerns a baseball team. The concept of putting a football on a baseball field’s homeplate was suggested to me by a separate cover designer. But due to my own self-imposed time constraints, I took a picture myself and after it was changed a bit, it was used for the cover. If I had more time, I think I would have a professional photographer also help with the cover.

8. You’re on a deserted island with three famous people, dead or alive. Who are they?

I assume you meant to ask about anyone other than Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t have anything to worry about if he was there with me.

Otherwise, you know this question is a mindfield for any happily married man. Depending on who I name, I think I could end up on a deserted island alone so I’m going to avoid naming any actresses from Son of the Beach or The Girls Next Door or any models or singers either dead or alive. You guys are probably going to rank on me for this answer but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Not Gilligan because he’d do something stupid and I’d never be able to leave the island. Myself and the third person would vote him off. Perhaps Tom Hanks as he figured out a way to get off a deserted island with a volleyball and Abraham Lincoln as he was as wise and persistent as any famous person and I could talk to him about law; he could also chop wood for the raft.

An interview with SI.com’s Jimmy Traina


Jimmy Traina is a man all bloggers should befriend. In addition to being a totally stand-up guy, he could make your traffic blow up with the click of a mouse. He’s a producer at SI.com who writes the always-fun Hot Clicks and runs the Extra Mustard page. He’s a MSM guy who has connected with bloggers; a real winner in our book. His words speak wisdom in Q&A form. Make friends in the comments.

1. The rundown:

Name: Jimmy Traina
Age: 33
Location: Long Island, N.Y.
Occupation: Producer, SI.com
Favorite team: Yankees, Dillon Panthers, Any team I bet on

2. Aside from being the man behind Hot Clicks, tell us your other roles at SI.com.

I run the Extra Mustard page. That entails editing all the copy for the page, handling photos and putting the content on the page. I also write occasionally and put together photo galleries.

3. Your résumé must’ve been loaded to end up where you have. Take us through your career path, starting with your schooling, internships, first jobs, etc. And how’d you get the call to the Bigs at SI.com?

Let’s see…I was a broadcasting major in college. I worked at the radio station and newspaper. I interned at WFAN (which was great because I’m a Mike and the Mad Dog addict.) Right after graduating, I got a job at a smaller than small Long Island radio station doing news. It sucked. I hated doing news. I wanted to do sports. And the money REALLY sucked. So I left there and ended up at Scorephone, just so I could stay in sports and make some money while I looked for something longterm. From there, I got a job at the Associated Press in their sports department. I became friends with a co-worker there, who eventually left for SI.com. Shortly after he was there, there was an opening and he let me know about it. So I interviewed and got the job. This was 7 and a half years ago. I started out as an editorial assistant. Eventually I became an associate producer and now a producer. So the moral of this boring story is that who you know is more important that anything else. At least that’s been my experience in this business.

4. Take us through a typical day of work for you, if such a thing exists. And give us some insight to how Hot Clicks is put together. Do you always just go off what is emailed to you? Ever scour the depths of the Internet looking for the best content?

I have a long commute (I’m on the train for an hour), which helps because I read the Daily News and the Post every morning on the train (yes, I still read newspapers) and they’re good for a couple of Hot Clicks items a week — at least. Then I get into the office at 8am and after checking work email, personal email and my fantasy teams — and not necessarily in that order — I start going through my bookmarks. I have about 200 Web sites bookmarked for Hot Clicks but I probably only get to check 100 or so just because of time constraints. There’s really no method to the madness of putting them together. If I see something I find funny or interesting or unique or original, I put in it. I try to keep things light and fun. Obviously I love lists, celebrities, pop culture and hot chicks. There are also certain things that I’m into — for example old school wrestling stuff, basically anything having to do with the ’80s and gambling — that end up creeping into the Clicks. I try to make the Clicks appeal to the broadest audience possible, but it’s only natural that if I’m compiling the Clicks everyday, some of my personality is gonna get in there.

I have tons of links emailed to me, which is great, but I’d say 70 percent of those are from bloggers. I’d love to get more random things from regular readers, but I haven’t focused on that enough. Luckily, I have friends and co-workers who are always alerting me to links, too. I try to get Hot Clicks posted by 10:30 (we have a daily staff meeting at that time), but plenty of times they end up getting posted between 11-11:30. Once they’re up, I get started on the rest of the Mustard content. I usually have to edit a Daily List and post it, find a photo for our daily Caption This feature. Find photos for our weekly Caught in the Act gallery. Edit a column or two.

5. Dream job? Go.

Honestly, my dream job would be no job. Who wants to work? I’ve never understood people who said they’d be bored if they didn’t work. I’d be fuckin’ thrilled to not have to be somewhere every single day. But if I had to pick an actual job, I’d say either play-by-play man for the New York Yankees or manager of the New York Yankees or a professional gambler or the third co-host on the Mike and the Mad Dog show. If I had to pick a realistic job, I’d say media critic. Since I was in high school, I wanted to have Bob Raissman’s job.

6. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears you have the power to link to whatever you want. Yet, you always link to many blogs. Why have you become such a liaison from the MSM to blogs?

Hmm…interesting question. I think there are several answers. One, I’m pretty amazed by how creative and original a lot of bloggers are. Two, I’m amazed by how often bloggers break news. Three, I love the fact that if anyone who has anything to do with sports is out in public, fans will either take a pic or write up a report and send it to a blog. For example, last week I linked to a photo album someone put together of the Red Sox partying in a bar after they clinched the AL East. To me, that stuff is gold. And who can forget that great pic of bombed Kyle Orton that Deadspin posted a while back. Stuff like that is just tremendous.

I also realized long, long ago that just because someone is on TV or on the radio or writes for a newspaper or magazine, that doesn’t mean they know more about sports than die-hard fans. So I appreciate what bloggers are doing.

7. How heavily are you edited? Especially at Hot Clicks, are there editors telling you what to link to at all, or is it pretty laissez-faire?

I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to link to whatever I’ve wanted (minus the NSFW sites). I basically edit myself, which isn’t hard because I (usually) know what will fly and what won’t with the powers that be. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that SI.com has advertisers and appeals to a mainstream audience. Believe me, every single day when I’m compiling the Clicks I find something that I really wish I could put it in, but I know I can’t. For example, a few weeks ago, all those college “poon” sites — SEC poon, ACC Poon, etc., etc. — started up. I saw the link, I think on Mac Gs World blog, and would’ve loved to put it in Hot Clicks. I know people who read Hot Clicks would be all over that stuff. But the fact of the matter is, I can’t link to something titled “SEC Poon” on SI.com. It’s just the way it is. And I don’t have a problem with that. There are also certain topics I’ll stay away from. For example, anything with a political slant. You can’t win in those situations. You’re automatically gonna piss off half your audience. So to answer your question, I’m not edited but in a way I’m edited.

8. Where you are at SI.com, at your age and with your experience, what’s the next logical career step?

I wonder that myself. I actually have no idea.

9. How often do you get to hang out or chat with the other SI writers? Any cool stories? Who’s the most fun to chill with?

I don’t really have a relationship with any of the magazine writers, except for Dr. Z. I used to be his editor and we still chat from time to time. He’s a total character, very funny and very unique, and totally real. No phonieness about him at all. The people I’m closest with here are the other Web site producers. I don’t really have specific stories to tell you. We just do what I think most guys do all day — we talk about sports, our fantasy teams, tv shows etc. We argue about nonsense (for example, our NFL producer Andrew Perloff thinks Tom Brady is overrated, so that’s been good office fodder lately) and bust each others balls all day. For the most part, it’s pretty fun.

An interview with Frank Deford

We recently finished sportswriter Frank Deford’s latest novel, The Entitled. We reviewed the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since we’re in the business of asking questions, we thought this would be an ideal time to score an interview with Deford himself.

Deford is arguably the best sportswriter of all time. He’s a six-time National Sportswriter of the Year, Senior Contributing Editor at Sports Illustrated, a regular on NPR’s Morning Edition and a correspondent on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. His words speak wisdom….

1. Go back to when you were writing The Entitled. Take us through a typical day of writing, if such a thing exists.

I think when you’re writing any novel, so much of the writing work involves thinking about the story before you sit down to write. Something might occur to me as I’m lying in bed at night or in the bathtub or driving in the car. You never fully get away from the book. So when you physically sit down to type you may already have something of a head-start in your mind. That said, I would usually work in the morning, after breakfast, and go for as long as things were moving — usually three or four hours. You get lost in a novel, become quite friendly with your characters.

2. Early in the book, you mention how the protagonist, Indians coach Howie Traveler, would give beat writers two quotes before the game: one to be inserted if the team won, one if they lost. Are coaches really that considerate or was this just wishful thinking?

Most managers probably wouldn’t do this. One I know did — so it was based on fact.

3. Are the characters based on actual people? A combination of certain ballplayers? Which ones? Was the plot inspired by actual events?

The characters are cumulatively based on people I’ve known, then overlaid with my own original characteristics. I don’t think it would be any fun just to take a real person and make him a character. What’s the art in that?

4. Why the Cleveland Indians? And why a picture of Sammy Sosa on the cover?

The Indians were actually my third choice, and it’s pretty ironic how I got there. I needed a loser of a team to be more realistic. An untried guy like Howie wasn’t going to get a shot at the Yankees. So, in 2004 when I was first conjuring up the novel, I picked (naturally) the Red Sox. And, of course, they then go out and win. So, when I actually wrote the bulk of the book in ’05 I changed to another loser. You guessed it: the White Sox. Suddenly, I’m Nostradamus without meaning to be. Then I had to go through the whole manuscript and change it to another loser. I picked the Indians. As I have assured the good people in Cleveland, when I visited there on book tour, they are guaranteed to win the World Series this October. I can be very big in Cleveland.

The cover is picked by the publisher strictly for reasons of marketing. This is just a generic shot with good design for a jacket. I didn’t even know who the player was until somebody pointed it out to me.

5. Please describe some of the glaring differences between being a sportswriter and novelist?

The greatest difference between writing fiction and non-fiction is that the writing matters so much more in fiction. It’s your story. You may do some background reporting, but it’s you alone. In non-fiction, the reporting counts as much as the writing — often more. Fiction is more gratifying. It’s all you, sink or swim by yourself.

6. Say you went to speak to some J-school students. With the state of print journalism (especially newspapers), whaddya tell them? Advise them to head towards the online game? Magazines? Blogs?

Given the flux in the whole journalism industry, I’d be presumptuous to advise any young student quite what to do. It’s too fluid right now. All I could safely say is that if you have talent, you will succeed, but in what venue I have no idea. You got to be quick on your feet now and be instinctive in choosing the right journalistic path for you. And then it will probably require a switch somewhere down the road.

7. What do you think of sports blogs? Will they ever compete with mainstream media? Are they refreshing after glazing over a dry AP story? Read any?

I don’t read any particular blog on a regular basis. I do read some newspaper columns on-line. Blogs are opinion. The AP is providing you news. It’s not fair to compare the two. I’m also very dubious about how accurate the facts are in blogs, which gives me pause. As for the future, I believe newspapers will become more mediums of opinion, that we’ll get breaking news on-line (and from radio/TV of course) and then newspapers will provide more context. But it’s an evolving process.

8. Are there any athletes you’ve gotten close to over the years — sorta like a Mickey Huey situation? Any players or coaches you’ve had beef with?

When I was younger, which is to say, closer to the age of the athletes I covered, I grew very friendly with many of them. When we run across each other now, we greet each other more as, say, old fraternity brothers than as writer-subject. I believe, though, that writers and athletes were inclined more to be good friends in years back. It’s more of an adversarial relationship now, which is too bad.

Sure, I had beefs with a few athletes. Nobody ever took a swing at me, though. Wilt Chamberlain once kicked me out of a locker room (not literally, of course), but Wilt and I became close after he finished playing. So, you never know.

9. You’re stuck on a deserted Island with three public figures (athletes, celebrities, politicians). Who are they. Why?

I’d want three people long dead. Jesus, for sure. And one great American. Probably George Washington, but Ben Franklin would probably be more fun. Then Shakespeare. If you gave me a fourth, I’d like it to be a woman. Maybe Mary Magdalene could answer the same questions as Jesus. Joan of Arc. Cleopatra. Or maybe just a great, clever femme fatale like Agnes Sorel. Benjamin Franklin and me could both flirt with her and see who she liked best.

An interview with Jenn Sterger. Really.

Since we first set eyes on Jenn Sterger, we’ve been quick to ridicule. Once she got an SI.com column, then all hell broke loose. We’ve ripped Jenn plenty here over the last 15 months or so and even at other sites. Sure we’ve laughed hard, but really, what’s the point?

Rather than continue to tear into Jenn, we thought we’d, ya know, actually talk to her. Via Roger, the guy who works administration for Jennsterger.com (Roger’s a true homie and a fan of the site, by the way), we were able to interact with Jenn and get an actual interview with her. No mocking. No satire. Just straight truth. (And a plea — sorta — to meet fellow Cowgirl Chrystal).

Fasten your seatbelts
.

For the record:

Name: Jennifer Lynnette Sterger
Age: 23
Occupation: Student at Florida State University; SI columnist; Model
Location: Lutz, Florida

Jenn, you’ve turned 15 minutes of fame — thanks Brent Musburger! –into an SI column, a Maxim spread (sorta safe for work), an appearance in Playboy (safe for work), etc. What’s this ride been like for you?

If this journey has taught me anything, it’s that life can be completely unpredictable. Events, people, and opportunity can take you by surprise, but ultimately, it’s what you choose to make of them that define who you are. I had a small window of opportunity, and faced a lot of criticism but in the end have parlayed what could have just been a fifteen second screen shot into a career of sorts. It’s about striking while the iron’s hot, and making the decisions you think will benefit you the most in the future. Life can be full of regrets and missed opportunities, but I think I have handled them as well as any other girl that falls down a rabbit hole into an unexpected, crazy adventure. It hasn’t changed who I am, but it has changed my outlook on life. Maybe made me a little stronger, a little wiser. It has definitely more than proved who my true friends are… and without my family and their support.. I dunno what I would do.

I feel my experience has really given my life a sense of direction and has filled a lot of voids many kids exiting college experience: The questions of who they are, and where they want to go next. I’ve expected the unexpected, and just rolled with it.

Tell us about the SI gig. How’d it’d come into play (you contact them? They contact you?) Also, what’s the process like there? Do they edit you a lot or let you write freely? Do you have a contract with a required amount of columns or is it more the write-when-I-can deal?

Sports Illustrated was interested in doing a human interest story for their On Campus section last February. Arash Markazi contacted me, and after speaking with me, thought that the column would work better if it was written in my own words. The editors were a bit surprised with my writing abilities, as I suspect they were surprised I could write in complete sentences and original thoughts. They came up with the idea of the advice column. At first I was a little hesitant to say yes, after all I barely know how to handle situations in my own life. However, I realized it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I figured I would at least take a crack at it.

My writing is pretty uncensored and the main ideas and thoughts are usually still intact. Sometimes an editor with lack of knowledge in pop culture or relationship experience altogether might get in and take out some of my one liners, but the gist still remains the same. My blog is a little less censored and a little more “Jenn” but for the sake of word count, I would say my articles are pretty accurate in their depiction of my writing.

I write a column every Wednesday, whether it be for Scorecard (the traditional advice column), or On Campus. The videos of course come out every Wednesday, and so far have been pretty successful.

Dream job? Go.

I’m living it. Honestly, I don’t care what I end up doing for a living as long as it is something I am passionate about. The minute going to work becomes just a “job” is when I know I have exhausted that avenue. I think people change and evolve through their experiences in life, so who is to say your career shouldn’t as well?…I just want to be happy and successful in whatever I do. And I have the drive, determination, and support to do just that.

I’ve never really failed at anything I have put my heart into, and I am not about to start now.

You seem to be juggling a lot: school, the SI column and current road trip, modeling and we imagine you try to socialize from time to time. How do you do it all?

It’s all about time management and prioritizing. I used to have a huge issue with this back in high school, and was the queen of procrastination. Now, I have had to really take time out of my day to make a game plan for what I have to get accomplished. My mom taught me the beauty of making a to-do list at the end of the day. Once I list all the things I need to get done the next day, and put them in the most logical order… its gravy from there. I always make sure to make time for my family and friends though, especially if I am in a relationship with someone. It’s all about balancing business with pleasure, and if you really honestly care about someone…you can always make time.

A lot of blogs/websites — this one included — have taken cheap shots at you and give you an unfair amount of shit for really no reason. Does this stuff get to you at all?

When you put yourself in the public eye, you have to be able to handle the attention and criticism that comes with it. A lot of the people that attack me have never met me, nor will they…so I feel it’s unfair of people to pass judgment on someone they don’t even know. At first I took a lot of the things I read on the Internet and message boards very personally. It took a lot of adjustment and support from friends and family to show me that the good far outweighed the bad. In the end, I realized that the only opinions that should really matter to me are those of the people I care about.

What’s it like going out — in Tallahassee, on the road, etc. — and essentially being a celebrity? Are you just swarmed? Ever give some of these guys the time of day? Probably don’t have to pay for a drink though!

Don’t get me wrong, I have done my fair share of partying. After all, I did go to college at a Top Ten Party School. However, things started getting a little too crazy for my liking last spring. I couldn’t go to class in my pajamas anymore without getting comments and it just became too crazy to deal with once my Playboy hit the stands. I left Tallahassee and headed for the one place I could clear my head and get out of all the craziness…Lutz, FL (home). I’m finishing up my credits online, and living at home with my cat. Sure, it may sound a little boring, but I really do enjoy being away from the party scene.

I go out occasionally, but I have given up drinking. I did it as a New Year’s Resolution, but I am actually enjoying it. I don’t hate my life in the morning, and I don’t have to bust my butt in the gym quite as hard to work off the empty calories.

As far as dating goes, it’s tough. It’s really difficult sometimes to judge people’s motives for wanting to get to know you. I try to give everyone the benefit of a doubt, but most of the time I just have to go with my gut feeling. My friends joke with me, saying I have “ESP (N)…or something” when it comes to seeing people’s true character, especially guys. I’m sure I’ll find Mr. Right someday, but until then.. don’t expect me to be the girl that settles for Mr. Right Now just because he is available. I’d honestly rather be alone, than be with a second-rate significant other who lies and cheats on me. At least then, I know I am with someone who is honest.

The other Cowgirls haven’t gotten the publicity that you have. (We’re in love with Chrystal, by the way. Tell her hi for us). Why have you gotten this attention and them not so much? Does it bother them at all?

I think it all comes down to our individual goals we had. Chrystal really wasn’t interested in pursuing modeling after college, as she wanted to attend architecture school. Fabi was interested in acting and modeling, so she moved to South Florida after graduation where she is bartending and going on casting calls.

The new breed of cowgirls that hung with me when the others graduated have had their own accomplishments. CJ and Allison have both been in numerous publications. Allison had been both a coed of the week and month for Playboy. CJ is a dance major at Florida State, but she has also been in music videos and performed with various artists.

And me?…I have a full time gig with Sports Illustrated. I know, it’s a tough job…but someone’s gotta do it. The main reason I’m still out there is because people feel like they know me. College kids can relate to my experiences. Anyone that meets me can get a real sense for who I am, and what I am about because I really believe in being myself and being genuine with the people I meet. I’ve never been the type to pretend I am something I am not. Am I the hottest girl on FSU’s campus?…HA!..Hardly. My campus boasts thousands of gorgeous women, so just to be picked out of a crowd amongst them is an honor in itself. I just think I was smart enough to make the most out of the opportunities I was presented with. Sure, I could have sat back, laughed at the fact I was on tv, and moved on. But once I gave the “girl in the hat” a voice, people really took an interest in my story. Fate and luck took care of the rest. That’s what makes me different from the others.

You’re about to graduate and seem to have many avenues you can go down — writing, modeling, perhaps sportscasting even. What do you see yourself doing this time next year?

Honestly, I take each day as it comes at me. I don’t know what I will be doing five minutes from now, let alone a year from now. I really do enjoy writing for SI, and doing my online video segments for them, but that’s not to say I have to limit myself strictly to that. Modeling is fun from time to time, but it really isn’t my focus anymore. Your looks can only get you so far in life, and they only last for so long. I realize to keep my job and stay ahead of the game, I have to evolve. Sports, however, are my passion. Maybe its because I was never coordinated enough to play any of them (unlike my mother), or because my dad raised me like a son (taking me to Miami Hurricane games since I was old enough to walk and know how to insult a Gator)…I dunno. Regardless, the excitement and adrenaline of sports is just something I truly enjoy, so as long as I am involved with them…I think I’ll be happy regardless of what I do.

It’s Media Day at The Big Picture

Because it’s Media Day in Miami, and because we like to tell people we work for the media and interview people and shit (not far from the truth, actually) we caught up with both head coaches for Sunday’s Super Bowl. Albeit brief, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy were kind enough to sit down with us for a nice chat.

What follows is the transcript of our discussion. Naturally the topic of race came up, but remember, it was all in good fun…

The Big Picture: Thanks for hanging out, guys.
Lovie Smith: My pleasure.
Tony Dungy: You are welcome.

TBP: So, um, yeah, Miami’s pretty fun.
Lovie: I haven’t been out much.
Tony: Me neither.
TBP: Mini bar, huh?
Tony: I don’t drink.
Lovie: Me neither.

TBP: Haven’t hit the streets? But there are all sorts of hookers and shit.
Lovie: I’m happily married.
Tony: I am also married.

TBP: Happily?
Tony: Yes.
TBP: Bullshit.
Tony: Excuse me?
TBP: Ah, never mind, justfuckedyourwife…
Tony: What?
TBP: Bless you is what you’re supposed to say.
Tony: Oh.

TBP: So Lovie, how long have you been a black coach?
Lovie: What?
TBP: Haha. See, that’s an old joke that we reporters use. See, funny thing is, you’ve always been black!
Lovie: Yes, that’s true.
TBP: Tony, don’t lie to me either you shrewd cat, you and Lovie have been talking about being black, right?
Tony: We discuss many things.
TBP: Like being black.
Lovie: We also talk about football.
TBP: Is it true what they say about black guys?
Tony: What is it that they say?
TBP: That you’re hung like a fucking kielbasa.
Lovie: It’s true.
Tony: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Lovie: You fucking dogger, Tony. You got baby-dick, huh?
TBP: You have fucking baby-dick?!
Tony: I don’t have baby-dick.
TBP: You lying son of a bitch! You have baby-dick.

Tony: We are playing a game you know…
TBP: Fuck the game. Why the hell do you think we’re here for Media Day? We don’t give a fuck about Peyton’s thumb. We don’t give a fuck about how Rex is going to handle the pressure. We want human interest stories.
Lovie: I’ll give you a human interest story.
TBP: Please.
Lovie: I’m an African American coach.
Tony: Me too.
TBP: Did you know that Eli Whitney was white?
Lovie: Yes, I did know that.
TBP: Like, “What the fuck?” Cotton gin motherfucker is a piece of fucking Wonder Bread. Cracker ass bitch. Thought he was a brotha. But no.
Tony: That is correct. He was a Caucasian male.

TBP: You know what we love?
Lovie: Hookers?
TBP: Well besides that.
Lovie: Football?
TBP: That too. But we’re totally down with those fucking yams. Ya know, the ones with butter and brown sugar and marshmallows and shit.
Tony: I’ve never eaten that before.
TBP: Shut the fuck up, Tony. Is this your interview?
Tony: Why, I think it is.
TBP: We’re outta hear. We got plenty to go write an article about. In fact, we already have the lede set:

MIAMI — By the numbers: Two teams. Two African-American coaches. One baby dick…

(Check out KSK’s fun sit-down with Colts’ center Jeff Saturday).

Grimm has six-hour interview with Steelers

Who the fuck is Russ Grimm? Well, he’s a Steelers assistant who wants to be a more glorified, higher-paid assistant, which some call a head coach.

Sounds like good news then for Grimm, who spent six hours meeting with Steelers brass Wednesday. The brass includes owner Dan Rooney, president Art Rooney II and director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

The Big Picture was in on the conference call and here’s how the meeting played out.

Hour 1:

Dan Rooney: Welcome, Russ.
Russ: Thanks for having me. Oooh, fancy office.
Art Rooney: Nice view of…
Dan: Shut the fuck up, Art.
Russ: I can come back…
Kevin: No, Russ. We’re glad you’re here.

Dan: Russ, basically just tell us why you’re right for this job.
Russ: Well, I’m a real hard worker…
Art: Save the bullshit, Russ.
Russ: Um, I think blocking’s important.
Dan: Go on.
Russ: I want to play hard-nosed football.
Art: I dare you to say another cliché. Double fuckin’ dare ya.
Russ: I’ll give 110%.
Dan: I like you’re style, Russ.

(Football talk continues for 46 more minutes).

Hour 2:

Russ: Are we doing lunch?
Kevin: It’s 9:30.
Russ: So that’s a yes?
Art: Sure, I’ll order Chinese.
Russ: I’ll have the Cream of Sum Yung Guy!
(Dan and Russ high five)
Art(on phone): Hi, Art Rooney calling. Doing well, yourself? Good. Good. Business is fine. Just trying to hire a new coach. Cowher? Oh, he’s gone. Bastard is right. Haha. I’ll get the Mongolian Beef, Chiang’s Chicken, potstickers.
Russ: Get some fried wontons. And extra fortune cookies!
Kevin: Fat fuck.
Art (still on phone): Fried wontons, chow mein, fried rice.
Russ: This sounds great.

(They eat for 58 more minutes).

Hour 3:

Dan: I liked the third one the best. With Sean Connery as his father?! Man, that shit was good.
Russ: I liked the second one. Where the bad guy ripped out that dude’s fucking heart! That was sick. We’re going to do that to other teams.
Dan: Don’t try to change the subject.
Art: I didn’t like all the Nazi stuff in the third one. I cared for Raiders of the Lost Ark the most. Karen Allen was stunning.
Kevin: You would like Raiders the most.
Art: What’s that supposed to mean?
Kevin: It means you’re a little bitch.
Dan: You two shut up…Spielberg was the little bitch for putting Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom. She was fucking awful.

(The conversation switches to Return of the Jedi for another 49 minutes).

Hour 4:

Kevin: I’ve always liked the Chargers’ Girls. The costumes…whew!
Art: You know the Raiders have the best cheerleaders.
Russ: You guys sniffing glue again?! You’re nuts! Cowboys have the best girls. No question.
Dan (pointing at Russ and looking at Kevin and Art): He’s sharp.

(They talk about cheerleaders for 12 more minutes, switch to strippers, then discuss masturbation tactics).

Hour 5:

Russ: You guys smoke weed or what?
Dan: Do we?!?!

(They pass around a bong for 23 minutes and a joint for seven. The rest of the hour is spent eating Funyuns).

Hour 6:

Dan: So Russ, do you want this job?
Russ: Yes. Very badly.
Dan (zipping down his fly): Would you suck another man’s dick to get it?
Russ: What?!
Art: Got ya! Dan does that to everyone.
Russ: Oh.
(Russ uncomfortably laughs while Dan, eying Russ, zips up fly).
Kevin: Russ, we’d like to offer you a job.
Russ: That’s great!
Dan: We’re prepared to offer you a three-year contract worth $7 million.
Russ: How about seven years at $100 million?
Dan: Four years. $12 million.
Art: That’s $3 million per…
Dan: Art, I’m going to slit your fucking neck.
Dan: Again, Russ, four years. $12 million.
Russ: How about seven years, $100 million?
Kevin: I don’t know if we can accommodate that salary.
Russ: Fine. Seven years, $99 million.
Dan: We’ll be in touch.

(They handshake and ass-pat for 32 more minutes).