You can view our previous interviews here.
I managed to corral an interview with Dave Warner of FanHouse and Dave’s Football Blog (DFB) last week. DFB is among the most innovative and interesting ideas for a blog in the blogosphere. Essentially, he writes about football in it’s various forms around the world and does it quite excellently. His stuff on FanHouse is top-notch as well. He took the time to answer all of my questions, including ones about his balls…
Prepare a customized list that you’d like to share with the world.
Since it’s becoming clear that you don’t need to grow up with Australian football to get good at it, here’s my list — Top 5 NFL stars I’d like to see try their luck at AFL footy:
1.) Steve Smith
Anyone who saw him beat double coverage against the Bears in the 05-06 NFL playoffs knows he can get way up in the air for the ball. This fits right in with the AFL, where players jump high in the air for contested marks and such. Smith would be awesome either up front or in the midfield, where his speed, quick cutting and mark-taking abilities would throw everyone for a loop.
2.) Champ Bailey
Would a shut-down cornerback be able to shut down a Barry Hall or a Scott Lucas in the AFL? That’s a matchup I’d pay to see.
3.) Julius Peppers
Peppers v. Dean Cox in the ruck also intrigues me, since so much of ruck work is similar to getting jump balls in basketball, and Peppers was a monster in the lane for UNC before he chose football over basketball. Peppers could have been the next Charles Oakley.
4.) Reggie Bush
Now that I know he can actually kick a football as well as catch it and run with it, I’d like to see how he does with an Aussie football. The next adidas ad should be Reggie Bush and Chris Judd.
5.) Peyton Manning
Just for shits and giggles, really. Manning’s skills are so specific to American football that I’m not sure he could handle a different football code, but I’d like to be proven wrong on that point.
Outside of the NFL, I’d also like to see Wayne Rooney try his luck at AFL footy. Guys like Beckham and Thierry Henry would probably get killed out there, though, unless they bulked up a lot.
What 4 celebrities or athletes do you want in your posse? Who’s posse would you like to be in?
That’s a tough one for me, because I’m not nearly as celebrity-obsessed as some folks — which is probably why my missives on DeAngelo Williams’ future superstardom and American attempts at soccer fan culture don’t pull FanHouse traffic like, say, pictures of Tiger Woods’ baby and Tom Brady’s many girlfriends. Antwaan Randle El always looked like a fun guy to hang out with, but he also went to Indiana University, so I’m biased there. Watching Champions League matches with Ocho Cinco might be fun, too. And the West Coast Eagles stars certainly know how to get all the best drugs, so that’s another option.
I don’t know. I actually think I’d have more fun hanging out with the crews from Tiki Bar TV and Diggnation, just shooting the breeze about geeky shit. (And flirting with Lala.) That’s more my speed, and I wouldn’t look like the 165-pound weakling I am around those guys.
Propose a fight for Fracas Friday.
Barry Hall vs. Joey Porter. If it’s straight boxing, Hall wins on skill, but in a UFC-style cage match, it could probably go either way. Hall is badass, but Porter is crazy enough to give him a go.
3 best games you’ve ever watched (in person or on TV).
1.) Duke v. Kentucky, 1992 NCAA Tournament. Sorry, but I’m a college hoops fan, too, and nothing tops that game. Nothing.
2.) Pittsburgh Steelers v. Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XIII. Just in pure sentimental terms, this was the game that made me an NFL fan at a very early age, and going back to watch it again, I understood why. These were two titans at their peak.
3.) Sydney Swans v. West Coast Eagles, 2005 & 2006 AFL Grand Finals. If you really want to see two teams go at it with more passion and intensity than anyone, watch the 2005 and 2006 Grand Finals. The first one was a slightly better game, but not by much. It was the Eagles’ free-flowing, team-oriented style that made me a fan of that club, drug problems be damned.
Honorable mention: West Ham United v. Tottenham Hotspur, 2007. I had seen a lot of Premier League games and understood promotion and relegation and all that, but that was the first one where I actually got it. It was also the one that showed me just how talented a footballer Carlos Tevez really is. Whoever gets that guy will instantly get better.
What teams do you follow? Sports?
NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers & Carolina Panthers
AFL: West Coast Eagles
EPL: Reading F.C. (They were too good an underdog story last year.)
College basketball: Indiana (my alma mater) & Duke. I tend to keep quiet on my blog about being a Duke fan, mostly because Duke and football go about as well together as free beer and blood donations.
NHL: Carolina Hurricanes, though I freely admit to being one of those horrible fair-weather hockey fans who only cares when they make the playoffs.
Local clubs: Durham Bulls (baseball), Carolina Railhawks (USL)
What is your greatest athletic achievement?
Scoring on a layup drive in high school P.E. class while being defended by Derrick Hicks, who’s 6’9″ and ended up being a juco transfer at Wake Forest. He went up to block the shot, and I somehow got it around him. I was so stoked I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Any suggestions for a future interview?
Michael David Smith from FanHouse and Football Outsiders would be a good interview, as would Thomas Dunmore from PitchInvasion.net and any of the lunatics from KSK.
What’s the best rivalry in sports?
Any rivalry where your team could live with winning only 2 games in a season, as long as those 2 games were against them.
Seriously, how could you choose? Duke v. UNC? Ohio State v. Michigan? Steelers v. Browns? Cowboys v. Eagles? Indiana v. Purdue? Arsenal v. Chelsea? Argentina v. Brazil? Boca Juniors v. River Plate? Collingwood v. Richmond? All Blacks v. Wallabies? Really, it all depends on what you grew up watching.
Your blog is one of the most unique out there, where did the idea for an all football blog come from?
During the FIFA World Cup last year, all the usual arguments came out about which football game was “the REAL football,” so to try and find some actual answers to that question, I did a Wikipedia search on the word “football.” It was a real eye opener, reading about all these different games that people call football and how they all came to be — but more importantly, how they all emerged from the same tradition.
Once you understand how all these different games evolved from the same source, you realize how silly these arguments about “REAL football” really are. Football games are all man-made games with man-made rules, and we could change those rules whenever we want. Back in 1863, the gentleman from Blackheath left the Football Association, claiming that it was real football unless you could 1.) pick up the ball and run with it, and 2.) kick the ball carrier in the shins. I don’t think anyone would argue for that second point today.
What was the most important development in American football this century?
If you’re talking the 21st century, then probably the Riddell Revolution helmet. American football involves a lot more hurling your body directly at opponents than any other sport, and anything that reduces the possibility of concussions is a good thing.
I’d also say The Glove is an important development, but pretty much any footballer anywhere could use it. We’re going to see a lot more small technological hacks like these for athletes in the coming years, and it’s going to make steroids and blood doping seem downright archaic.
Put on your psychic hat: how do you predict football evolving this century? Are the variations coming closer together or getting further apart?
If I could predict such things accurately, I’d be the richest blogger this side of Mark Cuban. That said, here’s what I see happening…
First off, Association football is only going to get bigger in America, and a couple of things are going to help it.
1.) Football is moving into the inner cities, and kids that would normally play street basketball will start getting exposed to street soccer. Celtic F.C. is helping to build that trend with its inner city soccer academies . In about 10-20 years time, kids who once used basketball to escape the projects may decide to use soccer instead, and a talent pool like that will only help America grow this sport in the long run. (Imagine if soccer were the dominant form of football in America. Then imagine if LeBron James faced a choice between football and basketball….)
2.) Satellite TV and the Internet are exposing more kids to the Premier League, the Champions League and all the big European and South American competitions. Suddenly, all kids who play this brand of football will find new idols to emulate, and the more they read about world football, the more they’ll realize that they can make real money playing this game — perhaps not in America (yet), but elsewhere in the world. Chad Johnson chose American football because the stage for soccer in America wasn’t big enough. That’s going to change.
These things will take a couple of generations to happen, but they will happen. How European soccer looks at that point, though, is anybody’s guess. The Euro leagues could suffer an economic apocalypse by 2020, because the divide between the haves and the have-nots keeps growing, and some of these really big clubs — the Man Uniteds & Barcelonas & A.C. Milans and such — may look at the TV money at stake and decide to break away and form their own European super league, keeping all the cash for themselves. Expect much wailing and gnashing of teeth if that happens.
Of course, the NFL will remain the dominant pro league in America, but if the rest of the first world teaches us anything, it’s that there’s always room for more than one football code. Europe has soccer and rugby. Australia has its footy AND soccer and rugby. I think there’s plenty of room for both soccer and gridiron here.
Speaking of rugby, I’d like to believe that there will be a rugby reunification one day and all the old rugby union and rugby league boys will get together and play the same code, but that’s probably wishful thinking. The league supporters want to keep their own identity, just like Canadians want their football to have its own separate identity from the American game. That said, these Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) coming into rugby now could make union much more popular worldwide — maybe not after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, but perhaps 2011.
Then there’s the NFL and the AFL, both of which are immensely popular in their native lands and mere curiosities elsewhere. I actually think that the Australian code has a better shot of finding a worldwide audience. For one, it’s not being forced upon the world by those pushy Americans, who plop big ticket minor leagues in Europe and just expect people to show up. The AFL is growing its game on the grassroots level in other countries, and eventually, those countries will start producing AFL players, which will help the league get TV deals in those countries. In fact, guys like Mat McBriar and Sav Rocca coming to the NFL might actually do more to help the AFL gain an American audience.
Of course, it would help if the AFL got back on ESPN, or else typical American sports fans won’t really give a shit. ESPN is still the arbiter of sporting taste in this country, even though it’s become little more than a self-promoting behemoth anymore. If ESPN buys Setanta Sports, I fear they’ll just turn it into ESPN Soccer Channel and leave all the rugby and footy fans out in the cold. That would suck even more than Setanta’s inability to broadcast the Crows-Eagles match last Saturday. (Stupid satellites…)
Time for some word association. Give me the first few thoughts that come to your mind for each of these phrases:
Freakishly talented, but he always seems to do one thing in the biggest games that’s really, really dumb, doesn’t he? That lateral in the Rose Bowl, the end zone dance in the NFC Championship, etc. It almost makes sense that he did a commercial with Beckham, whom some folks in England still haven’t forgiven for that penalty kick in ’98.
In America, among the least popular sports you cover are Aussie Rules Football and Rugby. I actually read the code for Aussie Rules and it was quite helpful. Please give a few unique points about both for those yet to read your breakdown of the codes.
Rugby is probably more fractured than any code of football on the planet. You’ve got rugby union, you’ve got rugby league, and then you’ve got the American and Canadian gridiron games that came from rugby. The Rugby World Cup coming in September is union, and the main things for American football fans to remember about it is that blocking is a penalty, you can hold on to the ball as long as your able, field position is usually more important than possession of the ball — something that’s not always true in rugby league — and a “try” is basically a touchdown, except that you actually have to touch the ball down in the end zone.
As for Australian footy, the first thing to remember is that it’s not rugby. There’s no offside rule, so players can go anywhere, and having both a strong and accurate kicking leg and a wide receiver’s soft hands are vital. The game itself can be as free-flowing as soccer and as physical as rugby at the same time, which is why I think it could have an easier time attracting new fans than the NFL. If the Football Association had adopted a game like that back in London in 1863, I think Americans would have adopted it a lot more quickly. But that’s just my opinion…
What are your thoughts on Copa America? Who will win it? How will the Americans fare with their young and inexperienced team?
First off, for as much as we complain about the USA sending scrubs to Copa America, there’s zero incentive for them to send their A side. USA is a member of CONCACAF, not CONMEBOL, and Copa America is a CONMEBOL tournament. Winning the Gold Cup got the USA into the Confederations Cup in 2009, which may be a better World Cup tune-up than Copa. Winning Copa, which is much harder to do anyway, would get us a nice trophy and a little respect, but that’s it. On the surface, it looks like Team USA is chickening out, but politically, Bob Bradley is doing exactly what he should be here.
That said, I fully expect the Americans to go three-and-out and the Argentinians to win it. Carlos Tevez alone could outscore the USA side in the group stage if he gets the playing time. (It took him all of five minutes to score on the USA once he got in the game. Why he was even on the bench is a mystery to me.)
What was your first post that was linked elsewhere?
To be honest, I don’t remember. I’d like to think it was my missive on Todd Sauerbrun’s meat loaf addiction, but that’s just a guess.
For some reason, I’m very curious about the picture at the top of your site. Did you take the picture? Do you own all 4 varieties of balls? Where did you find them?
I did take those photos, and while I found most of those footballs at used sporting goods stores — even the rugby ball, which was really cheap — I had to shell out on eBay for the AFL football. The one thing I’m missing, though, is a Gaelic Football. I’ve found an online store for that, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet. Maybe after I get my last credit card bill paid off in a few months…
Why do you blog?
Because I’ve always enjoyed writing about sports, and quite honestly, this is a lot more fun than being a beat writer. I’d never be able to write the kind of stuff I write now while working for a magazine.
What do you want your blog to be known for? What do you personally want to be known for?
I’d like my blog to be known for making people think about why they enjoy the football games that they watch, and perhaps opening people’s minds to the idea that other forms of football aren’t so terrible.
Personally, I’d like to be known for shagging hot chicks until they see God, but I sense that this ship sailed a long time ago.
Do you want to do this for a living?
Maybe. I’m actually quite torn between living the life of a freelancer and having a decent job with benefits and paid vacation time. Jamie offered me a lead-blogging spot with FanHouse before it first launched, but I had to turn that down because it was too much of a pay cut from my current job, and I’ve got two mortgages to pay and no fallback position in the event of an emergency.
There are also times when I worry about burning out — especially now, because writing about all these different forms of football means there’s always something to write and never enough time to get to it all.
That said, if the right situation comes around, or if I could stumble upon a web site idea that could get enough traffic to make Google Adsense worthwhile, I’m all in.
How did you get involved at FanHouse?
I got into podcasting in 2005 and struck up an email conversation with Jamie Mottram, then host of Sports Bloggers Live. He invited me on the show a couple times, and when I predicted on the show before the 2005 season that some guy named Willie Parker was going to be a star for the Steelers, I was roundly mocked. Then he went out and rushed for 333 yards in his first two games that season. I was a semi-regular on SBL the rest of that season, and Jamie invited me to write for NFL FanHouse the following year — something my bank account is thankful for every day.
Your thoughts on the present and the future for the blogosphere. How does it fit with the mainstream media?
I think there’s always going to be something of a rift between the two — specifically, the guys who have access to athletes and front office personnel, and the guys like me who just write about what I see on TV and what I read from those guys who do have the access. I’d really like to see sports blogs make some of the people who cover sports for mainstream media a little less full of themselves. Having access to sports figures or working for a huge sports network doesn’t necessarily make you a better person. (Colin Cowherd can keep his job after crashing The Big Lead, but if I launched a successful DoS attack on ESPN.com, I’d get arrested for that. This is all manner of wrong.)
Not having that access gives you a lot more freedom to write whatever you want without as much fear of retribution. I can call out the Carolina Panthers’ O-line for being quitters — and they did quit in that Steelers game last year — because I don’t have to confront them in the locker room later. On the other hand, they’re more than welcome to post a comment calling me out for getting something incorrect. I’m just one fan writing his opinion, after all, and I’m not above admitting if I’m wrong or missing part of the story…
One thing to watch in the future is how the writing style of bloggers changes once they do get a little access to teams and players. Some of them may prove to be better interviewers than the pros, but I suspect some of them might lose a bit of their edge in an attempt to keep that access. I hope that’s not the case — especially when it comes to guys like Mighty MJD, who’s long been a favorite of mine.
The biggest mistake mainstream media could make, though, is to try to imitate sports blogs, because that will always seem somewhat phony. It would be much better for them to use the Internet in different ways to try to get fans more involved in following their teams and allowing certain personalities to develop their fan base naturally. There are lot more technologies out there beyond blogs for this sort of thing, and you don’t have to look that far beyond YouTube, Digg, Facebook and half the stuff Google is doing to find it. Also, it’s one thing to imitate blogs and another to follow their lead on certain stories, but it’s a fine line to walk.