The Redskins Hire Their Blogger
After weeks of speculation and more speculation, the Redskins got their blogger, and just in time, too. He is Matt Terl, he reported for work this past weekend, and his blog--tentatively called "The Official Blog of the Washington Redskins"--went live on Sunday morning.
Terl, 31, has blogged about the Skins before--at The Internet is for Zorn and the now-defunct Send Sheep!. He's a MoCo native, a Maryland grad with a Masters in Creative Writing, and previously worked as a technical writer and instructional designer for an HMO. I feel completely comfortable welcoming him to the training camposphere, as long as he promises not to break every scoop about an upcoming Portis costume. Here's his welcome Q&A.
So when you were a kid growing up, where did "official Redskins blogger" fit into your career dreams?
Well, I've been a Redskins fan for as long as I can remember, literally, and writing for my own enjoyment since the fifth grade. So if someone had managed to explain to me what a "blogger" was -- which would've been tough, as my entire grasp of computers at the time revolved around making the little turtle draw pictures in LOGO -- I think it would've ranked fairly high up there.
Did you ever want to be a professional sports writer?
Not once I realized that doing so would involve starting off as an amateur sports writer. I covered some high school basketball games and was just disastrous at it, so I immediately moved over to the Features section, where I did better. I did want to be a sports columnist, though, starting during the Redskins run to Super Bowl XXVI, with Kornheiser doing not only his "bandwagon" stuff, but all the endless coverage of ice fishing and various bits of wacky Minneapolis/St. Paul culture. I remember being deeply engrossed in that, which is probably related to what I'm hoping to accomplish with this Redskins Blog.
You've had two different Redskins-related blogs; what motivated you to write about this team without getting paid? How did you attract readers? And how will your approach change now that you're actually getting paid?
I started writing the first blog, now lost to the eddies of the internet (I devoutly hope), for a friend who was spending time in New Zealand for some reason. He knew he could get Skins news and scores pretty easily, but was worried that he wouldn't be able to get a sense of the mood around town or any of the non-newsy stuff. (This was back before every subject on the planet had at least three blogs and a flickrstream devoted to it.)
I started with the idea of sending him e-mails, but that seemed needlessly intrusive and arrogant -- "Here's what I think, and I'm e-mailing it to you to force you to pay attention" -- so I jumped onto Blogger and started writing there. I figured it was less arrogant if people chose to come read, rather than imposing on their inboxes. So for that one, I just used the simple tactic of NOT attracting readers.
By the time Internet is for Zorn came around, I was a little more comfortable and a little more confident, so I would either send things around to the larger, "name" blogs myself, or I would encourage my friends to do it. Links from you, Deadspin, SI.com, and The Big Lead were great, but -- shockingly -- the biggest referrer until I made NFL Draft Bingo was Paul Lukas's Uni Watch. Apparently the sort of sports fans who focus in on the clothing are very likely to follow links. Demographics are fun!
If I'm getting this right, you're leaving a career and house in Baltimore, moving to a different state with your wife and infant daughter, and beginning an 'Official Team Blogger' job that might be unique in American sports, and you're doing it for one of the most high-profile franchises in pro sports, literally as the team's season is beginning. Has anyone told you you're crazy yet?
It's been mentioned, yeah. Then again, would it be more or less crazy to do all that same stuff for a NON-unique job with a lower-profile franchise? It's not like I'm moving to southern Pennsylvania to be an usher for the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, you know? This is my dream gig -- writing -- for my all-time favorite team. That makes a lot of crazy-sounding decisions seem much more acceptable. And my wife has been hugely supportive the whole way through, despite the obvious lunacy of the whole thing, so that's been an enormous weight off my shoulders.
I'm going to assume the Redskins are you biggest sporting passion. What's second?
I feel like there's a comedy answer here -- lawn darts! -- but I'll play it straight and say rooting for my alma mater's Terps basketball squad.
How active of a blog reader are you? Where do you get your Redskins news? And how many times a week do you check Redskins Insider and Extreme Skins?
Sports blogs, I don't start my day without Deadspin, The Big Lead, Fire Joe Morgan, FanHouse. I really like MJD over at Yahoo!, although I like him best when he does his weekly Smorgasbord. I think the guys at Kissing Suzy Kolber are brilliant 90% of the time, and the other 10% I'm probably just not getting the joke. I keep up with Awful Announcing, Mr. Irrelevant ... so, yeah, pretty active blog reader, I suppose.
I get my Redskins news from the usual places -- the local newspaper websites, the big-ticket sports websites ... I used to be addicted to Profootballtalk.com, but I felt betrayed by their constant berating of Tiki Barber for using big words and stopped going back. (Seriously, why excoriate the guy for THAT, of all things?)
I have the Redskins Insider widget thing on my Google homepage, although I haven't clicked through in awhile. I haven't been much for Extreme Skins, though -- I tend to be needlessly pedantic for message boards, and I spend all my time obsessing over the horrible spelling and punctuation. I suspect that's going to change shortly.
Who's your favorite all-time Redskin, and why?
Ah, that's tough. I don't really have anyone unexpected here -- one of Monk, Green, or Riggins, depending on my mood. Probably Darrell Green. I have vivid memories of him injuring his ribs hurdling Bears defenders in the playoffs, and that was roughly the coolest thing I had ever seen at the time.
Who's your favorite current Redskin, and why?
That's tough too. Up until now, it'd be Portis or Cooley, as they've proven to be the most entertaining to follow for the last year or two, but we'll see how this preseason develops. I think rookie CB Matteral Richardson has a pretty terrific first name, for whatever that's worth.
What's your best Redskins-related memory?
My parents used to drop me at my grandfather's house while they went to the games, and I have vivid memories of being about six years old, sitting on this weirdly-textured couch he had in his living room watching the 1982 NFC Championship game against Dallas. Dexter Manley concussing Danny White, Manley tipping the ball to Darryl Grant for a touchdown, Riggins grinding out the game, and the fans going ballistic. That's the first time I remember seeing the seats bounch in RFK, and I was terrified they were going to collapse on my parents. (They didn't, obviously, otherwise this would be a really grim best memory.)
What's the most embarrassing piece of Redskins-related product you own?
I'm pretty okay on that one, actually. I've never been a big gear guy -- some T-shirts, which helpfully turned into vintage T-shirts as I got older, and an Art Monk jersey. I did find a picture of my teenage room a few weeks ago, though, and the amount of Redskins paraphernalia on the walls is kind of terrifying. Looks like the wall of the bad guy's apartment in a serial killer movie where the killer becomes obsessed with the female detective who's tracking him, only with the Redskins as the female detective and me as, er, the deranged lunatic.
What's the ideal blog post for your site?
It's a work in progress, so I'm expecting the ideal post to change as things develop. Something that people want to read, that shows them a side of the team they don't usually get to see, and that does it all in an appealing and distinctive voice. Also, something that draws lots of traffic.
Do you think you'll be nervous the first time you board the official team plane for a road trip?
Probably. I'm nervous when I board any plane -- I can't make the 45-minute flight to Virginia Beach without white-knuckling through the takeoff, landing, and drink service. And then there's the intimidation factor, here. This may shock you, but I haven't spent a lot of time on official team planes.
Are you now required to visit Six Flags and Johnny Rockets while watching the ACM Awards show and listening to Redskins Radio?
Not all at the same time, no. I do love both water parks and chili burgers, though, so I'm ready if the requirements change.
If you could ask one bloggy-tinged question of Daniel Snyder, what would it be?
I'm not sure yet, but I really hope I've thought of one if the opportunity presents itself. Thanks for calling this glaring lapse to my attention.
What did you think the team's record would be this season, as of June 2008?
I try really hard not to make predictions, because I have learned from the NFL Network's "Get Your Story Straight" commercials that predicting NFL during the preseason only makes you look dumb. When the schedule came out, I was persuaded to go through it, and I came up with 10-6, but I don't really have any reason to believe it.
What do you think the team's record will be this season, as of this second?
Oh, man, I have no idea. I don't even know HOW to answer this question. "I just know the team's going to give it all they've got," or "This is a great bunch of guys and I'm sure they're going to win some tough games" or something like that, right? I'm feeling optimistic right this moment, so let's go with 12-4.
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