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Friday, October 24, 2014

Interview with Awful Announcing

Whether it was catching a freeze frame of a pantyless USC Song Girl, or a quote from Matt Vasgersian ripping on the city of St. Louis, Awful Announcing has become a prominent player on the sports blogging scene. It has long been a favorite stop of mine, providing excellent commentary and news in the realm of sports broadcasting. For that reason, I wanted to get in touch with Brian Powell, the founder and man behind Awful Announcing, and find out what makes him tick. Our Q&A session follows.

1.What was the inspiration to start the blog? Was there a particular moment when you were watching a sporting event and the announcer pissed you off to the point where you felt you had no choice?

It was really a combination of things over the years. I grew up with my father just railing on Brent Musburger every single college football game he covered. Commenting and making fun of announcers is just something I’ve just always done.

The moment that made me start the site in particular was during last year’s NBA Playoffs. The Wizards were playing the Cavs and letting Donyell Marshall stand in one place the entire game, and rain threes on them. Hubie Brown described Marshall by saying he has the quality that all coaches love — “Wideopenshotability.” One word made me start the site the next day.

2. Did you intend for the site to have such a narrow focus? Do you feel limited to the scope of announcing/broadcasting news?

Well, a narrow focus isn’t necessarily true. The best part about AA is that people do dumb stuff in the booth and on sidelines year round. That’s where I think some blogs lose an audience. You can kick ass during NBA season, but what do you do when the season ends? That’s why sites like KSK, EDSBS, and Free Darko succeed in the off-season. They have amazing writers and an imagination that I envy.

If I only focused on NBA … AA would never have lasted. I also don’t limit myself to announcing entirely. I want the site to be a place where people can find something they haven’t seen yet or read before. I mean how many Last Night in MLB reviews can you read? If you watch sports as much as I do, you already know what happened by the time you wake up in the morning.

3. Have you received feedback on your site from any sports broadcasters or journalists? If so, what are some of your favorite stories?

There have been a bunch of people that have emailed in and said that they get the site, and enjoy what I’m doing. Most of them I could never mention because I wouldn’t want their employers to know they were associating with the “lesser” media.

I do have my detractors however, and my personal favorite is Spencer Tillman. He took an extreme disliking to my hammering of Charles Davis during the college football Bowl season last year. A commenter had incorrectly identified Tillman as Davis in an open thread and Tillman decided to make his voice heard (very badly as well). Good times.

4. Did you ever have aspirations of working in sports media? Do you think running the site has inhibited your chances of working in sports media?

I’ve had a few jobs in sports and sports management (one step above PE) was my major in college, but I never dreamed of working on the media side of things. First off … I wasn’t a journalism major in school and I am not the best with punctuation (Hence all of the … ). A MSM editor wouldn’t even let me in the door for an interview. I’ve obviously gotten better the more and more I read and write, but I’m happy with what and how I write at the moment. Everyone knows the larger sites are turning to blogs for original content, so you never know. I’m probably not in the running for a position over at the Leader though.

If someone is looking for a poor writing sports media critic … hit me up.

5. In just over a year, you’ve turned Awful Announcing into a sports blogging powerhouse. What do you think led to the rapid proliferation of the site?

Since I’m very self-deprecating, in my head I think it’s just really good luck. When I step back and look at the whole thing, I’d have to attribute it to hard work. I’ve worked harder on this site than anything in my life. Another aspect is that the site is all-inclusive. Just because I get a larger number of readers per day than other sites that started around the same time doesn’t make AA any better or worse.

A few other keys are to be transparent and appreciate everyone who links/reads your material. From the very beginning, I said I’d give a link to anyone who asked for one. I can’t stand when people only list 7 sites or so in their blogroll, but use stories from other sites all the time. To each his own, but it seems a bit hypocritical to me. Every single person in my “Friends of AA” section has helped me out in some way. Either by linking a story from AA’s leaner years, or by providing me with content for a post. It’s the least I can do to pay them back. I just hope a few people click over from AA to their site(s).

6. You have said in the past that you didn’t want to include any ads on the site. What was the reason for the re-design which now includes ads?

This is the hardest and easiest question rolled up into one. The easy answer is money. You can act hard and underground as much as you want, but when someone offers you multiple hundreds of dollars for a text ad … you start to listen.

The best conversation I’ve had on this subject was with Dan Shanoff. I told him that I hadn’t even considered it because I didn’t want to look like a sellout to the readers, and annoy the crap out of them. His response was, “Do you really want another site with a ton less readers making money while you make nothing?” I think the point is that there are ways to profit from all of the hard work without shoving things down people’s throats.

I think the new layout captures that. Plus I got rid of the depressing gray background — that’s a good thing.

7. What inspired you to continue blogging and do so much of it without compensation up until recently?

That’s a really good question and I don’t think I have an answer. If it’s anything, it’s probably because I have an addiction. I feel an obligation to post a certain number of times a day, and I get mad at myself when there are only one or two comments on a story.

The notoriety I’ve received, new people I’ve met, all the radio and TV interviews, and the people I’ve talked to throughout this past year, hasn’t hurt either.

8. Is there anything in particular about your blog that you’re most proud of?

I’m just proud that anyone enjoys something I put together. I freaked out just as much as when I had 100 people read the site as when tens of thousands come in a day. I’m also very proud of the community AA has built. The commenters are always stellar and the “Channel 4 News Team” that helps out with live-blogs, The Press Buffet, and the Weekend stuff, has helped me more than they know.

(I’m also proud I have kept a full-time, salaried position all while posting 30 some times a week.)

9. What is the ultimate goal of running AA?

This may surprise you, but I don’t set goals. Crazy I know. To let you behind the curtain a bit..I really don’t know what I’m posting until I start the day. I’m a terrible planner and I’m never organized.

I guess if I’m starting to make goals the first one is to actually keep the site running. The second would be to keep giving people stuff they haven’t seen or thought about. To the point above, every top website gives people something they wouldn’t get from the mainstream outlets (Hey, look at that! I think I made my first goal!!!). I’m just going to continue to be different, unapologetic, and never take myself too seriously.

10. What do you think lies ahead in the future for sports bloggers?

As the last year has shown, bloggers and blogs have gained an immense amount of respect. Newspapers have turned regular reporters into bloggers, ESPN began hiring them, and one even got a pitcher to change his approach to the first inning of a game. Amazing stuff has happened, but I’m still skeptical.

I may be wrong, and I’m not going to turn this into a war of the worlds type thing, but I think it’s going to be tougher in the years to come. Newspaper reporters will realize they are a dying medium, there will be more blogs every than before, and credibility issues will be running rampant.

I think the toughest part about the whole thing is convincing the public that an unbiased and honest opinion is more important than any local/national writer can give you. Most aren’t fans of the sport they are assigned to, and some are so bitter that they just don’t even try anymore. A fan, and the viewing public doesn’t deserve that, and I hope people continue to keep figuring that out.

Previous Interviews on LBS:
Adam Schefter, NFL Network Reporter
Ben Maller
Boxing Judge Chuck Giampa
Sean Foreman, Baseball-Reference Founder
Zach Landres-Schnur, The Big Picture

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