Our next guest for "Take Ten" is Joe Ovies, co-host on the "Morning Drive" which is the morning talk show for 850 The Buzz! I had the pleasure of meeting Joe a couple of months ago when he invited me and two other bloggers into the studio for a Hurricanes bloggers roundtable, and in my opinion he has a perfect personality for being on the air. He's very quick on his feet, has a keen wit, and obviously is knowledgeable about sports. In his relatively short career, so far it sounds like he's done a bit of everything for "The Buzz". The station's "The Blog", is his baby, (as I found out), and has grown to be one of the most popular local sports blogs online! His latest creation, "RadioTube - Low Rent Sports Talk Theater" is a video segment where he and Chris Clark sit and discuss sports over a beer, and then put the clip on "YouTube" for the world to see! I'm still waiting for some hockey talk though. Let's say we make Joe and Chris an offer? If they use a future segment of "RadioTube" for discussing the Hurricanes, we'll make it the Canes Country "Tube of the Week!".
I would also like to mention that Joe has always been a friend to local bloggers and has links to several other blog sites, from "The Blog". I know that during our earlier days at Canes Country, "The Blog" helped to drive some much needed traffic our way. Hopefully now we can reciprocate a bit. Thank you Joe. We appreciate your continued support of the blogging community and for participating in this interview!
Feel free to leave comments or questions for Joe at the end of the segment.
1. When did you start working for "850 The Buzz" and what did you do previously to that?
My senior year at NC State, working part time in early 2001. Basically working weekend shifts, running the board for Hurricanes games (when we carried the games back in the day). That lead to doing 20/20 updates and eventually the full time producer gig in the afternoon with Gold. With time my role increased. I did my own weekend show on Saturdays called "House of Sport" and then was asked to co-host the MoJo with Morgan Patrick on 620 The Bull. After the post-Imus reshuffle, I was paired with Gold once again...but this time in a co-host capacity. Obviously before the Buzz, I was a student at NC State studying Management Information Systems at the business school. The radio experience came from working at the student station, WKNC 88.1FM, as a dj and general manager my junior and senior years.
2. What is your favorite part of the job? Your least favorite?
Favorite part? That I get to talk about sports for a living. Getting up every morning at 4am can be brutal, but knowing I have fun things to talk about makes it worth it.
Least favorite? While Haterade drinking fans who take things way too seriously and/or personal can be taxing, it comes with the job. So I'll say that not being able to tailgate and do general fan things is the least favorite. Watching sports is the job, not the hobby. Sure, I'm in a nice press box or whatever, but darn it, I want to be dropping cash on over priced watery domestics and yelling at the refs with everyone else.
3. Who is/was your favorite NHL player to interview? Have you ever had a difficult player to interview and can you reveal who it was?
Kevyn Adams. The guy always made time for me, and still does even though he has bounced around the league since being traded. Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Edmonton, the Canes lose. How brutal do you think that room was after falling flat on their face and coming to grips with a Game 7? Think anyone in the room wanted to talk beyond the cliched player speak? Adams is a guy who gets it, and helped me do my job by being straight up with his answers.
My coworkers have dealt with difficult players, but I've never really dealt with it one-on-one. I've seen Peter Laviolette appear to break the media room door as he stormed out one time last year. I've had my microphone in the scrum when Jeff O'Neill snapped at a question during one of those early RBC days when the team stunk it up in December. His quote "What kind of question is that!? Give your head a shake."
During the 2006 ECF against Buffalo, Aaron Ward once used me as a prop to get the Canadian press off his back. He was getting hammered about the officiating, and some guys were trying to get him to say something he didn't really want to say. I followed it up with a question that was a little open-ended, and he snapped. The other guys got the hint, he was done answering questions. Once he finished his rant at me, I asked "Hey, ummm, are we cool, cause I'd like a one-on-one for Storm Front". He just sat down and said "yeah, sure, no problem." Rather amusing.
4. In your opinion what could the NHL do in general, and the Hurricanes do in particular, to increase interest in the sport?
Tricky question with no simple answer, but I will say that the obsession over ratings needs to stop. What should matter is attendance figures at your local arenas, not what Versus is pulling in. Look at baseball, which is killing it right now with attendance records despite all the blathering on about steroids and bad playoff ratings. Chuck Klosterman wrote a great piece in Esquire on how to save sports, and one of his big sticking points was reporting on television ratings. His overall point was that reporting on TV viewer-ship rewards events that are mostly appreciated by temporary fans, and over time creates a nonspecific product that isn't appealing to anyone. That's a long setup for the overall point: The NHL is a great product and the league shouldn't cater to what temporary fans want. Get a message and stick to that message. The NHL can make tweaks, just like any other sport, but it needs to avoid buckling under the pressure from talking head types who simple use the NHL as a joke.
5. The NHLPA just elected a new president. How do you think that the union can better serve the players?
How about a little respect amongst players?Â There are way too many cheap shots that do nothing but hurt the image even further than it already has been.
6. If you could make one rule change in the NHL, what would it be and why?
Widen the ice. It might piss off the purists and some NHL players, but it opens things up further for obvious reasons. Olympic hockey is fun to watch. Although I'm in a fantasy world on this one because you would have to change the physical layout of the arenas here. Bottom line: Less seats means less revenue.
7. A few teams around the league are embracing fan bloggers and giving them press credentials to cover their respective teams. What is your opinion about this, and how do you think NHL teams should handle fan bloggers who ask for press credentials?
Another tricky question, but dealing with new media is always fascinating.
More teams should do what the Washington Caps do, and not what the Islanders do. The Caps treat bloggers like regular members of the press, while the Islanders have some sort of hybrid "blogger box" concept with limited access. If you want to work the game with a press pass, then you have to work the game and follow the same guidelines we do. Showing up in a jersey and cheering just creates more animosity towards bloggers and actually hurts movement of respectability. It's also disruptive to the job. When Eric McErlain of Offwing Opinion shows up to a Caps game, you'd have no idea who he worked for unless you looked at his press pass. That's how it should be.
I understand that not all blogs are the same. Some are just the simple opinions of a fan, updated when they have something clever to write. Other blogs take a more traditional approach, linking to stories, offering opinion and general insight to the daily dealings of a team or sport. Those types of blogs have the most to gain out of credentials, and should actively seek being allowed access. The "Hey, I was in section 121 and the Sabres fan behind me was a drunk too!" bloggers don't need access. What's the point, other than the free intermission and hot dog?
If a blog clearly demonstrates a quality product, then there is no reason why it shouldn't be given a credential. However, blogs have to earn their bones just like everyone else. Let's say that a blogger gets in, they should be prepared for a 2nd class status. Your seats will stink, and likely be in some auxiliary room during heavy traffic games. I won't name the media member, but this guy never showed up to a game during the regular season (OK, maybe a handful). Suddenly he showed up during the hotness of playoff hockey. Think they got relegated to the auxiliary press box? Absolutely. Secondly, if a blogger "gets in" they will also be held to the same standards as the rest of us. Getting a media badge doesn't equate to a free ticket to the game, where you can just hang out and do what you want. Unfortunately, I've seen a couple of cases where the media member crossed into the "fan zone". One guy who is no longer in this market eventually got his pass revoked for that reason. I'll never forget the look on Sami Kapanen's face the night he was slapped on the back and told "great game!" by this guy. Keep in mind that Kapanen had just walked out of the shower and was just in a towel. Needless to say, that didn't go over well.
There seems to be a myth that the press box is some cushy lounge where the elite eat prime rib and look down upon the paying public. I wish! It's cold and clinical. In our case, we're there to take notes, get interviews for air, and get some insight that we'll be able to relay on the air. Newspapers are typing away at their game stories freaking out that they'll miss deadline. At the media meal, or during intermission, we'll all talk amongst ourselves to bounce around some rumors or discuss some other happenings around the league.
8. Of course you co-host the "Morning Drive" every weekday morning from 6-10AM on "The Buzz". What other projects or shows are you working on that we should be aware of?
While I was scattered all over the place in recent years, The Buzz has me focused on the morning show right now. Of course, there are times where they have to make a call to the bullpen, and I'm more than happy to fill-in on other shows.
We're starting to get into video on the blog though. You can catch RadioTube once a week, where I put my horrendous skills with iMovie on display.
9. Have you considered writing a book and if so, what would it be about?
Book writing ain't my domain. I have a hard enough time commanding the English language on the air.
10. "850 The Blog" is a very active and extremely popular blog. As a contributor, what do you enjoy about blogging and how do you feel it has affected mainstream media, if at all?
Contributor? "The Blog" is my baby. I stressed to management that we should get on the blog trend 3 years ago, and incorporate it into the branding of the station as a companion to what you hear on the air. The Buzz has always been great about letting me test out new things and the blog was no exception. It was slow at first. We got big spikes for silly things like the Gary Williams chicken wing photo or the Carolina Panthers cheerleader bathroom romp, but listeners finally understood the concept during the NC State basketball coaching search. We're talking about it on the radio, but not everyone can listen to the radio 24/7. The blog opened up a place for people to get the information we were talking about, or hear an interview they otherwise would have missed because they were in a meeting, etc, etc. The blog also opens up our brand to a different type of demo who might not listen to the radio, but is certainly interested in sports topics.
The "real media" has been coming to grips with this new media the last couple of years. Some outlets get it, some don't. Joe Giglio at the N&O gets it at ACC Now, and so does The DC Sports Bog at the Washington Post. If a "real media" outlet wants a blog to be successful, it has to integrate itself into the online community. Too often, blogs from traditional media outlets are dumping grounds for stuff that didn't make it to print. It feels tacked on. "Real media" blogs have to have their own identity and style.