Chris Clark has been at 850 The Buzz since 1998 and serves in many capacities at the station. He's the co-host of the afternoon show with David Glenn which is on the air weekdays from 3-7PM. He also serves as host of the pre-game "Stormfront" and post-game "Aftermath" shows which are broadcast before and after Hurricanes home games. The "Aftermath" show is broadcast live and gives fans a chance to call into the station to share their perspectives of the how the game went as well as other things. Needless to say, it can get interesting at times! Chris also works with Joe Ovies on "Radiotube: Low Rent Sports Talk Theater", in which he and Joe sit and talk about sports. They film the segment and post it on "YouTube". Now that college football is winding down, it looks like we might just get these guys to discuss hockey! When/if they do, it will be posted here.
A big thanks to Chris, for taking the time to participate. We appreciate his candor and wish him the best on his future projects. As always, feel free to leave comments or questions after the interview.
1. When did you start working for "850 The Buzz" and what did you do previously to that?
I started with the Buzz back in 1998 during my senior year in college as an intern. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after school, so I took two unpaid interships one at the Buzz and the other in politics. There were some simlarities in both areas, but eventually sports won out.
There's no doubt that just getting the opportunity to watch and talk about sports for a living is a dream job. I enjoy the opportunity to be around a team through a season with it's ups and downs and then getting to talk to people about their favorite team. I like talking to people and the conversation is always more enjoyable when you're talking to a person about something that they really care about. There isn't much of a downside to what we do for a living. There is sometimes an element of people that decide that you're an idiot or decide that they don't like you, without even knowing you, but that's just part of doing a public job. I don't mind that. The only thing about working in the media that I regret is that it takes away a lot of your ability to root for teams that you might have loved while growing up. I miss feeling the rivalry between schools or pro teams, instead of just watching a game objectively.
There are a lot of really good interviews among the Hurricanes. Hockey players by and large are the best professional athletes to work with, because they're pretty down to Earth as individuals and aren't divorced from the real world by massive contracts. I probably enjoyed Jeff O'Neill the most. He always had a few good quotes after a game. I don't know that anyone I've come in contact with was difficult to interview, but Jaromir Jagr didn't like a question that I asked after the Canes had beaten the Penguins one night and he decided answer the rest of my questions in Czech. And I don't think the translation would have passed for polite.
The league really needs to get back into the spotlight(okay, the fringe of the spotlight) of being on ESPN. Versus gives hockey a lot of attention, but even getting a little of ESPN's attention is a better position in the consciousness of the general sports public. I don't think that ESPN's dominance of sports television is good for the viewer, but until Versus or another entity finds a way to break through and become a "real" competitor...sports leagues need ESPN. The NHL doesn't even have to get a ton of games on one of the network's channels; just bring back NHL2Nite, so people can see highlights from across the league. The Canes have done a pretty good job of working their way into the community. As long as they put a winning product on the ice, the interest that the Hurricanes draw will only increase. The only other thing that I can think of off the top of my head is to continue to support youth hockey in the area. Kids being into hockey brings parents along with them and those kids will eventually grow up to be the next generation of Canes fans.
The union is going through a period of transition. They lost the labor fight in the lockout and then there was the fight over Ted Saskin, so it seems like the NHLPA is trying to reorganize itself under the new leadership of Paul Kelly and a new constitution. The best thing that the NHLPA can do is maintain the labor peace at least until the current CBA runs out in 2011. The players and owners could go back to the bargaining table in 2009, but the changes in the economics of the NHL after the lockout doesn't seem to be hurting the majority of the players. There doesn't seem to be a reason to risk the labor peace right now. The NHLPA should spend their time trying to help the NHL build the league and the star power of its players.
I don't know that there is any rule change that I would make. The league has tweaked things a lot over the last few years and I would just like to see consistancy from referees about following the rule book as it is now. Let the game have room to breathe and then people can take a look at the game. I don't know if I'm a fan of the shootout, but I can live with it for now.
I think one of the things that hockey has going for it is the immense amount of "new media". Blogs are a fantastic way for fan communities to become better interconnected and for a team's fanbase be become stronger and for new fans to become better informed. If teams like the Islanders or the Capitals want to bring some of the blogs into the press room, I don't have as much of a problem with that as some of the mainstream media might. I just don't know why a fan would want to come up to the press box. Being up there does create a certain distance from being a fan in the seats, who can wear their sweater to the game and scream their head off like anybody else. I like the Hurricanes, but being on press row, I can't high five anyone when Erik Cole scores or can't go into the visiting team's locker room and boo the other team after the game. I think that the fan blogs are in a good position in that they can write whatever they want. If the blog comes up to press row and into the locker room, then the independent view might change. As to the question of if a team should issue press credentials to a blog, if a blog can show a number of hits that suggests the public is treating the blog like a "news source" then why not treat them like one?
I love doing the show. Doing live radio is like working without a net, but doing the Aftermath sometimes feels like working without a net above a pool of crocodiles, who are on fire and have been forced to listen to the Chariots of Fire theme non-stop for three days. I disagree with callers sometimes, but that's part of the show. I would rather talk to someone and manage to get both points across. I'm not going to scream "IDIOT" and play some wacky sound effect to let the caller know that he's been "blown up". I guess that's the Southerner in me coming out. Being able to do the Stormfront is great too, but that's mostly because I like having Chuck Kaiton for every episode of that show. Chuck is one of the best play-by-play guys in any sport and he's been outstanding for our station to work with over the years. As for Hurricane-related projects, there's nothing new to report. I would like to take Low-Rent Sports Talk Theatre, which Joe Ovies and I do on the blog, and branch it out into things other than just college football. We can drink beer and talk hockey just as easily as we drink beer and talk college football.
I have never really thought about writing anything professionally, but I think that the culture clash of hockey in the South has some interesting aspects that would be a good read if it were done right.
I like the freedom that blogging seems to give to people. I can put a lot of the little stories that otherwise I wouldn't bring up on the air on the blog, or I can work on a longer form post that might not work as well as a radio topic. As to the affect that blogs have had on the mainstream media, I think it's forced the mainstream media to adjust what it has been doing and move more into internet content. Information is moving faster and people have more access to what is going on behind the scenes thanks to the mainstrea media getting more into blogging and I think that's great for the public.