An Interview with Michael David Smith
“I do believe I could write about any sport in a pinch. During the Olympics I wrote about gymnastics, table tennis, diving and a number of other sports that I don’t follow outside the Olympics, and I think I did good work. Writing about sports isn’t like writing about economics or medicine, fields where I think the writer needs a lot of specialized knowledge. I think a good writer can write well about a sport without being an expert in it.”
“I’m really proud of all of my Vick posts as a body of work, and I’m especially proud to have worked with Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk during the Vick case, because Mike set the gold standard in Vick coverage.”
Michael David Smith: Interviewed on September 18, 2008
Position: Lead blogger, FanHouse.com; Writer, ProFootballTalk.com; Editor in chief, CollegeFootballTalk.com; NFL columnist, New York Sun
Born: 1976, Detroit
Education: University of Illinois, 1999, speech communication
Career: English teacher, Compton High School, 1999-2000; Web site producer, Los Angeles Daily News/Long Beach Press Telegram, 2000-2001; Long Beach Gazette Newspapers, 2001-2003; Communications Assistant, Joyce Foundation, 2004-2006; Sportswriter, 2007-present
Personal: Married to Sarah Smith since 2000
Favorite restaurant (home): Hong Kong Chef, Chicago “Simple and easy, you call them up, order your sesame chicken and your crab Rangoon and your egg rolls, and you know what you’re getting when you go pick it up 10 minutes later”
Favorite restaurant (away): Battista’s Hole in the Wall, Las Vegas “My wife and I got married in Vegas and we’ve gone back about once a year, and we always try to make it to Battista’s, an old-school Italian restaurant from the days when Vegas didn’t advertise itself as a family place”
Favorite hotel: TheHotel – Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas “We stay at different places every time we go to Vegas, and so far I’d have to say TheHotel is the top place we’ve been”
Posted by Michael David Smith on FanHouse.com, Sept. 18, 2008, 1:27 PM:
Boxer Oscar Diaz is awake and breathing on his own
, two months after suffering life-threatening brain injuries in a bout with Delvin Rodriguez.
Diaz was in critical condition
but has now been updated to stable, and his doctors and family are optimistic he will continue to improve.
“It’s very exciting to see Oscar open his eyes. He’s a fighter and I believe he will get better,” his mother, Theresa Diaz, said in a statement. Diaz’s family and doctor will provide more information about his condition today.
The Diaz-Rodriguez fight was shown live on ESPN2. Rodriguez had unleashed a fury of punches on Diaz, and before the start of the 11th round, Diaz began to look unstable and then fell to the ground in his corner. He was rushed to San Antonio University Hospital and has been there since.
Reached by ESPN.com, Rodriguez said, “It’s very good news to me…. I’ve been waiting for his moment for a long time. It’s been difficult. I kept thinking about him and how his family was doing. I’ve been worried.”
Q. Was SI?s Richard Dietsch accurate in describing you as “an evenhanded and smart read”? What was the impact of being named SI?s Mainstream Blogger of the Year for 2007?
A. I’d like to think that was an accurate description of my writing. I’d say the big impact was that the recognition led to a couple of job offers, even though they were offers I turned down. It was nice to know I had options, even though I was happy with what what I was doing – and still am, 10 months later.
Q. The mugshot that runs next to your blog – are you grinning because blogging is fun? Or because you’ve got the job all your friends envy?
A. I took that picture of myself with my digital camera when FanHouse got redesigned and my old picture got lost somewhere in the series of tubes, and I can’t honestly say I gave any thought to the look on my face. But I will say that yes, blogging is fun, and yes, people often tell me that they envy my job.
Q. What are the various outlets you write for and what do you contribute to each? Do you do primary reporting?
A. Yes, I do primary reporting. I cover events live and I interview people, but for the most part my job entails sitting at home, with my laptop and my TV, and just writing whatever I’m thinking about the world of sports. I try to get out of the house every now and then, but I disagree with those who think that writers need access.
Q. Which sports are you most comfortable writing?? Which are the best writing sports? Could you write on any sport in a pinch?
A. Football is, always has been and – I think – always will be my favorite sport, and I know much more about football than I do about other sports. In the last year or so, however, mixed martial arts has become a close second. Those are definitely my two favorite sports to watch and my two favorite to write about.
I do believe I could write about any sport in a pinch. During the Olympics I wrote about gymnastics, table tennis, diving and a number of other sports that I don’t follow outside the Olympics, and I think I did good work. Writing about sports isn’t like writing about economics or medicine, fields where I think the writer needs a lot of specialized knowledge. I think a good writer can write well about a sport without being an expert in it.
Q. Describe your typical workday?
A. I get up early, I turn on ESPN, and I start reading e-mails and various sports web sites. I try to get a lot written by 9 a.m. I find that if I get off to a fast start on the day, the momentum will keep me productive through the afternoon. My coffee habit and my ability to type fast keep me productive.
Q. Do you read all the comments to your posts? Do you measure the success of the post by the number of comments?
A. No and no. There was a time, when I was first getting into the sports writing business and writing for FootballOutsiders.com, when I read all the comments and found the vast majority to be well thought out and intelligent. But now that I’m writing more often and for bigger web sites, I find that the comments aren’t really all that helpful. I’d love to engage in thoughtful dialogue in the comments sections of my posts, but unfortunately it just doesn’t turn out that way very often.
Q. Your most controversial post? Any posts you regret?
A. I don’t know about one specific controversial post, but the most controversial subject, by far, was Michael Vick. When evidence of dog fighting was found on Vick’s property, I at first took him at his word that he was never there. But once I started looking into it, it was clear to me that Vick was lying and that he was involved in dog fighting. So for the next few months I wrote about Vick just about every day, trying to give readers a full sense of Vick’s dog fighting activities.
Over the course of those months, I got a constant barrage of negative feedback, in comments at FanHouse, e-mails, and things other bloggers wrote about me. That feedback got really nasty when Chris Mortensen reported on ESPN that Vick wouldn’t be indicted. But I was confident that what I was writing was accurate, and obviously, we now know it was.
Really, the only thing I regret is that when I posted about Mortensen’s report, I didn’t make clear how skeptical of it I was. I thought Mortensen was wrong, that he was being fed bad information by people close to Vick, and I should have made that more clear. But in subsequent posts I did make clear that I still believed the evidence was overwhelming that Vick was involved in dog fighting, and 11 days after Mortensen’s report, Vick was indicted. A little over a month after that, he pleaded guilty. I’m really proud of all of my Vick posts as a body of work, and I’m especially proud to have worked with Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk during the Vick case, because Mike set the gold standard in Vick coverage.
Q. Do you attend games as credentialed press??
A. Occasionally. I’ve attended four events in the last year as a credentialed member of the media: One NFL regular season game, the Super Bowl, the NFL scouting combine and one UFC event.
Q. Who and what do you read and watch – mainstream and non-mainstream – to keep up with sports?? Who in sports media has influenced you?
A. I watch lots and lots of ESPN, and I read all the major sports sites. As for non-mainstream, the blogs I tend to like best are the ones like Awful Announcing and The Big Lead that just decided to start doing things their own way and found an audience doing it. I really respect anyone who starts their own site and turns it into a successful enterprise. That’s an impressive achievement. It’s something that two of the people I’ve worked for, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, have done, and I’ve been proud to work for their sites.
Even among mainstream writers, the people who have influenced me the most are the ones who do things their own way. I think Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated is probably the best writer in the history of professional football, if you look at his entire body of work, and it’s because he just watches games and writes what he sees. It really is that simple for him, and I try to keep what I do that simple as well.
Posted by Michael David Smith on collegefootballtalk.com, September 18, 2008, 8:18 a.m. EDT:
We’ve invited Russell Levine of Football Outsiders to post his Seventh Day Adventure podcast here at CFT. Russell is joined by Deadspin.com associated editor Clay Travis to discuss the weekends three big SEC clashes: Florida-Tennessee, LSU-Auburn and Georgia-Arizona State. Clay, author of Dixieland Delight, also shares some of the insights he’s gained while working on his latest book project, which has him spending the entire season behind the scenes with the Volunteer program.
(SMG thanks Michael David Smith for his cooperation)