Tuesday, November 17, 2009

4 Q's of Basketball with Vicious D of RaptorsHQ

One of the cool things that I had noticed at the beginning of this season was the representation of the Raptors' blog nation at events like Raptors Media Day and the Toronto Raptors training camp.  One of the blogs that had access to the Toronto Raptors Media Day was RaptorsHQ.com  I wanted to get an inside scoop of Media Day from a blogger's perspective, so I asked Vicious D from RaptorsHQ a few questions about his first experience at the event.
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Hip Hoop Junkies: This was your first media day with the Raptors, as a basketball fan, how was the experience?

Vicious D:  It'll be something that I'll never be able to quite duplicate again. As Adam (Raptors HQ co-creator "Franchise") said to me afterwards, he was pretty surprised at just how brazen I was about getting into everyone and asking questions and taking pictures of everyone! Heck, one of the highlights had to be my opportunity to participate in Jarrett Jack's scrum where I managed to weave in a question about Chris Bosh's hair. It allowed Jack to riff a bit about Bosh's twists and several days later, Matt Devlin eventually followed up on the line of questioning with Chris directly. Who knew that one innocent question would illicit so much humour and personality?

Of course, being able to sample the tiny donuts and the gourmet dogs were good perks as well. 

HHJ: I was listening to a Disciples of Clyde podcast with Knicks blog, Posting and Toasting, who attended the Knicks training camp. One of the questions that came up was what the vibe was like with the other mainstream media folk. Did you get any weird looks/comments from the mainstream media guys? Or is the Toronto media a little more accepting of bloggers than say a city like New York?

VD:  If I did get that look, I ignored it. Most of the standbys were there such as Michael Grange and Doug Smith, and like what I've heard, it can be a dog-eat-dog world in there thanks to the TV cameras and personalities at Media Day. Doug Smith in particular has shown little respect for bloggers, so I tried to stay away from him. However, at the same time Michael Grange has been one of our stoutest supporters by going to bat for us on programs such as Prime Time Sports. And then you had guys like Sun TV hijacking entire scrums with their questions and their cameras. In my opinion, there's no need for conflict and it works out better for us bloggers to find a way afterwards to approach people one-on-one. There's no need to compete to get our question in and have every single person in the scrum pick up our scoop or angle. Instead, getting that little one-on-one time allows us to be fun and interesting. For example, I deliberately waited until Bosh's scrum was completely dead and he was walking to his photo session to hit him up with a couple quick questions about things like his take on the whole NBA Twitter issue and his own video gaming this summer. As a result, we got a look on Bosh that showed that he's going to be serious going into this year, with little room for other nonsense in his life. And, it's shown on the court with his play and in terms of his new-found physique.
I was also more interested in interviewing the coaching staff because it was an angle that I was looking to expose. That allowed me to have all sorts of one-on-one time where I could dictate the pace and ask some more evaluation questions from people I thought would give a stronger idea of how the team was looking already. Spending time with Alvin Williams was an absolute privilege and he had to be one of the nicest and most enthusiastic people I met at the Media Day. Then there was also Alex English and Maurizio Gherardini, both of whom had to be two of the deepest and experienced basketball minds. Splitting off and getting these kinds of interviews allowed both me and Adam to cover most of the Media Day event without letting our content get stale and cookie cutterish.
HHJ: What's your personal opinion on blogs having the same media access as the mainstream media?

VD:  In Toronto in particular, we have so many blogs out there trying to cover the Raptors in as many different ways as possible. We have a rabid fan base that's opinionated, educated and loves sports. As a result, it's no wonder that we are always in competition with each other to bring new content. Reporters see that too. That's why Doug Smith was mandated in the beginning to begin this whole "newspaper reporter blog" business. I'll give him lots of credit. He was one of the first to start a blog, he has been very consistent with his updates, and he's tried to make it insightful and somewhat opinionated which is what a blog should be. However, as a fan, what I'd like are different perspectives that are sometimes unfiltered and bloggers can allow for that. I don't think it should be open season for every blogger to get access to the Raptors. I'm a realist in that respect. However, I think there's a place for us because some of us have followed these players from their high school days all the way to the NBA. Some of us have the same hobbies, are from the same generation and we can talk to the players like human beings. Those little angles and looks into the personalities of players and personnel are what make us bloggers useful to the NBA and is a service that we can provide in humanizing these athletes a little.

I think that's what makes our blogs worthwhile at these media day events and what makes us stand out. 
HHJ: What was the most bizarre thing you guys witnessed on media day?

VD:  The most bizarre thing was just how many shots of people I have just chowing down. It's pretty funny, but I managed to catch at least three players chowing down donuts before the scrums even started (Belinelli, Evans, and DeRozan all made their way over to the stand) and if I had just stayed there snapping pictures, I'm sure I would have gotten many other players. Then later on, I grabbed a shots of Johnson and Evans chowing down on hot dogs along with Bosh, Jack, and Wright. Those kinds of candid shots are pretty hard to come by, but they were of course easily picked up if you just hung around the food stands like I did.

Then, of course, I'd have to say that it was just crazy how much SUN TV managed to tick off a lot of reporters. Gareth Wheeler would just cut off any kind of line of questioning to get his in and he'd just manipulate the entire scrum. For example, the Italian media got a hold of Marco Belinelli fairly early and I was recording their conversation to get one of our readers to translate it because I wanted an unfiltered Belinelli look. Wheeler comes in with his SUN TV camera and just cuts the Italian reporter right off and starts firing away with the normal and boring questions that Belinelli's been peppered with since his signing and you should have seen the look the Italians gave him. I thought that Wheeler might wake up next to a dead horse's head, if you catch my drift. 
HHJ: Bonus question, is Brian Colangelo as cool in person as he appears on televsion?

VD: With regards to Colangelo, I'd have to say he has a certain aura about him that makes you believe in what he believes. As Adam was saying to me afterwards, he wasn't a big believer in the team, but Colangelo basically turned him into a believer that day, for at least that day. You might disagree with him, you might believe that the Raptors aren't going to make the playoffs, but for that one interview, you're going to get pulled into Colangelo's world.

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A huge thanks to Vicious D for taking his time to answer our questions, check out Vicious D at RaptorsHQ.com and follow him on Twitter, @RapHQVicious

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Hip Hoop Junkies, a Toronto Raptors / NBA / Canada Basketball blog based out of Halifax. Home of the #RAPSTALK Podcast - "Hoops Talk out of Halifax"

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