Q & A with The Big Lead Founder Jason McIntyre

Mark TravisCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2009

Mark Travis: In my opinion, you have one of best if not the best sports blog on the Internet. When you were growing up, did you ever see yourself starting your own website? When you started The Big Lead back in 2006, did you think it would grow into what it is today?

Jason McIntyre: Growing up? Ha! The first time I got on the ‘net was when I was 18. Summer of 1995, right before going to college. I don’t believe ‘blog’ had entered the lexicon.

I don’t think I got the itch to blog until I read the first edition of Gawker in maybe 2000 or 2001. The author was an incredible writer and did a fantastic job of capturing the zeitgeist in New York City.

That was one of the things I had hoped to accomplish when I started The Big Lead in 2006. But when you start a website and for the first six months your only readers are loyal friends and family, you don’t think that maybe down the road you’re going to get mentioned on SI.com or Sportscenter or NPR.

I’m one of those weirdly negative guys who goes into almost everything with low expectations so that when they are exceeded, it’s a pleasant surprise.

MT: Your blog is viewed mostly by males who are in or fresh out of college. Do you adapt your writing style towards the age groups you are writing to, or do you just stick with a conventional journalist approach? Is it a good thing to change your writing style as your readers change?

JM: It often takes writers years to find their voice; I’m not sure I’ve located mine yet. I try to keep the tone fun and loose, unless there’s actually some reporting being done, in which case, yes, I’ll switch over to the conventional journalist approach.

I think that’s one thing that’s helped in my nearly three years as a blogger: the ability, when necessary, to go into “reporter” mode.

When I was in newspapers, breaking news was always the most fun part of the job, and that experience has me consistently wanting to try and do the same with the blog.

While that’s virtually impossible when it comes to coaching moves, trades, free agent signings and the like, I decided to try and break news in an area where there was a void on the internet: the sports media.

MT: Back in April 2007, your blog was attacked by ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd and his “herd.” What was it that set him off? Were you initially flattered that the contents of your weblog had reached Bristol or were you just really angry? Did you consider any legal action?

JM: To this day, I have no idea. Never spoken to him, and before the attack, I had only mentioned him once or twice. And the mentions were only in passing, as a guy living in NYC, I never listened to the radio, so I rarely heard his radio show.

Initial reaction: Anger. Why me? Not having access to the site for a few days was pretty dreadful. But in the long run it definitely boosted the site’s visibility and brought about many new readers.

What’s odd that is that Cowherd has name-checked us on air, in a positive way, more than a few times in the last year. I never seriously considered legal action.

MT: Last spring, you stepped down from your position at US Weekly, and revealed your identity to the blogging world. What made you come to this decision? Looking back at it, would you do anything different?

JM: It’s pretty simple. Sports Illustrated asked. I had missed out on a few opportunities to do interviews with various outlets due to the anonymity. If they were going to quote me, they wanted to know who I was.

And I didn’t feel comfortable doing so, since the blog at the time was just a hobby: something I did at night and before work. And being fully employed, I didn’t want to risk my job over a hobby.

But then my wife got a job offer, and I’d have to quit my job. This happened just as SI inquired about a story, and the perfect storm was complete.

There’s nothing I’d change about the revelation process.

MT: Your blog gets more than 2 million hits a month. How did you get a solid “fan” base? What do you think lured readers to your blog?

JM: Tough question to answer. So instead of answering it, I’ll just quote a recent emailer as to what they like about the blog. I won’t name the person, but here’s what they wrote me just this week: “It reminds me of Kornheiser’s old radio show. It’s not just sports.

"Like Kornheiser, you tackle other issues, be it fluff such as pop culture or serious sh*t such as the economy. Maybe when I was 12 I could do sports 24/7. I have friends in their 40s who still don’t own a shirt unless it has a number or a team logo on it. Yes, they are single. But most people, even diehard sports fans, have a broader life, and it seems you do, too.”

There’s no way I could do a sports blog that was only about sports. I feel mixing in pop culture and life and movies and celebrities is necessary to keep the site fresh. How many times can I blog about Kobe or LeBron? Everybody and everything gets stale, so to keep things fresh, I work in other random items.

MT: My goal in life is to be a sports journalist or broadcaster. I started my blog to get a head start on what I would be facing if I were writing for a newspaper and to have something unique for my college application. What advice would you give to a blogger that just started out?

JM: 1. Find a niche.
2. Have patience.

You’ll also have to wear multiple hats (blogger, editor, marketer are just a few) and even more as the blog grows.

MT: On your site, you have interviews posted with the likes of ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt, Patriots’ QB Matt Cassel, and even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. How did you establish these contacts? Who do you know that gives you access to these guys?

What advice would you give to someone who isn’t in the know, that would help them get in touch with these big name personalities?

JM: For most of the media types, I simply asked. Some of them I had to work for awhile: the ESPN ombudsman, for instance, took over a year. Tony Kornheiser took awhile, too.

I had a brief relationship with the NFL PR staff when I covered the Super Bowl three years in a row (while in magazines). Out of the blue, they asked me if I had any interest in talking to Goodell. It was completely unexpected.

Then, two weeks later, a publicist at NBC emailed me about doing an interview with Al Michaels. Again, major surprise.

For some of the ESPN people I’ve interviewed, I’ve had to go through ESPN PR. Not all of them are interested in talking to me. I’ve been rejected by plenty of journalists, and I suspect I’ll be rejected by many more down the road.

If you want to interview members of the media, it’s best to simply ask them. What’s the worst they can say, ‘no’? It seems unlikely that if a guy started a blog Monday and then a week later he emailed Dan Patrick or Bob Costas looking for an interview, either of them would grant it. But who knows?


Quickhitters (taking a page out of your playbook)

Did Holmes get both feet down?


Kobe or LeBron?


The 2009 NBA Champions will be the ______.

Cleveland Cavaliers.

The best WR in the NFL is _______.

Larry Fitzgerald.

Michael Crabtree is __________.

No longer rooming with a drug dealer.

Your favorite sports organizations are:

Born in New York, picked the Yankees and Jets to root for. First NBA game I attended involved the Lakers, and decided to root for them (Magic made that a really easy decision). Grew up in the DC area, so I gravitated toward Big East basketball (Georgetown and Syracuse).


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