Welcome back to my monthly interview highlighting unique Wild fans. This month I'm joined by Bryan Reynolds, one of the founding writers of Hockey Wilderness, SBNation's Minnesota Wild blog, and a giant of the Wild blogosphere. I met Bryan at the blogger retirement home, 'Basement Acres' to talk glory days over drinks.
Ben Remington - Bryan, thanks for joining me. First off, how is the bloggers' retirement home treating you? I assume it simulates a parent's basement well enough for your comforts?
Bryan Reynolds - Retirement is awesome. The package includes blocking Oilers fans at will, not having to engage with the "cool kids," being able to call out former "employers" for the garbage they actually were and still not getting paid anywhere near what you're worth.
But the hours are better. And people ask to interview you on Twitter. So there's that.
And my mom is happy about the cut back in meatloaf orders.
In all seriousness, I miss it sometimes. And then I read the comment section somewhere else, and remember I have kids that like me. So, it's pretty awesome.
Remington - Haha, well that doesn't sound too bad. I'm currently knee-deep in your previous life, so what can you tell me about getting out? What do you miss and what don't you miss, aside from the comment sections, which no sane person should ever visit?
Reynolds - What do I miss... Hmmm... I miss the outlet for both frustration and fanboy happiness. It was nice to have the podium every now and then, get up, say your piece, and have some conversation. Not many people in my "real" life want to listen to bitch (whine?) about hockey. Nor do they want to hear me talk about hockey when things are going well. So it was nice to have that.
Plus, I love writing. And it was a great outlet for that creative energy. Now, I just punish the creative energy into submission by adding on to my house, working a bunch of side jobs for kicks, and when it comes up for air, drowning it in whiskey.
What don't I miss? How much space is available on your servers?
The list is long.
Arguing every little thing with people who simply don't get it. Being called names by people who shouldn't be out of the sex offender institution. But enough about Oilers fans.
The constant missing of the joke. being told how to do what I do best, and do for an actual living, by people who shouldn't be in charge of themselves, let alone people who do a ton of work to benefit them... all for free, or basically for free.
We can end there. I could go on and on. Most of it is minor, and comes with the territory, but it wears on you. It's good to not have to stress about something that was meant to be fun.
Remington - I know what you mean. It's amazing to me how worked up people get. I get worked up, ironically, by typing in all caps when I tweet sometimes, but some folks just can't draw the line.
But enough about Avs fans.
Reynolds - Yeah. Most Avs fans hate me, still. I made fun of Peter Forsberg's foot a couple of times. You'd think I kicked over their Harleys onto a puppy that was curing cancer.
Remington - Well, they don't get enough oxygen to their brain, so it's really not a level playing field.
So you had a great run at Hockey Wilderness, and gained a lot of respect and friends along the way. What was it like, being at the forefront of blogging about the Wild like that? You guys were in the press box, the locker room, all that.
Reynolds - I won't lie, it was a lot of fun. At the beginning, we had a long leash and we were allowed to do what we wanted, when we wanted... say what we want, make the jokes we wanted to make. Somehow, we kept it civil for the most part, and that gave us at least the ability to mingle with the people we had no business mingling with.
Once we got our feet under us, we got some attention from folks in the front office and they gave us some tryout visits at things like dev camp and practice. Once they figured out we weren't after autographs and home phone numbers, they let us into the club.
It was like a Seinfeld episode most of the time. We kept trying to figure out how we were where we were, and waiting for someone to figure out we had no idea what the hell we were doing.
But, as you pointed out, the big takeaways were the people I met. I still have very good friends from that time, as well as a career, and some professional relationships that are second to none.
I can't imagine being a blogger has gotten any easier, but those early days were a whirlwind.
Remington - Well, it certainly hasn't gotten easier, from my estimation. Nowadays, "Internet-only" types aren't allowed with the press, hence the name to this article series. As someone who was there, what do you think of that? Is it draconian? Totally warranted? Somewhere in between?
Reynolds - This is a tough one, because there are a lot of bloggers out there that deserve the chance to cover the team first-hand. That said, the vast majority of the current flock of bloggers are just awful. They are rude, crude and have no respect for the work being put in by those with credentials or the investment those peoples' employers put into the coverage.
The phrase one bad apple ruins the whole bunch still applies, and it is, quite simply, easier to just issue a blanket policy than to take a risk that someone gets in that causes a scene.
Is it draconian? Probably, but it may also be totally warranted. If my job were to protect a brand... which it is... I wouldn't let unknown quantities into my house without some sort of proof it isn't going to go poorly. I think people who were contemporaries of ours, and those who came after us... across the league, not just here... set back the cause by years. It's fun to rip a player and rip a team, but when you get too crude, it throws up the force fields, and the PR team has to do their job.
The belief that these teams need the exposure of media and blogs is simply not true. No one is going to forget the NHL exists if you and Giles close down the site, or even if Russo retires and the Star Tribune folds.
So, is it somewhere in between? In theory, yes. In reality, no, because the blog world let too many internet tough guys lead the way for too long, and now good writers are paying the price for it.
Remington - I just want to be clear and say that I'm not a writer who deserves it, I just work with ones who are. I cannot be trusted, taken seriously, or am housebroken.
So you had mentioned other bloggers in a non-flattering light, and your scuffles with the current Hockey Wilderness regime has been well documented, but quiet recently. That site didn't go in a direction you would've gone after your departure, is that disappointing to you, or do you understand why they went that way?
Reynolds - To counter your point, I think you would be more than welcome in the press box, were the circumstances different. You're not unfair with your criticism. You're a fan, and you express it, but I don't think I've ever seen you be unfair or exceedingly rude or crude.
When we handed off the reins to Emilie, we actually told her that it would be smart to move to a more friendly view of the new stats, and the blowhards that were the loudest voices in favor of said stats. It was something we knew was coming. We had no interest in talking numbers all day every day, but we knew others did. She never had the same vitriol for the numbers, or those who wanted to mate with them that we did, so it was good for her to relax the "policies" against them at the site.
What the current crop of people running Hockey Wilderness did wrong was not to move to stats, it was the blowing up of the relationships we had built for the site. They burned bridges they had no hand in building, and then whined when they weren't taken seriously. It's one thing to change directions, it's another thing entirely when I get texts and such from those we worked with that say "Uh... these guys want credentials, we are going to say no, here's why," or from others outside the organization that contact me with "Did you pick these guys, because they are awful."
It was never the site I was worried about, and I am glad that the people I built relationships with were professional and smart enough to know that what the new folks were doing had nothing to do with me.
How they run the site is their business. When I left, I had no inclination of ever going back for much other than to read those whose writing I really enjoyed, but they all left fairly quickly after Emilie did, so I really had no reason to go back.
I think my apathetic attitude toward life, in general, is fairly well-known, and applies doubly so here. What they want to do with the site is up to them. My relationships are safe, if they want to continue to make themselves look stupid, that's up to them.
The writing world is a small one, and the hockey writing world an even smaller one. Reputations last a long time.
Side note: being banned from the site I built and handed to them on a silver platter is still one of my proudest achievements.
Remington - Well, I can't say that I didn't expect that response.
I've been in between you and my friends at the current Hockey Wilderness for a while now, and I think it's fair to say a lot of things could be handled a little better on both sides, with the other side not just being you, but the folks you cited. I think relations, in general, have gotten better recently as well, in a no-news-is-good-news kind of way.
So you mentioned not going back, does this mean you're not going to go Jordan/Favre/Mario on us and come back to writing? You're telling me somehow you're not being recruited by The Athletic?
Reynolds - No news is good news, absolutely.
As for coming back... I think we all learned from Dumb and Dumber there's always a chance. But it's an exceedingly small chance. Plenty to do with my time right now.
As for The Athletic, that's flattering, but no. No recruiting going on there. I think they've got an incredible team, and they probably don't want to ruin the chemistry they've built-in the room with a toxic person like myself. Ha!
Remington - You've been known to have high Toxic per 60 minute rates, this is true. Related to that, you've still got a solid following on Twitter, even though you may or may not have grown completely apathetic towards the Wild. What do you think your role on Twitter is now?
Reynolds - Having learned only recently that I must have a role on Twitter, I have pushed aside every item on my bucket list, and fully dedicated my life to discovering what that role might be. Much like NHL players spend every waking moment worried about what the fan in section 205, row 6, seat 13 thinks about their Corsi numbers, my world now revolves around this quest.
I am hoping to have it figured out soon, but until then, I encourage everyone who does follow me on Twitter to send in their demands for how I should behave on the platform.
As for my apathy to the Wild... I can never remember where I heard it, but somewhere in my life, I learned that when a pitcher walks 3 or 4 batters in a row, the bat best not leave the next batter's shoulder until the pitcher throws a strike. So... I'm waiting for the Wild to throw a damn strike.
Something. Anything, really, that would make it appear that they aren't just a carbon copy of every middling, mediocre team they have fielded for the near whole of their history.
Remington - Don't sugarcoat it, tell me how you really feel
Reynolds - *slowly lifts whiskey bottle to lips*
Remington - Haha I think you're far from alone on that. So given this never-ending cycle the Wild are in, if you were still in the writing game, what would you be saying about this team? Given that you used to give a crap, but now don't give a crap, if you gave a crap, who might you be crapping on? Or not crapping on, if we're trying to positive.
Reynolds - Honestly, I'd say they're not much fun to watch. At all. In the past, other fanbases called the team boring. They really weren't. They really are now. It's like watching the same movie over and over for going on two decades get old.
The crap to give is plentiful, to be honest. Chuck Fletcher has painted himself into a corner with the cap, and some marvelously bad trades. The prospects haven't panned out all that much, and for some reason, the prospects that have still have to play second fiddle to Koivu and Parise, despite their production clearly not being enough to be considered enough.
The blue line seems to be pretty good, but nowhere near the top flight defensive corps we were promised.
A lot of stagnation in growth of players, coaching changes, goalie changes, trades... and no real change in results.
All of this points to the front office.
The positives are there, but they're yawn inducing positives. So, while they are good for the team, it doesn't do much for me as a fan.
I'd rather watch them lose spectacularly if it meant the future was bright. Right now, the present is a shot of Nyquil and the future looks slightly better, in maybe a gelcap form so the taste isn't quite so bad.
The short version of that? I only have blame for the front office. The players can only be what they are, and the coach can only coach what they are given. This is on Chuck right now.
Remington - Interesting. Along those lines, I'm not sure if I'm better or worse off than a casual fan at this point, knowing as much as I do about this team.
Reynolds - I suppose it all comes down to perspective. Following a team closely makes you focus in on the details and you are more likely to find something to grasp on to for hope... if for no other reason than to stay sane.
A casual fan doesn't care who the top prospect is, so all they know is that the team is OK to watch, and that there is a 50-50 shot they win. That seems to be good enough for some folks, I guess.
Who's better off? I think you are, because caring about something is generally better than not.
Remington - I may or may not be convinced of that.
Caring is relative, but I'll always stump for other bloggers because I know the time they put in and all that jazz. It might be a self-serving job, but it's also a bit of a thankless job, and a hard job, especially building something from the ground up. I would know, I've already failed at that haha. What words do you have for bloggers of any kind? Current bloggers, terrible bloggers, aspiring bloggers, and the like?
Reynolds - For aspiring bloggers, my advice would be to not do it. Turn around and run the other way. Find something else and pretend you never even heard the word blog.
Or, you know... make sure you really want to do this, and that you are committed to what it takes to be successful. Starting a blog is like the New Year's resolution to get in shape. By Jan. 4, the gym is empty and you're back on the couch with a beer and a Twinkie.
It's not for the faint of heart, for sure.
For anyone currently writing a blog, whether they are great at it, terrible at it, or anywhere in between, my advice is to have a purpose. Not like a Twitter role purpose, but a purpose for the blog, and a purpose for yourself in regard to the blog.
Why do I want to read it? What's in it for me, the reader? Maybe the answer there is "absolutely nothing" and you want to just shout into the void. Which is still a purpose.
Once that purpose is set, find your own unique voice and shout at the top of your lungs to make people listen. If your goal is to be part of the establishment, be respectful, honest, and fair. If you're going to be an asshole just to be an asshole, expect people to treat you as such.
The only universal advice I have is that the writers should not kill themselves for it. It, very likely, leads to nothing, and doesn't pay bills. So it best be fun. As soon as it's not... get out.
Remington - I think that's a great point. There have been several times where writing hasn't been fun for me, but for the most part, it has been, so I've stuck with it. Like you, the best part has been the people I've met. It's crazy the quality of people...on both sides of the spectrum... that you meet doing this stuff.
I suppose I should wrap this up before we really end up offending someone. So in closing, you've done incredible things, you've met great people, and you've made plenty of enemies, in your roles. What do you think your lasting impression on the Wild writing scene was? Your *legacy* if you want to sound fancy.
Reynolds - If we haven't really offended someone by now, let me just say that Oilers fans are the worst fans in hockey. That should take care of it.
What's my legacy? I am not so arrogant to think I get to decide that. But I would hope is that I left behind a roadmap for how to have fun, break down some barriers, meet some amazing people, and by the grace of God, find your damn role on Twitter.
If nothing else, I did show that busting your butt for five years, doing far more work than should be done for next to nothing, one can find some success in building something that means next to nothing in the grand scheme of things, but makes the connections you need to find something that does matter.
Remington - That's a great way of looking at it. In the end, your blogging resume doesn't amount to a Hill of beans, but the networking is really the takeaway, and maybe along the way you have a good time.
I can't thank you enough for your time Bryan, you've been expectedly frank and honest in your answers and hopefully, you've given some of the fans of your previous work a glimpse into where you're at now.
Anything you want to say before we go?
Reynolds - There is probably something profound to be said here, life advice to make the world stop and think, "Damn. That was profound." All I know is Norm Green still sucks.
Thanks for including me in this. Much appreciated.
Remington- Tremendous statement to go out on. Thanks again.
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