Mike Barrett Interview -- Part II

Check it out bredren, shotta here with the realness. Part II of the Mike Barrett Interview is now in full effect.  If you missed Part I, go here.

In this section we pretty much dork it out, talking at length about blogs.  But, hey, that's what bloggers do, right?  We also discuss whether he is a "company man" and whether team websites should break stories, before we probe the details of his more-than-a-friendship with Kevin Pritchard.  Simmah down now.

Perhaps my favorite part of this section is hearing him self-critique his blogging.   He is so dang critical of himself and I think that this constant self-criticism is something that a lot of writers can relate to.  Bloggers, especially, who know that they will receive instant feedback from thousands of readers.  I know I can relate to what he's saying; I mean, I'm already regretting the lame opening to this post and I still have 3,000 words left to edit. 

Please note in this section of the interview there were no Tom Penn interruptions.

There are (probably) 2 more parts to this coming later this week.  If you are enjoying this interview, I encourage you to head over to Mr. Barrett's blog and thank him for taking the time to speak with Blazersedge at such length.

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Blazersedge: You do the TV play by play obviously.  You're now a radio host, filling in on 95.5FM and also you do your own Courtside show. You write for Rip City Magazine. You're also blogging.  Does anyone else do all four of those?  Is this some kind one-of-a-kind 4 tool announcer setup they've got going for you or what?

The funny thing is that when the blog started at Summer League like 3 or 4 years ago, they said write some stuff for training camp, and that was kind of strange, but then they saw I could write in a real conversational way, that involved people. It was one of those odd things that you stumble into and all of a sudden you've created a lot of work for yourself.  It's not a bad thing it's a good thing. 

It takes a lot of time, as you know. To do something like that and to maintain it-I moderate 95% of the comments, I see them all, I put the picture up, I do the headline, it's like my own little newspaper.  And that's pretty cool for somebody who was into journalism anyway. Writing has always been pretty easy.  To sit down to write after a game or after an event, positive or negative news, it's almost my way of going home and unwinding and reliving it.  I think a lot of writers would say that.  That's my way of going home and coming down from the high of the night...

Blazersedge: And processing?

Yeah exactly.  But there are nights when we are out on a road trip, the 8th or 9th day, and we just played, and I don't want to go to the hotel [and write] at 3AM in Boston and it's 5 degrees outside, I want to go to bed. 

But once you started it, you owe that to the people who are there for you.  I think I've created a lot of relationships. Whether or not it's a 2 way relationship I don't know, but I've created a lot of relationships through that website, through that blog, and you get different things on a blog that you can't get in a newspaper.  Although our writers are great: Quick, Freeman, Hendrickson, all of our writers are great. 

But the funny thing about what you asked is that in the 2nd year, I didn't know of any other broadcasters that were doing blogs like that, now they all are.  There are a few of them that joke that walk up to me and say, "thanks a hell of a lot," because as soon as other teams saw it was working all of a sudden they made their guys doing it.  I'm not going to say I started it, but I don't remember it being around a lot until this. 

I know for some guys that don't have a writing background it's probably not as fun to do.  I get wordy, I get long, I start writing.  They tell me, "just write a paragraph," and I said, "I get going, I can't.  The next thing I know I'm at 2,000 words. I've enjoyed sitting down after my kids and wife go to bed, sit down, and process through some things. It helps me remember the game better, it helps me realize it, the next time we play somebody, I remember not only the game but the blog. I can go back and review it if I want to. 

The comments to the blog, and the people who read it, I moderate the comments, in the past year I have probably rejected one comment, because it had a foul word in it.  It's just great people who read the blog and they all respond really well to it. That's reflective of our fans. They are good people. They are educated.

Blazersedge: It seems like in all of your roles you are really out front acting as a face for the organization.  Is that something that has come down from up top?  Is that a calculated thing, you've said you stumbled in to the blog, but with 95.5FM it seemed like a no-brainer that your role would be expanded.  Is this a structured thing putting you at the forefront or ...?

No. It just kind of organically grew.  It's funny because there are certain things where, I've talked to my wife about this too, you get asked to do a lot of things, it's expanded, different auctions, not to get overly spiritual here, but I feel like some of this is me, some of this is stuff I've worked through, you're given certain gifts, and I owe that to my creator, to make the most of what he's done for me.  If I can help not only the organization but a group of people while still maintaining a healthy balance with my time at home, I want to do it.  That's where some of that has been born.

I think a lot of people thing that in business everything is contrived and everything is born in a meeting or something. No. This blog just started happening.  People thing, somebody is picking your photo, somebody does the headline, somebody moderates the comments... no, it's just a one man operation.  It's like a back room newspaper. People would probably be disappointed if they knew how many people were involved in that. 

When it started out, an entirely different group of people were running things then, it was like "well, when you write something we need to run that through a couple of people first," then I said, "well I don't want to do it then. I don't want to have people changing what I've written. If you want me to do this, and you trust me to be on the air live on TV for 8 hours a week, then you sure as hell better trust what I'm going to write. I think through time I've earned that trust through them, so they don't even think about that now.

The only thing that becomes a sticking point is if there is [a situation] like Brandon's surgery last week on his knee.  I knew 2 hours before anyone else knew that everything was ok. And I had a blog post written and ready to publish. I could have clicked and had it done."

Blazersedge: So why hold off?

Because I work for the team and because it's the team's website and because I don't want my access to be thrown in the face of the local media or our writers, who do a great job. I have access they can't get.  And that's obvious. And they understand that. I don't want to say, "I broke this first."

My job is not to break news. I'm not going to get into battles like that. That's never been the way I've felt about the radio show or the blog.  We're a team website and I'm going to do what's best for the club.  Some guys think differently. 

Some broadcasters think differently. Some people in the organization think, "put it on our website first and we'll drive traffic." Not only are the other media guys friends of mine, I get emails and I get phone calls, and I have guys that I talk to that trust me to use better judgment than that.

Blazersedge: As kind of an ethical issue, do you think your stance developed from your journalism background? Do you think it's motivated not only by your friendships with the other writers but also by the relationship that should exist between a team and an independent media?

Yes. And that's not even an issue now. It used to be. When there was such an adversarial relationship between the club and the media. You can't fool people. If you've got bad guys, you've got bad guys. You can't polish that. You can try, through PR.  Some teams try to do that. 

As Beijing has found out, you can't fool people.  You can try. 

Whereas that was an issue in the past, it's not an issue now.  If you can find a negative story, I guess you can always find one, when you are truly doing it right, being honest and open, with nothing to hide, there's no reason to have a bad relationship with the media. 

It comes down to managing things story by story, if there is an injury or some troubling news at some point, a a fight in practice, or little silly things that happen, you just deal with them then.  If you go to the writer and say, "I'd really appreciate it if you'd let us get our ducks in a row before you bust the story, so we can at least come up with a statement that makes sense," then they're going to give you that latitude.  If you don't treat them that way, then they're going to look to burn you.

And I'm part of that. And if I were coming out and throwing news up, things that I knew early, not only would I tick off our PR department, I'd probably upset local writers-I mean Jason Quick and I went to college together.  I want our club and our PR people to trust me with our judgment, just like I would trust them with their job, and I feel pretty good about that.

Blazersedge: You said your first loyalty before anything is to the team, and if there's a criticism of you that I've heard, it's that you're a "company man."  Do you perceive that as a criticism or do you flip that back as a positive?

You mean, being a homer on the air?

Blazersedge: No, not only that, but also your overall portrayal of the players, their personalities.  Perhaps there is a disconnect between when they are your players compared to when they're not your players? Or perhaps it's in your support of management decisions, like trades?

Well, since when I've been in the job to where I've had any experience to the point where I could have that attitude, there hasn't been anything to get upset about. There hasn't been anything to be dishonest about. I mean, Kevin hasn't made a bad move. He's going to... but he hasn't yet.   

Our players haven't run afoul... and I guess the most recent guy was Zach [Randolph].  When Zach was here, I did my best to look at the positives, and if negatives were there, I think we were fair. When Darius was on the floor, I think we tried to call it like it is.  Again, you can't fool people. But I'm not going to go out of my way to crack somebody. 

And when it comes to actually calling a game, is being a homer to want your team to win?  I'm not sure.  Or is a homer hiding news or always supporting the team?  I don't know what that means.  I don't want to be a ridiculous homer to the point where you get sick or it sounds pathetic.  But at the same time, I'm not going to hide it if the team is doing well.  The people who feel that I'm a homer, well that's ok, it just depends on what your style is.  I think they're in the minority.

I'm not going to sacrifice the access I have to the players and the management group and the coaches which can bring me a whole lot better news than it can at a time when it would be worth it to me to fracture a relationship over one incident or one bad night.  Why would I put that at risk? 

I mean, the last 80 blogs you've read are because I have access, because I'm in the locker room, on the team plane and in practice, that's why you got all this.  Now you want me to potentially fracture that relationship and end all of this good? Just to bare my chest and rip a guy or crack a guy?  It's just not worth it to me. It's all risk/reward. 

Blazersedge: How would you describe your relationship with Kevin Pritchard?  It's an ongoing friendship? 

Yeah.

Blazersedge: Business relationship?

Yeah.

Blazersedge: More than that?

... Yeah.  When Kevin got here, he was something like Assistant GM.

Blazersedge: Director of Player Personnel?

Yeah.  He didn't know a lot of people and he didn't have his staff in place as much as he does now obviously.  And we're exactly the same age.  Yeah, I spend a lot of time with him.

He would come on road trips. Then he took over as interim coach of that team for that short stretch and we were both on the road, and I spent a lot of time with him. 

I think we identified with the same things growing up, he went to the NBA obviously so our athletic careers went to a Y in the road, but the thing I used to see about Kevin was that he always had these big ideas, he always had these semi-cheesy catchphrases he would use about what he wanted to do.

I remember one of our former GMs telling me as I'm sitting next to Kevin at a Christmas party, and we're talking about trades and what we should do, and then I heard the comment "Oh, Kevin is a little naïve... he has some good ideas but, well, whether or not that could get implemented...." 

But then I realized once he took over, is that he could do it.  He makes everybody feel like everybody has an equal share in what's happening.  He's the least arrogant executive. Of anybody I know who could be arrogant or full of themselves, he isn't at all.  He has a belief in the way that you do things and the way that you treat people and we've all gotten on board with that. He's genuinely a good guy and has terrific values.  

I know things about Kevin that I would never say in our personal relationship. Does that make me root harder for him or protect him?  Maybe. I don't know. But I'd do for him what I would do for any friend.

Blazersedge: So when are we going to get KP bobblehead night?

That's gotta happen doesn't it.  People were wanting a Mike Rice bobblehead night. The Indiana announcers actually had a bobblehead night, with a little desk, a few years back. That's a good idea but he'd fight it. He wouldn't like it.

Blazersedge: What I'm getting at is that there's almost as much excitement among hardcore Blazers fans around him as there is about anybody on the floor. He's almost as good a selling point in terms of generating interest and getting the message out, "here's where we were, here's where we are, here's where we are going."

But he's as bad at taking a compliment as I am.  I can't take a compliment and Kevin is the same way.  Kevin will never admit that this is all because of him, or that this wouldn't have happened without him - which it wouldn't have-there's no question in my mind that we would not be here, we would not be talking about this if he were not here.  We might be better, a better team with some decent players, but this wouldn't have happened.  He'd argue against that. 

And at times I've tried to be there to remind him.  Rough times, last season, once in awhile I'd just fire off an email because everyone needs to be propped up once in awhile.  To remind him that, "hey, you're the reason why this is happening.  Your vision and what you've started here."  We all kind of do that for each other.  It comes off as strange when somebody doesn't want to take credit for anything, Kevin is certainly like that. But I do think he realizes what he means to the fans and to the team.

Again, big ups to Mike Barrett.

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-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

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