RandBall Q&A: Jon Marthaler interviews RandBall for the blog's 4th birthday

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • December 15, 2010 - 2:41 PM

Editor's note: Jon Marthaler called us last night for a 30-minute Q&A session to commemorate four years of this blog's existence (the exact birthday was over the past weekend, but whatever). He transcribed what we said. Let it be known there were questions that prompted these answers. Those, however, were not included. As such, this reads like some sort of free-flowing stream of consciousness -- thoughts on the blog off the top of our head. Which, we suppose, is appropriate. The whole thing is pretty apt, actually. Here we go, from Marthaler (photo of our plate from today's holiday party at work. Yes, that's a cookie, two chocolates and four BBQ cocktail wieners):


I don't know if you're aware of this, but RandBall is now four years old. A four-year-old sports blog is, of course, like seeing a newspaper that prints "Published continuously since 1839" on its masthead, so I think it's an important occasion to celebrate. I've marked the past three RandBall birthdays by writing a tribute to the man behind the pug behind the posts, but this year, I thought it was best to let him speak for himself.

Let me set the stage: Michael "Michael" Rand is the founder and editor of RandBall, the one of the first sports blogs ever published on, and still my favorite. He once hired a copy aide that looked exactly like himself, and he calls me "sir," though I've never been sure whether he's being overly respectful or just can't remember my name (note: it's clearly the latter, Jim). I interviewed him by phone; his words are below. Happy birthday, RandBall!

RandBall: The Interview

I guess I didn't think about making it to four years old when I started. I didn't have a tangible time goal in mind. I couldn't have imagined how it would evolve and how traffic has increased as the years have gone by, knowing that people are reading and coming back. That's been a lot of fun to see.

Especially the people like Clarence and Stu, taking a stake in it and producing some of the content. That's been a lot of fun.

It wasn't an editor telling me to start a sports blog. I thought there was a void in our online sports coverage, and I had been reading some blogs. That served as kind of an initial push; Deadspin was becoming more popular, and I thought that was something we could hit upon, but with local coverage. I was able to pitch and execute it as something I'd like to try, to bring some of Page 2 online.

I don't have as much time as I used to. I still read Deadspin. I still follow Spencer Hall pretty much wherever he goes. I've got to read Joe Posnanski - he's done a good job of mastering a lot of different types of writing.

People really kind of latched on to the Commenter of the Week - even people within the building thought that was pretty cool. I don't know if that directly showed them the power of interaction with commenters, but it was one of the early blogs that got people involved. Now you see the Your Voices blogs, the TwinsCentric guys - these people who started out doing their own thing, not writing for a newspaper. In a small way, I think we showed some value to bringing in people with different voices and styles, to bring something to the table.

Maybe at a certain point it's worth bringing back Commenter of the Week -- it gets a lot of people into the mix that wouldn't otherwise. (pause) My wife says that it's time to bring back the RandBall Better Half posts. She wants another crack at it.

I enjoy all of the commenters and the give and take. It makes me laugh on a daily basis to read the things that people say, that part of it is definitely a joy and a lot of fun.

A lot of the commenters I brought in as ringers aren't around anymore. Except Rocket.

I'm not there to break news or have huge opinions. I'm not really a columnist. Beat writers will pass things along they can't get to, and it's a little bit of Page 2 Online, and a little bit of picking things up that fall between the cracks. I hope I'm bringing some things to light that people might not be thinking about, keeping people engaged, and having some fun.

Giving up Page 2 or RandBall or high school sports might improve my sanity, but I don't think I could choose any of that to give up. I like doing it all. Most of the time it's manageable. (RBBH, in the background: "Most of the time, you're a workaholic.")

Those other things, like RandBall Radio and the FSN Prep Zone TV show are fun to try, but at the heart of it, writing is the thing I enjoy the most. It's why I got into the business.

I don't think the podcast will ever come back. Maybe some video stuff.

I think eventually it'd be a lot of fun to be some sort of columnist. I think that would be a pretty decent way to go. It probably won't be the traditional four-columns-a-week kind of thing. That position is kind of evolving.

I'm not going to be the next Sid. I don't think hounding people really plays to my strengths.

What's next for RandBall? I think it'll more or less remain the same. Hopefully that'll be good enough to get to five years.

And if anybody has an idea for a weekly feature, I'm all ears.

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