More after the jump
Interview courtesy Matt Terl
On Friday, I mentioned that the E:60 piece on Chris Cooley -- which he talked about on his blog when it was filmed in July -- would be airing tonight (7:00 eastern, sports fans!). And roughly since I posted that, I've been trying to get in touch with with ESPN's Rachel Nichols to ask her about working with Cooley. We tried to set something up for the weekend, but things got hectic during and after the game, and I had to reschedule because I couldn't clear the time.
When we finally caught up by phone yesterday, Nichols was completely understanding and said something about knowing how busy things must've been. And that's when I felt terrible, because I had used the hectic schedule of one football-drama-filled day as an excuse to reschedule a quick talk with someone who had been forced to follow the ENTIRE WEEKS-LONG BRETT FAVRE DRAMA in person from city to city.
This is roughly analogous to me complaining about a flat tire to someone whose entire home has caught fire, burned to the ground, had the ruins swallowed by an earthquake -- and then had their insurance claim denied. So I felt kind of bad about that.
But Nichols was perfectly forgiving, and more than happy to talk about a project she's obviously proud of.
Give me the background on the Chris Cooley piece. What can people expect to see?
RACHEL NICHOLS: "It's just a really fun story -- which is no surprise because Chris is a fun guy, and it was also cool to get to know some of the other people in his life. His wife Christy is totally funny and sweet, his brother Tanner is a trip ... you know, it's not a surprise that the people around Chris also are smart and funny, and certainly know how to have a good time.
"It's always interesting when we do these pieces: because they're more in-depth, you get to know some of these people around the athletes, and in this case it's not only Chris, but also his wife, his brother, his mother Nancy."
How well did you know Chris before you did this piece?
RN: "Not well. Not well at all. We had met a couple of times. I was at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii this past year and had approached him after a practice and said, 'Hey, we'd like to do this piece on you.' And he was pretty funny a few months later, remarking that he's in a room full of people that included all the other Pro Bowlers, and he says that he was laughing at the idea that someone would come over and want to do a big piece on him.
"But we did, because he's definitely a unique personality, and that's one of the things we're trying to capture on this show. Not necessarily, you know, the guy with the most records or yards or anything like that, but someone who's a unique personality and character, someone that fans want to watch both on the field and off the field. And Chris is definitely that."
I think people who live in the area get a lot of the sense of his personality, because of the blog and everything else that goes with it, so what was the biggest surprise for you talking to him.
RN: "Just how genuine he is. I mean, certainly there are a lot of things that he jokes around about, and there's no doubt that he likes to play practical jokes and things like that. But we've been saying internally about this piece that he's 'The Pro Bowler Next Door,' and in a lot of ways that's sort of what we found when we started reporting out the piece.
"And I think that is the thing that appeals to so many people on his blog. I mean, people in the crew kept saying how this this could be one of their buddies or neighbors or something, that he didn't feel like some big mega-star athlete, but like someone you could know. The guy next door, someone in your group of friends."
Do you think that he's legitimately like that, or is this some kind of elaborate meta thing?
RN: "I don't think that anybody is able to put on that much of a show for the amount of his life that he broadcasts over the internet. I think that you'd have to be exhausted if you had to act that much. So I think that it's pretty genuinely Chris.
"I think there's no doubt that he knows how to play to the camera, but I think that that's part of his personality as well, that that's genuinely who he is as well. I'm sure that whether he's playing to camera that 's gonna go to millions of people on ESPN or a camera that's gonna be home movies that won't even be on the internet for his future children to see, he knows how to do that. So I think that's just Chris. That's just who is."
Now, you wound up on Chris's blog because you were doing a piece about the blog.
RN: "I did."
Did you know that was gonna happen?
RN: "I didn't; I wasn't surprised, though."
How did you react?
RN: "I was fine with it. I mean, I had a lot of genuine respect for Chris -- and Tanner and Christy -- as I went through reporting this piece, and really enjoyed getting to know all three of them and felt like, 'Wow, this is genuinely interesting, what's happening here and how they're communicating with the fans.'
"And Tanner's the one who does Chris's blog, so he's pretty involved in that as well. And I found what they were doing legitimately interesting, so I felt like whatever happened as a result of that, I was okay with."
You're as big mainstream media as you can get -- ESPN, doing these features -- and they're athletes talking directly to the fans. Are you worried that they're going to cut you out of the whole thing? Are they gonna make you irrelevant?
RN: "No, I don't think so. I think anything that takes down the walls between athletes and the people who watch them is a good thing. Because that's what we try to do as well, to take down that wall that's naturally there by the fact that they're on the field and the rest of us are off it.
"But what we do in the media, and what I try to do every time I go do a report, is to try to get people watching as inside as possible, and to get them to know things as much as possible and to see what it actually feels to be there as much as possible. And if there's someone who's gonna help me do that, if athletes are gonna take it upon themselves to help in that effort, I'm thrilled."
Are you on Twitter?
RN: "I am. I use Twitter in my work. I mean, I don't really Twitter personal stuff, and -- I think with athletes, people are legitimately interested in some of the mundane details of their lives. With me, nobody is interested in the mundane details of my life, what I had for lunch that day or anything else. But I like to, when I'm on a shoot, talk about what we're doing.
"I posted several tweets during the Chris Cooley shoot: I had never been to Wyoming before, and we went out and shot some stuff at his ranch in Wyoming, so I put up a few pictures from there, just what it was like to be out there, some funny stories, that kind of thing.
"We did a story on E:60 a couple weeks ago that was a story on Adrian Peterson, and when we were setting up the shoot for the opening of the piece -- this very dramatic shoot -- I took a few pictures while we were in the middle of doing it and posted them on Twitter so people could get the behind-the-scenes.
"Again, for me, it's the same thing: just anything that takes that wall down is a good thing,. Because it's the thing I like the most about sports: getting that feeling of what it's like to actually be on the field. And if I can communicate that to someone else, then I feel like that's why I'm doing my job."
And is that your approach to your E:60 pieces?
RN: "I think so. I think that's what's so great about this show. It does a really, really nice job of telling you the story that, you know, you might already have heard about an athlete. Like with Chris Cooley: most people hwo follow him even remotely know that he has a blog, so we're not gonna be telling you something new there. But we may take you a little more in-depth about what that's all about -- why it started, how they do it, maybe highlight some of the funnier things that he's had on in case you hadn't personally had time to follow it all -- and then a little bit more about his life, too. Like, hey, here's his ranch in Wyoming where he spends part of his year. And I don't think everyone knows that Chris was an art major in college and he's a very avid painter, and showing you some of what his artwork is like.
"Just things a bit more in depth about people you might be interested in, and that's what I think is fun with this piece. With Chris, he did a lot of the work for us, because he's just so entertaining."
The Redskins season has ... well, not been ideal hasn't been ideal, from our perspective. Does that help the story? Hurt it? Not affect it?
RN: "With the piece, I don't think it affects it one way or the other. Our piece about Chris is not really about his play on the field or the team's play on the field. We've done other pieces that involve more how someone's doing on the field; this is one that's pretty strongly away from the field.
"So, sure, if the Redskins were the number one team in the league and they were undefeated and people were incredibly interested in everything that has to do with the Redskins, I imagine more people might tune in to this, but in general, it's not really gonna affect it one way or the other.
"I think that if you're interested in an entertaining, unique athlete, you're gonna want to watch the Chris Cooley piece, and how the Redskins are doing on the field isn't really gonna factor in one way or the other."
E:60 airs tonight at 7:00 eastern, and probably two dozen other times throughout the week. I recommend the ESPN TV programming guide for finding it. It's followed by a new 30 For 30 documentary, which should also be pretty entertaining.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
8:34 AM Chris Cooley 33 comments