Want to know how good an NBA team really is? Watch them in the postseason. The same holds true for a team blogger. Anyone who followed the New Orleans Hornets' 2008 playoff run through Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan at Hornets247 knows what we're talking about. Hornets247 didn't just cover the Hornets' series, they actually made it more fun to watch. And isn't that the point of great sportswriting?
Ryan, what are you guys doing with a sports blog?
It was all about finding people who also love the Hornets after realizing my wife's eyes glazed over every time I said the word "basketball." It's fantastic to write something about pace factor or offensive efficiency and have people talk about it, rather than say "that's nice, now can you change her diaper?"
What, to you, is the point of a sports blog?
Entertainment. That, of course, means there are all sorts of equally valuable blogs: Humorous, pensive, scathing, bizarre ... homer-istic. The good ones also provide a place where a community can form to talk about the team. I like to think that Hornets247.com falls into an analytical category of blog, and that we provide something a little deeper, funnier (Niall particularly) and more insightful.
Niall, for many years you were known to your readers as "Ron Hitley," which is an anagram of your real name. Just before this season, you came out as Niall Doherty -- an Irish guy. What prompted this revelation?
I started Hornets247 as Ron Hitley so people wouldn't know I was Irish, because hey, what does an Irish guy know about basketball anyways? I couldn't watch the games, so I had to bluff a lot of the time. I tried to entertain rather than to analyze and educate, and people seemed to get a kick out of it.
Then I moved to New Orleans late in 2007 and was finally able to provide real coverage of the team.
I still kept Ron around for a while because folks had grown fond of him and the truth was a little too ridiculous to explain. But then I got jealous of his party lifestyle and supermodel girlfriends so I had to kill him off, Fight Club style.
Niall, you actually immigrated to New Orleans to follow the Hornets?
Yeah, that was the main motivation.
It was tricky to get here long-term because of all the visa hassles. My efforts began in 2003 and it took me four years to get qualified and experienced enough in my field that an employer in New Orleans would take me on and sponsor my visa. It all turned out perfectly in the end though; I couldn't ask for a better situation here, and I'm immensely thankful that the team I'm chasing just so happens to play in the best city in the world.
So, how did you two guys get into the business of blogging the Hornets together?
Ryan started his own Hornets blog right before the 2007-08 season. It was good, so I asked him to come join me at Hornets247. I think my pitch made reference to Captain Planet. I told him he could be the little South American boy or the fire kid from Brooklyn. I wanted to be the Asian chick or the African dude.
Ryan, you guys really crossed the line into high geekdom when you compared each Hornets player to a Dungeons & Dragons class. Any other confessions you care to share with us?
Confessions? You make it seem like being a fan of Dungeons & Dragons should be a dirty secret. However, in the past I've also compared Hornets players to various weapons from the game Halo, Team USA players to Historical figures from Ancient China, and ... Hornets players to American Idol contestants.
Okay, maybe that last one qualifies as a confession.
New Orleans' poverty and recent history are well known, as is the charity work the Hornets have done for the city.
There was an interesting debate in the comments section of one of your posts about whether the league is a little crass about publicizing its good works. From the perspective of Hornets bloggers, where do you come down on that?
The publicity doesn't bother me at all. The important thing is that the charity work is being done. I really don't care what the motivation is for doing it, and I'm sure the people who get to enjoy the fruits of the labor aren't concerned about that either. The action itself is what counts most. I got a sneak peek at the full list of community activities that the Hornets were involved in over the course of a recent 12-month period, and it was significantly longer than I expected. Pages and pages listing renovations, storm relief efforts, hospital visits, school visits, food drives, clothing appeals, giveaways, basketball clinics and lots more. If the NBA wants to go shouting about their generosity and kindness, I don't see how that tarnishes the good work that they do. If anything, the publicity gets regular folks thinking more about charitable causes and perhaps inspires some of them to get involved.