Thursday, October 12, 2006

Twenty Questions With Chris Fetters

At the start of the year we asked twenty questions about the Huskies. We are going to continue that tradition by asking Twenty Questions in an interview format to interact with various personalities who are somehow connected to the the Huskies.

The first person I have invited is Chris Fetters from Dawgman.com. I am sure most of you have listened to him on the radio, seen him on TV, and of course have read his articles in Dawgman, Scout.com, and Sports Washington.

Most of us know that Chris Fetters is from Bainbridge Island, attended High school there, is a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, and is the editor in chief for Dawgman.com. Chris has been with Dawgman from the start as a reader, and soon after, a writer, then editor for the publication. Chris is a favorite of mine, and I think he is one of the top football reporters in the region, if not the best.

Hello Chris, thanks for letting me interview you for the Washington Husky Football Blog.

1. Where did you pick up your football talent evaluation knowledge?

RESPONSE - I really have to thank two people for really jump-starting my ability to evaluate talent and what to look for at the different positions, including what to also look for in body types. The first person is Jeff Carr - aka 'Sweetlou'. Jeff was the first one that let me tag along with him when going to combines and high school games when he was running his old Northwest Recruiting site (for the original Rivals network in the late 90's). He was the one who graciously opened his world up to me and allowed unlimited access to the world of recruiting, and most importantly - evaluating talent. And the other person that really lit a fire under me and got me going in the business was Dawgman.com's 'secret weapon' - the late Earl Nordtvedt. Earl was the ultimate 'guy behind the guy' when it came to recruiting - kind of like the local baseball scout that finds the diamond in the rough that eventually the GM takes credit for, but everyone in the organization knew who really did the legwork. Earl was that guy. It was known for years that Earl worked so closely with Don James and Jim Lambright that they would not offer a high school player unless the player first passed muster with Earl's critical eye. When I met Earl, I just shut my mouth and listened. And kept listening. After a few years, I started to get calls from Earl asking me about guys and what was going on with recruiting and what I thought. It was like getting the Don's blessing. That's when I really felt validated in what I was doing.

2. How do you guy's get along with the newspaper journalists, do they respect internet journalists?

RESPONSE - For us at Dawgman, we have made it a priority to have very strong ties with the local papers and their beat writers, because in the end - that's who we want to be associated with. Even though the daily newspaper is slowly becoming a communications dinosaur, they're still the standard - and we respect the hell out of what they do and how they do it. I guess I could be considered an 'internet journalist', but not having been trained in journalism I find that label somewhat odd for me. I'm a transcriber, a paraphraser, a meatball journalist of the lowest common denominator, but at the same time I feel very strongly in the beat writer's ethic and their approach in how they deal with a daily beat and I hope it comes across. Because whether I work for a newspaper or not, that is what I do. I'm just catering to a little different form and fan. Do the newspaper guys respect guys like me? Tolerate would probably be a better term, but I guess you'd have to ask them.

But I respect them.

3. There seems to be a lot more information out there this year on Dawgman. Is Ty making it easier for you this year, or have you just more, or less adjusted to Ty?

RESPONSE - To be honest, the groundrules for access are basically the same as they were last year. We've just learned to adjust and work smarter - which has allowed us to put out more content - or at least put out more of apparently what subscribers are looking for. It's always a continual work in progress...staying fresh and bringing new slants on the same beat. I think one reason we had to up our game a little bit this year is because of the strong competition created by the newspaper blogs and also the content that gohuskies.com is producing. They have all really stepped it up since last year, and as such we had to do things to make sure we stayed ahead of the curve. And I expect that is something that will continue to evolve, especially in regards to basketball. We feel that there's still a lot we can do there.


4. Have you always been a professional journalist?

RESPONSE - I'd argue that I've never been a professional journalist at all. I certainly don't have any formal training for it. I do cover a beat for a living, and it's one of a few things that I do to make sure I keep shoes on my feet and slurpees in my stomach. But I would say that 'journalism' per se is probably the last requirement I needed to cover what I do, just as long as I stick to the fundamental ethics involved.

I really caught the writing bug in college when I took a creative writing class taught by Irv Hashimoto at Whitman. He understood that I had a bit of a funky sense of humor and challenged me to explore that and really let go when I put paper to pen, and it was a revelation to me at the time. That's why, even though I graduated with a degree in History and still love that area of academia, I also knew that I wanted to write - at the very least - as an avocation. In fact, I was general manager for Whitman's radio station - KWCW - after the summer of my senior year, and that was the last year I really kept up correspondence with friends via the U.S. mail, so it allowed me a lot of time to be funny, creative and express myself on paper. And that just furthered my belief that I wanted to continue to write - at some level - in my 'real' life. And so it's no surprise that one of the first things I started to do when I worked with Dawgman was do opinion pieces. I've obviously strayed from that quite a bit, but it was an avenue for me to initially explore more of the creative side of the business.

5. How much film of HS players do you watch during the year?

RESPONSE - Not enough. You can never really watch enough, to be honest. Because, when a coach thoroughly evaluates a prospect, they may watch a bunch of highlights first, but then they may watch two or three full games to see what that player does over the course of a game. I just don't have that time. The beauty of being a recruiter is that their list is always getting smaller as their pool of talent becomes more and more defined the closer you get to Signing Day. For me, my list is always getting bigger, because I'm always getting tips on players and getting film from junior AND senior seasons. And watching film is part one...part two is putting that film up on the Scout.com network, which is not difficult, but it is time-consuming. And I find myself with less and less time to do all the evaluating I'd like to do - even with better time management on my part. I've learned to work smarter over the years, but the pool of talent continues to grow every season.

6. What is more important, the combines, watching the kid in a game, or on film, how do they all differ when you put together your evaluations?

RESPONSE - I'd say watching a kid in person is the biggest thing of all, and that means at combines and during games. Obviously during games you get to see how they play, warts and all. But at combines, even though the emphasis is on athleticism, you get to really see up close and personal a lot of the intangibles that will seperate players when rankings and ratings are compiled. You get to see their work ethic, you get to see their competitive nature, you get to see their leadership skills, you get to see how they react to getting beat, you get to see how socially adjusted they are and other things that may appear to be small in the overall evaluation of a prospect, but are big in helping us differentiate between two players that may appear to be the same kind of player on paper.

7. Which player are you most surprised about who has emerged this season for Washington?

RESPONSE - Quintin Daniels. I honestly thought Q's career was over with his knee injury, but he has rejuvenated his career and will be back at UW next year. I don't expect him to be a guy that blows up now ala Sonny Shackelford, but he's on a freeroll right now as far as I'm concerned and his 55-yard catch and run for six against Arizona showed me that he's still got some juice in his game.

8. Washington is currently 4-2 with a very good chance to reach 5-2 this weekend. Did you see it coming this quickly, or are you pretty surprised by the results so far?

RESPONSE - I'm dumbfounded. I have been on record with my 4-8 prediction for a while now, and the Huskies are making that prediction look pretty foolish. I think the thing I'm surprised with is that this team is finding ways to win the games they would have lost last year. And they've done it basically with every game like that. I still think traditionally good UW teams would have had problems beating teams like Oklahoma and USC on the road - but to think that they didn't play up to their potential in either game and was tied for thirty minutes in the first and one play away from possibly beating the No. 3 team in the second...that's truly mind-boggling. But it goes to show what winning will do for the attitude and morale of a program.

9. What was your Husky W/L prediction in the preseason?

RESPONSE - 4-8

10. Do you think Washington has a chance against California on the road to keep it at least respectable? (To me California is just plain frightening on both sides of the ball.)

RESPONSE - If they can hang with teams like Oklahoma and USC on the road, I think anything is possible. Clearly Nate Longshore is playing phenomenal football right now, and having weapons like Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Lavelle Hawkins and Desean Jackson makes his job very easy. If they can continue to play their patented 'bend-but-don't-break' style of defense, and limit scoring chances to field goals, they always have a chance. But everything would have to go their way to keep it within reach.

11. If you had your choice, where would you rather watch a game, the sidelines, down low in the stands, up high on one of the decks, or in the press box? (I grew up watching games high up in the South deck. I never liked it as much down lower because it was a lot harder to see what the line was doing. Now that my eyes aren't as good, I prefer lower.)

RESPONSE - I have a friend that has seats on the first row of the upper deck on the north side. I'll take either the north or south sides, but that first row view of the field at Husky Stadium is as breathtaking as they come, IMHO. It's high enough to get a great big sweeping view of everything, but you still feel close enough to watch things without feeling like you need to hit the binoculars every thirty seconds.

12. What year did you first go to a game at Husky Stadium, who did we play?

RESPONSE - My first game was Don James' first as coach in 1975. If I remember correctly, they lost to Texas.

13. What kind of food do you get in the press box, is it complimentary, is it good?

RESPONSE - With all due respect to the vendors at Husky Stadium, the food in the press box is pretty bad. Just standard fare; hot dogs, basic sandwiches, cookies, popcorn, chips. It's about as uncreative as it gets in the Pac-10.

14. What has been your favorite out of conference road trip, and why?

RESPONSE - It's interesting, because I've had better road trips - but I absolutely can't wait for 2009, the next time UW travels to Notre Dame. It has nothing to do with Notre Dame, it has nothing to do with anything resembling Notre Dame, South Bend, or even Indiana. It just means I get to go back to Chicago. And outside Seattle and Portland, my favorite city in the country is Chicago. Two words...Pizzeria Uno. Two more...Gino's East. And even two more...Rush Street. It's the one trip where we'll do things a lot differently the second time around...meaning we won't leave the windy city for the game any sooner than we have to.

(Reply-I think the Pan Pizza, and the ButterBurgers at Culver's made the best impression on you, but the Steak and Lobster at Gibson's on Rush Street (The Viagra Triangle) was just awesome. You have to come earlier next time and play a round at my new country club. With Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, Notre Dame, Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan St all under four hours, or closer to Chicago there should be more opportunities in the near future.)

15. What is your favorite road trip in conference, and why?

RESPONSE - Even though it's a little out of the way, I enjoy the trip to Tucson for the Arizona game. Obviously the weather makes it enjoyable, but for food, the original El Charro Cafe on Court St. is worth the price of admission - some of the friendliest folks you'll find and the Mexican food is deliciously authentic.

(Reply- I would have to go with Cal, it's fun staying in Union Square, partying it up, and taking the BART to the game. I just love the ambience of Strawberry Canyon. ASU is good because I can golf some great courses and hang out on Front Street. The stadium while unique doesn't turn me on when inside.)

16. Who is your current favorite Husky, and of course why?

RESPONSE - I'll pick one on each side. On offense, I love Juan Garcia. I remember seeing him the fall of his senior year during the 2002 Apple Cup, not knowing who he was. He was just the big dude in the Ike letterman's jacket. Then we figured out who he was and also found out that he had committed to play for Washington. Ever since that time it's been a real treat seeing Garcia mature and grow into a man who truly understands how lucky he is to be doing what he's doing. On defense, it would have to be Dan Howell. He's always very engaging in interviews and always has something on his mind and something to say. And lately, to see him handle his father's passing with maturity beyond his years has been something I won't forget any time soon. You just can't help but want to root for both Juan and Dan to be very successful in life.

17. Can you describe your philosophy in contacting recruits during the year, and can you walk us through how you handle the various PSA's throughout the recruiting year.

RESPONSE - Wow, a loaded question. LOL

I'd say for the first part, that one is very easy. My philosophy is very simple...it's the golden rule. Treat them how you'd want to be treated. For the second part - the irony that is inherent in the process is that prospects, when you first contact them right after their junior years are wide-eyed and more than happy to accede to any demands that we would make on them (pictures, video, etc...). They can't wait to give out their phone numbers and all the rest. But I'm very clear with them at that point - especially the guys that I know will be bigtime kids and will have scores of offers by the time they sign - that they will love us now, but by then end they won't want to take our calls. They don't believe it, but when that time comes, they get it. So my philosophy has always been to treat them the way I would want to be treated and also make sure they understand as much of what's going to happen to them as possible up front. Of course you can't adequately let them know just how it's going to be, but you can at least give them and their parents a sense as to what it's going to be like, especially if they don't have any older brothers and haven't been through the recruiting process before.

Typically we won't contact a prospect until the February of their junior year, but we've already done a lot of work brhind the scenes to try and get the top guys to our national combine, or at the very least set up so that they know about our May combines. February through the end of May is our time to really throw ourselves on the phones and gather pictures and film to populate the database. After that point, there's a good chance that we've made face-to-face contact with a prospect, and for me that's absolutely critical. With so many people out there reporting on recruiting that never leave their houses, I make sure to take the time to get face time with as many of the top recruits in my region as possible. That way they know I exist, I'm a real person and I'm going to be there following their recruitment for the next year or so. That typically pays off because I can follow those personal contacts with phone calls and immediately they remember me and I have an in. By laying that kind of groundwork, the rest of the recruiting process should just be a matter of calling periodically for updates at key times (9/1, the first time coaches can re-establish contact with prospects; Oct-Nov-Dec, when they set up and take official visits; and Dec-Jan, when they typically make their college intentions known).

Now with texting happening so much, information from recruits comes much quicker. In fact, there are some prospects that ask us to text them first before calling.

18. What precautions do you take to protect the privacy of PSA's, and their families?

RESPONSE - Really, I don't take any precautions at all, because I would never ask a question or do something that would put a PSA in the position of having their privacy jeopardized. And when a PSA in in the throes of the decision-making process and they wish to not be contacted for a certain period of time, we'll always respect that. And if a PSA commits to a program but wishes to have the information held until they can tell the other coaches recruiting him first, we'll always do that too.

19. Who do you identify more with on the Husky Honk show as far as point of view goes, Millen, Baird, or Softy?

RESPONSE - Well, I was never a D1 player - so I can't really identify with Hugh. And I've never been a D1 coach - so I can't really identify with Dick. But I have been a fan that got into the professional media side of things, so I suppose I can relate more with Softy than the other two. And we're both fat, so that's another thing we have in common.


20. Dick's, Kidd Valley, or Burgermaster? Which is your favorite?

RESPONSE - Are you kidding? Dicks, and it's not even close.

(Reply- The first thing I do when I come to Seattle is drive to Dick's, and get two cheeseburgers, fries, tartar, onions, and a strawberry shake to wash it down. I usually pop in again before I go, and grab a deluxe, and a special for the ride out. In between I need some fish and chips at Spud's or Totem House.)

Thanks again Chris for taking the time for the interview. It really allows all of us to get to know you, and your job a lot better.

We will try to do more of these as time, and schedules allow during the upcoming months. I think Chris was a great choice for the first one because as you can tell he really gave us some great answers, and insights. I have no idea who I will ask next, so if you guys have some idea's just chirp in, and let me know. I have no idea of what type of access I can get, or who would be receptive, but I think we can come up with some good stuff over time.

10 comments:

prrbrr said...

Good one. Glad I checked in before I left for airport to fly to SEA. i have met CF twice (less than 5 mins total) and he is a great guy. However, i had no idea of the demands and the preparation he took for his job and obviously passion for his vocation. Really enjoyed it.

Health Insurance Expert said...

Chris is a great guy and we have put back a few beers in Ann Arbor, and Chicago.

People sometimes take it for granted an how we get our news over there, so I thought it wuld be nice to let Chris talk about what he does. It takes a lot of time that is for sure to turn out all the information he does.

Zach Landres-Schnur said...

nice interview! interesting about chris' take on his role (or lack of) in "journalism."

Zach
U-Dub Dish

BigBallaJ said...

It feels like I've known him my whole life.

T

Health Insurance Expert said...

Balla I think you have, DM has been around over ten years which would have made you 11-12 when it first started!

Don't be a stranger, come back and hang because we are going to be commenting on basketball too once we get around to that part of the year. First things first, and that is pounding OSU!

Zach, thanks, and I appreciate it. Chris started out as a fan who had a flair for writing, and love of his subject.

hairofthedawg said...

Great job Chris and thanks John for putting this together. Aside from Orson Scott Card and Robert Jordan, I've probably read more of Chris' writing over the past few years than anyone else's. For me though, Chris' answers bring up more questions. I don't expect a follow up but hope that Chris will reply.

1. How did the relationship between Earl Nordtvedt come about? Had he previously been involved with the program? Do you see Coach W developing a similar sort of relationship?

3. I'm also impressed with the coverage on Dawgman this year, especially with some the early complaints about lack of access. I especially enjoy the interaction between the different teams' sites in the blog and the "spoke with" feature. I would like comments available in the blog, but understand that with the size it already reaches, that would probably be hard to implement.

4. You're the editor but do you have an editor? I enjoy finding spelling mistakes in your pieces as much as I dislike find them in my own posts. This was the method I used on John's blog for determining how good a time he was having. :):)

5. How much info comes with the film you receive from players? Do you have to research the quality of opposition or is that provided?

General...will be covering basketball with the increasing attention it's garnering or will beach be the primary for that sport?

13. Can you bring your own food into the press box?

16. Excellent choices and I hope the same for their futures. Heck, I wish nearly everyone well, but some more than others.

I'd like to thank you for being so candid. I really appreciate the effort you guys put forth and I'm glad you're not resting on your laurels.

Thanks again John...looking forward to the next one.

hairofthedawg said...

As I read what I wrote I have to laugh out loud at my comment on spelling. I also forgot to thank you guys for making me very hungry.

Health Insurance Expert said...

No spell check feature on the comments. So if you screw up it stays there. Most of my mistakes are mistyped, rather than misspelled.

cheap viagra said...

They're still the standard - and we respect the hell out of what they do and how they do it.I still think traditionally good UW teams would have had problems beating teams like Oklahoma and USC on the road.

Anonymous said...

CF has always been the real deal. I knew him in school back on the Rock. He is straight, kind, passionate, frank, and funny. What you see is what you get. I tremendously appreciate his insight into the huskies sports seasons because I've been a fan since the Don James and Marv Harshman eras. I also live in a place where there is no TV coverage...not far from the Sahara. Keep up the spartan writing and all of us on the edge of our seats...would love to see a piece reviewing the concessions stands and press food at all Pac-12 stadiums...that would be fun!
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jon dueck BHS '87