When you get as big as SB Nation (205 sites), you need a little help making sure that the company is running smoothly and you need experts in all kinds of different sports. Several years ago, I recruited Dave Halprin to run our Dallas Cowboys blog Blogging the Boys. He impressed me so much at the time that we named him league manager and he began recruiting all the fantastic NFL bloggers you see in our network today. Because NFL training camps started this week and will be in full swing this upcoming week, I figured it was time that we get to know the man behind the NFL network of blogs in SB Nation this week. Enjoy.
Blez: Tell me how you got into blogging initially.
Dave Halprin: My first exposure to blogs were political sites that I came across. I was intrigued by the mix of news and commentary, combined with a definite bias that unabashedly spoke to a specific audience. Soon, I found a blog about Georgia Tech sports, my alma mater, and started reading it regularly. From there, I thought, anybody can do this. I loved the Dallas Cowboys all my life, so on a lark, I started writing the original Blogging The Boys about four years ago.
Blez: How did you become a Cowboys fan and since I know you don't live in Dallas, is it tough to cover the team from afar?
Halprin: When I was a wee lad, I saw the Cowboys play in a Super Bowl against the Dolphins on TV – yes, I’m that old - and for whatever reason the Cowboys implanted themselves in my brain. It’s the first real football memory I have and I stuck with them from that point on. I grew up hours away from any pro team, so I adopted Dallas.
It’s not that difficult to cover the team from a distance, with the Internet I see almost everything I would see from the local media market. The only difference would be if the Cowboys credentialed blogs, then it would be an advantage, but the organization is a long way from that point.
Blez: Who is your all-time favorite Cowboy and why?
Halprin: Impossible question for me to answer. I’m not trying to dodge it, but I like so many different players for different reasons, and my cynical side keeps me away from hero worship. Obviously Roger Staubach is one because of what he did in the 70’s. But I also loved Too Tall Jones as a kid and lesser-known fullback Robert Newhouse. In the 90’s guys like Aikman, Smith and Irvin dominated, but guys like Jay Novacek and guard Larry Allen were some of my favorites. In the modern-day, DeMarcus Ware is my new favorite, because he’s a force of nature on the field.
Halprin: The Super Bowl win over the Broncos was the peak with the team in the 70’s for me. Still a kid, I was old enough to know what the win meant but young enough to totally enjoy it with childlike wonder - that was special. But the beatdown of the Bills in the early 90’s in the Super Bowl was total satisfaction. The Cowboys were just making their comeback from the dreadful 80’s, we had been 1-15 a few years before, and we annihilated the enemy in the biggest game. We could see that team was special and they proved it by winning a couple more Super Bowls.
Blez: What do you think of the Cowboys chances in 2009?
Halprin: As good as most. The Cowboys have a ton of talent on the roster but have been unable to harness that into a team that has post-season success. They’ve made some moves to try and improve the chemistry and the camaraderie, and they’ve asked a few players to take on bigger leadership roles. The problem is they play in the NFC East, which many consider the best division in football right now. It’s a tough road to the playoffs in the East. If I had to predict, I think they’re a playoff team and my homerism says they’ll have success in the post-season, finally.
Halprin: For the most part, it’s a real benefit. The Cowboys are always in the news, there is always something to talk about with this team. And the interest level for the Cowboys is off-the-chart, so it was probably easier for me to grow a Cowboys blog than it might be for some of the other franchises. As Cowboys fans, we’re so used to other fans hating our team that we take it as a badge of merit. They’ll say they hate us because we’re so cocky and we get so much coverage in the media. We say they hate us because of our Super Bowl wins.
Blez: Consistently writing about football seems like it might be tough because there is so much down time. Have you found it challenging?
Halprin: Only for a few months in the offseason. When the season is going, there’s plenty to talk about during the week. Once the season is over, free agency and the draft are always hot topics. But admittedly, a little while after that, there is a real dead zone. So that part of the year can be very challenging, coming up with new and interesting topics is not easy over that stretch. Luckily for the Cowboys, or unluckily, we always seem to end up in the news somehow. Then the challenge is to not become TMZ or People Magazine.
Blez: You have a bit of a different role at SB Nation as you're a league manager. What's that job like? What's your role?
Halprin: I see two main components to the NFL league manager role. One is to help the individual bloggers in any way I can. If they need help with any company issues, or technical help, or advice in a situation, I try to get that done for them. If they can spend more time on content and growing their blogs, and not worry about other stuff, then I’ve succeeded. The second component is to liaison between the NFL bloggers and SB Nation as a company. I help funnel information to the bloggers and work with them on the strategies that SB Nation, as a company, is implementing. Basically, I do whatever I can to help each of the blogs grow their audience and build a better community.
Blez: Is it tough to juggle both those jobs?
Halprin: I wouldn’t call it tough, there are challenges sometimes, but that comes with almost any job. For the most part, I think of them separately.
Blez: You make an annual sojourn to training camp. How much do you enjoy the trip and what are you able to ascertain about the team?
Halprin: I still enjoy the trip, this will be my fourth consecutive one. I get to see friends and members of the blog that I only see at this time of the year. The benefit to the blog is too good to pass up. I can ascertain a lot about the team from watching the players myself. You can see which of the rookies look primed to get some playing time, you get a feel for what the coaches are working on, you get an advanced look at new free agents; the list goes on. It was also one of the big things that broke my blog to a much wider audience; my traffic took a big leap from training camp reports early on in the blog’s history.
Blez: What are some of your favorite moments in blogging at Blogging the Boys since you've been writing there?
Halprin: There are great moments in statistics, like the first time I had a 1,000-visit day. Or the day we crossed the one million visits barrier. Those are milestones that really make you reflect and think “Wow, people are actually reading and enjoying this blog.”
Then there are times when you write something really good, and the comments thread is full of compliments and praise. That’s a remarkable feeling.
But the best times are when the blog is really active; the community is really popping and conversation is going on all over the place. This past season and then again during the draft, the blog was running at a rapid-fire pace and the commentary was non-stop. When threads are getting hundreds of comments, and FanPosts are coming at you everyday, that’s when it feels like the blog has reached some of its potential. Those are the times you strive for.
Blez: Tell me something that your readers would be surprised to learn about you.
Halprin: In the past two years, I’ve become a huge fan of European football. Until that point, I never really cared about “soccer”. Didn’t play it as a kid, never followed it in any way. Now, I can’t get enough of it, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, I watch it all the time. On Sundays, if it’s a big match, I might even watch it over a crappy NFL game. Whoops, can’t believe I just revealed that. But it never takes precedence over the Cowboys.
Blez: Thanks for your time.
Halprin: Thanks for having me. And thanks for bringing me into SB Nation all those years ago.