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Better Know a Blogger: Mile High Report's John Bena

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The NFL preseason is in full swing now and I figured it was time to get to know another one of our NFL bloggers.  The prolific John Bena, aka The Sports Guru, from our Denver Broncos blog Mile High Report.  John has been a part of SB Nation for several years now and he's one of the very few bloggers who we have run not just one, but two of our communities.  Along with MHR, John also runs Fear the Sword, which is SB Nation's Cleveland Cavaliers community.  Without further ado, let's get to know John Bena.

Blez:  Tell me about how you came to be a blogger.

John Bena:  It evolved, actually, from a sort of therapy into the “2nd job” it has become today.  After I got married I needed a release for my fandom.  Yealling, screaming, throwing objects and the like were not going to cut it, especially when my first daughter came along.  I began writing on the web as a way to release all the pent up energy.  Amazingly it worked.  I would feel better after wins and losses and I found I really enjoyed writing.  I was a Mass Media Communication major in college and getting back into journalism, even in a blogging capacity, reminded me how much I enjoyed it. 


Blez:  How did you become a Broncos fan?

 

Bena:  I have been a Broncos fan as long as I can remember, so I guess it came to be the way many kids become fans.  The colors, maybe the logo.  I was always a big fan of John Elway as well, way back to his Stanford days.  I always wanted to play quarterback, and when I was young he was one of the best.  When he went to the Broncos I definitely followed and that took my fandom of the team to another level.  I always liked both, so the fact that Elway ended up playing in Denver was icing on the cake!


Blez:  What should fans look for out of the Denver Broncos in 2009?

 

Bena:  I think the Broncos will surprise some people.  So many in the media are focusing on the Cutler situation that they forget that the Broncos had a lot of talent on offense besides the quarterback.  Josh McDaniels has been a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways and I think the new direction the team is going in is exciting.  This off-season has been the most challenging ever for Broncos fans, and I think the fact the team is actually getting back on the field is a relief to everyone.  They have a tough schedule, to be sure, but I think the Broncos are headed in the right direction, even with all the changes.


Blez: Will Jay Cutler be successful in Chicago?

 

Bena:   He’d better be, because the weight of the franchise is on his shoulders.  That is one thing about Chicago fans, the honeymoon won’t last long if he struggles out of the gate.  Jay has all the talent in the world, and has all the physical tools.  Sometimes players have to move on to realize their potential, and that might be the case with Jay.  I certainly don’t wish any ill-will towards the Bears or Cutler but it remains to be seen if the guy can be a big-time winner.


Blez: Will Kyle Orton be the man in Denver in 2009 and what kind of year do you expect him to have?

 

Bena: Orton is going to do just fine.  People need to realize that Josh McDaniels isn’t going to ask Kyle Orton to carry the team the way Mike Shanahan made his quarterbacks carry the Broncos offense.  McDaniels is going to create game plans that focus on Orton’s strengths and will avoid his weaknesses.  The Broncos also added a deep stable of running backs to support Orton including Knowshon Moreno, the best back in the 2009 NFL Draft.  He won’t put up all the numbers that Cutler did, but he won’t be asked to, nor will he have to.


Blez: What kind of tone do you try and set over at Mile High Report?

 

Bena: The day I started MHR(August 24th, 2006) I wanted MHR to be a positive place for Broncos fans to talk about Denver Broncos football.  The main stream media, as well as fan message-boards, have become breeding grounds for negativity making it almost ‘uncool’ to actually say anything nice about the team or players.  I wanted to change that.  I wanted to give real Broncos fans a place that it was ok to look at the bright side of things, in good and bad times.  That has remained true today.  That doesn’t mean we aren’t critical of the Broncos, but we aren’t negative.  There is a difference.  I also make a point of letting the community know that MHR really belongs to them.  By creating a sense of ownership in the community they can handle any issue that arise.  That way I don’t need to ‘police’ the site and can focus on content.  It reminds me of a solid NFL lockerroom.  If there are quality leaders in a locker room, and the players police themselves, the coaches can focus on game plans.  Any malcontents fall into line because they know they’ll have to follow the rules of the community or they won’t be part of it.  This attitude worked when there was 30 members and it works with 3000 members.


Blez: You seem to a have a good relationship with the Broncos.  How did that come to be?


Bena:  The first thing I did was let them know I existed.  I think it is important to reach out to the Media Relations people to let them know you are around.  Secondly, I didn’t ask them for anything, but offered the site for any PR they wanted to disseminate to Broncos fans.  I think this is huge.  Too many bloggers that are just starting out will reach out to a team and ask for access, or interviews, etc.  By not doing that, I allowed the Broncos to gain trust in me and to realize that I wasn’t someone looking for autographs.  It allowed them to warm up to MHR and to realize that I am her to stay.  Slowly, the team began feeding me more and more information.  Now, they treat me like they would any other media outlet.  I don’t take it for granted, however, and look to prove myself as a legitimate source of Broncos news and comment every day.


Blez:  The Sports Guru was your chosen name.  What made you decide on that as your initial screen name?

 

Bena:  It has been a nickname for a long time because I was a sports trivia nut.  When I started my first blog, I used TheSportsGuru.com as the URL.  It stuck, so when I started MileHighReport I kept it.  As time went on, however, I felt the next logical step, for me anyway, was to drop the nickname.


Blez: You're in the rare position with SB Nation of actually running two blogs, Mile High Report and Fear the Sword.  We don't normally like to do that because running one of our blogs is challenging enough. How do you manage having two blogs? 


Bena:  I love sports!  I am going to be watching the games and be sitting in front of my computer anyway, so why not be writing at the same time?  I am one of those people that has an opinion about everything, and expressing those opinions, through words, has always come easy to me.  I couldn’t imagine having two blogs if one was baseball, but the fact that the NFL season is shorter, combined with the fact the teams only play 16 games, and it works out great.  Plus, the Cavs and Broncos are very easy to write about with all the news constantly swirling around these two teams.


Blez:  Better yet how do you reconcile being a fan of a team from Cleveland AND the Broncos?

 

Bena:  It was much harder when I was in high school and the Broncos were beating the Browns in 3 AFC Championship Games.  Now, however, it really isn’t that big of a deal.  Something changed when the team left Cleveland in 1995.  When they returned in 1999, it just wasn’t the same.  There was something about the old Stadium and that team.  They came back, were completely different, in a new stadium, and in many ways ignored the history of the team.  Even Browns fans had a hard time coming back. At least the ones I talk to.  The city deserves better than they have gotten, both in terms of the team leaving and the production they have gotten from the Browns since they returned.  Like I said, it just isn’t the same.


Blez:  Tell me something about you that would surprise your readers.

Bena:   I was actually born in Western Pennsylvania and when I was very young my parents would take me to Steelers Training Camp in Latrobe, PA.  Being it was the mid-70’s, I was only 3 or 4, but all the Steelers’ greats were there.  My entire family are Steelers fans.  My wife, being from Massachusetts, is a Patriots fan.  Family functions are ‘colorful’ to say the least.


Blez:  Thank you so much for your time.