I was very excited to have Mike Tunison, co-founder of the blog Kissing Suzy Kolber and the author of the book The Football Fan’s Manifesto, accept my request for an interview. I received a copy of the book, which was released this week in stores and on Amazon, and found it to be an entertaining look at football fandom. Rather than have me go on at length about the book, wouldn’t you rather hear from the author himself? And pay attention, class — there’s a prize at the end.
RJ: Mr. Tunison, your opening remarks.
MT: It’s a cliche to rip on the NFL as the No Fun League, though that is usually in reference to what the league permits in terms of player conduct on the field. Still, it’s very true that the NFL has a very prescribed behavior in mind for its fans and wants all their interaction with the game, or even the fan experience, to be on its terms. That’s not exclusive to the NFL among professional sports leagues, but they seem to take the idea to its logical extreme, whether that means curbing tailgating, prohibiting media or fans from using game or practice footage of longer than 30 seconds or so, or even blocking large groups from watching a telecast on a big screen. The NFL is the top dog and it knows it, but that’s led those who run the show to believe that they control not only their product, but how that product is to be enjoyed.
RJ: Cliche or no, I know many people share this opinion of the NFL with you. Say Roger Goodell reads your book and puts you in charge of changing the persona of the No Fun League. How do you begin?
MT: Knowing me, I’d probably sign off on a bunch of stuff that would leave the league liable for a host of lawsuits. In terms of changes that are actually feasible, some of the things I mentioned before, such as the policing of video online, I would relax. I can understand why they wouldn’t want entire broadcasts of games sitting on YouTube, but why crack down on some two-minute long clip some kid edited together of a couple of plays? That’s not taking anything away from a competing product of theirs. They want to protect the chances to monetize highlights on NFL.com, but I’ve seem more than a few clips removed from video sites when the league didn’t have the same one available on its site. I’d also can the restrictions on personalized jerseys from NFL Shop. Again, yeah, you’re not gonna want people to be able to put hate speech on the back of a jersey, but what harm does it do the league to let people order a Ron Mexico Falcons replica? Obviously the culture on the field has to change with that. Most people want to see celebrations. Obviously there has to be some kind of limit, but there’s a lot of room to expand from the league’s present policies on them. Also, I’m not sure what potential concern there is about Chad Ochocinco Twittering during games, but the league has already nixed the possibility of that. It’s a lot of little things taken together that give the league this forbidding identity, and that’s even before getting into PSLs and the ways in which owners like Dan Snyder soak their fans for every cent.
RJ: And yet, we keep coming back for more each year. While you do a good job exposing some of the flaws on the NFL, the book on a whole centers on the guidelines to being a fan of an NFL team. Which section do you feel contains the most critical element of fandom?
MT: Loyalty is always the most important, so the section dealing with bandwagon fans drives closest to the heart of what it means to be a fan. However, any tips on how to get through the grueling off-season, which seems longer and more agonizing each year, are the most helpful, I hope.
RJ: Fantasy football dynasty leagues do a great service in shortening the off-season for me. You list several types of leagues and potential locations for drafts. What do you see as the ideal choice?
MT: I mix it up a bit. I like being able to start fresh each season, so having a team or two in standard leagues to go along with ones I have in keeper leagues helps out on that end.
RJ: What advice can you give fantasy drafters heading into the season (aside from avoiding your pen pal, Brian Westbrook)?
MT: Jay Cutler still doesn’t turn Devin Hester into a respectable No. 1 receiver, don’t be one of those people who takes Knowshon Moreno way too soon (as in the second round), and take Brees before Manning.
RJ: And what about Brady?
MT: Brady I haven’t quite decided on; might not unless he falls to me if I have a mid-to-late first round pick. He’ll be fine for the most part. Still has Moss and Welker, and Galloway was a better pickup than people realize. The line is still a concern, but he’s a lot better about getting rid of the ball than Cassel, so I wouldn’t expect another 47 sacks.
RJ: Chiefs fans can’t seem to catch a break, but can they finally get excited about the Cassel-Haley-Pioli era?
MT: I suppose anything’s better than the three-headed Tyler Thigpen, Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard monster under the reins of Herman Edwards. The Cassel contract was certainly a little disconcerting, but I think he’ll end up being decent for them. If Cassel and Bowe can develop any kind of rapport, the offense could be okay. The defense, however. Yikes.
RJ: Now that we’ve survived the endless off-season, what are your predictions for the 2009 season?
MT: The AFC will come down to the Steelers, Patriots and Chargers. In the NFC, the Giants, Falcons and Eagles will vie for the conference. Last year, we had a roommate pull a knife on another roommate in a fantasy football related squabble. We might see the first fantasy related homicide this year, and it will likely occur following a trade that includes Lee Evans. Also, Bill Simmons will talk about how much more interesting the league is if the Patriots are frontrunners, Jon Gruden will be agonizing in the booth, Matt Millen will be even worse and Favre will retire every Monday and be unretired and sign with a different team by the end of each week.
RJ: Good stuff. Anything else you want to add in regards to the book before we sign off?
MT: My only regret is not getting in more Philip Rivers insults. And if the book in some way causes Bryant Gumbel to shake his head in disgust about the state of modern sports fandom during an HBO special, my life’s work is complete.
RJ: All right, thank you so much for your time. Good luck with the book and with the 2009 season.
Alright guys, I promised you a prize at the end. Mr. Tunison has agreed to take a few follow-up questions about the book and football fandom in general. I’ll draw these questions from the Article Discussion thread listed below and from the thread in Football Leftovers. We’ll take three in all, and those users who posted those questions will win a copy of The Football Fan’s Manifesto. A few restrictions apply: we can’t mail anything out of the U.S. (sorry international friends!) and the mailing address cannot be a P.O. Box. I’ll send you winners a private message for your addresses after the follow-up article runs. The deadline for submissions is Friday, August 28 at 12:00 PM ET.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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