Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh No Romo Book Club: Exclusive Interview with ANOTHER KSK writer

It's been a while since we did a Book Club edition. It's always fun to interview book writers. Today, we have an exclusive interview with Michael Tunison for his new book, "The Football Fan's Manifesto." You might know Michael better as Christmas Ape at Kissing Suzy Kolber's. We hope you enjoy the interview. Quick point: The book will be released on Tuesday

First there was Drew Magary, now you're writing a book. What's up with the KSK guys writing books all of the sudden?

We're all too ugly, fat or pale for TV, so this is really the only logical step forward for us. Plus writing a book allows me refer to list "author" as my profession around old people, thus avoiding a painfully awkward discussion about how blogs are tearing apart the fabric of America.

Why did you decide to write "The Football Fans Manifesto"?

HarperCollins made that decision fairly easy for me when they approached me and said, "Hey, here's some money. Wanna write a football book for us?" The initial concept they had in mind was a little too gimmicky for my tastes, so luckily I was able to prevail on them to make some significant changes, and that eventually lead to what the book became.

How is writing a book different from writing on a blog?

The two biggest differences are the deadlines and the inability to hyperlink text. I'm accustomed to the immediacy of the Internet, so writing for something that wouldn't see the light of day for a while was a challenge. I wrote the book primarily during the NFL regular season last year. Throughout the process, I had to keep in mind that the book wasn't getting in the hands of readers for almost another full year. That forced me to weigh a lot of jokes and references.

There's a lot that may be fresh and amusing in November 2008 that's incredibly stale in August 2009. Linking is a great conceit in online writing that isn't available to you either. Whereas writing for KSK I could make an esoteric joke or remark about a player and explain it with a link to what I'm talking about, that obviously isn't a tool available to you when writing a book. There was plenty of times where it was frustrating not to be able to structure a passage like I'd be able to on a blog, but I think I found my way around most of those situations.

You mention Football fan's version of the 10 Commandments in the book, What is the purpose of the Commandments?

There isn't really a 10 Commandments in the book, that's just something the publisher wanted me to create for the back cover of the book, though it does distill major themes that run throughout the book, which are that football is the double plus bestest thing ever to grace human civilization, that loyalty to one's team is paramount, that fan customs are important and worthy of respect and preservation and that football fandom is best when we can enjoy it not as adults, but really vulgar, drunken adults.

What are some of the biggest problems you see with pro football? But what makes it so great?

The biggest problem facing the game now is that going to a game is prohibitively expensive and that it's having any semblance of fun sucked out of it, either through vaguely worded and invasive "fan conduct" policies, the curbing of tailgating, or the fact that because of the expensive prices, less knowledgeable fans who happen to have money occupy more seats.

What do you hope readers take from this book?

There are some particulars of fandom that hopefully will be more routinely followed as a result of the book, but for the most part, it's a humor book and I want people to be entertained by it. At best, I hope it helps foster the notion that football fans aren't drooling idiots (at least non-Packer fans), which is kind of the reputation they have in the sporting world, at least when compared to fans of baseball and other "gentlemanly" sports. While the NFL is more brash (and awesome) than these other leagues, it has thoughtful fans as well.

Time for the softball questions:

But I wrote a book about football! MY AGENT DIDN'T CLEAR THIS!

What is your favorite football memory?

As a Steelers fan born after the '70s, it's a tie between Super Bowl XLIII and Super Bowl XL. The favorite game is still the '95 AFC Championship Game, however, though the last Super Bowl may pass that with time. '95 was the first time I ever saw them go to the Bowl (even though they eventually lost in agonizing fashion) following a year when they came within three yards of making it. Also, it's an amazingly competitive game from beginning to the Hail Mary pass at the end was almost caught by Aaron Bailey. I'm pretty sure I evacuated my bowels during that play.

What do you enjoy most about the game?

The intricate strategy, how individual match-ups can sway the entire game, the action, the violence, the boozing, the animosity, the pressure, the hatred, the rituals, the superstitions, fantasy sports, the high stakes of every game, the ability to easily recognize when a team is beaten, the way entire seasons swing in one week, the feeling that you know more than the people running it even though you don't. All of it, really.

Favorite football book? Or any book for that matter?

"A Fan's Notes" is a tremendous, moving book, even if it's only tangentially about being a football fan. When it's not damn depressing, it's very darkly funny. And there are passages in it that really capture the mania of pulling for your favorite team.

How did "Kissing Suzy Kolber" come to be what it is today?

I attribute the blog's success to the downfall of society, mostly.

Favorite Football blog name?

Excluding our own, Tirico Suave (even though it's not exclusively an NFL blog) is a good one. I was a fan of the now-defunct The Internet is for Zorn.

Favorite Media person (television, radio, online/print) currently covering pro football? And who would be your least favorite media type?

There's a lot of great coverage of the league being done in blogs, so I can ignore most of the print guys I dislike without missing anything. That said, I like Mike Silver a lot (even if he didn't blurb my book. Jerk). Adam Schefter and Jay Glazer are good reporters, even Glazer is kind of a meathead. In the booth, I still enjoy Dick Enberg, even if he's getting on in years. I wish Gus Johnson would be utilized better. Mike Tirico has turned into a respectable play-by-play guy.

Media people who drive me insane: Chris Berman, Matt Millen, Peter King, Chris Mortensen, Tony Siragusa, Dan Dierdorf, Phil Simms, Bill Simmons (he can be good with basketball, but he knows dick about the NFL), pretty much everyone on all the pregame shows, Mark Schlereth, and Cris Collinsworth (I never understand the love this guy gets. He's marginally more insightful than some of the dumber announcers, but that comes at the price of unbearable smugness).

You're a Steelers fan. Do people ever give you crap about that?

More than a little. The Steelers are the top dogs at the moment, so the haters swarm around them in legion. Because I was born in Pennsylvania, but not Pittsburgh proper, and grew up outside D.C., fans of other teams have tossed the bandwagon fan label at me in recent years. Funny, that never came up in the '90s. I was just the fan of the team that lost in a lot of big games.

Ravens fans are the worst about this. Since no one outside of a 40 miles radius of Baltimore cares about the Ravens, it's convinced their fanbase that they're somehow more loyal and pure than other fans, which is retarded and untrue. From '96 until their Super Bowl run in 2000, you barely ever saw any purple shit even in Baltimore itself. And when the team's having an off-year, the same thing goes. Baltimore fans are a lot like Philly fans - hateful and bitter - just not quite as loyal or scary.

You're a GM and you have to start up a football team from these quarterbacks (Clint Longley, Ryan Leaf, Todd Marinovich and Moses Moreno), who do you pick and why?

Definitely Longley, because anyone who punches Roger Staubach is okay by me. ALSO, CAREER 2-0 AS A STARTER!

You also have to pick a coach from this list (Rich Kotite, Bruce Coslet and Wayne Fontes), who do you go with and why?

Fontes. He's a longstanding punchline but he had a reasonable amount of success. I mean, he took the Lions to a conference title game. Who the hell else can say that?

If you were a player, would you rather go to the Super Bowl four times and never win it, or never make it to the Super Bowl at all?

So, basically, is it better to be Jim Kelly or Warren Moon? You have to go with Kelly. You'll get laughed at for being being an o-fer in the big game, but getting there that many times is a big accomplishment regardless.

If you could be commissioner for a day, what would you do?

Institute a lifetime ban on Matt Millen, Chris Berman and Dan Snyder, force the Patriots and Cowboys to fold, bring back the force-out rule, eliminate the PAT and make teams always have to go for two, relax rules on celebrations, cut ties with Coors Light and Miller Lite and bring in better beer, then force owners to lower concession prices, eliminate PSLs, allow fans to put any name they want (except their own) on a jersey from NFL Shop, allow blogs and newspaper sites to post clips from games and practices of up to five minutes and then offer my job to Condi Rice for millions and millions of dollars.

Finally, what's the worst question anybody has ever asked you?

Probably the one I've gotten the most: "So what is a blog, exactly? Do you just sit around and write about what you do all day?"

-That's all we have for today. Yes it was a long Q&A session, but I hope you enjoyed it. I'll profile the New York Giants tomorrow

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