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Interview with AOL's Jamie Mottram, Sports Bloggers Live

As the blogosphere continues to grow and evolve, we thought it would be interesting to talk to Jamie Mottram, the host of AOL Radio's show, Sports Bloggers Live. Along with the full time work Jamie does producing the twice a week show (live Monday at 7:00 p.m. and taped Thursday at 5:00 p.m.), he writes his own sports blog Mister Irrelevant.

Burnt Orange Nation: Thanks for chatting with us, Jamie.

America Online, by virtue of your website and radio show, has positioned itself as one of the first mainstream media companies to not only recognize the ongoing revolution in sports journalism, but to embrace it. Talk to us about how AOL is thinking about the evolving landscape and the genesis of your show.

Jamie Mottram, Sports Bloggers Live: First, thank you for noticing and for inviting me to do this. I'll try not to be the Ann Coulter or Tom Cruise to your Matt Lauer.

Now, AOL Sports has long since recognized the importance of community and fan opinion, and Sports Bloggers Live is an extension of that. Whereas once boards and chats were the pillars of online interaction, blogs and profiles are the newer, more effective ways for people to share things and connect with one another. The show we do is really just trying to be the media arm of this movement -- "The SportsCenter of Podcasting" as semi-seriously call it.

As things continue to shift, I think AOL may invest more in SBL and also in a grander network of sports blogs and profiles (we call them AIM Pages -- see mine) on AOL that comprehensively spans everything from college football to NFL to NASCAR and beyond.

BON: How long have you been doing the show, and how have you seen blogs change during that time?

Jamie Mottram: We've been doing SBL for about 18 months. Our first show sounds like that Schweaty Balls skit from Saturday Night Live, with me as Alec Baldwin. Since then we have done over a hundred shows and naturally improved a bit but not too much -- the less polish the better.

How have sports blogs changed since then? Well, Deadspin launched. YouTube exploded. Rivals bought Fanblogs. Every major sports site began "blogging." By and large though, I don't think the sports blogosphere has changed in any significant way over the past year and a half. It's still so disjointed, meaning that there's such great content out there -- especially in the college football, MLB and NBA blogospheres -- but it's not really interconnected. Sure, BON and MGOBlog or whoever may link to one another but chances are they're on different platforms with separate tagging and different designs and writing styles, etc.

BON: Where do you think blogs are headed in the near- and long-term?

Jamie Mottram: Sports blogs need to maintain their individuality and independence. That said, I want the best of the best bloggers to come together on the same mega-site and band together. I'd also like to see these guys start making some money. There's a solution to these issues, and I think you'll see what I'm talking about in action this fall or even earlier.

BON: On your show you interview mainstream journalists and bloggers alike. Are there any differences between the two that standout?

Jamie Mottram: There's good and bad in both spectrums. Some journalists think being on SBL is beneath them, so we're treated with a bit of contempt. Some bloggers think being on SBL is a rather daunting task, so they cower from the microphone. Overall though, there isn't that much of a difference in what's actually said. Sure, most journalists are more polished on-air (especially in this day in age) than most bloggers, but it's the rough edges that many of the bloggers have that make our show more interesting than most, I'd like to think.

Of course, BON rocked our mic so hard it's still resonating in my headspace.

BON: Sports Bloggers Live has always struck me as a unique show, in that you embrace both access and non-access. By that I mean you guys interview famous athletes and sports figures, but never get so caught up in your access that you ignore the fan/blogger perspective. How do you manage that balance?

Jamie Mottram: I was listening to Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio this morning and they went from talking to Senator John McCain to Ravens coach Brian Billick and it sounded like they couldn't've been more bored about it. Of course, they never take calls or feature fans of any kind, so I don't blame them. As for us, we try to get one big-deal guest per week and we always get really overly excited about it to the point where we're stuttering and not making sense. The other 10 or so guests we get per week are a mix of bloggers and mainstream journalists.

Anyway, we're fans at heart and we wear our collective heart on our sleeve. I think that's another thing that makes SBL different than other national or big media programs. Also, we get some access, but not all, and we're fine with that. We've had press passes to NCAA Tournament games but not Redskins games, because at the NCAA Tournament I'm more interested in the courtside action and being behind the lines with the rest of the press and at the Redskins game I'm more interested in what's going on in the parking lot and in the stands and rooting for the team I live-and-die by for at least 16 Sundays/year. Does that even make sense?

The bottom line is it's a balance where we walk between fanaticism and journalism, and I think that's a good place to be.

BON: Who's been your favorite athlete to interview? Besides us at Burnt Orange Nation, of course, who's been the most enjoyable blogger to chat with?

Jamie Mottram: We've interviewed my three favorite athletes of all time -- Will Clark, Art Monk and Cal Ripken -- so that really blew my mind. They were all so kind, except for Monk who I think was kind of freaked out by how much I idolized him. Other great interviews we've had: Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Ernie Banks, Don Mattingly, Chad Johnson, Ron Artest, Roger Clemens, Bill Walton, Mike Tyson and so many more.

As for bloggers... Maybe I should just stick to some of the college football standouts we've had on: EDSBS, Fanblogs, Heisman Pundit, Boi From Troy, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer (although he doesn't really count), etc.

BON: Any big new plans for the next year at Sports Bloggers Live?

Jamie Mottram: We want to get out more. After doing some quasi-remote stuff for Super Bowl XL in Detroit we want to get on the road. Some possible destinations are the NBA Draft in NYC, MLB All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, Super Bowl in Miami and, most indubitably, NBA All-Star Game in Vegas.

We also want to start doing more than two shows a week but maybe shortening them from 60 minutes, which is just too long for a podcast. My dream show is Monday through Friday, 30 minutes a pop... The Daily Show of sports, except I'm not funny so we may need a new host or, at the very least, some writers.

Other than that, I'm plum out of ideas. If you've got some, email me. Til then, Hook 'em, BON!

BON: Awesome, Jamie. Thanks for visiting with us.