Greetings, Falcoholics, and welcome to the ninth edition of The Falcoholic’s Staff Spotlight. This series is similar to the “Fan Spotlight” articles, however, instead we profile a current staff member of The Falcoholic. You’ve read their articles; now get to know them a little bit more. This week’s “Staff Spotlight” is on Mr. Falcoholic himself, Dave Choate.
Hey guys, you may remember me as Dave the Falconer, or the guy who hasn’t finished all those sentences over the years. I’ve been running The Falcoholic since it started in 2006, which means it’ll somehow be our 13th year in October. It was a one man shop when it kicked off, but thankfully as we’ve grown, I’ve been able to surround myself with talented, hard-working folks who mercilessly roast me online.
When I’m not working on the site, I’m usually writing, playing video games, drinking beer, being cold in the tundras of New England, and being bald.
I asked Dave some questions, so let’s get started.
How was The Falcoholic started?
I was a pretty avid reader of one of the baseball sites at SB Nation way back in 2005-2006, when I was in college. Eventually I noticed there was no Falcons site—indeed, there weren’t all that many football sites on SB Nation at all at that point—and reached out to on a whim to see if they needed writers. I figured I could do the job but thought being in New England might mean I couldn’t get it, but no harm, no foul, right?
I got Dave Halprin, who used to run our Cowboys site Blogging the Boys and handled the football sites, and he agreed to give an Atlanta Falcons site a shot based on some writing samples—including a recap in the style I’m still using today—and some proposed names for the site (thankfully, The Falcoholic won out) and got my shot. I was lucky enough to start out in a looser, less competitive environment for blogs and get my feet under me that way, and I’m still very grateful for Aaron Freeman at FalcFans, whose site was already around and who was very kind to me starting out. Then the 2007 season happened, I packed in enough blogging misery for a lifetime, and the site was more or less cemented.
Can you explain how you separate being an Atlanta Falcons fan whilst also having to sometimes be a critic of the team?
I think most fans are critics. I grew up around Patriots fans, who until the Tom Brady era seemed to actively loathe the team, and who frankly still seem to hate them whenever something goes wrong. I grew up with a healthy appreciation for being able to critique your team and still loving them, though I think obviously I’m less strident a critic than, say, every Patriots fan I’ve ever met.
If we were absolute homers all the time (and I know some of you would argue we are) – I think it’d get a little dull. If we were constantly down on the team, as justified as that might be at times, that also gets old. What I’ve learned over the years is that fans come in all shapes, sizes, and perspectives, and you all have widely varying interests. Early on I used to absolutely beat myself up if a couple of people didn’t like an article I worked on, but now I just try to be as honest as I can be about what I think of the team and hit on a good blend of analysis, history and projection. I’ve never really gotten it right and as long as I’m overly invested in this team I probably never will, but I’d like to think I’m getting better at it.
Who is your favorite Atlanta Falcons player of all-time?
I’ve always loved Jessie Tuggle and I always will. Growing up especially, he was sort of everything I imagined a football player to be, just a relentless, tough guy who always showed up and absolutely wrecked everyone in his path. I’m sure it’s no great secret to anyone that Julio Jones probably comes in second on the list. Guy’s a joy.
Do you think the Atlanta Falcons will win the Super Bowl in your lifetime?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The truth is that I do expect it, as irrational as that might be given what’s happened over my lifetime. They’ve come so agonizingly close and they’ve consistently contended, and I believe that on a long enough timescale, things like horrible, soul-wrenching luck tends to even out. The Falcons are past the days of being owned by a bumbling, uncaring Rankin Smith, and if they can remain there, I do think they will eventually win one.
The larger question is how long I’ll live, and as that gets into questions of health and potential global cataclysms, we’ll save that for another day. If I live another 30-40 years (and god, please, let it be within 10), I say yes to a Falcons Super Bowl victory.
What would you say to a reader who may be interested in one day writing for The Falcoholic or another sports media website?
This one will be a little longer, but I think it’s worth saying. We’re absolutely flooded with requests to write for The Falcoholic on a regular basis (which is an honor), and while we’re not hiring right now, I do have some consistent advice for anyone working to break in here or at another sports site:
· Have as much writing ability and experience as possible. I’ll always ask for writing samples, and it’s okay if you don’t have any because you’re just breaking in! But I’ll always be looking to see how you write and convey concepts, so if you’re willing to pull together even a short article based on a current piece of Falcons news, it’ll help me understand how well you’d fit in with the voice at the site and what we might want to work on together over time. Similarly, if you’re not gunning for a primarily writing role but are interested in bringing something new to the table, showing what you can do (video, podcast, etc.) is very helpful.
· Attain flexibility. You may not realize it heading in, but any sports site is going to stretch you out of your comfort zone a little bit. We all work at odd hours, we’re trying to predict the future, and especially in the offseason we’re brainstorming constantly to come up with interesting things to write about. If you’re locked in by circumstance or attitude to posting two articles per week on a given morning about the same topic, you may want to re-evaluate why you’re looking to break into this field, where everything is always moving quickly and you might write something beautiful that you have to trash due to circumstance.
· Don’t be taken advantage of. The old adage that you need experience is still true, but if you’re being brought aboard at a site for free (or essentially for free) and being asked to pump out 10 articles per week, weigh carefully whether that feels like it’s worth your time. Ask about opportunities to branch out at the site or ensure your workload fits in with your schedule, which likely includes a full-time job or a search for one. At the very least, try to secure a promise that if you put in hard work your editor likes, you can expect a reevaluation of your role or a recommendation if you decide to strike out for something else. A line item in a resume is important, but don’t work yourself to the bone for it.
· Be patient. There’s a constellation of sites out there, but paradoxically it can feel like there aren’t a lot of openings, and it can be easy to get discouraged. If you love sports and content enough to either make a career of them or at least a half-career while you pay the bills, it’s worth keeping that search on a back burner in case options open up.
Beyond that, I’d encourage everyone to monitor the SB Nation/Vox Media jobs page to see if there are openings, if not for The Falcoholic, then for sites for your favorite teams in other sports. Also, writing FanPosts is a good way to build up some samples to share with us, and we do read them!
What’s your outlook/prediction for the upcoming 2019 season?
I’m optimistic even if optimism never works out well for a Falcons fan. I’m not going to say they’re a Super Bowl-caliber team or anything like that—bridge too far—but in my eyes they’re a playoff-caliber team on paper, and certainly they have the talent to make a run. The offense should be spectacular, and the defense should be better, even if it’ll likely fall well short of great, and I have them ending up around 10-6 and making the postseason. Much will depend on whether the Saints and Panthers can be very good or not.
Is there anything you want to say to The Falcoholic readers?
Before we close this out, I do want to make sure to thank all of you for reading. It’s sort of amazing to me that we’ve been around for 13 years, and that doesn’t happen if you’re not all here reading, commenting, and offering (mostly) thoughtful criticism and suggestions for us. Here’s to a great season!
Well folks, that wraps up another edition of The Falcoholic’s Staff Spotlight. I appreciate Dave for sharing his opinions and thoughts with us, and for giving some great advice on sports writing. Be sure to follow Dave on Twitter at @TheFalcoholic, also if you’re looking for openings with SB Nation, make sure to follow @SBN_TeamTalent.
Additionally, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. If you missed any of the past editions of The Falcoholic’s Staff Spotlight, you can view them by clicking the links below. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics!