Five on Five with Dave Nichols, Capitals News Network
To many, CNN means Wolf Blitzer marathons, American Morning’s revolving-door anchors, John King’s Amaze-O-Maps, the occasional Balloon Boy and the nicely tightly black t-shirts of He Who Shall Not Be Named (as gay).
If you’re old enough, CNN was Crossfire shoutfests (Braden and Buchanan!), Tiananmen Square, Bonnie Batista’s tight leather skirts, Mary Tillotson and believe it or don’t, Daniel Shorr.
But not necessarily in that order.
CNN for Caps fans means Capitals News Network, a must-read site managed by Dave and Cheryl Nichols. I emailed Dave about a week ago with five questions and simples rules: answer them in five minutes, then overtime and a shoot out. He was gracious to respond. We happened to meet both Dave and Cheryl at Sunday’s game, the day those Penguins tried to defile our sacred house with their base, criminal behavior. But we digress/obsess.
We didn’t edit Dave’s responses, but we did edit the questions (so I come off as more articulate than the night I scratched them out on the back of a cocktail napkin). Dave works at a downtown law firm. And although this Q&A was supposed to take Dave only five minutes, we think he’s still going to bill us for the full hour.
1. When did you become a sports fan? Did you play as a kid, in school? Was hockey always a part of the mix?
“I’ve been a sports fan from my earliest memory. I played all sports growing up, but my favorites were hockey and baseball. I played recreational hockey until I was 40, when a concussion unfortunately ended my playing career. I have cousins in South Jersey, and as kids when we would visit my brothers and I would play street hockey against them and their buddies as Caps v. Flyers. We’d play for about ten minutes before it ended up as a line brawl.”
2. What about mixing your vocation and avocation? Is it hard to be objective about the Caps?
“Though I started my career in broadcasting, sports isn’t actually my current vocation. There’s always hope that someone reads what I write and offers to pay me for it. But for now, I toil as a litigation manager for a DC law firm and write as an independent journalist.
I’m fortunate that I live in a tech-savvy market, with franchises that understand “new media” and credential independent journalists. I try to take an objective, constructive, critical look at the Caps in my game reviews and columns. There are plenty of fan blogs, but I’ve never been a rah-rah type of guy. I’m more “nuts and bolts”, if you will.”
3. What are the challenges with the immediacy of online journalism? What about being first?
“It’s nice to be first, but more important to be right. That’s the challenge of the internet: maintaining the balance between accuracy and immediacy. I get a lot of information that I wouldn’t necessarily run with as a story, but can use to color my opinion or shape my analysis.
In the NHL, injury information is sacred, but it’s hard for a guy to hide something in the dressing room. That’s where you have to be real careful about going with the team’s information or using what you observe with your own eyes (or ears).
As for our site, it’s gratifying that people want to read what you have to say, that they trust your analysis and opinion.”
4. You also manage a baseball site – a sport with its own long, demanding season along with plenty happening in the off-season. How do you handle both? What about the relatively leisurely pace of baseball versus hockey?
“Leisurely pace?!? The baseball beat is year-round. The off-season is probably more intriguing for a developing team like the Nationals. The two sports are completely different to write about, in my opinion. Baseball is very stats oriented, so much more than hockey. Baseball is science and hockey is art.
It’s difficult sometimes operating two blogs with different beats (and keep a full-time job). I essentially have three jobs, only one of which I get paid for. But I’m very lucky to get to do what I do.
There aren’t too many independent journalists that have credentials for two different pro sports teams, so I think about that privilege when I don’t feel like filing a story.”
5. Compare hockey live versus seeing it on TV. How is it reflected in your game coverage?
“It’s difficult to follow a game on TV since the camera is always trained on the puck. The great thing about the press box (or upper level tickets in general) is that you can see the whole sheet. You can tell when someone is out of position, when the lines are going to change, when a scrap is coming.
Plus, there’s nothing like the energy of live hockey, especially with a full crowd. I “live-blog” during games, and it’s especially tough with live hockey since play hardly ever stops. There’s been more than one instance of me looking down at my keyboard and missing a goal or hit or whatever on the ice. At least when I’m at home I can hit pause on the DVR and go look at the play again.
I also like to be at ice level during the pre-game skate, to see the players up close, both the Caps and the visitors. One of my favorite things is to watch a call-up during warmups to see if he looks nervous. I put my game reviews together pretty much the same for home/road games, but being at a game live, and being able to get the reaction in person in the locker room and post-game press conference allows me to produce much more authentic coverage. The Caps do an awesome job of getting highlights of the post-game stuff up quickly, but there’s no substitute for asking your own questions.”
Overtime: What about partnering with Cheryl on the sites? Any Challenges?
“I’m fortunate that my wife loves sports as much as I do and she is vital to the success of our sites. We have a concrete delineation of responsibilities so there usually isn’t too much arguing.
She handles the public relations and fan aspects of the game, and the photography, and I stick to the game stories and analysis. It’s tough sometimes having a full-time job, then turn around and spend six hours at the rink or baseball field. But it’s worth every minute. We are our own sports network, and it’s a very cool thing.”
Shootout: What’s the first thing you’re going to do if the Caps win the Cup? “Probably bawl like a baby. Unless I’m in the press box. In which case I’ll be running for the interview room.”
And finally, five from the Proust Questionnaire:
1. What is your favorite word? Independent. I’d have made a lousy Marine.
2. What is your favorite curse word? Too many to list.
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? This is going to sound egotistical, but I love being right. I’m basically a narcissistic jerk at heart. At least I’m respectful about it.
4. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I should have been an architect. I have drawn designs for baseball stadiums since I was in grade school. Either that, or a TV weatherman. I’m an amateur meteorologist.
5. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “How did you get on this list?”
Thanks Dave. Very much.