Phillip B. Wilson is a beat writer for the Indianapolis Colts and writes a must read blog on the Colts. The Indy Star has the absolute best Colts coverage you’ll ever find, and Indystar.com should be your first stop every day in the search for all the Colts info you need and want. You can read his blog here.
1. You grew up in Ohio and Indiana…are you a Hoosier or a Buckeye?
I’m definitely a Buckeye, although a transplant who grew up in Ohio mostly. I was born in Baltimore, Md., the son of an Army officer who did two terms in Vietnam. We moved around a lot, so I spent much of my school years, including college at Bowling Green, in Ohio. When you grow up in Ohio, you dream of playing one day for Woody Hayes.
2. So you went from covering the Browns to covering the Colts…is that the result of good karma or simple bribery?
A lot of time passed between covering the Cleveland Browns in the late 80s, when things went south with Bill Belichick benching homestate hero Bernie Kosar for some guy named Vinny Testaverde. My marriage failed. I bounced from one paper to the next, trying to find my way. After my divorce, I came back to Indiana, where I had gone to school a couple years (7th and 9th grades), to be with my father and brother. Good move. My father died of cancer in 1998, so I’m glad I had the time to spend with him. In the process, I worked six months free lance and landed a job with The Indianapolis News. From there, well, the career kind of took off.
3. You run a great blog. How do you feel about the ever blurring lines between ‘new’ and old media (net vs print)?
I enjoy the opportunity to express myself in a blog. The old print rules gave that divine right to columnists and that was it. Now, I can have some fun with sharing what I think as opposed to just reporting the facts. Fact is, the business of newspapers is in trouble. We need to enter into more of a multi-media culture, blogs, video, online. Those who don’t change will fade away, so I embrace the new era and want to do what I can to be more integrated with society, fans, readers. Tell ‘em what you think, try to tell ‘em what you know and, most importantly, what they want to know instead of just always spitting out “coachspeak” quotes from players and coaches in newspaper articles.
4. There is a rumor that the ‘B.’ stands for ‘Blog’. What does it really mean?
For years, before I had two children, the “B” always stood for something else in most people’s minds. It actually stands for Brent. Good name. Not a big deal, but when I was in high school, I wanted to go by a catchy name. I thought Phillip B. or Phil B. had a ring to it, so I stuck to it. It’s been that way since 10th grade. I prefer to be identified by my middle initial, although some still give me grief about it and some refuse to acknowledge it.
5. What is your favorite beat to cover?
The Super Bowl was a one-in-a-million experience. Can’t ever compare that to anything, really. But at the risk of bothering a few of my blogger regulars, the Colts beat is a grind and it requires dedication and an unbelievable work ethic. You get to the Super Bowl, but you’ve spent most of the playoff road writing stories about the opponents for the newspaper, but blogging about the Colts online. It was difficult. I’ve always said, my favorite three weeks of the year are in May. I love the Indy 500. My father raised me to love that race. I love all the subplots. I love the fact that it plays out over three weeks, then we have a result, win, lose, disappointment, disaster. It’s like the ups and downs, thrills and chills of an NFL season inside of one month. If I had to say what I enjoy the most, it would be that. But that’s not taking anything away from covering the NFL, which is a thrill, but a hell of a lot more work. That said, I’ve always been a football fan, long before I ever met A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. So, I guess you could say football is my first love, and I understand the complexities more.
6. Who gives better interviews, NASCAR drivers or IRL guys?
No question, IRL guys. NASCAR guys are OK, but some act as if it’s such a burden to have to talk to us each week, although I only see them one week out of the year. The IRL drivers are genuinely excited to be at Indy, they love the race, they are eager to talk to anyone who walks into their garage. You can’t underestimate the value of that. 7. Can you give us 3 reasons why there’s no better place to be than Terre Haute? Or is that metaphysically impossible? Metaphysics? Geez, I’ll have to google that. I’m not sure Terre Haute will always be the training camp home of the Colts. More teams are leaning toward working out at home, although I know the Colts like the idea of getting the guys away from comfort zones, family and friends, and grilling them for three weeks. Three reasons, huh? The folks at Rose-Hulman are great. That’s one. The fans in that area get to see the team. It never hurts to work the state fan base. That’s two. And, uh, well, hmmm, OK, you got me. The best I can come up with for No. 3 is a Chinese buffet that serves king crab legs for dinner. Love king crab legs.
8. What’s your real hair color? Do blonds really have more fun?
Hair was dark brown, but as I approached my 40th birthday, it wasn’t dark anymore. It was fading into shades of gray. I don’t have a problem with gray, but my doctor brother let his wife bleach his hair blond and it looked good. We were about to go to Las Vegas for my 40th birthday, his treat, so I had my stylist do me blond. He had been after me for 18 months to do something to it. I kind of liked the blond look as a change. Call it a mid-life crisis thing, but it was fun. I’m all about fun. Some say they don’t like it. That doesn’t matter to me. I didn’t do it for anybody else. As for having more fun, I must confess NO in capital letters. I have two little kids. I’m married to my job. I’ve had one girlfriend in the past three years and it lasted just two months, so I wish I could live up to the old saying, but I’m falling short, at least for now. The life isn’t over just yet.
9. You’ve covered the Indians; can tell us why Indy sports fans should spring for tix for the whole family?
If you like baseball, Victory Field is a wonderful place to see a game. Doesn’t matter if you don’t care about the outcome or the teams. As for tickets, I know a lot of folks who can’t afford to go to Colts games, or they save up enough just to attend one. A family of four can attend an Indians game for half the price of one good seat to see the Colts. Not knocking the Colts. The NFL is big business. But the Indians do a great job of marketing to their fans, tons of giveaways with many targeting kids. I know I couldn’t afford to go see the Colts if I didn’t cover them for a living, so I can relate to the family that enjoys Indians games because that’s their spending limit. Nothing wrong with that.
10. Why are the Jaguars and their fan base so pathetic? Is it the city, the coach, or the fool who writes Ask Vic?
That’s a good question. Can’t blame the coach. It’s been that way before Jack Del Rio stuck an axe in the locker room and lost a punter. Jags fans are diehard, but there just aren’t enough to fill that stadium on a regular basis. Either that or they don’t have the money to be able to afford the games. Amusing thing is, I remember going down there and hearing that a supermarket chain was giving away tickets if you purchased a certain amount of groceries. That’s pretty said. Fans elsewhere can’t afford NFL tickets, but Jacksonville had to give ‘em away. They finally gave up, I guess, and just covered up parts of the top tier of the stadium.
11. Would you consider the Colts an easy beat or a tough one? I know the club tightly controls the flow of information, but the team seems to have a bunch of nice guys. How does that affect your ability to do your job?
The Colts have always had a good bunch of guys. Not too many problems. Can’t remember many, anyway. But it’s not an easy beat. Sure, the Colts control the flow of information, but the greater challenge is to continue to come up with interesting story angles that aren’t just about football. That’s really tough. Seven years into the beat, it’s hard to come up with stuff you haven’t asked before. Plus, many of the guys don’t want to talk about anything but football. Their personal life is theirs, they don’t think they should have to share it. Luckily, most guys are happy to tell us when they get married, when a child is on the way, how much they believe in Christ, other players they admire around the league. I know of some other teams where I would just be beating my head into the wall every week.
12. Who is your favorite football guy to talk to just for laughs off the record? Can you even do that with guys?
First of all, the Colts are coached on what to say and what not to say. We just don’t get “off the record” tips much anymore. If we did, we couldn’t say we did. Back in the day, we got cell phones for certain players who would tell us things. Now, we can’t get anybody’s cell and it’s against team policy to contact the players away from the complex, so we go through the team and we go through agents, when necessary. All that said, I don’t know if I could say one favorite guy. That’s too difficult. I will tell you that my favorite interviews over the years have been with Edgerrin James, Marcus Pollard and Mike Vanderjagt (yes, the kicker, but he was never dull). Kelvin Hayden and Bob Sanders are really cool with me these days. Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne are stars, so I don’t see them as much as I used to, but they are great when you get them to the side to talk about anything. I always thought the world of David Thornton, although he was kind of a dead quote. Not much flash, but a great human being.
13. What is the best Final Four moment from the games you covered?
Probably the Arizona-Kentucky championship game that went to overtime. Somebody named Miles Simon took over and Arizona pulled it off when everybody thought Rick Pitino’s team was going to win. I like Pitino, but when a national title game goes to overtime, it’s safe to say fans have been entertained, regardless of the outcome.
14. How has the climate of football knowledge and interest changed in Indy over the past decade that you’ve been here?
Contrary to popular belief, there were diehard Colts fans before they became good. I talk to them all the time. They sat through the 1-15 season and stayed loyal. But I have seen more of a fan following in the last seven years. The tailgate lots are much more alive with activity. The game has truly become an all-day event. Fans wear more jerseys. The RCA Dome is louder. It’s easy to say that the town has really rallied around this team in the last seven years I’ve been on the beat.
15. What is the best sports book you’ve ever read?
I read a lot of Jim Murray column compilation books for inspiration and creativity. Can’t say one of them is best. Probably one of the most memorable reads of my life was actually a golf book. Can’t find it now. Just searched through rows on my book shelf. It’s somewhere in there. Sorry. What good is the question without a title. Anyway, it was about a golf writer who took his dying father back to St. Andrews for one final round of golf. My father was dying of cancer at the time and we were taking a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., so I guess it just resonated with me on a personal level. Anyway, it rained too hard and his father was too ill to play that round, so they walked the course, talked about the shots they would hit, imagined this last round together. A year or so later, the man took his father’s ashes back to the course and dumped them in the famous 17th hole bunker, I think it’s the Road Hole. I can’t remember if that’s accurate. Since you asked a question, I need to give an answer. So I’ll go with Red Smith’s “No Cheering In The Press Box.” Haven’t read it in years, but the title says it all for aspiring sportswriters. I also enjoy the many “Best American Sports Writing of the Century” volumes. It’s the best of the best from those in the trade. Can’t find much better stuff for inspiration and self improvement.
16. Do you have a Super Bowl pick for this year?
Tough question. I picked the Colts three years ago and was wrong. So I picked Pittsburgh two years ago and they upset the Colts and won it all. Didn’t want to be right. I wanted to see a Super Bowl. So, last year I picked the Colts to lose the Super Bowl, which of course, they didn’t, although when they got there, I did pick them to beat the Bears. So I don’t know where that leaves me this year. I definitely think they will make the playoffs. I’m not sure about all of the defensive replacements and Tony Ugoh. But if I pick against them, everybody will give me a bunch of static. That, of course, can’t matter. Using the powers of reverse psychology, I’ll pick New England. Put all the pressure on them. I still think the Colts are the team to beat, but life in the NFL changes rather quickly. If the Colts read predictions, and they say they don’t, well, I’m just trying to help them stay motivated.
17. Help us sell Colts fans on why they should make Indystar.com their first stop on the information super highway each day. A lot of people, fools that they are, check ESPN.com or SI.com. That’s just stupid right?
We cover the Colts and Indy 500 better than anyone. Nobody else is there, every day, getting the most out of every story, doing the in-depth stuff that we do. ESPN.com and SI.com may get a scoop now and then because a player agent wants the national splash or they have a contact that we don’t, but on an everyday basis, they follow us. I take great pride in the fact that Mike Chappell and I broke the Tarik Glenn retirement story. We sat on that for two weeks, trying to find ways to confirm. We know things, but sometimes it’s difficult getting them into print. Another reason, and I’m not trying to brag here, is our online push. Nobody blogs like we do. Nobody has been doing the in-game blogs like I have. I’ve even tinkered with the format this season so I can be quicker, more informative, like at the Super Bowl when I did a running blog every seven or eight minutes on average. Was recognized by national sites and publications for that Super Bowl blog, although Chicago had a bunch of guys blogging. I gave fans something more. I gave them Edgerrin James text messages during the game in the blog. I had comments almost immediately. Can’t do much better than that. We’re also pushing into videocasts now. Just finished another one with Bob Kravitz. Each week, fans can go online and see us talk about the Colts as opposed to just reading it. Bob and I are decent at it, too. I’ve done my share of TV work and had some experience in college. I know how to make it interesting. In the future, print reporters will be shooting their own video, expanding into other areas. We’re continuing to evolve. As you know, if fans want to know what’s going on at Colts camp, they can check my blog for the last three weeks, with a post each day, and they will know. I posted every day from the beginning of training camp through three days after the Super Bowl last February. I intend to do it again.
18. Based on the evidence, do you think that Bob Sanders is a zombie who has been reanimated by a voodoo curse?
Cute question. Bob Sanders is the real deal. He wouldn’t get hurt so much if he wasn’t. Some complain about his injuries, but I like Sanders because he gives it everything he has. He punishes people the way you want your defensive football players to play. The shoulder scope for a second consecutive offseason was to ensure some longevity to his career. If he didn’t get it done now, it would be a problem later. This way, he will be ready to roll when the games get serious again. If he gets hurt again, sure, we’ll ask those same questions again. And maybe we’ll need some zombie resurrection to bring him back to life as “The Eraser.” But there’s nobody I would rather have at safety than him. He showed in the Super Bowl that when he’s on his game, it’s a world of pain for the people who run into him.
Thanks for the questions!!!!