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Saturday, 14 July 2012

TPL Interviews... Adam Rank

Welcome to the 4th installment of TPL Interviews... And this week we've tracked down everyone's favourite NFL.com and NFL Network analyst, Adam Rank! Member of the NFL Fantasy Live team, regular blogger on the NFL.com "Sidelines" blog, and constant foil to Dave Dameshek on the Dave Dameshek Football Programme Podcast, Rank shared his thoughts with us on the NFL in LA, how he'd improve the fan experience in the stadium, as well as telling us a little about how he got the opportunity to write and analyse and for the NFL!

Find out more, as well as some of Adam's fantasy tips for 2012, after the jump!


The Pulling Linemen: We know you best in the UK from the Dave Dameshek Football Podcast and from your columns on NFL.com, but before you joined the NFL family you were (and still are!) a successful comedian. How did you first get into comedy, was it something you always wanted to do during school/college?  

Adam Rank: The NFL actually derailed my comedy career for a while. I went to college just to screw around for four years and then do standup. But they make you choose a major and a friend’s mom suggested journalism since I hated taking tests and liked writing papers. In fact, I made money in high school writing term papers for people. So I had a knack for it, though the user comments on NFL.com would suggest otherwise. I ended up covering preps for the L.A. Times, started covering the Rams, Angels and Ducks for a monthly called the Orange County Sports Page and then I was interning for NFL Publishing before I graduated. So I made the decision to put off comedy. Until about four years ago.

TPL: Did you play much football growing up?

AR: All the time. My two best friends had dads who played college football and they ended up playing D1 football themselves. So we played all of the time. But I only played one season as WR/DE. I guess I was the original speed rusher. I ended up hurting my back so I played just the one year before I turned my attention to basketball, baseball and track.

TPL: Was it through your comedy that you got your foot in the door at NFL.com? Of course, Dameshek also comes from a comedy background, is that why the two of you teamed up for the podcast?

AR: The L.A. Times connection was the biggest. When I did my interview for my internship with NFL Publishing, the managing editor was a former L.A. Times editor, so I was kissed in rather quickly. But comedy did help me get on NFL Fantasy Live. I worked for NFL Publishing until about 2003, when they closed our office. I freelanced for a few years for NFL.com, including ghost-writing for Cris Collinsworth. I came back to the NFL full-time in 2007. But I hated it. I was slapping together AP stories for the site and I said to myself, screw this, I need to get back on the stage. So I started doing comedy again. So then I pitched some ideas to the fantasy guys for some video segments and I got involved with our fantasy group. (Funny aside, the now-deposed sports editor of the Orange County Register where I did some work from 2003 to 2007 once told me fantasy was a fade and that it would never be mainstream. I think I saw him working the counter at Ruby's.) 

So I guess the long-winded way to put this is, it stopped me 15 years ago doing comedy. But my rebirth back into comedy helped me get to my current position with the NFL. So I guess it came full-circle. 

When Dave joined the NFL back a few years ago during our first year of NFL Fantasy Live, we hit it off immediately and wanted to do a podcast. And it turns out, a pretty good idea.
Rank, Dameshek, Handsome Hank and Elliot Harrison cracking wise on the DDFP

TPL: You've had a number of different producers on the DDFP since it began back in May 2011, but in DDFP tradition, how would you rank them as podcast members? Has Black Tie got too big for his boots now with the Black List and his loaning out to Rich Eisen? Or does that pale in comparison to Neck Tie's determination to always play by the rules?

AR: They all have their strengths. But when the DDFP starts its reunion tour in 20 years, I would imagine people would clamor for the original lineup.  

TPL: You and Dameshek both like to roast people from all walks of life for everything from their condiment choices to less obvious twitter handles, but what's the biggest thing you and Dave disagree on? Without fear of the Han Solo-edition blaster you can use this as a platform to right all that is wrong with Dameshek's World!

AR: The importance of the NFL prior to the Super Bowl era. Though I would imagine most Steelers fans would like to ignore the NFL history when the Browns dominated.

TPL: Speaking of righting wrongs, if you had commissioner powers for the day, what's the one rule change you'd make to improve the NFL?

AR: A singular rule? The one thing I would like to change is the three commercials, kickoff, three more commercials. The NFL is trying to make the in-stadium experience more enjoyable for fans. But dang, if you ever go to a game, those commercial breaks are a killer. I mean, you could scroll commercials down along the ticker area and probably make just as much money. Hockey and soccer can go long stretches without commercial breaks. How have we not figured that out? It would make the in-game experience more enjoyable.

And another thing that really bugs me, there should be a cap on ticket costs. You mean my tax dollars are building your stadium and you want me to pay through the nose for tickets? But then again, L.A. doesn’t have a team so you have that.

TPL: You've had the chance to interview a lot of NFL stars, past and present, for the DDFP as well as Adam Rank's Football Podcast for Kids. Who's the best person you've interviewed in your time with the NFL? I'm guessing Jack Youngblood ranks pretty highly on your list?

Pat Tillman
AR: Jack Youngblood was awesome. Pat Tillman was my favorite person to interview ever. I remember the first time I talked to him. Typically, you contact a person from the PR office, the player calls from the team facility and then you talk for about 10 minutes, canned answers abound. But I remember I put in a request for Tillman, the Cards PR guy gave me his cell phone number. Now remember, 10-12 years ago, not everybody had a cell phone and players certainly didn’t give it out. But Tillman did. We talked for about an hour, covering all sorts of topics. We’d talk every offseason. He was a great guy. Our world is not the same without him.

TPL: Who would be the one person you'd love to interview in the future that you haven't had a chance to in the past?

AR: At one point I’d like to have a candid conversation with the Commissioner.

TPL: Do you have any tips for writers looking to get involved with sports writing?

AR: Just keep writing. It’s so cool now. Back when I was a pup, you were pretty much confined to covering local preps for a major or local newspaper. You needed to catch an editor’s eye while doing a six-inch write-up for the Bolsa Grande vs. Pacifica high school football game. But now people blog about anything. I mean, if some comedy pisses you off at a comedy club, you can blog about it and feel self-important. Well, maybe that part of it isn’t cool.

But I tell kids all the time, you want to write about fantasy football, go write about it. Build an audience and see what happens. I used to have a sports specific blog a long time ago. I would tell anybody to follow one team and become an expert in the field. If I was in high school or college right now, I think I would start a blog about Batman or movies. Probably movies.

But dang, if you want to write, just start doing it.

TPL: So growing up your team was the LA Rams, but since their move to St Louis you've effectively disowned the franchise. There's a lot of talk about them being the most likely candidate to return to LA with the new stadium deals. Would you welcome to Rams back and start to follow them again? What if the Chargers, Raiders, or someone from further afield like Jacksonville, were to move to LA, do you think the support would be there in LA to make them viable?

AR: The Los Angeles Rams are truly the only answer. I had Chargers season tickets and the good folks of San Diego deserve to keep the team. But they shouldn’t have to foot the bill. San Diego got robbed by the Padres who promised a competitive team if tax money was used to build PetCo Park. And now the Padres are the worst team in MLB. So San Diego has been rocked by it (though, I would argue the ballpark has benefitted downtown San Diego if you look at all of the construction). So the Spanos family makes tons of loot, so why can’t they pay for the stadium. Again, this goes back to the point I was making earlier. I wish they would have a vote. And if the city of San Diego pays for the construction of the stadium, they should be able to buy season tickets for $100 a year. And make the tickets unsellable (to avoid scalpers).

I don’t want the Jaguars, either. Jacksonville is a cool town. And they draw better than Miami and Tampa Bay.

I’d welcome a new version of the L.A. Rams, only because it would be a new ownership group. The L.A. Rams are really the only team that makes sense. If it’s not the Rams, let’s just skip the whole L.A. thing all together. Besides, we have USC.
You're never in doubt where Rank's allegiance lies...!

TPL: Another possible eventual destination for the Rams has been mentioned as London, particularly with team owners Like Bob Kraft saying he wants a UK-based franchise, and with the Rams pledging a home game to London in each of the next 3 seasons. As a proud American, how do you feel about the way the league is looking to expand globally, and do you think a franchise outside the mainland US would work?

AR: I will tell you one thing, if we have the London Rams … I might be able to get behind that. It would be kind of cool to root for an international team, but there’s no way they could be part of the NFC West. I would imagine you get the Bucs.

TPL: Any chance that the DDFP or ARFPfK make their way over to our side of the pond for the International Game this year?

AR: Little to none for this year. I’m on the don’t fly list (not really). But I don’t travel a whole lot by plane.
Rank with Scott Hansen and Michael Fabiano talking fantasy

TPL: One of your biggest roles with NFL.com is part of the NFL Fantasy Live team, and we've got a few fantasy based questions for you as we approach fantasy draft season.

If you had to name one player to each of these categories for the coming season, who would they be?


AR: Eric Decker is going to have better fantasy numbers compared to Demaryius Thomas. Don’t sleep on Greg Little, either.

Bust Waiting to Happen

AR: Michael Turner

Can't Miss #1 Pick

AR: LeSean McCoy. But really, Aaron Rodgers is can’t miss, either.

The Adam Rank Top Tip

AR: Don’t draft Darren McFadden

TPL: What is your favourite type of league to take part in? Do you prefer the standard type, or are you more of an IDP or PPR league kinda guy?

AR: I don’t know why, but I’m so unbelievably against PPR leagues. To me, it’s like mayo on a hamburger, it doesn’t belong.

TPL: Do you think fantasy football is to blame for the falling attendance at stadiums in the NFL? Has it become so big that it's starting to take over from the actual game results?

AR: It’s ticket prices, in-game experience and other factors (like time). Ironic, I love going to live games, but can’t make it out there. But the NFL is facing similar issues to what movie theaters face. Our in-home televisions have become so awesome, why venture out to deal with unruly crowds? I mean, I have 47-inch TV in my house (which I believe is modest) with a couple of other TVs set to different channels. I can go grab a 12-pack for $10, invite some friends over and be able to watch a game in the safety of my home, without being heckled by opposing fans or having to worry about driving home.

It’s a nice time to be a consumer because every sport NFL, MLB, NHL, and other entertainment venues really have to try to win us over. And we should have high standards.

TPL: Outside of the football world, you're also an LA Angels guy. Our writer Toby moonlights covering the MLB for various other blogs and podcasts, so he wanted to know what you think of Mike Trout? How good do you think he is, and how good do you think he can be?

AR: Well, you certainly don’t want to jinx a kid. But I haven’t been this excited about a young guy since Ken Griffey Jr. came into the league. I’m even thinking of getting back into baseball cards to grab some Mike Trout rookies, though I would imagine those prices are already through the roof.
But look at this young Angels team. Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo. If they keep Petey Bourjos, we’re looking at a super outfield. It’s going to be a lot of fun being an Angels fan for the next decade. Oh yeah, we have Pujols, too. Along with Jered Weaver.

TPL: Finally we just wanted to ask if there's anything you'd like to plug? And where can the lucky people of Orange County find out about your live shows?

AR: Be sure to watch NFL Fantasy Live this fall. We’re moving to an hour during the week on NFL Network. Make sure you tune in. Plus NFL AM will be starting soon. I believe it will be about 11 a.m. for folks in the U.K. Watch that, too. And please continue to come to NFL.com. Oh, and follow me on Twitter. I do appreciate that a lot. I try to answer everybody.

You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamrank, find his work all over NFL.com (here) and the NFL Network, and can hear his thoughts with Dave Dameshek on the DDFP, available from iTunes. Subscribe, won't you?

- Phil Gaskin (@sosayitisaid)
- The Pulling Linemen


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