Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Exit Interview - David Hale Pulls a Knowshon

My first question to Hale after he announced he was leaving I thought was an easy one, can I conduct an exit interview? He answered no. However, I'm a persistent blogger and happen to have pictures of him wearing a Dallas Cowgirls' cheerleading costume while being sexually harassed by a group of overweight Redskins fans wearing pig noses.

So eventually he came around.

But he added a condition that it happen on the way back from his honeymoon. Thinking a writer for a Macon paper could probably only afford a honeymoon in Dahlonega...or perhaps Six Flags, I agreed. Turns out Hale and his bride were going to someplace called Bali. No, it's not that fitness place with the hot girls in the commercial. That's what I thought at first too. Unfortunately, I would need a round trip plane ticket to...Indonesia?!? 

That was more than what we had in the BDB petty cash. But I was determined to make this happen. So I dropped a few grand on a last minute ticket, flew out there, boarded the same return flight the Hale couple was on, removed some guy sitting next to him who shall remain Anonymous that was talking his ear off, ackowledged the bride who's bound to have a kid named Stacy cuz she's got it goin' on, ordered us all a High Life and peppered the yankee with hard hitters.

Mike Wallace...eat your clip-on microphone.

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First off, congrats on the nuptials and the new gig. Since you're an avid beer drinker and tv addict, which is the bigger accomplishment for you?

Well, I've duped employers before -- NASA is still trying to recover from my brief stint there -- so the new job is cool, but maybe not a top accomplishment. Getting married is huge for me. I'm getting uglier by the day, so convincing a cool chick to marry me for reasons that didn't involve her needing a green card was no easy task. But you left off my biggest accomplishment -- finishing my Pauley's beer card in just over a month while changing jobs and planning a wedding. Unfortunately I don't have health insurance for 90 days with my new gig, so that liver transplant is going to be a bigger problem than I'd planned on.

Well, sounds to me like all three are pretty big accomplishments. How does it feel to be leaving the greatest city on the planet and thousands of adoring fans of your blog just to embrace a bunch of fat guys with cheez wiz in their facial hair?

You say "cheez whiz in their facial hair" like that's a bad thing. I'd argue the cheez wiz is usually the most attractive thing about males in Philadelphia. It certainly worked for me when I was living there.

As for leaving Athens though, I think what I'll miss most is (answer withheld due to recent marriage). 

Gotcha. I understand. I'm still surprised the wife lets me go there so often without adult supervision. 

I heard Coach Searels was especially emotional when you broke the news of your departure to him. How'd that go?

He's already told me that if my first few stories on the Phillies beat don't go well, he'll be replacing me with Josh Davis. Then he made me do up-downs until I cried.

Yeh, I heard you finished a whopping two of them Nancy. Good job. And to clarify, this is the second time you've left the Dawg Nation correct? If we were to kidnap Mark Bradley and ship him off to the unnamed place where we keep Terrance Moore, would you consider coming back a third time to be an AllJackCrap columnist?

Dammit, Bernie. Now if Bradley goes missing, who do you think the first people the authorities are going to contact will be? And by "authorities," I mean Georgia Tech fans who miss the good press.

Can't help it. I'm all jacked up on Mountain Dew and ready to come at him like a spider-monkey. Just give me the sign....But until that day, what will you miss most about Butts-Mehre?

The Butts, mostly. Mehre? Not so much.

Who was your favorite player or coach to interview?

Oh man, there were a ton, really. You can't talk to Nick Williams without walking away with a smile on your face. Todd Grantham -- although I only got to cover him for a few months -- can make you want to run through  wall. No one was more interesting to interview than Jon Fabris -- and I mean that the same way I'd say, "No play was more interesting than a crucial fourth-quarter Georgia kickoff." Anything could happen, and even if it was a train wreck (which it usually was) it still made a good story. Among former players, guys like David Greene and Matt Stinchcomb have been tremendous resources for me, too. I could probably name about 50 more without much trouble, but if I had to pick one guy, it'd be Rennie Curran. He's genuine, thoughtful and always treats the people asking the questions with respect. That kid just gets it. Even if he ends up playing against the Eagles, I'll be rooting for him on Sundays… and that's about the biggest compliment I can give a guy.

Do you and Claude Felton exchange Christmas cards?

Nah, but each year on Herschel Walker's birthday, we get together, down a fifth of bourbon and play Scattergories until one of us passes out. It's a blast.

Yes...traditions are nice. Good for you two. Is it true Jeff Owens will be bunking with you and the bride in Philly?

It's going to be just like "You, Me and Dupree" except it'll actually be funny.

I thought that movie was hysterical...oh wait, no. I was thinking of the one with the weddings and Vince Vaughn. Seriously, your BulldogsBlog and more specifically your coverage of UGA Athletics has been as complete as many could ask for. Are you surprised by how many people kill time in their office cubicles reading your stuff?

I'm surprised they're reading my stuff, yeah. But I think the biggest advantage I've had as a blogger was the handful of years I spent after undergrad working as a low-level accountant. All I did was try to find ways to kill time during my work day, and I took a lot of that into consideration on how to build my blog. Reducing workplace productivity is a job I take very seriously.

You're kinda like 

Office CyberSpace. I get it. Ahh...ain't America grand? Except for anonymity. You've had some 

bad luck with an obnoxious commenter recently. What's more frustrating, being a Cubs fan or dealing with that Anonymous fella?

The commenter has only been annoying me for a few months now. The Cubs are in their second century of frustration. Oddly, however, I haven't ruled out the possibility that the crazy commenter is actually Carlos Zambrano.

That's funny. I thought he only typed in Spanish though.... Anyway, finish this analogy: Lane Kiffin is to Sports Journalism as Crack is to ______________.

Marion Barry's 1994 mayoral campaign? Both seem incongruous, but as it turns out, it's all part of the plan.

It always pays to party with one's constituents. You never know when you might need them again. 

Speaking of big stories, during your stay on the Georgia beat, what would you say has been the biggest story...that didn't involve the phrase red panties?

Well, there was the infamous night I spent at Toppers with Willie Martinez, Quincy Carter and the starting five of the 1976 women's hoops team… but that involved red panties, too, so never mind.

Biggest stories? I'd say probably Stafford and Moreno's decision and eventual first-round draft pick status and the firings of the defensive staff. And, of course, the basketball coaching search.

Best stories? My favorite stuff to write about was the stuff that wasn't really big news, but helped give some insight to who the players and coaches are and how much work they put into to being successful on Saturdays. I wrote a story about Michael Lemon's road to redemption at GMC that I'm very proud of. I really like the story I wrote about Marcus Washington balancing his family life and his football life. I wrote about the role Jeff Owens had on helping Geno Atkins' career, on the friendship between Bacarri Rambo and Nick Williams, on the personal difficulties guys like Caleb King have had to overcome… all that stuff was much more fun to write than the standard Xs and Os stuff. I the best writing is always about personalities, and in sports that often gets overlooked.

Very good. And Knowshon and Staff's decision to leave Athens early worked out pretty well for them. Guess the jury's still out on your early departure though. Maybe you shoulda done a Talledega kegstand while in Athens... 

One of my favorite things you added to your coverage was the Live Chats. But you also kept fans informed with Live Blogs during games, your Twitter updates, mail bags, video blogs and much more. What was your favorite way to interact with Georgia fans?

You mean other than responding to random anonymous comments from mentally unstable fans who have an unusual amount of free time? 

Actually, hands down the best part of this job has been the level of interaction I've had with readers on the blog during the past two years. When I first started, I said I wanted, ideally, for the blog to be an ongoing conversation with fans about Georgia football. I think for much of the time, it really was that. I got a lot of great story ideas from readers. I had some amazing feedback that was particularly well written and well informed that helped change my perspective on things. I had thousands of hilarious comments that made me laugh out loud. 

It's been fantastic having that level of interaction, and now that I'm leaving, I really do feel like I'm leaving behind dozens of friends -- even though I only know them by their screen names.

Bet that's pretty reminiscent of college in Syracuse. Anywho....so....bigger douchebag, your editor or Urban Meyer? You're on the way out, you can be honest.

Ah, my editor is great, actually. I worked for him in Albany, and he's the biggest reason I came back to work in Macon, too. Of course, he's also a Clemson fan, so we must pity him. 

They're good people, but way too pre-occupied with touching rocks. Back to the Live Chats, I think that's actually where I first discovered your stuff as I prepared for the CapOne Bowl. I was packing for the trip down and asked you if we were home or away since it determined my gameday attire. You didn't know. Care to answer that question now?

I'm gonna have to check with Claude Felton on that one and get back to ya...

Sure...you can get back to me. I wore away dress attire and so did the team. If this was wrong, I guess we have to go back and play it again. Maybe Staff can play all four quarters this time.... (bahdumbum!!) Hey! Ohhhh!....In the meantime, I emailed some people to see what they wanted me to ask you. The #1 response was - How much did he get paid by the Lost producers to write about it and continuously link to it?

I feel no need to explain the reasons for my writing about the show. You're just supposed to get to the ending, forget about all the time I wasted on loose ends all along, then be happy with a plot twist that involves all of us Bulldogs Blog readers meeting up in purgatory after we die.

Whoa...self-obsess much? I actually made that up. However, they would like to know Ginger or Marianne?...Downtown Taco Stand or the original?...CDs or 8 tracks? Oh, and mom sends her best wishes. 

Marianne, for sure. I actually think people's answer to that dictates most of their life choices.

Downtown Taco Stand, for sure, too. When my buddy Paul was covering UGA for the Albany paper, we'd go there every Tuesday after work, and without exception, there would be the two of us sitting at the bar and a room full of sorority girls drinking beer. Always a good environment. (hmmm...ever see Chris Hanson in there Skeez...??)

My dad has a '65 GTO with an 8-track player in it. It's pretty sweet.

And I thought you and my mom had stopped speaking ever since "The Incident." What gives?

Your dad came to me and said, Never tell anyone outside the family what you're thinking again. Then he took the cotton balls out of his mouth and we let it drop. It's what's best for the family. (Awkward silence for what seemed like the length of the Pacific Ocean...even more awkward fake laughter...all of Polynesia passes beneath us....more fake laughs...finally stewardess brings refills...)

Ok...let's get a glimpse of the personal side of David Hale. What book are you reading now?

Just finished "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace. Now reading "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy. And I'm filling out a Mad Libs. Any suggestions for a noun? I've already used "fart" three times (and twice more as a verb).

Ha!...you said fart. How 'bout S-E-X...or boobs...maybe even jorts...

Back on age level, who or what most inspired you to become a sports writer, beat guy, journalist dude?

I wish I had a good story for this, but it happened mostly because it was the only thing I didn't suck at doing that I could legally earn a paycheck for. That, and I thought being a sports writer would impress girls. It didn't.

Well it's paid off. Where do you keep that creepy bloodshot eyeball award thing?

It's in my closet next to my Tony Award, my poorly received sex tape, and the unsold copies of my autobiography: "These Press Box Hot Dogs Aren't Sitting Well: The David Hale Story."

Ummm...relish....Which brings us to the Lightning Round!! Do you find tinsel distracting?

Indeed. Which brings us to the airing of grievances: Bernie, my son tells me your company stinks! You couldn't smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe… Ah, I lost my train of thought.

Touche'...what's your favorite thing to cook?

Hot Pockets.

Délicieux! Did you walk to school or carry your lunch?

I usually took the Porsche to school, then had lobster flown in from Halifax most days for lunch. It was a brutal upbringing.

Yet you survived. Speaking of beating the odds, it was in the Athens Banner-Herald while you honeymooned that you recently finished your beer card. What's your favorite brew?

Was this in the society pages or the police reports? Let's just say that after finishing No. 100, I have pictures of my wife standing on the bar in her wedding dress pouring shots into people's mouths directly from the bottle. It was classy. 

(mutters under breath...kids today,,,)

As for beers, I recommend the Holymackerel draft. 

Well...what a life you lead. We've heard of The Summer of George. With a wedding behind you and a new job ahead, this is kinda like The Summer of Hale. Will you be playing any Frolf in this Georgia humidity before you leave?

Right after I finish decomposing… err, decompressing.

So what's the end game for you? You win a Pulitzer for some hard-hitting piece about cheez wiz and its effects on Wal-Mart replica jerseys. You thank Bernie for his inspiration. The lights fade. What then for David Hale?

World domination. And I should probably start going to the gym more.

Yeh right. Whatevs, Lance Armstrong.

Ok...enough of that crap. Time for a real answer, one all Dawg fans want to know. When you started the blog you promised readers that you didn't root for Georgia, only for a good story. Now that you are returning to the great white north...will you find yourself on occasion barking like a Dawg?

I think covering a team is probably a lot like working in a sausage factory. You learn way too much about the process of how it's made to really enjoy sausage anymore, but at the end of the day, you still find yourself talking what the proper spices to use and how thick the casing should be and all kinds of other sausage-related minutiae because you've spent so long learning about making sausage. I can't say I'll leave here a huge Bulldogs fan, but I can say I'll still be tuning in for UGA games every Saturday that I can. And what's even better is now I can crack open a beer before the game and not have to worry about making a deadline.

Wow...Fabris really did a number on you didn't he? Don't cry Hale...There's no directional kicking in baseball!!! 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

At that point he became too emotional to carry on and other passengers were more than a little uncomfortable. The captain asked that we be cut off after we barricaded Carlos Zambrano in the bathroom. Shortly afterwards, the plane landed. We disembarked. And then David Hale did something amazing for a guy who'd recently finished his Pauley's beer card. He hurdled a defensive back row of seats at Terminal A24, then simply walked away slowly...as if rounding the bases after a deep shot to center...into the future...or maybe towards Baggage Claim I guess.

Well, thanks again for everything David. Stock up on White-out and Post-It notes before you clean out your desk. And please...PLEASE...try not to intersperse your Phillies coverage with updates on the most recent episode of The Bachelorette. Those maniacs will kill you…or worse, barf on you.


BulldogBry said...

That was just AWESOME!

Andy said...

DGDJ- Damn Good Dawg Journalist

JenniferfromLaJolla said...

Nicely done Bernie!! Henry Grady would be proud...

Bernie said...

If Henry Grady approved...maybe I'll win one of those Peabody thingies.

gumpdawg said...

pure 24K gold. Now if only Hale was that eloquent in real life. haha, jk Hale.

and Bernie...I'll be frequenting your blog much more now that Hale has taken his curse and gone back to Yankee land

BigMuddyDawg said...

Way to go, Bernie! A great read.

Bernie said...

Thanks y'all for the read and esp the comments. C'mon back now, ya hear!

@gump I think Steve Bartman stole Hale's sanity. Or what was left of it.

Anonymous said...

Marvelous! Never thought I could enjoy " The Hale with Georgia!" He will be missed.

Anonymous said...


We will call you by your Delaware Indian name....Lenni Lenapes....which means "short stick".