Every day around the world, more and more sports fans turn their backs on traditional media and embrace fan run blogs and podcasts to get better and more interesting coverage of the teams they love. With the return of the CFL to Ottawa, Mike Smith and Colin Fossitt stepped up and created the Bleed Redblacks podcast. Each week’s hour-long show features a blend of well-researched analysis, strong opinions, local music, 90’s references and laughs. To find out more about how the podcast came to be, the passions that fuel the show and what its future holds, I recently caught up with Mike and Colin.
When did you guys come up with the idea for a Redblacks podcast?
Mike: Colin has the exact date, he’s that kind of guy
Colin: Haha yeah I do, it was May 9th, 2014. A Friday.
Mike: I purchased the URL BleedRedblacks.ca awhile back and had been holding it for a possible blog site. After a long stint working for a large (now defunct) NHL site where I wrote and had created content, I’d been planning on launching my own podcast with some of the writers I previously worked with. When I made a list of guys I wanted to include on it, I didn’t get too far when I knew one guy I really wanted to work with was Colin. He and I have great chemistry. When I approached him about doing a sports podcast together his exact words to me were “We can do a Redblacks one ourselves.” We never looked back.
Colin: I’d been looking for some life balance to take my mind off a very busy work schedule. Why talk hockey when there was so much momentum and buzz in our community about the return of the CFL to Ottawa? It wasn’t only about the Redblacks, but also supporting the redevelopment of our community and a park that meant a lot to us as Centretown residents. Also the duck wings and Guinness were so delicious I would have agreed to do a pub grub podcast that evening.
Did you have any previous experience making podcasts?
Mike: I had done a few podcast shows and been interviewed by some over the years while I wrote at FightingForStanley.ca. That’s where I got my first taste for it.
Colin: I had always been a massive fan of sports and strategy podcasts. I love engaging in sports conversations (debates if beer is involved) and am never shy to give my opinion. I knew I would never get that dream job as a used car salesman or an auctioneer, so I figured I would put the gift of the gab to another use.
I love the name “BleedRedblacks”, how’d you come up with it?
Colin: This is Mike’s baby. I suggested “Red is the New Black” but Mike was worried from backlash from the Netflix brass.
Mike: The name and slogan came to me at the same time. I banged it out in a single night as I sat with a pad and paper trying to come up with a name without the word “Nation” in it. “Every Season All Season” was about bleeding for a team. The idea was about cheering for this team through thick and thin, thus avoiding the fair-weather fan syndrome that plagues some NHL clubs…like the Sens. Bleeding red is easy. But bleeding Red and Black means you are fully committed. It was my shining Don Draper moment.
Your podcast team seems to be a group of people from various backgrounds, how’d you bring them all together?
Mike: The common theme behind us all is about fan experience. For example – why hide the fact that a segment is being recorded by a super fan in Brazil? Around the CFL is the baby of a die-hard Bombers fan turned Redblacks fan that understands the culture of the CFL better than any of us. The thread that binds us together is exactly what makes the CFL unique – the community. Each individual working with us on the show met us in person as the podcast was in the early stages. We tapped into the power of social media by putting out a call for help on Twitter and Jeannine was at a table having beer with us within a week! Santino had one conversation with Colin at the first QB Club had his segment soon afterwards. Johnny Z is a long-time family friend. Our parents have known each other for ages and Johnny went to school with my youngest brother. Producer Mark and Colin go way back and he loves having fun and being part of our creative project.
How long does it take you to record an episode?
Mike: Haha. Two hours? Maybe three if we need to record a segment again because we didn’t like the chemistry or delivery of a subject.
Colin: It depends. If it’s just Mark and Jeannine recording a playoff special, sometimes it takes multiple tries! ZING. The Sunday morning episodes seem to take a little longer since the cobwebs in Producer Mark’s basement seem to be much thicker!
What’s your best football memory at Lansdowne Park?
Mike: I go back to being 15-18 years old and taking in Rough Riders games. There was something magical about being a young kid soaking up the enormity of the game and atmosphere.
Colin: I remember going to the Ex with my dad and some guy trying to steal my Cananda’s Wonderland “the Bat” hat. My dad laid down the law and that may have been the first day I knew people universally loved painters caps
Are you season ticket holders and if so, what section of the stadium do you guys sit in?
Mike: Section FF Northside! Listen for the Drum and Cowbell!
Colin: In 20 years my name will be on the seat.
Being Ottawa guys who witnessed the Rough Rider and Renegade eras, how would you compare this ownership group to previous ones?
Mike: Jeff Hunt is just a great business leader here in Ottawa. You can’t say enough about what he did with the 67s. As soon as it was announced that his name was on the Redblacks the ownership ticket, I put my money down to support the team. I had a paper bag over my head leading into the last season with the Renegades. I was embarrassed not for what was ON the field but by who was running the team. I’ll leave it at that.
Colin: The Hunt run regime is the polar opposite of the previous owners. All of the little details and extra effort that he puts in, with not only the fans and team in mind, but also the community, all add up. He’s a blue-collar guy who is obviously not afraid to work hard for positive results
Who’s your favourite player that’s ever suited up for Ottawa?
Mike: I loved watching Stephen Jones haul in bombs from Tom Burgess back in the day. That duo alone put up huge numbers though not always wins. They made going to the game exciting. Between the two I’ll go with Jones because I always tried to catch the ball like he did when playing touch football at the park.
Colin: Glenn Kulka. He had such a storied career and life that seeing him last year at TD Place and snapping a photo with him brought back a ton of memories. Long live KULKAMANIA! But yeah, as an era, the 1989-1993 Rough Riders were all my favourites.
In your opinion, who is Ottawa’s biggest rival?
Mike: The Argos might fit the bill. Leafs vs Sens aside, I believe these are the teams that might have to beat each other twice to get sniff of above .500 football this season.
Colin: THE HAMILTON TI-CATS! Don’t drink the water.
What was the best off-season move GM Marcel Desjardins made?
Mike: Solidifying the offensive line with their own coach and adding depth through the draft and free agency. Can’t say enough about what he did there, our WR depth is now amazing. Desjardins really spent wisely this off-season.
Colin: FIRING MIKE GIBSON! Also, bringing in Brad Sinopoli is a huge move for the community. Not only is he an Ottawa Gee-Gee alum (and Jeannine’s crush,) he’s also a local guy who has proven he is a smart and diverse athlete. Depth is the name of the game and having a National who can play WR (or QB if need be) is massive.
In your mind, what would make 2015 a successful year for the Ottawa Redblacks?
Mike: Continued strong ticket sales, which we’ve already seen with so many season ticket renewals and putting a competitive product on the field. If the Redblacks can hang around in most games and steal a couple of wins against the so-called “favourites”, that’d be great.
Colin: Improving the on and off field product. First, fielding a team that can keep games close and put some points on the board. Second, working on the in-game experience and using social media to attempt to further engage millennials.
You’ve recently released the sixth episode of the podcast for 2015, what’s the biggest change between Year 1 and Year 2?
Mike: We flew by the seat of our pants last year. Our sound quality is better and this year the writing has already improved and the communication among the podcast team is tighter. We’ve got a core group we like to work with now and that helps. Our roles are defined and we all have each other’s backs.
Colin: Producer Johnny Z is really flexing his muscles this season with his new Bytowne Beats and The Z Files segments. Mike and I are focusing on writing quality and improving our product, whereas last year we were just trying to keep our heads above water. We’ve also been including as many 1990’s pop culture references as humanly possible (everything from Blanch Deveraux to Grimace), so that’s a plus too.
Finish this sentence. Five years from now I want the BleedRedblacks podcast……….
Mike: To be in someone else’s hands maybe? I think Colin and I have created the type of project that has to grow together with the Redblacks and R-Nation. I don’t believe podcasts are going anywhere and the technology will only improve. More listeners and the possibility that as hosts we can pass it off at some point to a younger generation of fans to continue is an interesting idea. I envision that for many years and Grey Cups, emphasis on CUPS, the Bleed Redblacks crew will be around.
Colin: To be broadcasting live from the Redblacks’ Grey Cup parade. Like Mike said, this is by the fans for the fans, so as long as our community is engaged, involved and satisfied, our mission is accomplished.