FFG: Stephanie Stradley

Last week, we got a chance to chat with Stephanie Stradley, also known as the Texans Chick.  Steph has turned her passion for all things Texans and blogging into a successful career, with her work being featured at the Houston Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. We chatted about how she got started, her fascinating run on a popular game show (think Regis!), and covered some burning Texans-related questions.  Please read on to learn more.

The Football Girl: Tell us how you got started as The Texans Chick

Steph Stradley: I’ve been blogging about the Texans since 2006.  At that time, the Texans were coming off a 2-14 season, had a new coach, but the only writing you could read anywhere was on what dummyheads they were for picking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young. Not too many people were blogging about a team that was a punchline, and I wanted to start a blog where fans could have in-depth conversations about the team that went beyond rehashing the 2006 draft.

Before I started blogging, I was a four-time Ultimate Texan fan finalist and won the contest in 2006.  Being a finalist, you got to run out on the field with one of the T-E-X-A-N-S flags. For winning the contest, they flew me to the Super Bowl.  From the early days, I was also a volunteer moderator for the official Houston Texans message board, and then later also the TexansTalk.com message board. Blogging was an evolution from the message board experience, and that helped me feel comfortable  talking to folks online.

TFG: Describe your Texans Chick blog. When did you get started and how did you build such a following?

SS: My blog isn’t traditional sports writing because if folks want the AP account of something or straight news, there’s plenty of better places to go. It’s written from the point of view of someone who is a fan, and wants to share cool fan stuff with other people.  My goal with the blog is to entertain folks and give them information they don’t already know.  I try to make it surprising. To give them information that is different than the angry ramblings of the drunk guy at the end of the bar.

If you look at traffic numbers, basically the purpose of a sports blog is to be the place where people go when they are blowing off work or have dire insomnia.  Another thing I look to do is to make the blog a place that gives people away from Houston a taste of home–I very much pay attention to service members who are away from home and try to let them know how things are going.

I think some sportswriting is done from the perspective of trying to make fans ashamed of being a fan, to stir the pot, or to take joy in the failures of the team. I don’t like that sort of writing one bit.  I just want the best for the team, but I try not to write from a know-it-all perspective because I don’t have all the answers and hate the kind of writing that pretends like they do.

The greatest compliment I get is from my readers who tell me that they don’t really care much about the Texans, but become bigger fans because they like reading my blog.  As for building a following, I think mostly it was being at the Houston Chronicle site which gets a ton of traffic, and then trying to say stuff that was sensible, unique and sometimes funny and hope that this gets people to come back.

TFG: Does Gary Kubiak still have any hope for a future in Houston? If not, do you think they promote from  within or go after one of the high priced free agents like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden?

SS: Texans owner Bob McNair is an extraordinarily patient owner, and wants to model his team after the Steelers.  He very much likes and respects native-Houstonian Gary Kubiak.  I think that he would like for Kubiak to do well enough to justify keeping his job. The Texans have a very explosive offense but Kubiak’s Texans have had difficulty putting NFL quality defense on the field.  Kubiak just signed a contract extension and with the labor uncertainty of next year, teams with turnover may be at a disadvantage installing a system if there is a lockout.

If there is a coaching/GM change, there is no telling what direction that McNair would go in given that he has only fired one coach in the Texans short history.  I don’t see an in-house candidate to replace Kubiak.

TFG: Do you think being a female has been an asset, liability or made no difference in your NFL coverage. 

SS: Overall, I think it makes no difference.  For some new readers, I think they are a little unnerved reading detailed football information from a woman because maybe they haven’t been around too many women who know about sports.  But after a while, I think that readers don’t think about it.  I don’t write in a particularly girlie way, and it isn’t something I particularly play up because I find it embarrassing when people do that. I’m just someone who likes sports that happens to be a woman.  There are lots of us out there; it’s just that most women are too sensible to spend this much time writing about it.

TFG:  Let’s get to the important stuff.  You won $64,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Have you always been a trivia buff?  And was Regis as charming as he appears?

SS:  I wish all the brain power that I have that is devoted to stupid meaningless information could instead be focused on curing cancer.  I’m not much of a traditional trivia buff, but I read a lot and remember stupid stuff.  On the day that I was with Regis, he was in a very grumpy mood. There were rumors of cancellation, and there was a possibility that my show was going to be the last prime time show ever.  (They ended up shooting I think two more shows after mine).  Our show was the last one before Christmas that year, and there were production delays.  So Regis was in a very grumpy mood.  You can read my recap of my appearance on the show on my blog.  It was a very meaningful event to me–the prospect of embarrassing myself on national television made me feel braver after that.

TFG:  You were also a attorney.  How have those lawyering skills helped you in the blogosphere? 

SS:  Yes, I don’t practice full time but am still lawyer by helping my husband’s firm with special projects.   There are a ton of lawyers are also bloggers.  Generalizing, lawyers are overly-verbal people with a point of view who like to read and write.  For a while, I blogged without identifying myself as a lawyer because I really hate the point of view of “I’m a lawyer so listen to me.”  Well, and people reflexively hate lawyers, and given most people’s dealings with lawyers, I can understand that.  Eventually, I mentioned my lawyer stuff because often sports issues have legal implications.

TFG:  You were one of the select bloggers chosen to go to NFL Headquarters and compete in a media fantasy league. What was that experience like, and how’s your team doing?

SS:  Yes, we went to NFL headquarters to pick our fantasy teams. It was an amazing experience.  I’d worked with some of those bloggers in the past, and have very much admired a lot of their writing so it was tremendous to meet those bloggers in person.  Here’s my write up of my trip to New York–NFL headquarters looks like a law firm with really really cool mementos.

I am battling to get into the playoffs of the P&G Blogger Fantasy League, with a bunch of waiver wire guys and Aaron Rodgers (injuries to Hakeem Nicks and Austin Collie have hurt).  Next two weeks will be tough because I am facing two of the highest point total teams in the league (for the second time).

TFG:  You’ve now seen your fair share of AFC teams. Sort out the mess. Jets, Pats, Steelers or other representing the conference in Dallas.

SS:  This is the most wide open year in recent memory.  I’m actually fairly intrigued with what the Chargers have been able to do.  If they can sort out their special teams down the stretch, maybe this is the year that the Chargers’ end of the season push pays off for them. Playoffs are all about health and momentum.

TFG:  Awesome. Well, thanks for the time and it was great getting to know you.

SS:  Thank you.