Adam Silverstein is the owner and editor of ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive (OGGOA) or OnlyGators.com. Chances are if you follow Gator athletics at all online you are already an avid reader and one of the nearly 3 Million hits to the site. But there is probably a lot you don’t know about the website and it’s founder.
Believe it or not OGGOA has been around for less than 18 months. Adam and his website have been sourced by nearly every major network that covers sports including: ESPN, ESPN Insider, Sports Illustrated(.com), FanHouse, NBC Sports, Newsday, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, The Huffington Post, and USA Today.
We had an opportunity to chat with Adam, so we faked our way through some interview questions and he was nice enough to answer them. Enjoy…
1. Obviously your dedication to Gator Sports is strong being a UF graduate and a former UAA employee, but when did you decide to write about sports? And how did OnlyGators.com come about?
Before I attended the University of Florida, I had a strong background in writing and journalism and did a good amount of freelance work for the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and other South Florida media outlets. I also owned and operated a popular online newsletter, which I closed the summer after my senior year of high school. After graduation and a few years with the UAA as an intern, I decided to pursue media relations as a career but quickly realized it was not what I wanted to do long-term. At that point, for fun, I had begun writing for a popular Miami Dolphins message board and garnered a pretty decent following.
It was then that I decided to break off and start my own sports blog – Home Field Advantage, which was championed by my friends but did not take off quick enough due to its broad focus. I found myself writing more and more about the Gators and figured I should narrow my focus to Florida but was not exactly sure what I wanted to do.
I decided to sit down with a pen and paper and write out some potential blog/website names. ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive, a take-off of a sign in The Swamp, hit me immediately…and from that point I formed a clear vision for the site. I opened up a Twitter account (@onlygators) and grew an audience via that medium for a few months as I developed the website. It all came together in October 2009.
2. You’ve done a lot of work freelancing for the various sports networks (ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.). What is the appeal for you to remain independent?
Was there a full-time job offer from ESPN that I didn’t hear about? Just kidding. The best part about being independent is the fact that I get to control the content posted on the website from start to finish. There are no topics I am forced to cover, rules about what I can and cannot discuss, etc. My independence has also allowed me to grow and strengthen relationships with people who choose not to converse or be open and honest with some of the major media outlets. That has been a nice advantage for me when we cover certain topics, especially regarding the football team. I have had a handful of job offers that would have forced me to close OGGOA, but I have either turned them down or simply believed them not to be a great fit in the long-run. That being said, I will never rule out the possibility of moving on or doing something different in the future…as long as it is the right opportunity.
3. Most people would say that OnlyGators.com is very different from many of the sports blogs out there in the fact that you remain very much about the facts, and you do not post too many opinion pieces. What do you think makes your style and website unique? And are there any changes coming to the website?
What you said is exactly what makes us unique. When the idea for OnlyGators first hit me and I began formulating what content would be featured on the website, I wanted to fill a niche. Between the newspaper-affiliated blogs, pay websites, message boards and opinion blogs, the only type of Gators coverage that was not available prior to OGGOA being created was an independent news source concerned first and foremost with informing and educating fans. I wanted to create a one-stop portal where Florida fans (and anyone else for that matter) could find out everything they wanted to know about the team, and I didn’t want to limit our coverage to football and basketball. There are too many other talented and exciting athletic programs on campus. Anyone who followed UF baseball, volleyball, soccer or gymnastics last year knows what I’m talking about. I would prefer that my readers be as informed as possible so they can formulate their own opinions and express those thoughts socially in our comments section. While I may write an editorial on occasion, I do not do so to convey one opinion or shoot down another but rather to provide perspective on a particular topic.
As far as changes coming to the site, there is nothing imminent. I toyed around with adding a social networking component, but it did not integrate as I had hoped. We had reached an agreement to feature someone very knowledgeable and familiar to Gators fans as a contributing writer, but working for us may have caused a problem with his chosen career path and we did not want to do anything to jeopardize that for him. Over the next few months, our readers can expect our enhanced NFL Draft coverage and plenty of interviews with former players in addition to our standard content.
4. Sport blogging has exploded over the last 5-7 years. Now anyone with a computer or a twitter account can get their opinions or misguided facts out there (:: coughs :: BourbonMeyer.com). What annoys you the most about the current state of media and blogging?
I wouldn’t say that anything “annoys” me; everyone is entitled to their opinion and has the right to express it. Though I could do without the Bleacher Report. Stating an opinion as fact and the public taking it as such is going to be a continuous issue with online media…there is no controlling that. Things change and everyone has to adapt. I hated Twitter when I first created an account but realized it was a necessary evil. Now I don’t know what I would do without it. What bothers me the most is the unwillingness of organizations to adjust their policies to include opportunities for Internet-only media outlets simply because of a preconceived notion about blogging in general. ESPN, the Southeastern Conference and the Orange Bowl Committee – from my experience – have done a good job embracing outlets like ours. I cannot say the same for some of the other people we have dealt with.
5. You have had the opportunity to interview many Gator-related athletes and celebrities (recently Terron Sanders, David Nelson, and Erin Andrews). Who has been the most entertaining Gator Athlete/Celebrity to interview?
Great question. The most entertaining overall was probably Alex Brown. He had a good time with it and seemed to have fun looking back on his Florida career and reminiscing with us about some of his best moments both in college and the NFL. Speaking with Erin Andrews was great as well; it was nice to interview someone popular with Florida sports fans who achieved success in the industry without having previously been an athlete. She was open, honest and candid with us about everything from her Gators fandom to the incident she was involved in over a year ago and was happy to answer anything and everything we asked. David Nelson and Earl Everett were probably the most forthcoming guys I’ve spoken to thus far. If I ever get the opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one with Urban Meyer, let’s just say I have some fantastic questions to ask him.
6. If you wanted to, what famous sports personality or journalist could you call directly right now?
Anyone I’ve interviewed with the exception of Tim Tebow…his is not really a number that is easy to earn the privilege of calling. Suffice to say, I have some solid numbers in the iPhone. The answer you probably want is: Erin Andrews. She’s been a fantastic supporter of both me personally and OGGOA as a whole. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to her on a handful of occasions when she’s not jet setting around the country. Her friendship and encouragement is more appreciated than she may know.
7. Being around Gator Sports for over 10 years has allowed you to be around some pretty memorable moments. What is your most interesting or memorable Gator moment?
It really depends. Plenty of great things have happened on the field (or court) over the last decade. I’ve been in the press box for some great baseball and softball games, including come-from-behind victories. A game I was in the stands for that I will always remember was the Florida-Kentucky game in 2005 when UK was top-five the country and UF was at the bottom of the top 25. David Lee was winless against Kentucky in his first three years and the Gators had lost eight-straight to them; it was Senior Day and his final home game. Florida was down four with two minutes to go and Matt Walsh, of all people, hit three clutch shots before Anthony Roberson hit two free throws to win the game by one with like 10 seconds left.
Something that happened to me personally occurred while I was working on the sideline for ESPN during a Florida-Kentucky game a few years back. Dallas Baker caught a pass down the sideline and fell/was shoved out of bounds. His helmet hit me right in the shin, and I stumbled backward but was held up by the person I was working with. On the ground, he said, “Sorry,” but I tried to act tough by waving him off and just said, “Nice catch.” I probably limped for a month afterward.
More recently, I was standing next to Ahmad Black’s family during the 2011 Outback Bowl, including when he grabbed the interception return touchdown to ice the game and send his class – and Meyer – out winners. The emotion involved in that, and seeing him and some of the other seniors celebrating after the game, was pretty special.
8. You appear to value and push your OnlyGators.com brand over your own personal brand. But, what’s next for Adam Silverstein?
Well I think it is important to understand that I grow as OnlyGators grows. At this point, the website’s brand and my personal brand are one in the same as far as I’m concerned. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had some interesting offers over the last 12 months but nothing that has either blown me away or showed a legitimate potential for growth beyond OGGOA. There was something in particular I was considering strongly but that never came to fruition. The site itself is doing great. I’m honored and humbled at the size of our readership and the following we have acquired over the last 16 months.
What’s next for me? March Madness, the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, spring sports and then the 2011 football season. Aside from that, I’ll look on and pray that the Knicks get Carmelo Anthony, the Dolphins figure out their quarterback situation and the Yankees find a way to acquire some pitchers to put behind CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes in the rotation.