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The 5 O’Clock Club: Thinking about Hogs Haven

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

I found myself thinking this week about the role that Hogs Haven plays in the lives of so many Redskins fans.

This was driven by the fact that, with the Eagles and Giants playing on Thursday, and the Cowboys playing a late game, and all three division rivals having struggled in the early part of the season, I have spent more time than usual of late reading the blogs of our division rivals — Big Blue View, Bleeding Green Nation and Blogging the Boys.

I find that visiting the blogs of our NFC East rivals helps me keep up with how things are going and how fans are feeling. It’s kind of like frequently “taking the temperature” to understand what’s going on in the division.

Here’s a snapshot of what our rival NFC East fan sites looked like on Monday this week

As expected, the Giants fans have collapsed onto the “acceptance” stage, and are now starting to get really focused on the 2019 draft.

You’ll see that — according to the most prominent story on BBV (which may or may not be correct) — the Giants currently hold the top position in the draft after having picked #2 overall in 2018.

Eagles fans, who were in a deep funk after back-to-back losses to the Titans and Vikings, are suddenly feeling refreshed after their division win against the Giants and their #1 draft pick producing roster.

I love the major headline here: “why the Eagles were able to stop their slump”. I know the answer to that — they played the worst team in the league on Thursday Night Football.

Cowboys fans, who were ready to commit mass suicide after their offense could only muster 16 points in a Week 5 loss to the Texans to fall to 2-3, are suddenly rejuvenated after their offense dropped a 40-burger on the Jaguars in the late afternoon on Sunday.

Next up in Week 7 for the resurgent Cowboys and Dak’s legs is our own Washington Redskins, who will be looking to solidify their position at the top of the NFC East by bitch slapping the Dallas team and reminding them that third place in the division is where they belong.

But, whether any given week is an “up” week or a “down” week for our division rivals or weekly opponents (I usually visit all four blogs every week), I have noticed something over the past year or so that seems to be getting more and more pronounced — or at least it seems that way to me.

What I’m noticing is this: that the discussion in the comments section of Hogs Haven is at a higher level than what I see in most other fan blogs. Hogs Haven seems to have a more genuine exchange of ideas, with more fully developed and diverse opinions from people who are able to frame meaningful arguments, and support those arguments with real information.

Disagreements between commenters is common, but more often than not, very civil.

The reliance on GIFs, snarky remarks, and one-line ‘zingers’ that dominate so many sports forums simply doesn’t rear its ugly head very often here on Hogs Haven.

Among our division rivals, I find the Eagles to have the highest quality fan interaction in the comments section, while the Cowboys and Giants fans typically do what their teams have been doing for most of this season, and compete for the distinction of being the worst in the division.

Among non-NFC East SB Nation sites, I probably admire the discussions at the Steel Curtain for being consistently high quality. The Raider’s community may suffer from having the SB Nation site with the worst content among the ones I’ve visited in the past year or so.

Here’s a somewhat random sample of the discussion I usually see when I visit other SB Nation communities:

This is an example of the kind of well developed and supported discussion that I see daily on Hogs Haven:

I’m not trying to suggest that all the discussion on Hog’s Haven sets the standard for all others to follow; nor am I trying to suggest that other team blogs are devoid of useful discussion.

I do, however, have the feeling that Hogs Haven has a pretty good ‘batting average’ for developing meaningful discussion around Redskins-related issues, and I find myself asking if there’s anything in particular that Hogs Haven does right to promote this kind of community, and if there are community needs that remain unmet.

My analysis

I think that a good sports blog offers content that allows readers to take away real information rather than just positive spin about the team.

It should also offer variety of presentation and content.

But most importantly, it should foster an atmosphere where spirited but respectful debate is not simply welcomed, but encouraged and nurtured.

I feel like Hogs Haven offers these elements.

The names you see on the bylines

James Dorsett writes the Snaps & Stats articles that offer a deep dive on the offense, defense and special teams after every single game. He provides insight into the role played by every active player every week, looking not just at snap counts, but providing both traditional and advanced metrics for measuring performance, interpreting results and providing context. Not many people are capable of doing what James does.

Gabe Ward is the college scout who keeps us apprised of developing stars this time of year, but really comes into his own at season’s end when he fills Hogs Haven with draft profiles between late January and the draft at the end of April.

Mark Tyler is an opinion giver. He has a deep knowledge of football, a love of the game and analytical abilities that allow him to study film and tell us what he’s found. In the off-season, Mark specializes in “stirring the pot” by tossing out opinions that he may or may not actually hold, and then encouraging spirited discussion in the comments section.

Personally, I see myself as the corollary to Mark Tyler. I am not an opinion giver, but a question asker. I’m not a professional writer, and I’m not capable of breaking down film or analyzing on field play. My primary skills are my ability to post an article on time 4 days per week and to provide discussion starters for readers. The one area where I think I have something specific to offer is in salary cap analysis, which is something I enjoy writing about.

Scott Jennings is the guy who creates the ‘skeleton’ for Hogs Haven. He keeps us all up-to-date on breaking news; he posts links to press conferences; he provides the game day information and discussion threads that include Twitter feeds for both national writers and beat writers. Scott is the fact-checker as well. Somehow, he always knows when someone has misquoted a source or remembered some information incorrectly, and he’s got an uncanny ability to provide the perfect link to the correct information.

Ken Meringolo is, of course, the guy who runs it all. His Monday six packs are at times a reflection of what the fan base is thinking, and at times he is out on the cutting edge, setting opinions rather than following. Ken’s laid back style helps create a welcoming space that spreads it’s arms wide enough to welcome a large community of Redskins fans from all around the world, and Ken is always concerned with the best interests of the blog and its readers.

Philip Hughes is the guy who is primarily responsible for putting together the Daily Slop, which has always been the centerpoint and daily heartbeat of Hogs Haven. We all benefit from Philip doing the hard work of finding Redskin-relevant articles every day, and packaging them for easy consumption.

Bryan Stabbe is a name you may not see on a byline as often as some others. He is the creative mind behind the “Caption This!” series we’ve all been enjoying this season, he also fills in on a game recap or two, and revived our “Redskins By The (Jersey) Numbers” piece that Ken began back in the Hogs Haven stone age. Bryan is more of a “behind the scenes” guy who puts together the story streams each week, and Bryan also does a lot of the ‘structural’ work that makes the site user-friendly.

Aaron Lesher has been bringing us the Tweet of the Day feature, and his other articles appear on the site regularly. Along with Gabe Ward, Aaron is a key member of the team that develops draft profiles ahead of the April draft every year.

Jamual Forrest and Kennedy Paynter don’t appear in the bylines every day, but they both contribute important content regularly each month. Jamual typically writes analysis and discussion articles, while Kennedy Paynter focuses on film review.

Steve Shoup is a name that doesn’t appear on Hogs Haven as often as it used to, but that is only because of the success he enjoys with his own site, Steve is a mock-draft expert, he takes care of the Saturday and Sunday Slop, and he contributes other articles on Fantasy Football and all things Redskins when he is able to shake loose from his other responsibilities. Hogs Haven members who have been around a few years will know that the free-flowing and informative discussion style that we see at Hogs Haven is largely a result of the incredible contributions that Steve has made in articles and comments since 2011.

Tom Garrett keeps the content flowing with many regular contributions. He’s the hand behind the “Should the Redskins be worried about...” series, the “Who’s coaching this team?” articles, and he’s put together a huge number of regular features in past years, such as “Redskins by the (Jersey) numbers”, and a flow of ad hoc articles that offer fresh insights about the Redskins and their opponents.

There are other contributors, but (unless I’ve made a stupid and significant oversight), that covers most of the people whose names you see on the bylines of Hogs Haven articles from week to week.

The star of the show

While I know that everyone who has a regular byline at Hogs Haven makes a valuable contribution to what happens here, to me, the real star of the show is the readers who carry the comments sections from week to week, day to day, and article to article.

It’s the discussion at the end of every post that is so valuable and provides the real insight into the team we all love.

The list of members who regularly participate in the comments section is well beyond my capacity to enumerate, but we have a group of contributing members who span a wide range of ages, who reside around the world, who have different family situations and varied socioeconomic backgrounds.

Despite our differences, what I see daily on this site is a single community that comes together in cyberspace to share our passion for NFL football and the Washington Redskins.

The facts that you all share, the opinions you give so freely, the humor you inject, and the patience and tolerance you exhibit toward each other are the most essential ingredients in a lively and positive blog.

I think that the literally thousands of comments per day that adorn Hogs Haven comprise its real treasure. I also think that the positive and lively interaction, even with its regular bursts of saltiness, is what people come here for, and the reason they return again and again.

I congratulate all of you who participate in the comments section, whether you do so once a year or several times per day. You are the reason behind the success of the site.

I invite your reflections today on what role Hogs Haven plays in your life, and what role you play in Hogs Haven.

What do you like or enjoy about the site?

What would you like to see added or changed to make it even better?

Use the comments section freely today, as you are welcome to do every day. Share an opinion or an interesting thought.


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