Saturday, July 27, 2013

An Interview With the Boston Blickbild's Creator

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
We are constantly getting letters, e-mails, and tweets asking how the Blickbild was created. We also get inquiries about the demented soul or comic genius who comes up with our stories. Who is insane enough to keep our intrepid research team and reporters busy with the stories that nobody else dares to print? Well, dear readers, you are about to meet the Blickbild's creator. We are turning the tables a bit and our creator/editor/chief cook and bottle washer will be interviewed by a Columbia University journalism student named Alex, who is doing an internship with the Blickbild. Let's find out if Alex has the right stuff to become one of our intrepid reporters when he graduates.

Alex: Where do you live?
BB: Somewhere in Europe. The only hint I will give is that I don't live in Slovenia, though I can find it on a map and have been there before on holiday.
Alex: How did you come up with the name Boston Blickbild?
BB: Blick is a Swiss tabloid and Bild is a German one. Put them together and you have a super tabloid that puts the others to shame. Boston makes it sound American and is also a great alliteration.
Alex: Why a parody blog about World Cup Alpine skiing?
BB: There have been some joke articles about ski racing, but nobody has done a real Onion-style blog about it. There are also a lot of skiing blogs, but they are all very serious. There are so many things in World Cup skiing that call for some good satire, but nobody before has dared to publish them.
Alex: Can you give our readers some examples?
BB: Austrian skier Regina Mader got married before the start of last season and changed her name to Regina Sterz. Supposedly knowledgeable TV commentators had no idea who Regina Sterz was. They thought she was a new skier on the Austrian team. It was obvious that someone didn't have an intrepid research team like the Blickbild's. Here is Regina's story. The Fritz Dopfer story came about because Austrian commentators would remark that Fritz was "really one of ours" whenever he did well in a race. Also, whenever Fritz was asked if he was German or Austrian, he would answer that he was proud to represent Germany on its ski team. We decided to imagine what the Austrians would to do get Fritz back. Last season US skier Lindsey Vonn wanted to race against men, but was turned down. While she was awaiting the decision from the International Ski Federation, people were commenting that if she could race against men, then men who have poor results should be allowed to compete in women's races. The Swiss men's team had an abysmal 2012/13 season with only one podium finish and were the perfect candidates to race against women. Here is that story.
Alex: What are some of your influences?
BB: I grew up with MAD magazine and National Lampoon and always liked parodies and farces. I also like good social satires like South Park. Monty Python was also a big influence. "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is one of the all-time funniest movies as is "Life of Brian."
Alex: Have any of the skiers seen the Blickbild stories, and if so, what are their reactions?
BB: The feedback has been mostly positive. The Austrian women's team liked the story about Regina, Fritz Dopfer's fans liked his story, and Marcel Hirscher liked the one about his eye surgery. Julia Mancuso's fans also liked the Valentine's Day interview with Julia and Aksel Lund Svindal. In fact, the interview with Julia and Aksel is our most popular story by far. There have been some negative comments, mainly from people who don't realize that the Blickbild is a parody. Or maybe they just don't have a sense of humor.
Alex: Several Blickbild stories make fun of the International Ski Federation's (FIS) rules.
BB: In the eyes of many fans, the FIS seems to come down hard on skiers who commit very minor rules violations like their boots being 0.00001 mm too big. Two seasons ago US racer Bode Miller had to start 46th in Garmisch for showing up two minutes late to the bib draw. Last season in Kitzbuehel there was miscommunication between Italian skier Christof Innerhofer and a volunteer course worker during a training run, which resulted in him starting 46th in that race. After Innerhofer's punishment, the Blickbild ran its version of rule changes for the coming season. This is the story. In addition, the FIS is always coming up with ways to change the sport. Our story about the new scoring system makes fun of how the FIS changes the rules without the fans understanding them. So does our story about World Cup race start order. People ask why ski racers have certain start numbers when their current rankings don't correspond to those numbers. The Blickbild decided to explain how start order was determined in its unique way.
Alex: One of the trademarks of the Blickbild is its intrepid reporters.
BB: That's right. Our research team is also the most intrepid in the business.
Alex: Do the Blickbild's reporters and researchers have to pass any tests to prove that they are intrepid?
BB: We don't make them climb mountains, hike through the desert, run marathons, or eat insect-covered ojlmsfjaegger. But they have to show us that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get a story.
Alex: Most of the Blickbild's regular readers know what ojlmsfjaegger are. But can you explain what they are for new readers?
BB: Ojlmsfjaegger are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. They are a traditional Norwegian birthday treat.
Alex: Speaking of ojlmsfjaegger, the Blickbild has several recurring characters and themes. There is Dr. Mabongo the witch doctor from the Congo, Mafia hit man Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli, the invasion of Slovenia, and of course ojlmsfjaegger.
BB: That is what makes the Blickbild entertaining. There was a whole story line about Dr. Mabongo being kidnapped during the World Championships, the discovery of who abducted him, and the subsequent trial. Ski teams have trainers, nutritionists, massage therapists and sports psychologists. Why shouldn't they also have witch doctors? The Slovenia stories make fun of how Americans are so poor in geography. Back in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq, only 15% of Americans could even find Iraq on a map of the world. It made me wonder if the other 85% would have ended up invading the wrong country.
Alex: The Blickbild also has a different motto after each story. Why is that?
BB: To see if anyone notices.
Alex: You don't seem to be a big fan of Lindsey Vonn.
BB: I had a feeling that topic would come up. I admire the achievement of 59 World Cup wins. But I have never seen an athlete so obsessed with records and leaving a legacy. Most athletes are happy as long as they know that they have gone out and done their best. Winning an Olympic medal or a World Cup crystal globe is the dream of every racer. But Vonn has the attitude of "first place or nothing." A real sportsman is gracious in both victory and defeat and she is very "in your face" when she wins and comes up with excuses when she loses. You never hear her congratulate someone who beat her or say nice things about the other ladies in the World Cup. The best thing about Lindsey is that she and her family provide the Blickbild with some of its best material. Five out of our 10 most popular stories have to do with her.
Alex: Where are the Blickbild's readers from?
BB: Approximately 20% of our page views are from the USA. But we have readers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South America, and just about every country in Europe. We are even starting to get visited by Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani spambots. Our Facebook page has a small following, mainly because most people read us on the blog page. But our Facebook likes and views come from all over Europe, the USA, Canada, and even Africa.
Alex: Who are your favorite racers?
BB: All of the World Cup ski racers are great athletes. What I admire is sportsmanship and a positive attitude. On the men's side Aksel Lund Svindal, Ted Ligety, Beat Feuz, and Marcel Hirscher are great athletes and good sports. They always have nice things to say about their opposition and are real class acts. I also really like young French racer Alexis Pinturault. If he stays healthy, he will be a great one. For the women I like Julia Mancuso, Viktoria Rebensburg, Tessa Worley, Marie-Michele Gagnon, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Daniela Merighetti. In addition I have a lot of respect for racers from very small ski nations like Ivica Kostelic, Tina Maze, Veronika Velez-Zuzulova, Chemmy Alcott and Naoki Yuasa.
Alex: Are there any racers who you haven't met yet who you would like to meet?
BB: Chemmy Alcott and Denise Karbon for the women. Chemmy because of her comeback from a broken leg and because she was a wonderful commentator on Eurosport during her injury layoff.  Denise really seems to enjoy what she is doing. Win or lose, Denise has a smile and appears to be a happy person in general. On the men's side I would like to meet retired racers Partrik Jaerbyn and Daniel Albrecht. Patrik pushed the boundaries of age and was competing at a world class level in his 40s. I admire Daniel Albrecht for coming back to the World Cup after his horrific injury. He never returned to his pre-injury level, but his comeback was still one of the most amazing in sports.
Alex: Which racers are the friendliest?
BB: The Canadians and Italians. Jan Hudec and Daniela Merighetti stand out as being especially friendly people.
Alex: Which young racers should we watch next season?
BB:  For the men: Henrik Kristofferson of Norway, Alexis Pinturault from France, Adam Zampa from Slovakia, Gino Caviezel of Switzerland, and Austrians Matthias Mayer, Manuel Feller, and Marcel Mathis. For the women: Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, Brittany Phelan from Canada, Bernadette Schild of Austria, Ilka Stuhec from Slovenia, Lotte Smithest Sejersted from Norway, and US wunderkind Mikaela Shiffrin.
Alex: Is there anything else you would like to tell the Blickbild's readers?
BB: Please like our Facebook page. We have extra stories on our Facebook page and also lots of pictures. We also have a small following on Twitter and you can follow us there.
Alex: It was interesting learning about what goes on in the mind of the Blickbild's creator. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: If you have no sense of humor, or don't understand parodies, go read something else.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.



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