Top 10 Series: @TalkHoops Edition

By Demarcus Robinson (@DocIsChief)

Q & A number three of the Top 10 Series features Zach Harper (@TalkHoops) explaining his love of bad movies, how Twitter impacts his professional and personal lives and all things in between. I started following Zach two years ago, I believe, after I started visiting the DDL (Daily Dime Live) chats he hosts during the NBA season for ESPN. He quickly became one of my favorite tweeters, and I eventually got to meet him when he visited Chicago.

My questions will be in bold, and his responses will be in plain text.

Young Zach Harper

What role does Twitter play in your profession and in your leisure time?

I think it kind of plays the exact same role in both. It does a great job of entertaining me and frustrating me quite a bit. For my profession, it allows me to connect with people and get my ideas out there at any time I feel the need to throw whatever pops into my head out there. It allows me to bounce ideas off of my peers and colleagues, which can help me source out theories or just riff off of whatever the conversation is for that day.

But with it comes some frustrations. There can be good and bad criticisms to what you’re putting out there. When people are trying to have a discourse with you that is constructive, that’s great because it allows you to see many sides of the situation. Then there are people telling you that they think you’re the dumbest person alive and shouldn’t even be employed.

As far as just my leisure time, I love seeing what the people I follow are saying most of the time. But when they’re just trying to tell you how awesome they are at stuff and how great they make everything or how much they know about everything, it’s just boring and annoying.

Twitter is directly responsible for you having a lady friend. Are you forever indebted to Twitter, and can you give us a quick rundown on how it happened?

I’m indebted to Twitter for probably both my profession and my lady friend. I really don’t think I would have any kind of career in writing/blogging/journalism/punditry/yelling at people at all if I couldn’t get my work and ideas out through Twitter. It was the ultimate networking tool for me and I got lucky using it at the right time.

As for my lady friend, through mutual followers we ended up talking about Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves one day. Somehow we both ended up in the same conversation. From there, we followed each other and would tweet back and forth occasionally. Then the tweets became DMs and DMs became e-mail exchanges, getting to know one another.

At a certain point, we just started GChatting each other and continued with the e-mails. I kept trying to slyly give her my number and threw it out there like, “if you get bored and want to talk, go ahead and text me.” It didn’t work. I threw it out there like three times before she bit.

Then I basically just kept bugging her and telling her she liked me until she gave in.

Zach and his lady friend (she’s pretty cool).

Your Twitter handle is @TalkHoops, but you talk about bad movies and TV shows in addition to other sports. How often do you get angry tweets because of this?

Probably every day when I’m talking about baseball, football, bad movies, good movies (yes, that happens occasionally), and whatever TV I’ve decided to watch at the moment.

People don’t understand that the TalkHoops name came from my first website, which was I feel like if you’re following me because you think I’m going to talk about basketball, you’re clearly not looking through my timeline before you click “follow.”

You haven’t always used your own face for your Twitter avi, but instead you’ve used Kevin Ollie for long stretches. What’s so alluring about him?

It’s the mustache. For over a decade, my friends and I have marveled at his mustache. I mean, I did like him as a player. Whenever there’s a veteran point guard that hangs around even though he can’t shoot or get to the basket at will, you know he’s probably a pretty great guy for the coaches to utilize in other aspects of the team, away from the court.

But it’s always been the mustache with him. I’d argue any day that it’s the best mustache in basketball history.

Kevin Ollie the other Zach Harper

You once got into a Twitter argument with Tony Allen. Would this be your finest moment on Twitter? If not, what is?

Technically, my finest moment on Twitter is becoming part of the social media part of NBA 2K13.

But the fight with TA was hilarious to me. I’m pretty sure it was Myles Brown who started it. Somehow the idea of Ricky Rubio and Tony having a Twitter conversation became the topic and we started making jokes about how they’d both need translators.

Then Tony replied and asked why. I think I said something to the effect of, “how wouldn’t that be hilarious?” He still didn’t get it and I explained that neither of them would be able to understand each other. He didn’t seem pleased but apparently forgot about it pretty quickly.

My other great moment was Roy Hibbert finding me on Twitter after he read my Summer League awards on ESPN. He told me he thought I was hilarious and he’s followed me ever since. Oh, I also once got retweeted by Mr. Belding. I kind of freaked out at that too.

You’re the host of DDL. How did you get that job, and how have you kept it? [Editors note:This didn’t sound how I intended it to, smh]

I honestly just kept showing up. I was asked to join the TrueHoop Network in June of 2009 and started the Kings blog, For the 2009-10 season, Royce Webb and Chris Ramsay developed the Daily Dime Live chat and had the editors of the NBA section run it. They invited team bloggers the night their teams played.

I had quit my job that year to figure out a writing career, so I had a lot of free time. Whenever it wasn’t my night to be in the chat, I’d go look at the chat. If it looked a little slow, I’d volunteer to participate. I kept showing up and was there for every playoff night, except for one.

A week after the season ended, Royce Webb called me and asked if I’d come out to Bristol for a few days during the week of the draft. I went out there, they offered me the job, and I did the DDL on Draft Night from ESPN headquarters, next to Chad Ford. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.

How have I kept it? I have no idea. That chat goes so far off the rails on a nightly basis, and it’s almost always immediate. But they seem to like the pace and voice that the DDL has now. Either that or they don’t remember it’s still a part of the site. It’s probably just a glitch in the system.

DDL attracts a wide rang of fans, but can you specifically talk about the trolls who frequent the chat?

I think it’s just people who are really, really bored. There are some regulars that flat-out hate me, no matter what I say. Occasionally, those people will confront me on Twitter, but for the most part it sticks to the chat.

It’s kind of crazy how some people hate you, simply for thinking differently than them about basketball. Well… when I call them illiterate, that probably doesn’t help.

Derrick Rose, do you still get death threats over criticism of him or any other player?

I don’t think I’ve received a death threat since the 2011 playoffs. Things were extremely heated over LeBron’s Heat marching through the playoffs. I don’t hate the Heat because I don’t hate any team, so I didn’t seem to care that they were playing well. I liked watching them play and was happy to express that.

People take sports way too far at times, and these were those times. People said they’d kill me if the Heat won the title and faceless, behind-the-keyboard-tough-guy crap like that. I never took any of it seriously, because I don’t take anything I read on the internet seriously.

I may have had someone tell me they wish I died during the 2012 playoffs, but it clearly didn’t resonate.

By the way, any time you can start an answer with, “I don’t think I’ve received a death threat since…” you know you’re in the right profession. Wait, what?

I mentioned bad movies as a tweeting specialty of yours earlier. “Starship Troopers” and “Summer Catch” hold a special place in your heart, but why?

Hmm… I’ll play along with the question and pretend those are bad movies. I’m fascinated by bad movies as much as I am about good movies. I can appreciate a truly brilliant script, incredible direction and vision shown through the cinematography, and well executed roles in any great movie. I truly can and love to.

But when you have a bad movie on your hands, I love thinking about how the scene they put in there was the best take they had recorded, or someone committed millions of dollars to make that movie and that it helped support so many families from the crew that worked on it. The fact that someone came up with the premise, wrote the script, had it altered, had it cast and then produced before it was put into theaters and shown to audiences is fascinating.

Do you realize how many executives and runners and people in suits had to approve every step of that process? And yet they got made! It’s an incredible thing to ponder.

You have a hate-hate relationship with “Space Jam”. Can you take me through your reasoning?

THAT MOVIE SUCKS! Seriously, it’s poorly acted (I know it’s not an actor doing it but come on!), the script is terrible and it doesn’t hold up today. I’d put “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” against “Space Jam” any day of the week.

“Space Jam” was great when we were kids and didn’t know any better. But there aren’t good parts of it that hold up. Nothing holds up. You have to be pretty bad to ruin the Looney Tunes part of the movie. I’m not a kid anymore and I don’t hold nostalgia toward something that isn’t even passably enjoyable for a mid-afternoon viewing when you’re flipping channels.

And the fact that people pretend it’s still good is ridiculous. It’s like when Adam Carolla talks about “Where The Wild Things Are”. That book sucks and now that we’re adults, we can recognize that it sucks. The drawings are great and the words are stupid. That’s how “Space Jam “is. If you want to be a kid and think it’s good, that’s fine.

But don’t pretend it’s a good movie when you’re no longer drinking Squeeze-Its and eating Fun Dip.

You’re a Timberwolves fan by way of Sacramento. You now live in Minnesota, have things come full circle for you?

I think if I could get my parents to live here, then maybe it would be full circle. It’s hard being so far from them because I have a fantastic relationship with my parents.

But in terms of basketball, yeah I’d say it’s full circle. It was weird when I first moved here and people talking to me about basketball were fans of the same team that I love. I never knew another Wolves fan growing up. And I don’t even think I met one when I moved away to college.

Now I’m surrounded by them and when Ricky Rubio was leading this team before his knee injury, the energy in this city was so much fun to be a part of.

You are a lover of bacon, but you hold the same feelings for Ricky Rubio. If you had to give up one for the other, what would you choose?

I’d have to take Ricky Rubio. I truly love bacon because of it’s versatility. It’s good with any meal, even dessert. It can be chopped, diced, left whole and it doesn’t even matter if you burn it. It’s one of the few things that is probably better when it’s burned.

But I can live without bacon. I can substitute it with foie gras, easily. I can’t substitute Ricky Rubio. Other than Rubio last year, the recent point guards for this team have been Luke Ridnour (who I really like), JJ Barea, Sebastian Telfair, something called a Jonny Flynn, and Sundiata Gaines got a couple of games too.

Rubio is better than all of those guys and the experience of watching him live is almost as exciting as any player I’ve ever seen live.

I’ve met you before, but under less than ideal circumstances on your side. Can you explain why you weren’t doing so well that night?

SOMEONE POISONED ME! I was in Chicago because my lady friend was at a convention there. I was fine one minute, the next minute I’m throwing up stuff I consumed 20 years ago. I’m pretty sure I lost my pancreas in the process.

That doesn’t just happen. Someone poisoned me and I think I have an idea who did it.

Care to indicate that person?

Well, all of a sudden I was sick and you showed up, twiddling your thumbs and whistling like those cartoon characters do when they’re acting natural.

Interesting, Interesting.  [Editors Note: I was coming from the south suburbs when Zach was “poisoned”, but moving on..]

What player do you receive the most backlash for because of criticism?

Two seasons ago, it was definitely Derrick Rose. But that seems to have died down since the city of Chicago realized I’m too strong for poison.

It’s probably Kobe Bryant. I get a lot of flack from Warriors fans because I don’t mind telling people how little Monta Ellis adds to the game of basketball. And there’s this one Brandon Jennings superfan that shows up only when he has a good game, which isn’t often.

But Kobe Bryant crazies are intense. Even when I’m defending him, which I’ve done a lot more over the last couple years than they realize, it’s not enough. Mostly, it’s young Lakers fans that don’t have a sense of perspective and history with that franchise or the game itself. You can tell pretty quickly which people have a good grasp on the game and the ones that don’t, just simply on how they come at you.

The older Lakers and Kobe fans seem to defend their guy, but with a grain of salt. I respect that.

Ricky Davis is a different kind of special for you. Why?

Here’s the thing about guys like Ricky Davis. He was brash, kind of an asshole, and he was not a good team guy. But that guy had fun out there and seemed to enjoy every little bit of success he could muster.

People don’t realize how talented he was. He was J.R. Smith before J.R. Smith. In fact, he was probably better because he knew how to defend. He just wasn’t consistent with it. Whenever he decided to lock down, he could challenge almost anybody, but he didn’t take that initiative too often.

I was always a fan of his high-flying ways when he was in Charlotte, but the moment he truly stole my fandom was when he dunked over Steve Nash, yelled “Oh Shit!” to himself, and then looked right into the baseline camera for the kids at home and yelled “Oh Shit!” again. What a great family moment.

That guy didn’t play good NBA basketball but he knew how to put on a show and enjoy himself.

Who are your favorite tweeters and why?

Guys like netw3rk and Myles Brown are obvious ones. Those guys, along with Russ Bengston and Ryan Jones are just hilarious people. And I love the randomness of people like Kelly Dwyer and Trey Kerby. Those guys know basketball so deeply and yet stay true to their own interests.

Dan Devine might be my favorite because he’s so quick-witted and can literally talk about anything. That guy is scary smart. Andrew Rosin kills me. I don’t know if what he does is shtick or that’s really just him, but he’s definitely one of the funniest people I follow.

I could talk with Patrick Truby and Couper Moorhead about movies all day, every day. Then of course there are people like yourself, Bo Churney, Conrad, Coach Matt Turner and his overalls, and many more I should name but will forget to name. I just follow a lot of really entertaining people.

I’d also like to throw Adam Reisinger out there. He’s so funny and knows the ins and outs of basketball culture.

Your skills in snark, where do they come from?

It probably started with my family. My parents and sisters are unbelievably smart and funny. To try to keep up with them when I was the youngest was pretty tough. I had to find ways to get laughs early and hitting them with the same snark they threw out at each other was the key to that.

My friends are also really good with snark. The levels of passive aggressive joking around that happened when we got together was just so much fun. The next line was always topping the previous one and if you didn’t deliver, you were starting a snark train on yourself.

But ultimately, I’d say my inability to be socially tolerant helps that. A lot of things annoy me and make me want to go on rants. Sometimes it just builds inside of you and the snark flows more than you can imagine.

What are your thoughts on #BasketballTwitter?

I really enjoy #BasketballTwitter. There are often intelligent discussions about the game and the league that include humor and challenging positions. It helps you think about the game from multiple sides and you can learn a ton by following smart basketball people.

Hopefully this next part doesn’t come off more pretentious than it’s intended but it does worry me how cliquey #basketballtwitter has become. Cliques naturally form in any large social circle. You find people your own age with the same interests, even deeper interests to form subgroups within this one large group and I get that.

But there are definite cliques that have formed and it’s caused some really catty reactions toward writers that don’t deserve it. People end up biting the hands that could feed them because they’re young and feel like they have the world figured out. The deeper I get into this business and the older I get, the more I recognize I don’t know.

Obviously, that comes with age and experience and it’s not something most young people even care about. We’re all superheroes when we’re young. But I wish people would stop trying to prove how much smarter they are than everybody and just relax when it comes to basketball discussion.

We’d all have even more fun than we’re having now.

Also, I should add…

Cliques form with the older guys too. It’s not just young people.

Was this enjoyable enough for you to do it again at some point in the future?

Absolutely. As socially unwilling as I can be, I do enjoy answering questions because it gives me a chance to be introspective before I answer. Also, I enjoy talking to you and I’m sure there is plenty of material for people to make of me with.

Stay tuned for the remaining 7, and feel free to comment or share.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s