Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SwaggerJack: That Benson Boy

Holly MacKenzie is a contributing writer for Hardwood Paroxysm and SLAM Magazine. Her SwaggerJack Column appears every week here at HP. This week's SwaggerJack is an interview with blogging superstar, former D-League All-Star, and NBA prospect Rod Benson. Enjoy! -Matt

To be a basketball fan of any capacity is to be a fan of Rod Benson. A fan of his hoops love, crazy stories, drive and determination. With the access we have to his personal blog, as well as the blog he writes for Yahoo! Sports, we also get to be fans of Benson’s electric personality.

I had a chance to sit down and have a phone interview with Mr. Benson. After busting up over some of his crazy entries and respecting anyone who can maintain such a popular blog, I was looking forward to talking basketball and blogging with the NBA D-League All-Star blogger.

And talk we did. About basketball, Berkley and even his mom. I got a better sense of the person behind the wild personality that has captured the basketball world. Along the way, I decided to test Rod’s Poem Game on the fly. While he accepted the challenge like a champ, he has failed to come through, although he claims this delay is partly due to computer troubles.

What follows is a conversation from one Wednesday afternoon in June about a week before his whirlwind trip through Miami, San Antonio and Toronto, where he has been trying to find a home for this upcoming NBA season.

Holly MacKenzie:I read your last blog on Yahoo! where you said you are in Sacramento without any entertainment so what are you doing with yourself today?

Rod Benson: I am… (pause) I’ve got my Ipod going and I’m staring at the ceiling which I have been doing for the past two hours.

HM: How are the workouts going?

RB: Ah, they’re going good. Good. Just trying to get in shape and all that, there are so many mini-camps I’m just trying to stay on top of my game, so that’s why I’m here.

HM: No distractions?

RB: Absolutely zero.

HM: What is up for you this summer?

RB: I actually just got back from Seattle, I go to Miami, then San Antonio in a week and a half, two weeks, then I go to Toronto after that and then I’ve already committed to play with Phoenix for the Summer League.

HM: Have you ever been to Canada before?

RB: No, I don’t know anything about Canada, actually.

HM: I know it probably feels like a slow process for you trying to get into the league, but when you stop and think about the last couple of years of your life does it feel crazy when you think about everything you’ve done or does it just feel right and like you are where you’re supposed to be?

RB: Well, I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily call it crazy. I’m not the first person to go through this process and I definitely won’t be the last. I’ve definitely enjoyed the successes on the court, so I can’t really be mad at that. Is this where I’m supposed to be? Who knows, maybe I am more well-rounded as a result, I’m only 23. It’s funny because I was reading DraftExpress and they had all of the predraft measurements and combine results and I was like “dang, my numbers are better than all of these guys” (laughs). If I was in the draft this year maybe I’d get picked up, alas, I’m not so it’s a different process I have to take and that’s just how it goes.

HM: It seems as though the D-league is all about that right place, right time opportunity, eh? (RB starts laughing, really loud because I've just said "eh" after telling him I do not have a Canadian accent). Wow, I honestly, never, ever say that. Okay, anyway. Since you’ve done the Jersey camp, how do you think that will help you when you go to Phoenix?

RB: Well, Phoenix is for the summer league, so it’s a little different, but I did the summer league last year with Memphis and you know the point of summer league is to try to get as many reps as you can, so, like this opportunity with Phoenix, you want to go to a team where you think you will get an opportunity to play and get an opportunity to possibly get picked up and I think both of those are good looks in Phoenix because they’ve got a lot of veterans in the post and obviously they won’t be sending them down to summer league so I should get a chance to play. Beyond that they have some holes that hopefully I can fill and I feel like I’m prepared to fill that void and my favorite color is orange, you know? I think it’s a good look.

HM: What happens after the summer? Wait and see where you end up and if it’s not a go do you know what you’re doing yet?

RB: Yeah, nothing is set in stone, you know. After summer league, I would imagine if I do what I’m supposed to do, there will be training camp invites from one, two, maybe, hopefully three teams. Hopefully one of them wants to you know, pay me to come into camp, some guaranteed money that would be really nice, I would appreciate that very much and beyond that if the training camp offers aren’t what I think are good, or I guess there could be no training camps offered then I would definitely entertain these overseas offers because I’ve spent too much time in the D-League already for not having earned income. I don’t own a car, I don’t own a house, pretty much the only thing I own is my macbook which is paying dividends and I’m not mad at that. I’m very good at using two feet, I’m a very good walker, I walk at a very high pace and I’m very good at public transportation. But, it is about time to upgrade those things and move on.

HM: Well wherever you go next year, are you still going to keep your Too Much Rod Benson blog?

RB: Yeah and Yahoo! has already said they want me to continue writing for them, so I will continue to bring a different flavor, I mean, they started with an apple pie and I bring a little more sweet potato, you know what I’m saying?

HM: That sounds awesome.

RB: Does it, eh? Eh? Eh?

HM: You are harsh.

RB: (laughing).

HM: You are throwing me all over the place here, I’m looking at my notes and I’m almost scared to speak.

RB: (Laughing)

HM: Anyway…To shift it from basketball for a second. You did poli-sci in school, yeah?

RB: Yes.

HM: Have you always enjoyed writing?

RB: Ah, I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I actually would probably say the opposite, like I never really was into writing very much, but I’ve always been in to telling stories, funny stories, so those seem to follow me quite often.

HM: That is my follow up question, actually. You are such a great storyteller. Where did that come from? Are the people in your family good storytellers or is it just that you have ridiculous things happen to you?

RB: I would say it is a combination of the ridiculous things that happen to me and my memory of things that no one else seems to remember. For whatever reason, I distinctively remember my fourth grade teacher taking all of my Pogs after recess one day and then giving them out to all of her kids. Those kind of things, they bother me, they burned a hole in my soul to where I can remember them so vividly today that I can tell you exactly what happened when everyone else was using my quadruple thick aluminum slammer.

HM: Why do you think you connect with people so well? Do you think it is because you give them something different? You’ve just been living your life and trying to do the whole NBA thing, but along the way you’ve gotten so many fans and people who connect with you, why do you think that is?

RB: Well, I mean, the fans I guess would be open to any pro athlete who would be willing to just be real with them. I don’t think that people are necessarily looking for something special, but you know if anybody in any profession if you’re just able to keep it real, especially you know, in the NBA where fans just see so much of you already they are always looking for that extra little bit and Gilbert Arenas does it, I do it, anyone else who is willing to do it. Like, Channing Frye called Sacramento the worst town he has ever played in or something, I don’t know. You know, just that little bit of honesty got him some notoriety, so just being honest and being yourself I think is the real key for me.

HM: How do you feel about all of the media attention the blog has gotten? Do you embrace it or does it ever get draining having to do interviews?

RB: No, not at all. It’s funny because my college roommate he does modeling, he’s on the Janice Dickenson show now. He and I, if we’re in the same room we’re always like kinda competing for everyone’s attention. Not on purpose, but just sort of naturally, we’ve always said we’re just going to be real Hollywood one day so I definitely embrace the attention. I’ve gotta, he’s on a TV show right now so I’ve got a lot of work to do to kinda outdo him right now. One day, though. One day I’ll get him.

HM: Oh, you’re getting there, I’d say. What do your friends and family think of all of this? Obviously your friends are kind of involved with the craziness, but what does your family think of all of the attention?

RB: Ah, my mom is like, I think she... She says I deserve it and all this but she also doesn’t read half of what I write because she’s always telling me about things I should and shouldn’t be doing. I’m like, “Mom if you’re going to read this you’ve gotta, you’ve gotta keep your mouth to yourself, you know. I’m just going to put stuff out there, you may not want to know about it like, that’s how it goes.” She didn’t even know I had consumed alcohol ever until she read it on the blog and so she was so confused.

HM: Good rule. Mom, don’t read. Okay, what post has been the most well-received or has received the most reaction?

RB: Uh, probably either the one where I have to punch my boy in the balls or the Myspace Messages get a good reaction, too.

HM: Good. Have you ever had anybody get mad over the Myspace Messages?

RB: No, no one’s ever known I’ve written about them I guess. But, even if they did I think I’m legally in the clear… You send me the message I can do whatever I want with it, it’s my property now.

HM: Do you get a lot of responses from the Karaoke/Dive Bars post?

RB- See, you know people have to really know what they’re looking for to find those. I don’t think people really discovered those, or found that post yet, like it should be.

HM: What have been your best and worst experiences from blogging?

RB: Best and worst. Worst would be facebook messages because people like you message me with nonsense…. Just joking!

HM: I think I can honestly say that NBA guys are generally a lot nicer than you.

RB: Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve had any bad experiences. I’ve definitely learned a lot about what to say and not say, but I don’t think there has been anything particularly negative and the best has just been to kind of have the bill of the most popular D-leaguer ever. I mean, it’s kind of an oxymoron, but I’ll take it.

HM: Do you get censored a lot on Yahoo! or are they pretty cool with letting you talk about whatever you want?

RB: No they never censor me, but I also kind of write about different stuff on there than on my site, I’m a little bit smarter about what is appropriate for everybody and what is appropriate for my site.

HM: What are your top five websites that you check everyday?

RB: In order looking at my bookmarks: Facebook, Myspace, front page, Draftexpress, and then the comments on As you can see I’m very conceited. (laughing). A bit of a selfish jerk.

HM: I think it will pay off for you. In your article you wrote for SLAM, you talked about how tough it was and how down you were when the kings let you go. What has been the reverse to that, the best moment for you?

RB: Hmm. I guess to this point, basketball-wise, last year Summer League because I was starting, I was NBA-affiliated and I really felt like the Grizzlies were going to sign me at the time so just the actual feeling at that moment would be kind of the best feeling I would say. Hopefully I can eclipse that this summer with all around more hype and better play.

HM: Do you get to talk to your buddy Powe (Leon Powe,) at all?

RB: Yeah I talk to him. I talked to him after the first round and he was playing a lot in the first round so he was obviously excited and happy. I think he’s been patient enough over two years to where he knows, you know, he might not play some games so I think he is handling that alright and I’m sure he is happy to have a chance to get a ring.

HM: Well, with he and KG both on the Celtics, are you going with the them?

RB: Ahhh it’s tough. It’s like, it’s like a funny series match up right now because I like both teams kind of equally just from a fans perspective so I’m just going to watch it and enjoy it and whoever comes out the victor, it’s going to be solid.

HM: No prediction?

RB: Absolutely not. I want one of these teams to pay me, not hold it against me. (laughing).

HM: Have you gotten to meet KG yet?

RB: I have not.

HM: For me, I grew up a huge Kobe Bryant fan and when I met him it was different than I thought it would be. I mean, it was amazing, but it was because I was there. Not on his level like, in the NBA, but a part of that media world, you know?

RB: I get what you’re saying. I guess I haven’t really like been in awe of any player in awhile because they’ve kind of been like my peers. It’s funny when we were in high school, I think I wrote about this, I’m not sure, we played an AAU game, against Tyson Chandler’s team and at the beginning of the game, someone on our team actually went and got Tyson’s autograph. I’m like, “Dude, what are you doing right now? We are about to play this fool and you just went and got his autograph like a coddamn idiot right now."

HM: In the SLAM article, you wrote, “Then there’s me, just your average 6’11”, Pony wearing, Capri-sun drinking, blackberry abusing 23 year-old on the brink of something more”. That made me be like, “Okay, I love this guy”. It’s something that resonated with me because anyone who’s 23 or who has been 23 can relate. Your dream may be on a much bigger scale than mine, but you’re in the same place, just trying to figure it out.

RB: Well, I mean, we’re all just people and everyone has got their own goals and stuff. Mine just happen to be related to my height and athleticism.

HM: What is something you can tell me that people don’t already know about you?

RB: Ahh, I don’t know. I feel like I write about everything. I don’t know, I really don’t. I guess, a lot of people don’t know that I only played one season of varsity basketball. I was on JV as a junior in high school and I actually got scholarship offers having never played a varsity game.

HM: Would you say basketball is your love, your dream, your job, or all three?

RB: Umm, yeah I guess it would be all three. I mean, I would say a lot of guys say that because it’s kind of a cliché to say, but I have a lot of loves and dreams so basketball being one of them it definitely is a lot of fun. Writing has become like a new love kind of like entertaining people has become one too. So considering I can do all of that through basketball it’s safe to say it has taken on the “all-three” category.

HM: Okay, I don’t know how this is going to go, but how do you feel about being put on the spot and trying to freestyle a poem? It can be about anything, basketball, the D-League, whatever-

RB: Wow, a poem right now?

HM: The Poem Game. Yeah. You say you sit down and write them, so...

RB: I do, but I take my time a little bit, you know? I use like, a ten minute window.

HM: Well, you could get off the phone, do it and call me back with it or send it to me, if you want.

RB: (Laughing).

HM: That would be hype. That would be really cool.

RB: Ummmmm. Yeah I could do that. But, it will probably take a little longer just because I really need to finish editing this video, so probably like within an hour?

HM: That’s fine. Whenever is good. If you can get it to me by tomorrow, that would be perfect.

RB: Yeah. I can do that.

HM: Perfect. Okay, as much fun as this is for me to be throwing these questions at you, I’ll let you get back to your video. Thank you so much and know you’ve got lots of people sending you their best.

RB: Not a problem and I appreciate that. I’ll take it all.

While that promised poem has not yet found it’s way to me I will continue to hope for Rod Benson to make the NBA. If he does not make it there this year then I will follow his blog to follow his journey wherever it takes him, confident that he will be smiling., may be the only thing that Rod has wrong. Until he dons an NBA uniform on the regular, there will never be enough.

Rod Benson will be playing on Toronto's Summer League team next week. Holly MacKenzie will be following his every move online and Matt will be sending her fake text messages regarding his performance and health, just to screw with her. Questions and comments regarding SwaggerJack can be sent to hardwoodparoxysm(at)gmail(dot)com.

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