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Better Know the Jacksonville Jaguars: Official Team Reporter Vic Ketchman

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[Note by River City Rage, 06/22/08 11:43 PM EDT ]: Collin has done a fantastic job here breaking down the career of Jaguars.com's Vic. In the comments, I'd love to hear what everyone thinks of Vic, Ask Vic, and other coverage of the Jaguars.

Better know the Jaguars' Official reporter

Victor J. Ketchman

Introduction:

Vic Ketchman is an excellent and highly lauded sportswriter who joined the Jaguars' organization in 1995. He is now in control of most of the material on the Jaguars.com official website, and his "Ask Vic" column has developed a cult following of readers both inside and outside of the Jaguar fanbase.

Victor J. Ketchman comes from very humble roots; his father was the epitome of the American entrepreneur. Victor R. Ketchman served in WWII and returned home to work in the newspaper industry at the Valley Daily news. It was there he quickly rose to a prominent role in advertising with the paper. He eventually saved enough to join with a group of investors and purchase a weekly newspaper called the Standard-Observer.

Immediately, the senior Vic was put in place as publisher and the paper was changed to run 6 days a week. Soon thereafter the paper's popularity began to grow; however, in 1994 he retired from the industry for good. He passed away recently in 2005, leaving behind a legacy in the newspaper industry especially in the Pittsburgh area.

The younger Vic joined with his father to write for the news for over 23 years, some of that time spent as the sports editor. All of this explains Vic's affinity for the old ways of ink and paper, and I really can't blame him. I'm one of the few young people who get a paper everyday, and let me tell you, it isn't for the sports section. The newspapers' have to do more with less, and that's been the case for years now since the explosion of the internet, but I digress...

Below, Vic shares some memories of his father and his humble background. Oh, the stories Vic must have about his father; I'd love to hear some more about the guy.

"The industry defined him," the younger Ketchman said." He's ink-stained all the way. He had the personality of a newspaper man, he had the pace of a newspaper man. In many ways, he did not retire so much as he surrendered to the new media."

"Back then it was a glitzy profession," the younger Ketchman said. "Back then, if you said you worked for a newspaper, that was a big deal. Back then, if you said you worked for the Valley Daily News, that meant something."

Ketchman, who now works in communications for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, eventually went to work for his father at the Standard-Observer for 23 years and eventually became the sports editor.

He described his father as "the best boss I ever had" but then with a trace of wry humor, he added, "I don't ever remember getting paid real well. In fact, toward the end, that became kind of a sore spot."

"He was the funniest man I've ever known in my life," Ketchman said. "My sons couldn't wait to go to his house because they knew it was inevitable he would do something hilarious."

"When he came back from the war, he had basically seen nothing but hard times for the first 18 years of his life," the younger Ketchman said. "After eight years of Depression and then World War II and then you come back into a world of thriving commerce -- man, that had to be exciting.

Vic Ketchman's got quite a reputation in the Steelers' organization and is beloved by many from his time there. Myron Cope wrote a book entitled Double Yoi! in which he provides detailed information regarding the Steelers' during their heyday in the 70's. Myron writes of the first time he saw the young Vic, and how impressed Coach Chuck Noll was with the lad.

Vic was only 15, but he was inside the Steelers' locker room and firing questions at the imposing Noll. No wonder Vic's so good at his gig, sports journalism has been his life. Below I copied an excerpt from Myron's book detailing his encounter with Vic and his early fascination with Psychology. Myron even speculates the reason for Noll's tolerance of a 15 year old grilling him was the promise Noll saw in the young Vic as a journalist, quite the compliment. Read the book yourself here... Vic is first mentioned on page 71.

At his weekly news conferences Chuck presented himself to the media in a crowded conference room, seated at the head of the table. One day a kid named Vic Ketchman showed up. I thought, "If that kid were Jewish, he'd be only a couple of years past his bar mitzvah." I figured him for 15. He had gained admittance because he really was a sportswriter - he wrote for a small-town paper, the Irwin Standard-Observer, owned by his father. Not bashful, Vic would pose questions to Noll every week, most of them going something like this:

"Coach, in the second quarter Sunday, you punted on fourth-and-one. Would you explain the psychology behind that decision?" Vic may not have been shaving yet, but he was heavily into psychology.

"The psychology?" Noll would reply, always careful to maintain a straight face-oh, maybe furrowing his brow only slightly.

"What I mean, Coach, is, there had to be factors forming a psychological pattern that led you to believe it was the right time to punt, weren't there?"

"No."

Today Vic Ketchman is senior editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official weekly tabloid of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and knows football as well as any journalist would would care to meet, and I suspect Noll treated him with endless patience because he saw promise in Vic, if for no other reason than that he dared to show up and come prepared with, well, avenues of inquiry.

Coming to Jacksonville without leaving Pittsburgh:

As a longtime resident of the Pittsburgh area, Vic has a deep seeded love of the region that resonates whenever he talks about his life there. His memories are all still so detailed for him and it shows in his written recounts of times long past. Vic's a guy who loves tradition and is proud of his "Steel City" roots.

In an interview for the New York Times, Ketchman speaks lovingly of the Steelers by using language only Vic would consider using. He harkens back to a time before fast-food and home owner's association fees and dotes over the Steelers' style of football... as their legacy deserves.

For displaced Pittsburghers, who left in pursuit of work no longer available here, the Steelers hold a particular resonance, Vic Ketchman, 53, said. He left at 44 and is senior editor of the Jacksonville Jaguars' team Web site.

"Iron City beer had a slogan, 'It tastes like coming home,' " Ketchman said. "That's what the Steelers are, like coming home."

The Steelers also represent another sentimental longing, Ketchman said, apologizing if he sounded like a "hopeless romantic."

"They are the team for all the ones who like the old things," he said. "For all of us who don't want fast food, who don't want to live in a new bedroom community and pay association fees, who don't want progress forced upon us. Pittsburgh is an old place. It feels just right."

Victor J Ketchman is highly regarded by his peers and is known as a controversial and brutally honest journalist who understands football. A former colleague of Vic's, Jim Wexell, credits Vic for creating the Steelers' following at their paper. He further details their relationship in his book, Tales from Behind the Steel Curtain.

The Vic we know:

You may not be aware of this, but Vic Ketchman is the sole designer and purveyor of a special, and as of now unutilized, defense. Its title from this day forward shall be, "The 0-0-11 PreVic Defense". He suggests this in one of his famous Ask Vic columns and I found a site out there that took him seriously enough (or had too much time on their hands) to design the idea for him. It's really quite interesting how even Vic's sarcastic comments get enough of a rise out of people to elicit the responses they do from fans.

John from Jacksonville: Why do teams go to these extremely soft zones, especially at the end of the game. I just finished watching the Florida game and this is the third time we have blown a lead in the fourth quarter against a rival team in the past two years, and it is due largely in part to the prevent defense.

Vic: I guess it's human nature to prefer to die slowly rather than all at once. I used to defend the "prevent" because coaches told me it was the thing to do in protecting the lead. Well, I'm older than most coaches now and I'm not nearly as impressionable as I once was. I'm with you on the "prevent." It doesn't work. Hey, if you're going to go to the "prevent," then why not go all the way? Put in 11 defensive backs. Why even bother with a token rush? Let the quarterback stand back there the rest of the day, if he wants. All he's doing is burning time, right? Isn't that what you want him to do? I have great respect for coaches. They are great innovators and have provided for the evolution of this game. But when it comes to defensive strategy in the final two minutes of the game, they have plowed very little ground. They're playing the same "prevent" that was driving fans crazy in the 1960's. It's time for something new. How about the 0-0-11?

Here's the Ketchman Defense diagrammed for your viewing pleasure.

Here's another "Ask Vic" excerpt where he lays down the law on some out-of-state reader whining about anything and everything. Vic's style is unmistakable and his brash, sarcastic, and witty retorts have garnered him both a large following, and the respect he deserves.

I've already had a tough day and it's not even 10 a.m., so your e-mail is catching me in an agitated state. I've read over 200 e-mails from fans complaining about everything from [Jaguar running back/return man] Alvin Pearman catching a punt inside the 10-yard line to not having a g/back, whatever that means, and I've decided you're the one I'm gonna tell to hit the road. So, get your banjo, give Ned Beatty a call and take a nice, long canoe ride.

Saying that Victor J. Ketchman has been around awhile would be more than a mild understatement. He was the first reporter asked to do a piece in a series that never materialized about encounters and inside views that only a sportswriter would know.

In classic Vic style, the attention to detail is excellent, and although the piece was written in 1981, it still is just as interesting a read now.

I know it's hard to believe, but everyone doesn't love our Vic. In fact, his controversial style has led some to absolutely loathe the guy. I discovered a website devoted to nothing but bashing Vic. You may either love him or hate him...but you know him.

http://vicketchmanisanidiot.blogspot.com/

Outspoken

Vic has never been one to mince words. He'll call out a guy in broad daylight, a perfect example being his claim that Mike Holmgren is overrated. He backed his assessment up with viable stats and should be commended for speaking his mind, even though some Seahawk fans weren't too happy with the comment.

Let us not forget the now infamous asterisk either, as it may be his most audacious move ever. What reporter so slyly calls out the opposition as Vic did with the Pats. Usually it's the players talking smack, but our Official Team Reporter was bashing on ‘em! Way to go, Vic!

Jason from North Pole, AK: Do you think Shaun Alexander is overrated? I know he broke the touchdown record and all, but anyone could have run behind that offensive line. Put any starting running back in this league in Seattle's backfield and he would have done the same. Matt Hasselbeck deserves more recognition but Alexander gets it all.

Vic: The guy rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. He rushed for 1,696 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2004 and for 1,435 yards and 14 touchdowns in '03. That's 5,011 yards and 57 touchdowns in the last three seasons. What does a guy have to do to earn your respect? He's just shy of 8,000 yards rushing in his career and he's still in his prime. I don't care if his offensive line was Munoz, Boselli, Hannah, Hickerson and Webster. When you rush for those kinds of numbers, you are one heckuva running back. Hasselbeck had a nice season; led the NFC with a 98.2 passer rating. If you wanna say he's underrated, I'll agree with you, but don't tell me Alexander is overrated. I'll tell you who's overrated; his coach. How could you have that kind of running back and not make him the focus of your offense in the Super Bowl? It was one of the all-time blunders in Super Bowl history.

This, of course, begged for a follow-up:

Thrill from Jacksonville: Yesterday you wrote that Mike Holmgren made one of the all-time blunders in Super Bowl history by not featuring Shaun Alexander in his offense. What are some of the others? How about a top five ranking?

Vic: The number one blunder in Super Bowl history, in my opinion, is John Fox's decision to go for two. He made the mistake of being too aggressive and going for two too early in the game. It ended up being the difference. It's a shame because Fox did everything else right. One little goof will haunt him forever. The number two position is a tie between Holmgren and Holmgren. Make the Shaun Alexander blunder 2a and make the decision to allow the Broncos to score a touchdown 2b. The blunder against the Broncos was twofold: Holmgren lost track of the downs and never, ever concede the winning touchdown. My number three all-time Super Bowl coaching blunder belongs to Bill Parcells for throwing the ball 14 times (I think that's right) in a row after Curtis Martin had run up the middle for a touchdown against the Packers that gave the Patriots the lead and established control of the line of scrimmage. The Packers returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown but, hey, why the panic? The Packers seized control of the game during Parcells' panic..

You have to love the way he calls it just like he sees it, no sugar-coating. Comments like these exemplify why Vic is so beloved, his honesty. Couple the fact that you know he'll shoot straight with you as a fan with his entertaining style of reporting, and you've got one heck of a journalist. He goes so far above and beyond what is required of him and works so diligently at providing an interesting perspective through his Ask Vic column that you have to respect the guy. We're lucky to have him covering our beloved Jags... even if he is from Pittsburgh.

-Collin