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Eastside's Hawkblogger combining fandom, analysis to give back through website
For Brian Nemhauser, sports fandom runs deep.
From his days as a youth in California to later years in Portland, college in Washington D.C. and finally a home near Eastgate and Lake Sammamish, Nemhauser has always found reason to cheer.
Like many others with roots in the Pacific Northwest, the loudest cheers are reserved for the Seattle Seahawks.
"I've just always loved Sundays," he said.
Even before his family moved to the region, Nemhauser remembers watching the Hawks on television, drawn in by their blue and green uniforms and hooked by the thrilling brand of play that defined the Dave Krieg era. When he was 13, his parents' Bar Mitzvah gift was a trip north to Seattle for the weekend, with a pair of football games on the itinerary.
After taking in the sensory overload that is a fall afternoon on Montlake, Nemhauser was in for an even bigger treat that Sunday, when he ventured inside the Kingdome for the first time to watch the Seahawks.
"Just to be in there back then, with the wave, that was a big deal," he said. "That was my team."
As the years went on, Nemhauser's love of the Seahawks grew, alongside other deeply rooted passions for the Mariners and Portland Trailblazers. He moved from Fremont to the Eastside in 2003, developing a career in the area's flourishing technology industry and also growing his family, with two young sons and a wife named Rachel.
But when it came to digging into the nuances and tendencies that could help forecast the impending seasons of his favorite teams, Nemhauser found a void in the marketplace. So he began writing.
It began with a preseason email blast sent only to his friends, and focused on the Mariners. When he applied that concept to the Seahawks, a friend suggested he take it a step further and publish a blog.
"I had questions, and I wanted answers," Nemhauser said of the birth of Hawkblogger.com. "I didn't want quotes or mindless national stuff."
Rather than repurposing story lines or materials from traditional media outlets, Nemhauser set to make Hawkblogger a congregating place for those with an analytical eye on the gridiron. As he does in his career with Adobe, and in most every other area of his life, he focused on the data.
"I look at everything - my businesses, my employees, my life - how to get better," he said. "The more you're able to see a pattern, the more you can anticipate what comes next."
Nemhauser said most of his blog posts begin with a question or belief about the team, its matchup that week or a trend that seems to be developing throughout the season. From there, he scours online databases for statistics, analyzing and dissecting them to provide the evidence for an argument.
But for the first several years the blog existed, there weren't many people to argue with.
"I was blogging mostly to myself," he said. "There was a guy in Alaska and a soccer mom here locally. I literally had a couple of readers."
The lack of exposure was no problem for Nemhauser, but when he connected his work on the blog with an expanding and increasingly powerful sharing entity in Twitter, the visibility increased.
"That was, I found, the place I could find other people," he said. "Connecting those things together has been huge."
The exponential growth in his readership via social media overlapped with the franchise's overhaul, from front office changes that brought in general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll to the hundreds of player transactions that followed. As the team built its foundation, Nemhauser built upon his.
When a friend hosted an undrafted rookie wide receiver during training camp in 2011 at his home on the Eastside, Nemhauser offered to chronicle his process with the team. Chris Carter didn't end up making a name for himself with the Seahawks, but the player who beat him out did.
"His name was Doug Baldwin," Nemhauser recalled. "After one practice, it wasn't a competition."
He began reaching out to players through Twitter and eventually connected with Baldwin on a feature story, something uncommon in the NFL among non-credentialed media. That led to more sit-down interviews with players, and a regular spot with Dave "Softy" Mahler on 950 Sports Radio KJR, a Bellevue High grad. It also helped him garner honors and awards among Seahawks blogs.
As the visibility crescendoed, Nemhauser, who had received advertising inquiries for the website before but always turned them down, decided it would be better to use the money for good than not accept it at all. Once again, it all came back to the Seahawks.
Nemhauser's youngest son has special needs, which he termed, "similar to autism, but not autism." When he heard about a foundation called Ben's Fund, founded by Schneider's wife and named after their own autistic son, he knew it was the connection he was looking for.
"It just made perfect sense for us to come together and take whatever I could make from the blog and benefit a charity that connects to me personally," Nemhauser said.
Ben's Fund has a grant through Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of Washington, which provides financial assistance for autism spectrum related services.
The donation has increased each year since he began making the annual pledge, which includes 100 percent of the revenue generated by the blog. He said the hope this year is to make it a five-figure sum donated to Ben's Fund.
"It is cool," he said. "It has become hours per day."
Nemhauser left for New York Tuesday, with a ticket to the biggest game in the franchise's history and the hope that a memorable season can bring one more dream finish. The ticket was sponsored in part by loyal readers of the blog, who started a crowdsourcing effort to get Nemhauser to the game at any cost.
"I really can't say how much that means," he said, acknowledging he had a difficult time accepting the money.
As for his prediction, the outcome should be obvious: a Seattle triumph.
"I've got so much to do at work, and all I can think about is going to New York," he said. "It feels like it has been a long time coming."