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"The Day the Clippers Win the Title…": A Q&A with "Justified" star Timothy Olyphant

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When not toeing assorted moral lines as Raylan Givens, the trigger-happy, womanizing U.S. Marshal in FX's Justified, Timothy Olyphant enjoys sports. So we talked to him about them.

E.M.: I assume you watched the Super Bowl.

T.O.: Some of it, but it was disappointing. It never got better than that first play. Bad snap. If we had all known, we could have just watched the one bad snap and said, “That was it!” [Laughs]

Now that we’ve had a Super Bowl in a cold-weather stadium, where would you like to see one hosted?

Who gives a s— where the next Super Bowl is hosted? Let’s just get a team in Los Angeles.

Think the fanbase is strong enough and loyal enough to sustain a new team there?

It has nothing to do with fans. It’s never about the fans. It’s Los Angeles. There’s too much money here to not have a team. It’s going to happen.

What team, in any sport, would you most like to see win a title?

The Clippers. The day the Clippers win the title—and when I say that, I’m talking about in a few months from now—is going to be an amazing day in sports history.

You’re clearly not a Lakers guy.

I can’t root for the Lakers. I grew up in northern California, so I spent many of my young adult years rooting against the Lakers. Then, when I finally did move here, that team was run by Kobe and Shaq—and anyone will tell you that if you were already inclined to not like that team, those guys made it way easier.

You still a Kobe hater?

I didn’t say I hated him. I just said that those guys, together, made it easier to continue to not like the team. [Laughs] I have tremendous respect for him, and I find Shaquille O’Neal to be incredibly charming and wonderful and funny. I root for him in every single other capacity.

Who was your childhood sports idol?

I had a Dan Fouts Nike poster with “The Bomb Squad” on my wall as a kid. I was also a huge Larry Bird fan. One of my proudest art achievements is a papier-mâché eagle decked out head-to-toe in Celtics gear.

Do you still collect sports memorabilia?

No, I’m all growed up now. I spend my money on paintings that people say their seven-year-old could have done.

You have three kids with your wife. They fans as well?

They’re decent sports fans. My son and I go to the Clippers games together and he enjoys that. For years, I would take him to the Clippers games and he would spend the entire evening pointing out the cotton candy guy. “Look, Dad! He’s over there now!” And then, “Hey, now he’s over there!” Then we entered a phase where I took him to a playoff game and, at the height of the chaos and excitement, he says, “You know, this would be a really good Where’s Waldo?” But now he’s older and we enjoy the games. It’s fun when your kids reach a point where you can actually start talking about things.

You swam competitively for most of your life, including at USC. Did you ever consider pursuing a career in that?

A career in professional swimming? Yeah, because the money is huge.

Well, if you’re Michael Phelps it’s not bad.

Right, and then talk to me about the fall-off from there. A little-known secret is that being a pro athlete is not that great. It’s a pretty short lifespan. I know all these parents are out there driving their children to be professionals, but so many pros will tell you, “No, you don’t want to do this.”

A lot of parents will no longer let their children play football. Would you?

A hard “no” on any of that. I went to college with Junior Seau. That’s as tragic a story as one could imagine. How could it not give you pause? You’re talking about grown men who don’t have control over their emotions or their way of thinking. They’re losing the capacity to function. People around them, who they love, are frightened of them. That’s a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I read a Tony Dorsett interview that was heartbreaking. And just the other day I was listening to someone say that they’re waiting to hear that OJ Simpson has a sadder story than people realize.

That's … interesting.

Well, you know, if all these guys are going through this, why wouldn’t you ask that question? I’m not suggesting that they should let anyone off the hook. I’m just saying, isn’t that part of the conversation?

You served as a sports commentator on Joe Escalante's L.A. radio show from 2008-2009. Do you have an itch to do more of that?

That was a punk rock radio station [Indie 103.1]. I enjoyed the gig, but I can’t imagine that a similar situation would arise. If you know of anyone looking for sports reports from an actor who is often just going off of what he recalls happened yesterday, or reading it directly from the newspaper, then I’m your guy. [Laughs]

The year after the radio show ended, Justified debuted. How satisfying has it been to watch the show grow over the past five seasons, both in terms of fan engagement and star power?

I’m not complaining. It’s been a good gig. I was on set the other day doing a scene with the always-wonderful Walton Goggins, Michael Rappaport, Jere Burns, Wood and Steve Harris, and Eric Roberts, to name just a few, and I thought, “Not bad …”

That’s a good gig.

Good gig.

Without getting spoilery, what can you tell us about this season?

People are going to get killed. People are gonna die.

And I’m sure Raylan will have a few more women come calling.

Well, if I have anything to say about it.

Justified airs on FX on Tuesdays at 10 PM.

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