On this week's Sports Illustrated Media podcast, Marty Smith discusses Dale Earnhardt Jr., how he is an anomaly on ESPN and more.

By Richard Deitsch
November 06, 2017

ESPN reporter Marty Smith does not hesitate when asked who he believes is the best interview in sports: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“He is the best interview in sports and it is not even close,” said Smith, who covered NASCAR for ESPN from 2006 to 2014 and now works as a college football reporter and the host of his own ESPN2 show, Marty Smith’s America. “I have had the opportunity to interview a lot of different people, stars in different sports, and he is the best interview in sports. He is very considerate of what is being asked and thoughtful in how he is answering and that his answer is genuine. He is awesome, but he wasn’t that easy earlier on.”

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Smith considers Tony Stewart to be the most challenging subject he’s dealt with as an interview. “Because Tony does not take any bulls***,” Smith said. “For a long time I would have answered Dale Jr. Dale is extremely intelligent, well read and he expects you to come prepared. If he got any inkling that you did not come prepared, he would not suffer it. There has been this evolution of Dale as a person. He is wonderful human being. It has been interesting to see how much more he is willing to give now at this stage of his life. As for Tony, he demands that you are prepared and if he thinks a question is stupid he will tell you, ‘Hey, that question is really stupid.’”

Smith is the lead guest for Episode 144 of the Sports Illustrated Media podcast. In this podcast Smith discusses how he is an anomaly on ESPN, from a reporting style that reminds one of a human energy drink to having, as he calls it, “a full-blown Appalachian Southern accent.” He also talks about how he prepares and approaches long-form interviews; the challenges of reporting NASCAR, which Smith did from 2006 to 2014; what he was thinking when ESPN lost NASCAR to NBC in 2014; how former ESPN executive producer John Wildhack, now the athletic director at Syracuse, told him that his reporting passion in NASCAR would translate to college football; growing up in Pearisburg, Va., about 24 miles north-worst of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg; how he weighs discussing politics on his social media feed; traveling to Iceland with producer Jonathan Whyley following the Iceland national team’s remarkable showing in the 2016 Euros; his top 5 atmospheres in college football; how to develop rapport with subjects; what the future holds at ESPN; talking to young sports broadcasters with Southern roots, and much more.


The second guest is John Ourand, the media reporter for Sports Business Daily. Ourand discusses his piece on the dissolution of the ESPN-Barstool relationship (and the end of the ESPN2 show Barstool Van Talk after one episode) including Sam Ponder’s agent sending an email to ESPN president John Skipper and Connor Schell, executive vice president of content about Barstool; how Ponder’s tweet galvanized a small but influential group within ESPN that voiced its displeasure internally; whether ESPN management did enough due diligence on Barstool’s content; the internal support at ESPN for the talent of Pardon My Take; why Skipper believed that Barstool would do something in the future that would put ESPN in a bad light; whether any ESPN managers or talent tried to talk Skipper out of his decision; whether any female senior managers at ESPN were involved in the final decision, and much more.

You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

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