TORONTO – The “Letters To My Younger Self” series from the Players Tribune has been among the most interesting things the digital publication has done. While the editorial conceit existed long before The Players Tribune, the publication has received well-deserved praise for the series, including very thoughtful pieces bylined by Quentin Richardson, Mike Bossy and Damon Stoudamire. For the column below, I swiped the concept to ask a number of people in the sports media the following question: What specific career advice would you give your younger self and why? Here’s how they answered:
Ian Eagle, CBS Sports play-by-play announcer
“I would start off by giving the younger version of myself some practical advice. Don't eat at a suspect Chinese restaurant in San Francisco before flying on a red-eye with a window seat (trust me on this one).
If you're fortunate enough to make it in this highly competitive business, don't take for granted the chair that you occupy. Take the time to truly appreciate the unique moments along the way—a spectacular NFL Sunday in Foxboro, a raucous crowd at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, or the electricity inside Air Canada Centre in Toronto. It's easy to get caught up in the preparation and minutia of your assignment, but don't forget to be present and soak up the atmosphere.
When you're young you tend to focus on just your role in the broadcast, as you get older and gain experience you begin to value every person on the crew and the sheer enormity of the production you're working on. The announcer is a small piece of the puzzle and although you may be front and center, you won't be successful without the hard work and dedication of others. In addition, be a well rounded person with knowledge that extends beyond the two teams you're covering—pop culture, world news, social issues may be topics of conversation during a broadcast when you least expect it, be prepared for anything. I would also advise my younger self that nobody cares if your flight was delayed or the people in the hotel room next to you traveled a small chicuacua with them—all that matters is being totally focused and locked-in the moment you go on the air. And have fun!! This isn't brain surgery (but if you're a well-rounded person you'd be able to perform that if necessary).”
Joe Buck, Fox Sports play-by-play announcer
“Keep on your path. Don't let the ‘noise’ creep in as the years go by. Social media will be both a blessing and a curse. Take it for what it is and be you. Don't let the ‘he tries to be funny too much’ criticism from a certain columnist from the New York Post affect what you do. Be you. See a therapist before your late 30s—you have a lot of issues to work through. And for the love of God, sleep through your eighth hair transplant appointment in 2011. Trust me, it's for the best.”
Marty Smith, ESPN host and reporter
“Dear Younger Me...
Offering you advice seems ungrateful and haughty, as if you need a different direction. Listen up: You don’t. You don’t know it yet, but you’re blessed with a life beyond the craziest fantasy world you could ever conjure. So let it ride.
Live the Golden Rule.
Be kind. Work hard.
Head up. Nose down.
Heart full. Always.
Even when it's empty.
Passion never loses. You’ll meet folks with better looks and more talent and a fancier degree.
You’ll never meet anybody with more passion. It’s the one thing you can control. Own it. It'll take you awhile to gain comfort in that space, but your gut is correct—it’s the right way.
Momma always said every man is equal, and deserves respect when he gives it. She’s right. Keep treating people well. It matters.
Status is fleeting. It’s a drug. It’s a fake title. Authenticity and loyalty are eternal—and hard to come by. Embrace them.
Just do you. It’s unorthodox and it’s different, and I know some of the traditional cats are giving you a big ol' ration of s*** for it right now. It hurts, but don’t let on. They'll come around.
You liked to be liked. That will never leave you. You’ll eventually be able to admit it openly and be cool with the admittance.
Champion your wife and include her in your triumphs and experiences. They’re so much richer when you share them together.
Walk your Faith. This will be a boomerang for you. You'll let it fly away for a time, but when you seek it, it'll come back.
So the advice: Don’t concern yourself with awards. You’ll never win any.
Raise some hell, you’re pretty good at it. (Just maybe not as much as you’re raising right now.)
Go home and spend some of those hours with Momma and Daddy. You won’t have them for long.
And just so you know, Marty: All those eye-roll lessons Daddy preaches constantly about accountability and respect and hard work and the indescribable privilege of being American, and the pride of your last name?
Write them down. He’s right.”
Rebecca Lowe, NBC Sports host
“I could sit my younger self down for an entire day and give advice. But three of the biggest pieces I would impart are...firstly, never believe anyone who tells you they don’t see you in a specific role. If that’s where you see yourself and where you believe you can shine then stick at it and prove the doubters wrong. No one knows you better than you know yourself and use the doubt to drive you on.
Secondly, know that not every job is perfect and they tend to be less perfect in the early stages of your career when you’re trying to carve your path. It might be that you can’t stand your job, or your boss or the people around you but if it’s a job that will help you get to the next stage then head down and power through. Always remember it is a lucky person who gets to enjoy their job. So if it takes some years of disgruntlement and dissatisfaction to get to where you’re happy, that’s the sacrifice you have to pay. I always suggest asking yourself: ‘What’s your alternative choice?’ Often the alternatives are not as good. And, finally, over prepare. In everything you do. If you do this, you’ll never come unstuck.”
Shea Serrano, writer and best-selling author, The Ringer
“I would tell my younger self three things:
1. Always say yes. If someone asks you to do a work thing, just say yes. It doesn't matter if you know how to do it or not. Just say yes and then trust yourself to figure it out. I remember one time MTV asked me to make some pop culture postcards for them for the holidays one year. I had no idea how to do it, but what I did know was that they were gonna pay me several hundred dollars to them. So when they called and asked if it was something I knew how to do, I was just like, ‘Yup. I got you. I do it all the time.’ That's how I tried to handle everything. I didn't know how to write a book until I wrote a book, you know what I'm saying?
2. Don't be late. There are absolutely some people who were born with a natural gift for writing and storytelling; just brilliant, exceptional people birthed with brilliant, exceptional talent in their bones. Not me, though. And that being the case, I knew I was never going to be able to keep up with those type of people if I was just depending on my own tiny amount of talent. So, as a way to supplement that, I just decided to try to never, ever, ever be late with an assignment. I would always turn my stuff in early, answer emails quickly, respond to phone calls immediately, so on and so forth. You can't control talent, but you can control work ethic is what I'm telling you. And in my experience, an editor is more likely to choose working with someone who's a decent writer but is super dependable over choosing to work with someone who is an exceptional writer but is unreliable.
3. Know that everyone gets kicked in the teeth a billion times before they ‘make it.’ This was the hardest thing to learn, and something that I'm still dealing with today. A lot of being a writer is pitching stories and ideas and then either a) never hearing back, or b) hearing back but it's a no. It's hard not to take it personal when it happens, because it always seems to feel like they're turning you down, not like they're turning your ideas down. But, as I've come to learn, it happens to everyone all the time. I mean, just think on it like, I'm a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author. That's a real and true thing. And still, it doesn't matter. I get turned down for things literally every week. It's just the way it goes. You gotta just keep going. Because that's really the main difference that separates someone who makes it from someone who doesn't. The person who made it was the one who kept getting up after getting kicked in the teeth. The person who didn't make it didn't get up.
Erika Nardini, Barstool Sports CEO
“You do not look good with short hair, don’t try it. Don’t work away your 20s. Bigger companies don’t necessarily give you bigger chances for success. Don’t worry about how one job relates to the next. There’s a thru-line in there somewhere and the right person/company will see it.”
Adam Schefter, ESPN NFL insider and podcast host
“What I would tell my younger self is the exact advice I did try to tell my younger self; I just couldn't listen to it, not in the way I wanted because I was so consumed with trying to land a sports reporting job or advancing once I had it.
Back when I was at the University of Michigan in the late 1980s, my college roommates and I discovered this poem called The Station, by Robert J. Hastings. We would read it and remind each other of it, and we even put it at the end of a video we made at the end of our senior year, as we were graduating, one final reminder of lessons we all should learn. It's good advice for any young person in any young field—better than anything I can offer. I never like when people lean on a poem to try to convey thoughts, but I believe it's valuable advice for anyone just getting started—or even finishing up.”
The Station, by Robert J. Hastings
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent. We’re traveling by train and, from the windows, we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures, of smoke pouring from power plants, of row upon row upon row of cotton and corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our conscious minds is our final destination—for at a certain hour and on a given day, our train will finally pull into the Station with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So restlessly, we pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for the Station.
“Yes, when we reach the Station, that will be it!” we promise ourselves. “When we’re eighteen. . . win that promotion. . . put the last kid through college. . . buy that 450SL Mercedes-Benz. . . have a nest egg for retirement!” From that day on we will all live happily ever after.
Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no Station in this life, no one earthly place to arrive at once and for all. The journey is the joy. The Station is an illusion—it constantly outdistances us. Yesterday’s a memory, tomorrow’s a dream. Yesterday belongs to a history, tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday’s a fading sunset, tomorrow’s a faint sunrise. Only today is there light enough to love and live.
So, gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key away. It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather the regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.
“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along. The Station will come soon enough.
Amy Trask, NFL analyst, CBS Sports
“I would tell my younger self: listen to your mom. The best advice I have ever been given was imparted to me by my mom: to thine own self be true. (As an aside, I will note that it wasn’t until I was almost out of college that I learned that these wise words were those spoken by Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet. While one might then say that my advice to my younger self would be to follow the words of Shakespeare, I shall always consider this the advice my mom shared with me.)
My mom repeated this advice (over and over), as moms are wont to do. I sometimes rolled my eyes, as kids are wont to do.
While it is unequivocally the best advice I have ever received, I didn’t always follow it. I heeded this advice for the most part and when I did I was my strongest and my most capable. I am my best when I am myself, as my mom advised me to be. But there were times I didn’t follow this advice and instead tried to be something or someone I was not and in those instances not only was I not my best, I stumbled and bumbled and fumbled. It just doesn’t work for me to try to be what I am not.
So my advice to my younger self is quite simple: listen to your mom even (or especially) in those instances in which you may be tempted to ignore or don’t believe you need to follow her advice and ‘to thine own self be true.’”
Beth Mowins, ESPN and CBS Sports play-by-play announcer
“I would tell my younger self to keep a journal. I wish I had the ability to look back over the years and recall where I have been and what I have done. It doesn't have to be much...even just a few sentences about games and places and people. So many great stories have been lost in my memory banks and I wish I could bring some back. We are lucky to spend time with amazing players and coaches and it would be nice to have a journal to reflect on the good times with the people in this business. Enjoy the journey...and jot it down. It's important because you want to pass on knowledge to the younger people in this business. It's always nice to have a story to tell about ‘when I was your age,’ or be able to say, ‘I went through something similar’ and here's what happened. It can also help you do your job better by providing some historical perspective to the games you are covering. I enjoy a good quote or a funny anecdote as much as the next person. Sportscasting is still about relationships with people and the more connections you can make the better off you will be.”
Don Van Natta Jr., ESPN senior writer and investigative reporter
“Relax, kid. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And what’s ‘the small stuff,’ you ask? The highlight reel of all the indignities and idiocy that will comprise a 30-year journalism career: the published mistakes (yours and others); the big-footing colleagues; the years (or decades) of no raises; the editors who merrily drive lawn mowers through your copy; the slammed doors and the hung-up phones; the grounded late-night flights and canceled summer vacations; the sources who lie to you or about you; the Christmas Eve calls from long-winded bosses; the scoops that get away; the ‘fake news’-spewing ‘readers’ who don’t read a word of what you write; the rabid fans who will only hear fraudulent, bumper-sticker characterizations of your stories on WEEI in Boston; the omnipresent drumbeat of job cuts.
In the wide-open canvas of a career, nearly all of it amounts to small stuff. Trust me, it’s true. So keep reminding yourself of that. And don’t frown so damn much.
Being a journalist in America is still one of the best jobs in the world, despite everything. Think about it: you get paid to find the truth and report it to an audience starving for it. When things go wrong—and they often will—don’t let those moments trip you up. Just roll with it, cold-call the next would-be source and chase the next scoop with as much as confidence and swagger as you mustered the day before.
You don’t know this now but the friends you make in this business will last far longer than the best stories you’ll write and the best prizes you’ll win. And all the fun you’re going to have will far eclipse the days of failure and frustration. Remember, kid: 10,000 writers would give anything to have your nickels-paying, out-in-the-boondocks job. So…
Count your blessings. Embrace the good. Savor every moment. And smile.”
Candace Buckner, The Washington Post Wizards writer
“When I talk to young journalists, I always tell them to read more than just the sports page, network, and write daily—three things I should’ve done better when I was their age. But if I could give my younger self some advice, it would be pointed and simple: don’t bury your head into journalism, get out and experience life.
I was a focused kid when I arrived at Mizzou, with set-in-stone goals that centered on getting into J-School then becoming the next Willow Bay or Robin Roberts. I worked my tail off, held down a couple jobs and ran a floor in my dorm. I didn’t mess around and while I dig that about young Candace, I wish I would’ve told myself: Chill, homie, and go do real life. Go spend a summer abroad and learn something about the world outside of your perfectly-crafted tiny universe you have at Columbia, Mo. I needed more experience. While I don’t dare to think that if I would’ve gone to Thailand at 22 years old, then I would have this whole life thing all figured out (people who do that are the worst), I do believe that traveling and experiencing other cultures would’ve opened up a lifetime of learning, which in turn would make me a better writer and reporter. When I was younger, I was racing. But it would’ve OK to slow down and live.”
Mike Arnold, CBS Sports lead NFL director
“I guess the advice I'd give my younger self is to keep working hard and eventually things will work out. I remember first starting out in television as a runner with ABC Sports and was so disappointed when I didn't get a full time job with them after spending about 3-4 years working countless weekends trying to land a position. I figured I'd end up back home in Scottsdale working somewhere but probably not in television. I even applied to the city of Phoenix to work in the public information office and didn't get a response. Luckily, I had some young ABC production assistants in my corner because when Terry O'Neil left ABC Sports and came over to CBS Sports, David Dinkins, Jr. and Peter Lasser (those two production assistants) told O'Neil that I should be the first production assistant hired at CBS Sports. O'Neil hired me. That was 1981 and I'm still here at CBS.”
Kerith Burke, Warriors reporter, NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California
“I’d like to tell my younger self, ‘you’re on the right path, and your path is your own.’ I fall back on this advice in many situations to calm the worry hamster in my head who likes to hop on its wheel and churn the night away. I try to remind myself that when it comes to jobs on this path, talent, timing, and luck all play a role. Only one of those I can control.
This advice overlaps with something else: Jealousy is a useless emotion. Coming out of college, I was too concerned with others. I was envious about not working for the No. 1 station, or wondered why a colleague got an assignment I knew I could do well. This stemmed from my insecurity, and not knowing healthy ways to aim my ambition. I had to grow up. As I grew up, my path braided with friends in the industry to make us stronger. Don’t compete against your colleagues, befriend them. There’s plenty of room for all of us. It feels best to walk together.”
Dianna Russini, ESPN NFL reporter and studio host
“Don’t lose touch with those who have helped you grow both professionally and personally. You hear it all the time, ‘be good to everyone,’ but the reality is life gets busy and we all get consumed. It isn’t until you are in a tough spot professionally or maybe even without a job that you start realizing you should have built stronger relationships with those who have put themselves out for your own benefit. Just a few years ago, I was unemployed, living with my parents and looking for work in local sports. I was miserable and the market was worse. About seven years prior, when I was in college at George Mason University, I had reached out to random news directors in the NY/NJ/CT area looking for internships during my summer break. One news director was kind enough to write back to share that he had no openings but to stay in touch. I didn’t. Fast forward to the year I was looking for work and that same news director, Mike St. Peter, who was still the news director at NBC Connecticut, kindly answered my email once again. I always regretted I never sent him a note or even checked in on him over the years since he didn’t have to write back to a college student with zero experience, and I needed him now.
This time he brought me in for an interview, and days later, he hired me as a sports/news reporter. That was the start of my career. Under his leadership, he allowed me to be part of breaking news coverage at Sandy Hook Elementary and the Boston Marathon bombings. It turned out he wasn’t just a good e-mailer but a superb newsroom leader. He took a really big chance on me when in reality I had done nothing to give him security that I was a good reporter or even a decent human being. Every year since I don’t make the same mistake. I send Mike, who has now moved on to become President and General Manager of NBC Boston, a note to just say, thanks for giving me a chance when nobody would take a call. He usually responds with something that lets me know he’s proud. Work hard at your craft but you can’t do it alone. Appreciate those who help because you never know.”
Andrea Kremer, NFL Network reporter and HBO Real Sports correspondent
“I would tell my younger self to try and enjoy the moment more. For decades, I was so focused on what’s the next story...the next game...the next big interview....the next important issue that I rarely enjoyed ‘the moment.’ This is not one of these New Age epiphanies but there have been seminal moments of my career that I wish I had relished more. In retrospect, I think it felt anathema to me to ‘enjoy’ the moment as though I equated that with being a fan and not a serious journalist but that is wrong. After more than two decades in television my realization came in 2008 as I prepared to cover the single greatest event in my career (to date)—Michael Phelps’ quest for his eighth gold medal. I specifically thought about the historical aspect of the day and my small role in it as I was headed to the pool deck. It was meaningful for what it taught me at that time and moving forward. Now it’s a learning lesson I try to impart to younger broadcasters in lieu of my younger self.”
J.A. Adande, director of sports journalism at Northwestern University
“On a practical level, I'd tell myself to invest in the company 401k at the earliest opportunity and to the maximum tax-exempt amounts. And if not eligible, open an IRA. The last thing a 21-year-old thinks about is retirement planning.
I am curious what would have happened if I had told my younger self to stick with my original goal of being a play-by-play announcer. I got a taste of working game broadcasts while doing sidelines the past few years and it kind of made me wish I had charted a course toward sitting in that No. 1 seat. Still, I doubt it would have led to me working 20 NBA Finals in addition to just about every other major sporting event, so I think younger me got it right.”
Suzanne Smith, CBS Sports director and the first woman to direct NFL games fulltime
You are about to embark on an amazing journey. One full of adventure, excitement and challenges. Hard work, your attitude, respect and integrity will be the cornerstones.
Some basic rules
Treat EVERYONE equally, from your runners to the CEO. Work as hard as you can. Tackle each task like it’s the last, then work harder. Understand that every job is important. Speak up. Your ideas have value, even in a room of people with more experience. Take risks, don’t be afraid to fail. Send handwritten thank you notes. If you’re not early, you’re late.
Take advantage of the skills you’ve gained as an athlete
Be a leader and a team player. Be competitive while working with your colleagues. First to arrive, last to leave. Inspire others. Rise to the occasion when the pressure is on.
On the practical side
Invest in a good piece of luggage, one with wheels! Dress like a professional, not like you are in your college dorm. Keep a journal, keep your credentials, photos. Don’t be in a rush to get from one event to the next. Take the time to soak it all in. Don’t assume your boss knows what you want to do. Be proactive about your assignments and the events you want to be a part of.
The boys club
Be yourself. You will never be one of the boys, stop trying. The day you accept this, things will be easier. The day you realize you don’t WANT to be part of ‘the club,’ your world will change.
Family and friends
Balancing your career and life will be challenging at times. You will have to make sacrifices to be successful in this industry. Remember, your family, partner and friends are affected as well.
You got this
It’s not enough to dream your dreams. You’ve got to pursue your dreams. No, it’s not always easy but if it was easy, anybody could do it. Always remember and remind those around you that it is a privilege to be a part of some of the most coveted sporting events in the world. Believe in yourself and let your passions be your guide. Enjoy your amazing journey.”
Tim Brando, Fox Sports play-by-play announcer
“Many times as sportscasters we talk about players that sometimes force it, or press their efforts as opposed to letting the game come to them. Ours is a totally subjective craft and for everyone that loves your work there will always be those that don’t. I’m blessed to have had a career that’s spanned four decades with ESPN as its starting point, then a quick transition to Turner, and then an 18-year run at CBS, before joining FOX four years ago. Honestly, only now do I personally believe I’m as grateful and feel as privileged as I always should have to do what I love for a living. Type A’s are littered throughout sports television and most of us want to get the top assignments in live sports television. I wouldn’t change my path, but I would recommend if I had the chance to start over to have enjoyed the journey by living more in the moment than I did. Breaking into syndicated play-by-play in 1982-83 with Raycom/Jefferson Pilot and making ESPN freelance appearances as a play-by-play man in my mid 20’s in 1985 had me thinking that was my calling. But upon my arrival to Bristol in late 1986 the suits saw me as a studio talent first! I fought that and I probably should have embraced it far more; it did help me later in securing a gig at the ‘Tiffany’ Network, CBS. I loved what I was doing, but shouldn’t have been so concerned with what’s next!
‘Tim, slow down, you’re in a great spot, don’t worry so much about what’s next,’ my old departed friend John Saunders would say. He was right. I tell young broadcasters all the time to enjoy the journey and the relationships that come with it. A wonderful collection of people that could put me in places to succeed have always been there for me. They (the suits) want to know how privileged you feel. I would tell myself if I were younger, to let them know that, and stop worrying about chasing the next great gig. You’ve already got a really good one. Keep loving it, performing it and good things will come your way. I’ve found that understanding your role, and giving the employer your best in that role is not only better, but allows for greater fullness of life.”
Nancy Armour, sports columnist, USA Today
“Develop your own voice.
Find writers whose work—and work ethic—you admire, and study what they do and how they do it. Learn from them and make use of any tips or guidance they share, but don’t make the mistake of trying to be them. There will only be one Dave Anderson or Jim Litke or Jackie MacMullan or Leonard Pitts, and trying to write in a voice or style that isn’t your own will come across as forced and inauthentic. Find your voice, your style and the writing will flow better.
Learn from your mistakes.
Mistakes are going to happen, it’s human nature. You will beat yourself up something awful and forever cringe at the memory of it. But make sure you learn from it, too. Recognizing how and why the mistake occurred is the surest way to avoid doing it again in the future.
Expand your world.
Read books and listen to podcasts about things that have nothing to do with your job or the sport(s) you cover. Have friends and interests outside the business. There’s a risk of getting stale and jaded when you are immersed in the same thing day after day, week after week, year after year. Getting outside your bubble is the best way of guarding against that—and also a reminder that what we do is pretty damn cool.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
When I was 13, my father gave me some advice that influences me to this day. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but the gist was that you should never let the fear of failure, or fear in general, stop you from doing something. Wondering ‘What if?’ after you’ve let an opportunity pass will haunt you longer than any embarrassment you might have suffered, and nothing empowers you quite like tackling your fears head on.
Enjoy the ride.
We have fun, interesting jobs that most people envy when they hear about them. It’s easy to forget that with deadlines, the stress over the state of the business and the pressure of always having to do more. But every once in a while, take a breather and remember what drew you to the profession in the first place.”
Kenny Albert, Fox Sports and NBC Sports play-by-play announcer
“Work, work, work! Preparation will be the key to a career in sports broadcasting. Read everything you can get your hands on. Look into internships during your high school and college years, but also get as many reps as you can on-air. If a local cable station happens to visit your high school to film a girls basketball game, volunteer to do the play-by-play. Perhaps they will offer you hundreds of other games in all sports over the next three years, which could prove to be the most invaluable experience you could ever ask for.
Practice makes perfect! Also be sure to learn other positions—producing, editing, writing, keeping statistics, etc. Watch and listen to as many games as possible—to absorb both announcing styles and information via osmosis. If your initial goal is hockey radio play-by-play, send tapes out to as many teams as possible all over North America. Don't be afraid of 10-hour bus rides. Working in the minor leagues could wind up among the most important and memorable years of your professional career.”
Adnan Virk, ESPN studio host and play-by-play announcer
“I would tell myself to ignore all the trolls. When people ask me for advice in this business it can be epitomized in two words: thick skin. No matter what people may tweet at you, no matter how disparaging or hateful it may be, don’t let it affect you emotionally, or your performance in any manner. I would also tell my younger self to pay more attention to the 1984 Orange Bowl between Nebraska and Miami since one day improbably I would be the studio host for CFB and such background would be more helpful rather than watching the Gretzky-era Oilers dynasty in bloom.”
Mina Kimes, ESPN reporter and columnist
"I would have told my younger self to take more creative risks. At the beginning of my career, I was terrified of failure, so I always pursued projects that I knew I could execute. But I've since learned that the best stories are the ones that seem insurmountable—not just when the reporting is difficult, but also when an idea feels murky at the outset. I wish I had been more daring early on, because my greatest experiences as a writer have been ones that teetered on the edge."
THE NOISE REPORT
1a. As expected, there was immense pushback from viewers on the decision by Turner Sports to buck longstanding Selection Sunday tradition and reveal all the teams in the NCAA tournament field prior to the bracket itself. The phrase “Selection Show” trended on Twitter long after the show ended and Twitter compiled reaction from an angry crowd of sports viewers. The most notable response, from all places, was this laugh-out-loud tweet from the Lawrence (Ks.) Police. What I wrote in 2016 holds true today: “Front-load the program so that all the brackets are revealed within the first 35 minutes and spend the next 85 minutes going heavy on analysis and interviews. If the analysis is good, people are not going to abandon your channel just because the brackets are in. Obviously, this is a high profile property and CBS is in the business of keeping you around to make money but the pacing on Sunday was a huge miss. Viewers will revolt if they think you are stringing them along, which is how it felt watching.” This from the Kansas City Star and this from SI’s Jimmy Traina cover the reactions.
1b. ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick is not a man of moderate opinions and goals. He wants to be part of Monday Night Football and has no problem letting the world know of his interest, including his bosses at ESPN.
“This is something that has been a goal of mind and ESPN is very well aware that I am very interested in it,” said Riddick, this week’s guest on the SI Media Podcast. “It is the pinnacle of broadcasting as far as I am concerned, the most iconic position in broadcasting. To be involved with Monday Night Football either as a play-by-play person or analyst is something I am hoping I can achieve.”
Asked what ESPN management’s response has been to Riddick’s interest, Riddick said, “It has been very favorable. They are well aware of it. I think you saw my interest in being a part of a live broadcast, a live game, with my involvement with the Pro Bowl this year and that only scratched the surface of what I think I am capable of doing with that kind of platform. I am fired up about the possibility of being involved with the brand of Monday Night Football in any way shape or form and I think the next couple of weeks and months as ESPN figures out where they want to go with that are going to be awfully exciting for me personally.”
As the guest on Episode 168 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast, Riddick addressed many topics including what separates a good NFL broadcaster versus an average one; how he has attempted to improve as a broadcaster; his candidness on issues and why too often former players pull punches on the air; how he navigates being a candidate for NFL general manager jobs versus working at ESPN; his thoughts when someone does not report on him accurately; how he approaches discussing social issues or politics on social media; playing under Nick Saban and Bill Belichick in Cleveland; Saban’s attention to detail and what makes him different than other coaches; how the Browns should approach holding the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the NFL Draft, and much more. To listen to the podcast in full, check it out on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.
• 1:00: What separates a good NFL broadcaster from an average one.
• 2:50: How has Riddick improved as a broadcaster and how much film he watches on his own work.
• 6:40: The aesthetics of sports broadcasting.
• 9:30: Being candid about NFL personnel people and trying to take people behind the curtain of the NFL
• 14:15: Playing for Bill Bellichick and Nick Saban and what separates Saban from other coaches.
• 20:20: Interviewing for general manager jobs while working for ESPN.
• 24:30: Other media writing about him, and his reaction to what he says is incorrect reporting.
• 33:00: What would happen if a mid-season GM job came up.
• 35:20: His approach to social media when it comes to social issues and politics.
• 36:40 His interest in being on Monday Night Football.
• 41:00: Tony Romo’s work this year on CBS and Riddick's preparation for the NFL Draft.
• 47:20: How he believes the Browns will approach the No. 1 and No. 4 overall pick.
• 51:00: How he would approach the end of Tom Brady’s career if he were Patriots management.
2. SI legal analyst Michael McCann analyzed Adrienne Lawrence’s lawsuit against ESPN and the company’s possible defenses.
2a. As SI first reported, Michael Smith’s last day as an ESPN SportsCenter host was Friday.
2b. ESPN jettisoned Sean McDonough out of the Monday Night Football booth despite public votes of confidence from management as recent as just a few months ago. On a positive note for viewers, McDonough signed a new multi-year extension and will rejoin ESPN’s college football team this fall. His assignments will include weekly college football games, as well as a College Football Playoff Semifinal. He will continue to call the CFP National Championship on ESPN Radio, marquee college basketball games, The Masters Par 3 contest and more.
4.Sports pieces of note:
• From Indianapolis Star reporters Tim Evans, Joe Guillen, Gina Kaufman, Marisa Kwiatkowski, Matt Mencarini and Mark Alesia: How Larry Nassar abused hundreds of gymnasts and eluded justice for decades.
• A remarkable thread on the KHL from reporter Slava Malamud:
• From Juliet Macur of The New York Times: Suicides, Drug Addiction and High School Football.
• Cody Rhodes is carving his own path in memory of his father, "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, from Mike Piellucci of The Ringer.
• Kevin Love, for The Players Tribune, on suffering panic attacks.
• New York Times writer Harvey Araton profiled St. John’s coach Chris Mullin.
• ESPN’s Wright Thompson on Ichiro.
• SI’s Lee Jenkins profiled Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey.
• Steve Francis, for The Players Tribune, on his unlikely journey to the NBA.
• The Athletic’s Levi Weaver on Tim Lincecum.
• From ESPN.com’s Susan Ninan: India's Rugby Revolution.
Non-sports pieces of note
• The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer on Christopher Steele.
• Via The Atlantic’s Rachel Monroe: The Perfect Man Who Wasn't.
• Via Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times: For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.
• From Josh Dean of Bloomberg Businessweek: America Is Giving Away the $30 Billion Medical Marijuana Industry.
• From Eric Adler of The Kansas City Star: Missouri is a destination wedding spot—for 15-year-old brides.
This is my final piece (at least for awhile) for Sports Illustrated. It is a weird sentence to write. This was the singular place I dreamed of working for as a young person and to have worked here for two decades has been an immense professional privilege. SI paid for me to travel the world—I covered seven Olympic Games—and trusted me with assignments that meant a great deal to me, including the Women’s Final Four and the U.S. Open. I was able to work for every part of the editorial brand, from Swimsuit to SI.com to SI Commemoratives, and spent two years helping edit SI For Women (RIP).
It has been an amazing place to work and I leave feeling as close to the brand as I did when SI published my first byline in 1998 about Howie Young, an NHL defenseman for the Red Wings who drank himself out of professional sports before sobering up and finding a second life in Thoreau, N.M., a predominantly Navajo community two hours west of Albuquerque, as a mild-mannered bus driver for the McKinley County public schools.
There are many colleagues that I want to cite publicly for helping and educating me along the journey but I’ll do that in a post on my own social channels. I’ll announce soon enough what’s next but thank you for reading me here, for listening to the podcast and for having an interest in what my SI colleagues and I do professionally.