Typically I like to keep things pretty sports-centric around here, but since like 20% of the country watches Dancing with the Stars when it’s on TV, I figure some of you have to be one of those one-in-five watching (unless we all make up the other shmoes watching SportsCenter). Anyway, I had the pleasure of speaking with Karina Smirnoff, one of the best dancers in the world. She just made FHM’s 100 Sexiest list, and she’s dating A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell. Karina’s in the middle of her fourth season on the show and has been partnered with boxing star Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the past. I asked her what it was like for Floyd to take orders from a woman, how tough this whole dancing thing really is, and how much funny business goes on behind the scenes. Our interview follows, and make sure to vote for Karina Monday night and Tuesday morning (text 3405). And if you’re not going to vote, just remind your wife, girlfriend, and kids to do so. Besides, do you really want Jason Taylor or Kristi Yamaguchi whatever to win? Didn’t think so. OK, check out the interview …
One of the best writers and bloggers out there, if not busiest, is Michael David Smith. Smith writes regularly for FanHouse, Pro Football Talk, the New York Sun, Football Outsiders and FoxSports.com. He has also written about football for the New York Times, the Orange County Register, Deadspin, The New Republic Online and ESPN the Magazine, and he appears regularly on WSCR radio in Chicago. He has contributed to several books, including the annual Pro Football Prospectus. His weekly feature, Every Play Counts, was described by the Wall Street Journal’s Daily Fix as “packing more game analysis into a single column than many beat writers display over a full season,” and in August SI.com named him one of its 10 notable sports media people of the month. Smith is a graduate of the University of Illinois and lives in Chicago with his wife, a lawyer. Somehow I was lucky enough to pull MDS away from one of his several gigs to answer some questions about himself and his thoughts on the industry. Our interview follows.
1. Take us through your career path. When did you start writing about sports and how and when did you get hooked up with all your current gigs?
I started writing at the Daily Illini, the student newspaper at the University of Illinois, during my freshman year there, 1995. I hardly ever wrote about sports, though: The football team was horrible, the basketball team was mediocre and I was more into writing news and feature stories. I worked there all four years I was in college and was the editor in chief my senior year, and it was a great experience.
Although I wasn’t on the sports staff at the student paper, I did, during my junior year, start sending around a weekly e-mail to my friends about my thoughts on the NFL. I really don’t know what inspired me to do that, and I’m sure a large portion of my friends just deleted the e-mail every week without reading it, but some people told me they really liked it, and I knew writing about the NFL was something I wanted to do. At that time, though, I thought it would require the traditional journalism career path: You take a job at a small paper covering high school sports or something, and you work your way up. I didn’t find that particularly appealing.
Longtime readers of the site are probably familiar with Rachel Specter. Yes, she’s the hottie from the RGX commercials you see airing constantly on ESPN while you’re watching sports. She’s been working on several movies this summer, and is set to appear in the October issue of Maxim. Luckily for us, I was able to run her down for an interview. We talked about her career, how she landed the commercials, and how her life and popularity has changed since starring in the commercials. Our conversation follows:
How did you get the RGX gig in the first place?
I always wanted to act and grew up doing whatever I could do in Tampa Florida, which is not very much. When I was in college, I spent a couple summers in New York and interned at a talent agency and learned about the whole industry. As soon as I graduated, I moved to LA. I started the way that most people started who didn’t really have any connections because I didn’t know one single person in LA. I started sending head shots and went through the process of trying to get an agent and then started auditioning. With the commercials, I had done a bunch of national commercials before this so this audition was just like any other audition. I went to it and ended up getting it. For the first audition, I read that they had six commercial spots and you had to read all of them. Then it was funny at the callback a lot of these things that you go to you see different versions of yourself just like all these girls that kind of look similar to you. So it was like walking into a room with all these pretty brunette girls. And I ended up getting it which was awesome because it’s been really great for me.
Whether it was catching a freeze frame of a pantyless USC Song Girl, or a quote from Matt Vasgersian ripping on the city of St. Louis, Awful Announcing has become a prominent player on the sports blogging scene. It has long been a favorite stop of mine, providing excellent commentary and news in the realm of sports broadcasting. For that reason, I wanted to get in touch with Brian Powell, the founder and man behind Awful Announcing, and find out what makes him tick. Our Q&A session follows.
1.What was the inspiration to start the blog? Was there a particular moment when you were watching a sporting event and the announcer pissed you off to the point where you felt you had no choice?
It was really a combination of things over the years. I grew up with my father just railing on Brent Musburger every single college football game he covered. Commenting and making fun of announcers is just something I’ve just always done.
The moment that made me start the site in particular was during last year’s NBA Playoffs. The Wizards were playing the Cavs and letting Donyell Marshall stand in one place the entire game, and rain threes on them. Hubie Brown described Marshall by saying he has the quality that all coaches love — “Wideopenshotability.” One word made me start the site the next day.
I assume that most of you who are reading this are pretty hard core sports fans just like me. Probably somewhere along the line you had a dream of working in sports, that is, if you couldn’t make it as an athlete. With that in mind, I had a conversation with Adam Schefter who is the lead reporter and information man for the NFL Network, and a writer for NFL.com. Adam is a former President of the Pro Football Writers of America, has authored three books, and covered the Broncos for 15 seasons. Schefter brings some of the best NFL information to the forefront on a daily basis, and he breaks some of the biggest stories in the business. I thought it would be cool to find out how Adam got to where he is today, and what it’s like to scoop the competition on several key NFL stories. Our order of conversation includes:
- Adam’s career path
- Writing Shanahan and Terrell Davis’ books, and if that compromised his coverage of the team
- Being first to report that the Texans were considering Mario Williams
- Being first to report the Raiders would fire Art Shell and being personally attacked by the Raiders for the report
- Being first to report the Randy Moss to New England trade
1. How did you wind up at the NFL Network after covering the Broncos for so many years?
I always dabbled in television when I was living in Denver and I always liked it, but I never imagined I would make my living doing it. I remember I was at the Super Bowl between New England and Carolina when the Network started up. They put the media on busses with TVs, and on those TVs they had NFL Network and it was the first time I had ever seen NFL Network. I’ll never forget it — I was riding with the venerable Don Pierson of the Chicago Tribune, and he and I were both watching the Network. And the Network had a one-on-one with Tom Brady, and they went home with Antowain Smith for a home-cooked meal, and they had Jake Delhomme for a one-on-one. I’m saying to myself, ‘man, I’m in this newspaper field, and we’re fighting to get a single question in, and the Network is getting these guys one-on-one,’ and I turned to Don and he said to me, ‘that’s the death of all of us.’
Ben Maller is the founder of the stellar sports gossip site Benmaller.com which can be found on Foxsports.com. In addition to creating and compiling content for the website, Ben is an accomplished radio host who is nationally syndicated by the Fox Sports Radio Network. Ben took a few minutes to answer some questions about the development of his career, and his thoughts on the business.
1. Can you tell me about your radio career, from where and how you started out, to the point of becoming nationally syndicated?
I started out getting coffee for Lee Hacksaw Hamilton at XTRA 690 in San Diego. I would commute from Orange County to San Diego (168 miles roundtrip) several times a week to learn about the radio biz. XTRA gave me a shot at a very young age allowing me to cover high school football games and run the board for San Diego State basketball. I ended up as their LA reporter.
When Clear Channel won the Dodgers radio contract I was transferred to the LA version of XTRA (KXTA 1150). PD Beau Bennett gave me my first break as a weekday talk host. He believed I had the ability to be a big star. I ended up working at KXTA till 2001 when they had a Florida Marlins like firesale.
Fox Sports Radio was just beginning in 2000 when I started working there on weekends. After I was whacked by KXTA, PD Tom Lee gave me a bigger roll at FSR.
2. What about the website, how did that whole thing start?
Chuck Giampa is an insurance broker and insurance consultant in Nevada, and has been a boxing judge since 1984. In his incredibly accomplished career, Giampa has judged around 2,500 fights, 114 of which have been world title fights. He was one of the judges for some of the most notable fights in recent history, including the Tyson/Holyfield “Bite Fight,” and the “Fan Man” fight at Caesar’s Palace. Chuck was privileged to be one of the three ringside judges on Saturday for De La Hoya vs. Mayweather, and scored the bout 116-112 in favor of Pretty Boy Floyd. He was also kind enough to share some of his time with me for one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had. And now I take you behind the scenes of what a fight looks like from a judge’s perspective. Enjoy.
1. How did you first get started getting into judging fights?
I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid. My father had brought Rocky Graziano over to our house when I was five years old the night Graziano knocked out Tony Zale in Chicago Stadium, and I listened to that fight on the radio. So I’ve been a fan since I was five years old, and then I went to Las Vegas in 1980 and I became a local fan. I would be yelling at the officials and someone said ‘so you think you can do better, why don’t you become an official?’ And sure enough I thought about it, I said ‘I love this sport, never thought about it.’ So I volunteered at the amateurs, did amateur boxing — judging and refereeing, and in 1984 we started off doing six rounds and they would put us in certain types of fights and attend seminars, and it went on ever since.
2. Did you ever think that you would get to the point of judging World Championship fights?