You can hear the can hear the French Quarter and New Orleans upbringing in Michael Smiths voice. Good or bad. Setbacks or flourishing. He never stopped being who he was and you can hear that with some of the conviction in his words as his proud accent reigns supreme. I’m telling you this now because it will become very evident throughout this fruitful conversation. We talked for nearly two hours all of it served some purpose to find out who the man was. It’s long, beautiful and lengthy but all serves as poignant substance.
A lot of you reading know his professional history. A graduate of Loyola University New Orleans. A brief stint at the Boston Globe when Tom Brady was still 3rd on the Patriots depth chart. He joined ESPN in 2005 and their range of networks where professionally he flourished. His growth with the company and commentary led to him being partnered with Jemille Hill. The twos natural chemistry put them in cohosting seat for a string of their own shows “Numbers Never Lie”, “His and Hers” (show and podcast) and eventually their own stint as host of a ESPN flagship show the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter.” Which was designed for their unique skills and branded as SC6.
From there which many would call the mountain top of ESPN came what many would perceive as a major career downfall. John Skipper resigning, The tweet(s) from his then co host about the President and the NFL. Her suspension that followed. Him eventually anchoring SC6 by himself for a period. Both of them months a part eventually being bought out of their newly inked contracts by the company.
A majority of you are curious where he has been recently. Curious because his voice was a constant in your digestion of sports for years or curious because of the aftermath of how he left the self proclaimed world wide leader in sports. It can be one, the other or both. Always a man of faith, a son, father and husband. After his departure from ESPN, Smith basically went radio silent and not due to lack of people wanting to hear from him. His time had ended with a company he had worked for and been prominent at for 15 years. He was turning 40 and in what he called “career purgatory or limbo”. He was still himself, but sometimes you can be yourself and not know what it means in certain aspects. You can be unapologetically you and not know what’s next on the horizon.
I am most intrigued by what is he going to do next. He was silent, very silent. He is not one to ride off into the abyss of sunset after 6 P.M. and never be heard of again. When he came back in the radar it wasn’t as a blimp but with a splash. A new energy with a title to match. Michael Smith is now the EVP and Chief Content Officer at (Co)laboratory. A new venture based in Culver City/ LA area that seeks to produce varies and wide ranging content via sports and athletes. The start up was formed by partners Jayme Messler, who was a co-founder of The Player Tribune media company; Basil Iwanyk, founder of Thunder Roads Pictures, which produced such films as “A Star is Born” and the “John Wick” series; and industry exec Greg Economou, who previously held a role as Chief Revenue Officer and Head of Sports at Ticketmaster. All major players in their respective fields coming together to bring you new content and Michael Smith just inked a deal on his terms to help them go about it. We talked about this new venture, the phase of life he is in, got the truth of ESPN and what it all means for who he was then, who he is now and who he hopes to be in the future.
I present to you For Cultural Purposes: My Conversation with Michael Smith.
YoungLionBlog: First I want to say I’m glad to talk to you when they isn’t so much outside noise because people like trying to create a narrative for you. I’ve seen recently that your energy is rejuvenated and your mind seems to be way more clear of the fog of like everything that was surrounding you and you got your swagger back.
Michael Smith: Wow, how can you tell that? How can you tell.
YoungLionBlog: I mean I did my research and your last couple days or more so couple months when you would be doing the 6 because I know you were contractually obligated to do it, but you can hear the difference in your voice. You’re a professional but you can hear the difference in a voice when someone is passionate about something new in their life and when have do it because you are professional you still going to do the job, because that’s who you are you did it for 15 years, but when it’s something new your passion.
Michael Smith: So when you said my last few days at the Six, you talking about my outward presentation on television like you could tell from that?
YoungLionBlog: I could tell with you especially because wouldn’t mail it in. Jemele not being there it wasn’t the same. You can tell when you were having fun with “ His and Hers”, you can tell when there’s an enhanced level of excitement versus when you’re doing the job.
Michael Smith: Right, right.
YoungLionBlog: You were still professional about it, but it’s not like when you’re having fun. When you were enthusiastic doing the skits, it just hit different.
Michael Smith: It’s so funny you say that man, you got a real good sense of things. I don’t consider myself the most talented guy so to speak. I know nobody outworks me though, and nobody is more committed, and along with that commitment is I think my biggest strength and the thing I’m bringing to the table where two things that I may say. The two things that I think I do well, two things I do better than most people in my business. One is I bring the best out everybody else but aligned with that and part of that and what allows me to do that is I have an incredible…I realize as my pastor told me about this like, I have anointing when it comes to like…I control the energy in a room and so likewise on television, even on our “His and Her” days. “His and Hers” was at its best when I was at my highest like Jemele is always consistent. She’s consistently excellent. But like the days I was just on fire is the days the show was even better than it automatically is, because I bring a lot of energy and passion to whatever it is that I’m doing, and that was taken from me.
It wasn’t just because Jemele wasn’t there; it was everything about it, because I’ve done shows without her before but it just got to a point where it was all just weighing down. You know it was weighing down, it was laying on me, you know all of the circumstances, all of the politics, all the bullshit, everything. I was not having fun. I’m just so thankful I’m in my next thing. I was just talking to my executive coach. I was on with my executive coach and I told her I was like the reason I sound different. Everybody’s picked up on it by the way. I sound so different, I sound like my old self and I always tell them I sound better than my old self and I feel better than I’ve ever felt. I’ve got more swagger than I’ve ever had. That’s what I am saying. I am a different dude than I even was back then. Now I have a deeper understanding and a clearer perspective than I ever possessed. Part of that perspective lets fast forward the past 18 months when I was on the sidelines or purgatory whatever you want to call it. Fast forward to that period. When I use to talk about ESPN in private because obviously I didn’t do anything in public. When I talked about it in private there was a disgust, a disdain, a bitterness, all those things. Now I don’t talk about ESPN that way privately or publicly, because I don’t feel that way.
I felt that way before because much like when in a relationship and somebody breaks up with you. You’re hurt for one or two reasons or if not both. One you feel like that’s who you should be with who or two you feel like they’re breaking up with you is some referendum on you. They are rejecting you and is some referendum on something that you don’t have or something’s wrong with you. Well, it’s opposite on both parts. It’s like you feel like you want to be with that person or you want to be in that position, because you think that’s what’s best for you, because it’s all you know, because an unknown on the other side, because if you knew there was something better you would’ve left the old thing and gone onto the new thing on your own volition.
So for me, I was like, I didn’t know what was next. I mean I had faith that there was something greater for me, but I didn’t know what it was and that’s the essence of faith “substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen”. So I was like, yo, I don’t know what’s on the other side of this. So in the uh meantime, I was bitter because something good or at least something I thought was good for me was taken from me that’s number one. Number two, I wasn’t being uh rejected. I wasn’t being released but it had nothing to do with me. None of that shit had nothing to do with me. I know that.
I always knew that but nonetheless I was like damn why didn’t they? You know, like what is it? I couldn’t help but think “What does this say about me?”. I kept internalizing everything. What does it show about me? What does it say about me? And now that I’m going to a new thing. I’m like it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about them. It was about getting me to this and getting me to a position where I can use my experience to do something even more meaningful, even more impactful, even more fulfilling. This is already the best job I’ve ever had and I didn’t create you piece of content yet. I’m having the most fun now I’ve ever had.
YoungLionBlog: What’s your what’s your first memory
MS: I’m sorry I could go on and on. I started rambling there.
YLB: No, I love it, I love it. We good. What’s your first memory?
MS: In life?!
YLB: Yeah, first thing you remember when you think back right? The first thing you remember? That’s the first question, I always ask everybody.
MS: Oh my god, hmm. First thing I remember…Probably my grandparents house. Probably running on my grandparents, uh Bancroft Drive in New Orleans. Yeah, I would say I mean it’s like I’m trying to you know, it’s hard. I’m trying to distinguish memory from photos. Yeah, because I can see photos like actual photos. I’m trying not to remember that. I think one of my grandparents house or you know, I remember hmm… just stuff, sitting on the front pew of my grandfather’s Church. I remember that. So I was at home. Let’s see my first memory because I know I’m trying to see what I remember at 5 or 6 years old. Yeah that is sketchy man. I’ll try to come back to that if you don’t mind, because I have not thought about that in I don’t know how long. I’ve not reflected on my life my young life, my early life in I don’t know how long? Haven’t even thought about those years.
YLB: It’s always the first question I ask. We don’t talk about that a lot. I’m going talk about your current journey and what your currently processing. A lot of us don’t think on when we were really young. The first things that comes to mind that was shaping you.
MS: That’s a therapist question. The reason I say that is like I said I got an executive coach now. One of things I really need to do is I want therapist and I knew I needed a therapist long before this period of my life. It was I needed more so in this period in my life, but as I’ve been procrastinating. That’s my biggest flaw to procrastinate, but you know therapist now…so glad as a society we’ve evolved to where there’s no longer a need for the most part of this stigma. We’re systematically breaking down this stigma around mental health because no different than going to the doctor’s we should be seeing a therapist in the good times. Not just when you think, you know you lose it. So I want to add a therapist to my team.
The biggest thing I learned throughout this whole process was really true is they say “ you know who your friends are” and all that kind of stuff. It was more than that for me in my position man. You got to know who you’re surrounding yourself with in like who you working with too. Who you relying on? Who your confiding in? You know everything. So I did a complete overhaul. I didn’t, I wouldn’t say I cut friends. I still have the same friends and my friends showed up for me. I’m talking about like agent, manager all had to go. I changed everything, You know adding an executive coach, you know added an attorney, I just feel like I’m in a much…
YLB: A new professional circle around you
MS: Yeah, a much better professional circle.
YLB: Tell me about this new role. Why this, why now and what excites you most about it?
MS: What excites me most about it is the autonomy and the freedom to create. You know because there’s so much red tape bureaucracy politics you know involved in a major networks create a process unless you’re giving the green light, you know the golden ticket or whatever you want to call it. It’s hard to say “Hey, I want to do uh a documentary about X. Going to do a series about Y” and get it made. It’s hard in general, but it’s definitely hard uh when you’re talent quote unquote and you’re at the mercy of somebody else’s vision, imagination or more specifically their the lack thereof. So I now have this (power) again. You know to quote Darius Lovehall IN “Love Jones”, “ Romance is about the possibility of the thing” right. Like creativity is about the possibility of the thing.
I just watch this movie called “The Current war” and I learned so much about Thomas Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla that I didn’t even know right. Tesla was talking about, they were asking him about some of his ideas. They were asking him “Well, where is it?” and he said “ It’s in my mind”. So for me even if I have not put out a single piece of content. I’m energized by the creative conversations. I can write stuff down now and it’s not just a dream. That’s like well write this down because I want to do this and I now have the freedom to do it, you know more or less unrescricted. Why now? Um, what’s funny is I always said and my wife reminded me of it because I remember that I said it and I thought it. My wife reminded me that said it to her like I always knew I wanted to leave ESPN before they got rid of me.
YLB: 15 years and 40 it’s like a good round number on both accounts for that.
MS: Dude are you fucking serious right now? Have we talked before?
YLB: No, we never talked before. 40 years old and 15 is just like two gold numbers. I don’t like when people do trivial anniversaries like when someone says this is 13 years or 11 years. I want a 10 year anniversary 20, 25 year.
MS: Hold up dawg, hold up dawg. Hold the fuck on. Who the fuck are you because I swear we think exactly alike. Okay, I got to have even numbers on the air conditioning unit. I got to have even numbers to the gas tank. I got to have even numbers on the volume on TV.
YLB: Yeah, that’s one the things I’m mildly OCD about, because if you did this if it was 17 years and you were 41, it just doesn’t…
MS: I hate that, I hate that. Bruh check this out. You know who is notorious for that shit is social media because it’s easy clicks and it’s easy hit. “6 years ago today Kobe Bryant”, like why the fuck do I care about 6?
YLB: 5, 10, 25 give me substantial numbers.
MS: Don’t tell me “8 years ago today Lebron James”. That just a cheap excuse. Stop it, just stop. “2 years ago today Kobe retired”, like so? I hate that. I use to complain about that every day at ESPN. Ugh (he let out an exhausted grumbling) We might be separated at birth dawg.
YLB: No one is like my 29th birthday we doing it big! It’s the 30th.
MS: This is scary. That is exactly how I think and no one else does. People do that every year and I’m like I don’t care
YLB: Complex does that a lot. Says 8 years ago this album came out. Tell me in two more years; I’ll care
MS: Right? Talk to me in 10, but people will still comment and like it. They get the traffic they want. That’s what it’s all about 2019. But with that said Yes, absolutely. 40 years old and I started thinking like this while on “His and Hers”. I’m like, you know what I could to be 40 and it’ll be 15 years at ESPN. That’ll be a real good time to go ahead and bounce because it’s like look and for the most part I had an amazing time at the company, but I did not want to be a lifer and no disrespect to the people who do, but I didn’t want to spend my whole career there.
It just felt like if that’s all I did, even in media. If that’s all I did than I probably waisted a hell of a lot of potential. So I always kind of looked at that as the cutoff point, but I didn’t think I would leave the way that I did. I thought it would be a situation where you know, I wanted to leave on top and it uh probably would have been. I probably would’ve done it at the end of this contract that I just got out of. I probably would have done it at the end of that contract, would have said, “ you know what I’m out”. Here’s the other thing but, this is where I’m a contradict myself and this is the other part the other blessing about everything that happened. All right, and I have said this publicly. Not sure how much you’ve seen that I’ve said lately but I repeat it anyway so sorry if I’m being redundant or repetitive, but if it doesn’t go to shit, if everything doesn’t go to shit. I may be convinced. Subconsciously or explicitly to stay at ESPN, because of the security, platform, the profile, the money, the familiarity, whatever it is. It’s like what I have left if it were all good?
So because it wasn’t all good because it was so awkward and uncomfortable and at times painful. It was like, oh this force me out of that comfort zone. It forced me to look at other opportunities and lastly, I know you asked why now and I’m talking about opportunities. Like I’m always… even the people that I work with every day, everybody that has talked to me since I took the job are saying “Oh that’s totally you” because even as on air talent, I was always an executive producer, I was always somebody who was in on the details and every step of the creative process and sometimes it would turn, you know, insecure producers off. But I was always somebody who was into the bigger picture when it came to production. And so it’s just a natural evolution for me to be heading up a content company.
YLB: As black person who has been in very influential rooms and keeps having very influential jobs. Do you ever feel the burden that what you’re doing is bigger than you just moving up for the sake of your career or your family? Do you feel that that you still need to represent the underrepresented?
MS: All the time. I just would qualify it’s not a burden for me. I don’t feel it as a burden. Feel it as at minimal a responsibility, but if nothing else, it’s a privilege to be in that position. I feel privileged to be somebody that’s looked to, to hold me down and keep it real. You know, like, that’s my job. That’s my job is to hold down and keep it real. I want to put that on a business card one day, like that’s how I see my existence. And to represent for underrepresented is an honor because it’s like, you know, as to who much is given, much is required. And I feel like Yo, I’m not in this position just for me, like the coolest thing about this gig, and the announcement of this gig is the amount of people who hit me up, either strangers and friends who will give me their resumes or their ideas. I feel bad. I haven’t been able to get back to all of them yet, and sooner, but I like the idea of being in a position to where I can empower people in a different way. In my old role and this is unfortunate because you see the same thing in sports when it comes to black coaches and black executives. This idea that we’re opening doors for people that somehow well it Michael Smith does it this way on TV or Michael Smith successful then white people will look at other black people and say “Well,we’ll give him a chance”. As if there is some correlation between my success and my pigmentation.
YLB: If they perceive you as safe they might be fortunate enough to perceive somebody else as safe
MS: Yeah, exactly. You see it with black coaches all the time. You know like oh here’s a black coach. You got black coaches, owners will hire more black coaches if other black coaches are successful. A black coach is no more successful than unsuccessful because he’s black and this is what we still deal with. Right? That said, that was my major area of influence. Or maybe I can be inspiring to some people to see somebody that look like them, you know, in a prominent position might inspire some people. I had a lot of parents who say, you know, it’s good. I like to show my son somebody, you know, doing something from an intellectual standpoint as opposed to or even in sports, especially, as opposed to just an athlete.
And lastly, maybe, especially on “His and Hers” but much less so on “SportsCenter,” maybe I could use the platform to give somebody else the spotlight. Maybe I was able to, you know, put somebody on TV, you know, for a segment or an entire show, just basically put somebody else on. Give them an opportunity where they otherwise would not have it. Now it’s like, I can give them an opportunity even more so. Maybe even in terms of just flat out employment if not helping them to create their projects, helping them bring their ideas to life. That’s important to me to be able to do that to be able to tell a story that needs to be told through voices that needs to be heard. It’s important for me to be on the front lines of that.
YLB: That’s good. That’s beautiful. So because you got the new role and obviously everybody knows this is a win for you, but the perception like how the company treated you on the way out switched. We talked about your doubt you had professionally after the ESPN departure in the contract buyout. How did it affect your home life?
MS: Um you know, I, I think I did a pretty good job of compartmentalizing as in, it was a blessing and a lot of respects. I was still getting paid, but I didn’t have to do anything that I didn’t want to do. If I wanted to pop up on “High Noon” or Highly Questionable” or “Around the Horn” if I wanted to, I could do that. If I didn’t check still cleared every Thursday. So because I had that it was a gift, but I didn’t always see it as a gift. I would have private moments of frustration. I mean, my wife knew, you know, but with my kids though, it was all good that they never saw me down. It allowed me to spend amazing amounts of quality time with them enough to allow me to take them on trips and to experience things with them that otherwise would not have been able to do. It brought me closer to my family and it made me a better father and a better husband. It brought my wife closer also because she went through with me, you know? Like it says “the waiting is the hardest part”. Waiting is the hardest part. To be clear, like, if I really wanted, there were things I could have done. But like I said to somebody the other day, the opportunities that were presented to me were limiting in number and limiting and growth potential.
YLB: You didn’t want to step back.
MS: I refused to and so it was hard. It was a hard choice. But, you know, the hardest choices require the strongest will.
YLB: What do you admire most about your wife and what’s something being a father has taught you?
MS: She is the most thoughtful and considerate person I’ve ever met. She’s made me so much better at that and I thought that I was thoughtful, but she’s always doing something for other people big and small. It’s almost become her full time job. She is just classy. Some of the deeds and some of the gestures that she does this you know I need to do more of that. That’s the practical answer. The emotional answer; she just like, she literally my compliment and my supplement. Like all the things I’m not she is and all the things I can’t do she does. She’s the perfect partner on this journey. She is incredibly humble. She is the more educated the two of us and yet she’s had no problem letting me be me. And, and, and both publicly and privately and understanding that our family functions best when she works to let me be me, and she does what she can to support me being me. So she’s incredibly giving too and an incredible mother. She was born to be a wife and a mother, it is a gift. Not everybody can do it. Not everybody can, you know, it’s a skill and she got it. She got it. Like this wife in his mother thing. She got it down pat. She is practically perfect at it. Every now and then I might have to check her on something. Make sure you put “check her” in quotes. Check her in air quotes.
YLB: Alright I got you. What has being a father taught you?
MS: What has being a father taught me? Patience. Patience, because I don’t have a lot of it in general. Even last night, here’s an example of it. And this may sound obvious, but it’s like you know when you’re in it and it’s emotional. Maybe you kinda like forget it at times. So, my younger two kids, my 11 year old son and my 7 year old daughter are not happy in the least about the idea of moving, which I’m flattered by. Because for them to be the first kids in the history of kids prefer to stay in Connecticut then move to California says something about the life that I provided to them. And so, you know, they’re not they’re not happy about the move, and so it’s hard and hard on them. So, last night I took, I took them yelling at me and I took them complaining and my youngest is mad at me and my 11 year old snapping at me in ways that kids can only get away with in 2019 mind you. Truth of the matter is, though, I never experienced that nor did my wife, my wife grew up in Massachusetts. I’m pretty sure she grew up in the same house. For the most part. I grew up in New Orleans. I moved when I was ready to go to college.
My children have grown up. For the most part in Connecticut, the younger two, my son was six and my youngest daughter was two when we moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut, which is really not that big of a move. And so now you know, they got their friends, they got their routines, they got their activities, their school. All these things that they’ve come to know and love. Their house, the configuration of their house, they don’t want to leave that. So instead of me being frustrated and being like, you know, “Hey tough shit sorry, we gotta go “. I had to learn to be emotional patient with them, it helped and just let them vent and let them be upset. Again, it might be obvious but when it’s every day and you’re not making any progress on that front. We’ve established we have to move. Still every day is “I don’t want to move”, it can be nerve wracking. Also every child is different, they are different children. I’ve been very public about my evolution, my early evolution when it came down to corporal punishment. And part of that is just the my evolution when it comes to being patient.
Whether it’s my 13 year old now, last year was a tough year. Her 7th grade year at 12 years old, like she was testing us, my son even know at 11 like, I gotta let him know dawg I will cave your chest in, like he is really testing me. I mean its more of an empty threat, because I’ve just gotten better at talking to them. Whereas, you know, when I first became a father, I probably would have slapped the shit out him . Whereas now it’s like, I’m just really good at communicating with them. Probably because when we got married my wife was the “I don’t believe in spanking children” and I was like bullshit maybe you weren’t spanked but I was. I got my ass whooped so they going to get their ass whopped. Where now I’m probably the more patient one between the two of us. I’m playing good cop more so than I ever thought I would see. I’m patient with my children more than I ever thought I could be.
YLB: I don’t have kids but I understand. I think we think alike cause I’m a very logical person. So like a something has to get done, it has to get done. I’ll probably will have to learn patient when I have kids more so but yeah, my mind is a very logical place. Think the analytical way to solve this and creative way to go about it. I could see that being hard because you’re seeing like, although it has to be done, but there’s the emotions involved in more lives than just yours to depend on and think about.
MS: Like I told my wife “You have me, wherever I go, you’re good. You have no real attachment to Connecticut to begin with. We’re adults were used to change we’re used to adjustment.” Even still, it’s a challenging adjustment for me even though I’m used to it and I expected, like their children, they don’t know. They don’t know what’s on the other side. You know, that’s why children ask “Are we there yet?”. They don’t know how far we are from the destination. They don’t know you passing that McDonald’s to take them to Disneyland. They just want McDonalds. They want to go in the Mcdonalds play place they don’t know what’s down the street. So it’s like, understanding the mentality of a child.
And adults aren’t much different. We just express it differently. You know, I got frustrated because I didn’t know that on the other side of ESPN drama was the best job of my career and a level of peace that I never thought I would attain.
YLB: I’ve done my research on some more recent interviews you’ve done and one question that hasn’t been just straight up asked is how is your Jemele Hills friendship now? Everyone always talks about professionally and obviously you guys would work together, like you had amazing chemistry and authentic friendship on screen. So you working together I think that’s a no brainer if the opportunities right. I want to know did the outside noise and everything affect your personal relationship.
MS: No, no, we’re good. We don’t.. So I mean, like the morning of the announcement( of his new role with Co(laboratory), I was in LA, I was outside the hotel I just had breakfast with, with the co founder of the company, and she was one of the first calls I got. We talked for two hours. You know, we don’t talk as frequently because we’re in different places in our lives. Much like…and most true friendships are like that, when you don’t have to talk to each other to know what the deal is on the other side of it. You gotta keep in mind when we both at our height on “His and Hers” we were both climbing the same rung, on the same ladder, at the same time.
Okay, professionally, were in different places. That’s number one. Number two, she getting married next weekend, I’ll be there. She getting married next weekend. A lot of our dynamic was, I was the married guy, the married one, and she was the single, you know, playing the field one. So we would have this juxtaposition between, you know, me being settled down and her kicking it playing the field or whatever. That changed, she now has a husband. And honestly encourage change in terms of just the everyday dynamic once I moved to Connecticut, because we also spent an amazing amount of time together when we were both commuting from out of town to be in Bristol. Like she was living at one point, she was living in Orlando coming up to do TV. She eventually moved up here but this wasn’t her home. Right? And for me I was living in Massachusets living Connecticut. So we spent a lot of time together we were kind of like more you know more on the road or whatever.
So once my family moved to Connecticut, then I have a wife and kids to go home to every day. Personally and professionally we don’t talk or text constantly the way we did, but it’s still nothing but love you know what I’m saying? Like the relationship it doesn’t function the same, but the foundation is the same. If that makes sense?
YLB: Yeah, I’m glad I’m glad to hear that what it was built on is still there even though the buildings are going in different directions.
MS: I appreciate that question.
YLB: Everyone asked professionally and I just think it’s a no brainer that it’s the right opportunity happen you guys your chemistry was the reason it works so well. You’re chemistry together, you’re both great at what you do, but no one ever asked like, are you guys still okay as humans together?
MS: Alright let me ask you this. Is the impetus for that question, the idea that maybe we aren’t or we shouldn’t be?
YLB: I think so, I think more so. I think what happened with the Jemele thing everyone was focused on why she did it not the purpose of that it was true or that they agreed or disagreed, and I think it became bigger than it should have. I think that moment, I think it became an instance became a moment like it became so big because everybody was pushing an agenda. Then none of that had anything to do with you. But not only were you and Jemele friends, so you’re going to have her back, but you were her co host. So you’re going to have her back. Journalists and reporters stick together. You’re going have her back in three different areas like you’re going to have her back.
So I think a lot of people thought, since they don’t and if you don’t see you together as much, then people think maybe they’re not the same you know? Because a lot of the backlash, you got a lot of the backlash like a ricochet because you didn’t do the tweet or anything, but you’re going to have her back. You and her are alike in that area, I think it’s safe to say you have the same moral compass when it comes to what she said and what she was standing for. Because you stand for those things too.
MS: A hundred percent, hundred percent.
YLB: If it was the other way around. If you sit there, if you happen to send that tweet, which, like I said, it was right. But if you happen to send that tweet, I think she would have been the same way, she would have had your back the same way, she would have been with you the same way.
MS: Well I think, I think the difference is one of us hit send. I mean, she said herself, like she thought anybody with half a brain or having any kind of sense and sensibility like yeah water is wet. Like it’s obvious that’s what he is. I said several times that the act of hitting send was more scrutinized than the substance of it. So for me I think a lot of people looked at that tweet as what took down the show. That’s not what took down the show. The show was headed for cancellation long before.
YLB: I think it helped them with their narrative.
MS: Definitely, internally and externally.
YLB: It was a perfect storm like you John Skipper had left you guys. You abruptly showed up like people didn’t want to see two black faces on their on their sports center when,you know what I’m saying? It’s like if I came in for Alex Trebek and Jeopardy out of nowhere. It was right there in their face at that time.
MS: It wasn’t just two black faces. It was two black faces being real black
YLB: Yeah, unapologetically.
MS: Unapologetically. Corporate America and network television like they want black culture that they can appropriate and make a profit. They want comfortable culture. You know, they want the fashion, they want the trends, they want the hip hop, they want the bravado, sometimes they want the hair, they want the body. They want all of that, but they don’t want the struggle. They don’t want.. they don’t want the real and so, I was like, you know, I just felt like I was never upset about the tweet, I was upset at white supremacy. You don’t get upset at water for being wet, you know, like somebody hand me a towel in this motherfucka. I’m glad you asked that question because, I’ve seen people kind of suggest that it was her fault or whatever and this, that and the other , and I’m not saying that there weren’t some things that I wish she had done differently. Just like it’s some things I would’ve done differently. Nobody handled everything perfectly. What I’m saying is was it her fault for a tweet or his fault for being a white supremacies?
YLB: I think all the stars align in the way to make that happen. You both…it’s easier to talk about now because it’s in the hindsight. Objects in the mirror in the rearview you can see better. So it’s, it’s good because now, during that time if someone asks you a question, you know, there could have been a lot of tension with you, because I know I would have had it at the time not knowing better things are coming I would have been upset with how that was handled by the company. Which they have a bottom line.
I think they should have been a little bit more loyal, even if they were going to cancel the show. I don’t like the perception that they let it seem as if it was because of the politics. There was way better way to go about it.
MS: I mean, The perception that I take issue with. Because I mean, I think the people who say it about politics, I know those people and they didn’t watch the show. That’s just lazy. Because if you actually watch the show, and took the time to pay attention to the show. Which is your choice if you don’t want to, for whatever reason. If you took time to pay attention to the show. We weren’t into the politics. We covered the intersection of sports and society, like every other responsible journalists would, and every other show on the network did. Now, the only thing I take issue with is the people who try to act as though we did a show that was so divergent or that was so anti with “SportsCenter” is supposed to be. That we didn’t stick to sports or that we didn’t talk about sports or that we did so in an unprofessional or in a sloppy, you know, poor way.
The thing that bothers me there is that’s a critique on my work ethic. You know, and I know that I know that I know the work we put into it. I know the product we put out. The people who just flat out say “Yeah, that show sucks” or so was terrible. They are never specific about it. You ever noticed that? Like, nobody can offer you specifics on what was wrong with the show. Nobody can. Nobody can tell you exactly from a technical standpoint. From a TV production execution standpoint, what was wrong with the show.
I haven’t seen anybody I haven’t seen anybody offer a structure critique of the show that says “Hey, you guys didn’t do X, Y and Z right?”. You know the show lack this kind of… like nobody, nobody gave us that. It was just this broad stroke. Hey that shows terrible. What about it is awful? Exactly what about it is awful? We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. We talked to each other about sports. We brought on guest to talk about sports. We brought on guests and had those same guess tell us that they enjoy talking to us more than anybody.
YLB: That’s true.
MS: The same people that’s all over ESPN now. We were the first people to put them on TV, whether its “His and Hers” or “SportsCenter”. Facts.
YLB: No, that’s very true. I think there was a like it just happened at the perfect time to be very…a lot of scapegoating happen in a situation of something that is simply it could have just been like this isn’t this isn’t working. I think it could have been done more graciously for both of you because of what you, especially what you both put into that network and what you were to that network in that for that four year run at the end with “His and Hers” and “ Numbers Never Lie”. That 4 to 5 year run y’all were on, ya’ll were part of the faces of ESPN at that time.
MS: Oh yeah, for sure and I’m proud of it. That’s what I look back on more than anything. I’m okay talking about it again and I’ve become okay talking about it because people care and I appreciate that people care about what happened. Like, I’m over it, and I’m and I’m pass it. There is, there is zero bitterness on my part towards ESPN. Because like I said, I had a mostly great 15 year run, I met a lot of good people, they certainly compensated me fairly, I learned a lot and it put me in a position to have this job that I have now. Even the way it ended. So I hold on to the that run you’re talking about, like 2013 or 12, or whenever, you know, it became me and Jemele, and the renaming of “His and Hers” and the podcast and all the way up through, you know, the very, very beginning of “SportsCenter” I guess. I would probably end the good times…shout out to Al Green…I would probably end the good times at “It’s A Different World” open. That’s what I would do. After that, I don’t remember anything, particularly, that felt fun, or, you know, that felt like us after that.
My point is that’s what I take pride in because I really feel like we made an impact, a lasting impact on how television is done there, how talent approaches television. I think we did empower people and set an example for people about being their authentic, unapologetic selves on mainstream television. I think we provided opportunities and showcase people who otherwise didn’t get those opportunities. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of what we accomplished. The show failed, but we aren’t failures.
I feel like what we did together is something that people will always appreciate. I think you see a lot more men and women teams. You certainly see a lot more, a lot more black women in places of prominence when it comes to holding down talk shows and what have you, I think you see a lot of shows and a lot of podcasts and products that seek to replicate the “His and Hers” dynamic. You know? And again, I’m not saying we discovered fire.
I guess what I’m saying is, we were something, we mattered and I think what we did still matters, despite our ending. So I don’t really, I don’t begrudge them. Because I also realize too, I don’t think anybody sat in a room plotting on how to screw us over. I don’t think anybody did that. I think it was one of those things where it’s a bottom line of business and it has multiple meanings, that phrase bottom line businesses. I don’t think it was personal. It was business. So it is what it is.
YLB: Yeah, that’s perfect and genuine answer. All right. You’re the content man now, so I’m gonna give you three TV channels and you tell me an original idea you would have for it can be something simple, something complex, just something quick
MS: Hey man, I charge for that kind of thing now.I don’t know it depends if I feel like sharing. It’s called intellectual properties.
YLB: I can’t get the exclusive? So like I said, Food Network.
MS: An original idea for the Food Network.
YLB:Someone you would give a show to.
MS: I’m gonna take an opportunity just to show some love, just to show love. Shout out the Bleacher Report that Serg Ibaka show that they got. I think he was doing it on YouTube and now Bleacher Report picked it up. I think Samsung sponsors it now or something like that. Serge was doing it on Youtube called “How Hungry Are You?”. That shits hilarious man. I peeped the one where he had Durant on and he had Durant eat snake. I like Serge. Food Network might want to bring a sports audience to the table, no pun intended.
YLB: Travel Channel
MS: Travel Channel, hmm Travel Channel, I’m back to showing love. A name just popped into my head. My girl Sarah Spain. Sarah Spain stay on the go. She seems to be leading an amazing life. She’s a friend, I admire her, she inspires me on her Instagram channel going places that I never heard of. Like ooh that look good I’m going to go there one day. Yeah, I’m going to say Sarah Spain where ever she goes she’s the life of the party.
YLB: And last one, Adult Swim or Cartoon Network.
MS: I would give it to a combination, it’s a combination of two cats particular three I’m going to go with three. I think guy used to work at ESPN guy named Reese Waters. Comedian Reese Water. Yep. guy used to work at ESPN… real active on social media. Ricky Smith, Cleveland based comedian, aka Rickonia if I’m not mistaken he has done some work with both the Travel Channel and Adult Swim. But I’ll put him with Reese. And then I will put this with this cat you haven’t heard of him yet but you will. His name is Cornell Jones. Well you may heard have of him? He’s like a suped up version of me. I mean, like he is legit a producer and talent, he’s a hybrid at ESPN right now. I just think his future is incredibly bright. He’s magnetic on camera, but he is he is like a high level producer at the company as well. He’s somebody that I would put…I would watch him walk the Earth you know? Those 3 cats I’d watch them on Adult Swim… Oh you know who else man?! These are people that entertain me.
YLB: Oh, man. I got you in your bag now.
MS: This dude Ace Vane. I don’t know when this trend started if like dubbing cartoons with either rap lyrics or other conversation. Be having me cracking up. He takes the Justice League cartoons.
YLB: Oh yes, I seen that!
MS: It’s like hilarious, but he’s a comedian too. So it’s like, I’d put all these dudes in a room and see who could who could who could survive the laughter. Cornell, Reese, Ricky and Ace Vane in a room, that’s what I would do
YLB: All right, thank you. See we work together well. What’s a recent sports story that you’ve been wanting to talk about? Like something you would have covered in ESPN days that you’re like, man, I can’t wait to talk about this subject.
MS: I know right. That was that was probably the hardest part. That was the biggest adjustment man was the routine of not having… for like eight, nine years, whatever it was eight or nine years. I would consume sports and sports content, crystallized and synthesize my thoughts with the expectation that the next day there was a need and a desire and an expectation for me to give my take on those stories. So when I wasn’t doing anything, it was hard for me to watch for even knowing that I was not going to have that outlet to be able to weigh in.
Lets see a story that I want to talk about right now that if I were on TV I’ll be into. That NBA and China story was dope, not in a good way. That was one of those types of stories I would’ve dove heavy in to. I’m not even sure exactly who I would’ve gone at but it was a lot of people worth going at in that situation. A lot of people kept messing up. Hmm, damn. See I’m kind of also too I’m kind of like in this project development world now I’m not in the weeds like I used to. NBA season just started it’s going be a fantastic season needless to say given what we saw in the off season. NFL, what’s going on in the NFL that everybody talking about? Oh I’m going to tell you the story that just like blew my mind when, Antonio Brown lost his. That was a crazy stretch right there. Yeah, I don’t know. What’s moving the needle right now in the day to day sports content? Help me out with that one.
YLB: The Jay-Z deal.
MS: Oh yeah, Jay-Z to get bought off by the NFL. That one right there fascinating. It was fascinating because of how many people it just goes like you his body of work is where he got the benefit of the doubt way more than he deserves, way more than he deserved. I was like, “wow” like the amount of people that were keeping up to try to defend him. “Let’s see how he plays it”, man please. This is exactly what it seems like it is. And the reason everyone is uncomfortable with it is because exactly what it seems like it is. It was a money grab. Jay-Z has done everything.
He’s trying to conquer frontiers that he and nobody out there look like him. And one of them is the idea of having a seat at the table. Ain’t but 31 dudes at the table and he ain’t one of them. He might be in the room , but he ain’t at the table. He might be standing off in the corner. He ain’t at that table. I think he wants to be at that table, but like the NFL, the NFL cannot be trusted when it comes to a desire. Again, like I talked about earlier, the mainstream, they want the aspects of the culture, they can appropriate and make a profit from it and they are comfortable with.
YLB: they want the glamour not the struggle.
MS: Yeah, they will push the soft and cuddly social justice but the purpose of a protest isn’t to be polite. So they not trying to fully embrace this and he has to know that…If there are any kind of community initiatives already going on. So Jay going do stuff that nobody else can do in the hood? I mean, come on man. Or be in charge of you know, like a halftime show. So come on what you going to do? Have your wife come out in the Black Panther outfit?
YLB: She already did that one.
MS: I mean, I don’t know man, it was hard on me that when people were saying like “ This is strategic. This checkers not chess”. Maybe I’m missing it. Maybe I’m tripping? Like no, I’m not sorry. He had it right the first time. When he said ,“You need me, I don’t need you” he was right the first time. So what changed?
YLB: He’s usually so calculated. That was not a well thought out effort.
MS Yeah. Even if he had given it thought in what he wanted to do. I thought it could’ve been better in terms of the rollout. You can’t sit next to Roger Goodell talking about we past kneeling. Can’t do that.
YLB: Especially when you weren’t the one who lost your career for kneeling.
MS: Right! I mean it just like I remember the clip “Do you know what the issue is? Do you know what the issue is?”. Yo man, they’ve always known what the issue is. White people have never struggled to understand what the issue is. They struggled to empathize with the issue, but they’ve always known we will be complaining about. They just don’t care. The only way to make them care is by inconveniencing them. I think people just always gotten it messed up with Colin that this protest of the anthem was to bring awareness to police brutality. Ain’t nothing new under the sun. This is to inconvience you from the idea that you can escape our reality. This is to make you uncomfortable, which still did not come close to approximating the discomfort that people of color feel in this country.
So this is the idea of these protests and every protest before every protest after is not just to make you aware that there’s a problem, when it comes to the inequity between the races in this country. They already know, they just don’t want to change it because it will be an admission that the status that they hold in this country was not something that they got on their own, or not something that they got on merit. And it would cause them to have to re examine things about themselves and about the power structure that would again, inconvience them from a socio economic standpoint. They are not willing to do that. So when he was up there talking about, “Oh, you know, we pass kneeling, we past kneeling”. Who is we? We who? That turned me off. So as you can tell I had some hot takes in the can. Look everybody, everybody… you know what I realized? Sorry I’m just ranting right now, pardon me.
YLB: Oh you are fine, please go on.
MS: You know what I realized while I was out is that? They got a lot of people, like the show goes on. The show literally goes on right? And I always knew they had a lot of people out here doing good work, but I came to respect them and I came to realize, you know, I don’t have to do this. This is in good hands. So I talked about like, just represent, you know having a voice for the voiceless. They got a lot of people holding it down and keeping it real. It’s in good hands. It kind of confirmed for me while I was out and seeing, you know, the way a lot of people were channeling the conversation and the conversations that happened, that, okay, I could move into a different space. It’s not something that I have to continue doing. This meant a lot to me. And I’m not done as a on-air personality or as a as a reporter or journalist or commentator. But you know, there were people who would say “ We miss your voice. We need your voice.”, and I appreciate that. I appreciated that, but there are a lot of strong voices out here still, and I felt like it was time for me to move in a different way, a different space.
YLB: How do you stay in touch with current events in our culture now? Is there like any media outlets or personalities you keep up with?
MS: A lot of social media. I wouldn’t say there’s any particular outlets that I check for regularly You know, I’m more of a scroller than a poster. Yeah, I mean wherever the rabbit hole take me more or less. Try to watch as much TV as I can, but I don’t get to watch as much anymore. Just moving and ripping around, I’m basically a full time Uber driver. So not as not as plugged in as I as I used to be, or probably even want to be but it’s like I glimpses of stuff. It’s the same stuff as everyone else. I check for “The Breakfast Club”. I check for “State of the Culture”. My man Torey has got a really good podcast. Jemele has got a really good podcast. There’s a lot of content out there. You know, that kind of keeps me abreast of what’s going on. And like I said, social media accounts are real clutch for that. From a mainstream standpoint I’m locked in on MSNBC with some CNN sprinkled in, New York Times podcast. Put me on to something, what should I be listening to?
YLB: Obviously, I do a lot of Twitter. This Deadspin thing was crazy to me. I listen to the Joe Budden podcast a lot (wish I had mentioned Dragonflyjonez and ItsTheReal here too)
MS: Joe Budden he is a role model for your boy. First of all getting namechecked by him was kind of awesome back in the day. That happened once, got namechecked by Joe Budden. Yeah, just what he’s become, and not by accident. The way he’s moved in the game is really impressive. The brand that he’s built is very, very impressive. Being on the sidelines has allowed me to cheer for a lot of people; that was fun too. I was always a person that’s afforded you know, peers and colleagues and people above me, below me, side by side, whatever you want to call it, but it became a full time gig to watch other people and enjoy their successes.
YLB: Alright, I know you are Marvel head and a superhero head. I gotta ask you this question. No matter of the universe they exists, or the affiliations you can start at all time superhero franchise or team. Who is your starting five?
MS: Okay, so you want to cross over DC and Marvel? I rather not do that. I cant do that one.
YLB: That like crossing Adidas and Nike?
MS: Yeah, I don’t want to cross the screens here, you know that’s impossible. But if I am doing it, I’m going to go Marvel. My all time Marvel team would be Wolverine, Ironman, Punisher..
MS: Uh huh, Give me some Frank Castle. You know what give me Cap (Captain America), see I like hand to hand. I’m big on brain and hand to hand, like I’m not big on cats with like you know God given powers or superpowers.
YLB: Like Thor.
MS: Yeah, like you know like he cool and all don’t get me wrong but I like cats that are just trained to beat your ass. That’s why I like Cap, Punisher, Wolverine and then I got Tony for the brains. That means I got one more, right?
YLB: Yep, one more.
MS: I gotta get a lady up in there. Should I go Widow, should I go Black Widow?
YLB: Scarlet Witch has superpowers, I would go Scarlett Witch.
MS: Scarlet Witch?
YLB: Or Storm!
MS: Yeah, you know what, I’m going to go with her but if I go with Storm then I gotta go with Black Panther, I gotta go with T’Challa. Alright you know what with apologies to Frank Castle, I’m going to take out the Punisher put in T’Challa and then come back with Storm because as a matter of fact, when I get home, we took our kids trick or treating last night but we’ve got a party we’re going to tonight my wife is going to be Aurora and I’m going to be T’Challa. Yeah that’s our costumes tonight. I’m not doing the full on, just the mask.
YLB: I’m looking for it on the gram. I want full on muscle bound diesel looking.
MS: Yeah I’m not doing the whole costume.
YLB: Yeah, all right. You think they could take Thanos, that five?
MS: Oh gosh, no because you know the thing about Thanos man that was I appreciate was made crystal clear in End Game, he can’t be absolutely beat. He’s so crafty. Yeah well, but you know what yeah he could, cause that goes back to your girl cause Scarlet Witch was whooping his ass, then he cheated and rained fire, so actually I take that back, Scarlet Witch had him. Captain Marvel was giving him the business but then he wised up and pulled out the power stone, which was an unfair hand, so I mean, maybe. He just seems to always like, even Cap got ‘Mjolnir’ which was like top five greatest moment of my life, when Cap got ‘Mjolnir’, he gave it to him for few seconds you know the next thing you know, you see that opening. But yeah, that 5, so T’Challa, Storm, Wolverine, Iron Man, yeah I’ll take my chances. But then I need some sort of magic though shit, now you’re confusing me, now yeah I gotta bring a Doctor Strange. Magneto.
YLB: Ooh, Magneto.
MS: Yeah Magneto, I love Magneto by the way.
YLB: I’m way more Magneto than Professor X.
MS: Me too, me too, definitely.
YLB: So, your pedigree is in sports entertainment from writing to like, you know being in front of the camera for the last 15 years and then you had your stint at the Boston Globe that was a hot minute and this new all encompassing role you’ve got, are you going to venture into like script writing, executive producing, maybe making your directorial debut?
MS: Definitely executive producer. I would like to do script writing, I’m too busy kind of combing through other peoples scripts at the moment but yeah I just want to be EPing a lot of projects, yeah I’m going to be EPing a lot of projects. And directing, we’ll see. We’ll see. But yeah, I mean, I feel like this is like, just a whole new challenge for me. And, you know, talked about it the other day, it’s like, we don’t have time to waste doing stuff that that’s routine or comfortable. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, you know, and I kind of realized that, as time went on, like, you know, what would have been the appeal for me to just do another talk show on another network somewhere? What do I get out of that? I’m not saying I would never do it again, or I would never do a show again, but that show would be on my terms. I’m going to be executive producing my own show I can tell you that much, and it’s gonna be, I’ll be surrounded by people that I can trust. But what’s the what’s the appeal to just do the same thing over and over? It’s like you’re testing, you’re testing yourself. So. Yeah this is going to be completely different.
YLB: That’s good for you
MS: I’m literally learning on the job.
YLB: I know I mean, it’s a good title (EVP and Chief Content Officer) to have to be a quick learn at though. It’s a real official title to be a quick learn at.
MS: It’s a pretty good title ain’t it? Like I dug it, when we first like agreed on it, like yeah I’m going to get that on a card. But yeah I’ve got to make some shit now though. Cause pretty soon yeah, a couple weeks in a month in something like that, you know congratulations are still rolling in from people but like after a while they’re like ‘where the content at dawg’? Yeah like I’ve got to start making stuff.
YLB: Your job by all those words means “I need to produce”, like that’s what all those words, if you if you break it down to layman’s; “I need to produce”.
MS: Right exactly, I can’t be a chief content officer with no content.
YLB: John Skipper, who was one of your biggest advocates before he departed your former company, would you ever think of bringing him on in some capacity or join you to work at the (Co)laboratory team?
MS: John got a bigger job than me right now. John is running his own, so John’s all set. But I could easily see us partnering in some capacity. I just saw him in London at Leader’s Week. So I could definitely see us partnering in some capacity you know, off of content initiatives. So yeah, nothing but love for John. John looked out for me, I’m glad he’s doing well.
YLB: Something that I noticed, and this just might be like me. Out of all of the all the narratives and outside forces that will create those narratives, is the conversations you and Jamelle Hill were having were authentic conversations that were really needed and were needed for the people watching you. I don’t think the brass at ESPN knew that they were getting that part when they gave you the SE6, like the conversations that you were having. How do you make sure those conversations keep happening in your new role?
MS: I think we, I think it goes back to what I said earlier about empowering people to tell stories or helping people achieve positions where they can… See the conversations that we had on air because again, the substance of the conversations are the same as they’ve been for centuries. You know, I think the conversation has to be had in boardrooms or among people increasingly, look like us both in terms of color, and women. You know, people of varying genders and sexual orientation. Like they just need to be like across the board, diversity and representation, but also ownership, you know. There needs to be people from the LGBTQ plus community and people of color and women running things.
Like one of my proudest moments so far at (Co)laboratory was I was at a meeting, it might have been my first meeting with the team and a prospective partner, and that room had five women and two men. I was one of the men. And the other guy, from a title standpoint, was probably, you know, among the people in the room, the lowest on the totem pole. My co founder, is a woman. Jaymee Messler the person who got brought me on board is a woman, and so I take a lot of pride in the leadership structure at (Co)laboratory and being a part of that. Same as I take pride in what “His and Hers” represented from a “her” standpoint, like there had not been a daily show in sports television co hosted by a woman where that woman was on equal footing with the man. Didn’t exist. Talk Show.
I’m not talking about SportsCenter anchor, yeah there have been women SportsCenter anchor. I’m not talking about sports reporter that make an appearance in a rotation, I’m talking about like it was her show as much as it was my show, she wasn’t t’ing me up, she wasn’t laughing at my jokes, she wasn’t deferring to me. We were partners, were equals. And that had not existed in this workspace before. I’m not even sure it exists then. Is there a woman who has a talk show on ESPN right now?
YLB: You get like the morning shows with the moderators, but you don’t get that…
MS: Yeah not talking about that, I’m talking about a woman that has her own show on ESPN, that she could say inequitably “this is my show.” There are women doing great work, there are women doing great work.
YLB: Didn’t somebody just get a late night show? Was it Molly or somebody that got a late night show?
MS: Oh, Katie Nolan. Yeah Katie Nolan got her joint. I love Katie.
YLB: Yeah I’ve seen a couple episodes and I really enjoyed it
MS: Yeah Katie Nolan got her joint. All right, there we go. But the point is they’re few and far between. So I’m proud of what we meant in terms of moving the ball forward.
YLB: (Co)laboratory is based in Culver City, so we talked about this a little. I think it’s clear you’re gonna have to move your personal life both physically and mentally to the LA area. Outside of your family, what’s your biggest adjustment and fear with that and what are you most looking forward to with that? Outside, like we talked about the family, but like you personally, what are you most fearful of? In that LA climate? What are you most looking forward to?
MS: Man, you know I’ve got no fear at this point. Of anything. I’ve already experienced, from an emotional standpoint, I’ve already experienced rock bottom if not close to it. I don’t know how much worse it could get emotionally but I have no fear of failure, at all. So yeah, I’m looking forward.. I’m looking forward to do something new. I mean, it’s a different lifestyle out there, I’ve been on the East Coast my whole life, my whole adult life. I mean, I was born and raised in New Orleans but I grew up on the East Coast, I grew up in New England, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; only visited LA. It’s just a different life, I’m looking forward to just a different life, showing my family something different, even though my youngest two are resisting. I think it’ll make them better people to experience different parts of the country. They’re very well traveled kids, I’ve been blessed to be able to take them all over the world, and all over the country. So I’m looking forward to exposing them to something different you know.
YLB: Has your as your like daily mantra changed? Like the way you attack the day or look at the day, has that changed? Now that you’re in like, because you like you said, you’re more geared toward content and creative things versus being geared towards sports and how you’re going to have your take on it. Has the way you approach the day changed?
MS: Oh yeah, for sure I’m more of an adult now. You know, like, I have to use the calendar app now. I have to think about, I mean, I’m in and out of meetings and calls all day and have to think about things. When you asked me about sports stories I couldn’t think of any off of the top of my head because I’m not in that mode anymore, like casually keep up with the day to day, but I’m more in the mode of talking to… having a having a lunch meeting with an executive at a streaming service about what they’re looking for in content or having coffee with somebody about you an idea for something that they want to produce and you know, it’s my work.
I was telling someone about this other day, my work doesn’t show itself every day. So I used to be in a position where I wake up, put a show together, execute a show, either at noon or six o’clock and there’s the work, and there’s the results. You know, and I’d do it again the next day. Now, it’s such a marathon. I mean, the results may not manifest themselves for a while, if at all, from the work that I’m doing every day in terms of… So I have to find fulfillment and pleasure and enjoyment in just the chase. And like I said earlier, the possibility of the bang, you know, so its like, Hey, we had this conversation, a great conversation, somebody I could work with, we could exchange ideas, you know, this, that and the other, but taking that idea from conception to distribution is a long road. And so there’s that word patience again, you know I just gotta be patient and realize that I may not see the fruits of this labor for a while. But it doesn’t mean I’m not being productive. So yeah, that’s probably the biggest difference as I’m playing the long game, the long game and the bigger picture whereas before it was like day to day hamster wheel and worried about my little show, whereas now I’m worried about 20 different projects, 12 different partnerships. At last count.
YLB: All right, yeah, I feel that. I got one more question for you. All right, you’re still so young with so much potential; in 40 years from now, what do you think Michael Smith’s legacy will be?
MS: Ooh, you know I think that, I’d like to think that I’d have shown people maybe a different way of doing it. Maybe both in terms of style and approach and path. Style, approach, path, whatever. I like to think that maybe there’s somebody that is, you know, not an athlete, maybe kind of nerdy, more subtle, more nuance, more intellectual. That maybe is like ‘Hey, that’s me, he reminds me of me.’ I could do it that way. And not just on television but just in life. Someone comfortable being those things like as we’ve always talked about it as you know, we’re not a monolith, black experiences can’t be defined in these simple generic broad terms that people like to assign to us.
I know that there’s a lot of people that relate to me and I think, you know, maybe more of people can feel good about themselves I guess. I don’t know if that that makes sense. But also, professionally, like maybe I did open doors. Even though those doors should already be open, but maybe I look back and I can say I did open doors for the next Michael Smith’s or, you know, some young person who wants to be in sports and is inspired to be in sports or in media because of me and does something way more meaningful. I just hope that whoever comes behind me both, first and foremost my children, but also the people who decide to follow my lead, pass me, and do greater things and, in small part, the small part is because of me be. Maybe I said something or did something or just existed and it sparked something in those people that they were like, “okay, I’m about to take this to another level.” So I hope that’s my legacy. I hope that my children or some kid somewhere has watched me and watched how I’ve done it, and how I’ve gone about my business and the type of person that I’ve tried to be and, says you know, ‘ Hey, that’s what I want to be.’ And be proud of that.
In the end it’s the causality of it all. How and why? Cause and effect. Does it happen to you, for you, or because of you? Movement is continuous. If you’re not progressing forward, it’s backwards. Michael Smith told me he doesn’t think after this he’ll talk about his time at ESPN and how it ended again. The outcome doesn’t define his journey. He doesn’t want to be one of those former employees who are only known for that as a talking point. He has admiration for his time there and what it meant, but what comes next is beautifully crucial.
We know what we are, but not what we may be. Michael Smith was as fourth coming about his doubts as he was reassured about what’s to come. Once you learn the lesson and take what you need from the past you can wholeheartedly move towards the future. That’s why talking to him there was no hate in his heart. The was no music of animosity in his vocals. He flipped the script and changed the chorus. The performer is now the maestro. What he is at his core hasn’t changed. What he is to the outside world is now different. The title comes with benefits and expectations. There’s no apologies, no compromise, and on his terms. This is how you move in a room full of vultures. When you think the sun is setting, life is bringing new horizons. Liberation comes in many forms.
Thank you for reading with me.
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