Last week I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with the one and only Stephen A. Smith at the all new ESPN New York 98.7 Radio studio. Smith is a mainstay on all of the ESPN TV family of networks as well as Radio where he co-hosts an afternoon show with Ryan Ruocco on ESPN 98.7 FM. Smith is one of the most recognized, versatile and respected journalist in the business. If you think that his expertise is limited to sports, you are selling this man short. You can hear him
expressing his views on politics, social issues and entertainment, just to name a few.
Yes Brother Smith is mostly known as a sports journalist, particularly an NBA insider. However, he can hold his own in various aspects of journalism. After graduating from Winston State University, he accepted a position with the New York Daily News. He was hired to work with the Sports Department, but initially worked with the paper’s City Homicide Division, where he saw some things that nearly brought tears to his eyes. That experience made him put the world of sports in perspective. Smith has also ventured out to express his views on Fox Sports, MSNBC, Fox News, The Steve Harvey Morning Show and even The View.
Over the years he has shared his political views on Fox News or opinions on relationships on The View. However, he is most known for his work on ESPN and ESPN Radio. You may catch him on the 8am Sports Center, then see him taking on Skip Bayless on ESPN 2’s First Take. Then he hops in a cab across town to do his ESPN Radio show with Ryan Ruocco. After his radio show, it seems as if he is on call for every ESPN station across the country to offer his commentary on the topic of the day.
In between all of his on-air responsibilities, Smith is working the phones to get the latest leads on the top stories or doing research on a story he is about to break. “There may be better reporters or journalist out there, but I will never be outworked!”
I can attest to that. When other members of the media are socializing in the sports venue’s dining rooms, Brother Smith is in the corner on his Blackberry confirming a lead story or working an angle for his next story. Read any of his articles or listen to him on TV or radio and you can tell how much he pays attention to details and effort he puts forth in his work.
I try to figure out when this guy gets his rest. I would love to get half of the frequent flyer miles that he has earned as he flies across the country to cover several events within any given week. Remember, he does not just cover the NBA. He also covers college basketball and football, the NFL as well as MLB. He will admit that his knowledge of hockey is limited but he can still hold an intelligent conversation and hold his own on that subject as well. He is by far one of the most versatile sport journalists out there.
He is obviously one of the more prominent African American journalists, covering a sports field that is dominated for the most part by African Americans. I asked him if he felt that being an African American in this field is a blessing or gives him an advantage. “It is a blessing and a curse. Some athletes take my criticism personally. I might criticize an act but not the person and there is difference. You might be a great person but do something stupid. I’m going report on the incident. That does not necessarily mean I do not like you as a person, and that is the same with their play. If they are playing poorly or not up to their abilities, I’m going to call them out. With the access that I have, some of these
athletes are lucky. I do not report 80% of some of the things that I see.”
Then we have to give him his props for his work on ESPN 2’s First Take where he debates Skip Bayless on a daily basis. He should win a Emmy Award just for that. I do not know how he can stand there and listen to Bayless proclaiming that Tim Tebow is the one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL or constantly critiquing LeBron James. I wonder what games Good ‘ol Skip is watching, but he is steadfast in his opinion regarding Tebow and James. Thank God Stephen A. still puts things in perspective and shoots down Bayless’ rhetoric. I asked Smith if Bayless gets paid extra to go against the grain with some of
his opinions because he can not actually believe some of the things he says. “Absolutely not! He actually believes the things he says. He is like that crazy relative in every family that once he believes something is true, nothing can change his opinion.”
I would be remiss if I did not bring up the Saturday Night Live spoof of Smith. He loved it. He thought that it was funny and on point and that Jay Pharoah did an excellent job. The Producers of SNL have even indicated that they would do more segments that will also include Bayless in the up coming season.
When Stephen A. Smith left ESPN a couple years ago, we all missed his high octane viewpoints and insights. You may not agree with everything he says, but he is so convincing that at times he might sway your opinion. Now that he is back on the air, we all remember what this man brings to the table and we are all more informed because of it.
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