Jeff Pearlman

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Michelle Beadle

#149
The SportsNation star explains how an introverted aspiring lawyer goes from (temporary) University of Texas dropout to ESPN supernova ... POSTED April 9, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.08.25 AMHere’s how you know when someone in the spotlight is cool …

When I initially e-mailed this week’s Quaz questions to today’s guest, I misspelled her last name as “Beedle.” Her response: “First of all, it’s BEADLE, bitch.”

Translation: I’m a big Michelle Beedle fan, and an even bigger Michelle Beadle fan. The SportsNation co-host doesn’t think herself a goddess of television; doesn’t revel in the attention and the fanfare; doesn’t equate being on the tube with, well, any real-world importance. She’s blunt, straightforward and extremely good at her job. She also happens to love Dikembe Mutombo, dislike Rick Perry and embrace all things WWE.

Michelle Beed … eh, Beadle. Welcome to the Quaz, bitch …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Michelle, so you seem cool enough and grounded enough that I can ask this without having a knife thrown in my eyeball. I’ve known many people who work in sports TV, and while they tend to try and play off recognition and fame as a major perk of the job, I sorta get the impression—for many of you—the ego boosts of fame and recognition are addictive and seductive. Airport recognition. Autograph requests. Etc. Am I right? Wrong?

MICHELLE BEADLE: Wait … people in this business have egos? I think most everyone enjoys a little recognition from time to time. It’s a bizarre thing to be in a restaurant with friends  and have it happen. But for the most part any glimpse into that type of an existence has been positive for me. You won’t catch me doing the whole publicist, TMZ route anytime soon, but a nice ‘howdoyado’ goes a long way.

J.P.: When I have a book come out, and I do media for that three-week span, I love it. I love the TV, the radio. By the end, however, I’m ready to return to my cave and stop talking. I’m tired of hearing my own voice, tired of the makeup, the banter, the, “Real quick before we take a commercial break …” thing. What is it about TV that you love? That keeps you going? Is there something I’m missing?

M.B.: For me TV was the last thing I should have been doing. I wasn’t an extrovert. Not a ham. To be honest, I’m not overly social at all. On TV, I get to talk about things that I enjoy, with people I find interesting, and when it’s live, it provides a nice buzz to an otherwise quiet life. TV came relatively easy once I learned to be comfortable. And the money doesn’t hurt.

J.P.: I’m always fascinated in life paths, and you see to have a pretty winding and remarkable one. Born in Italy, raised in Texas, focused upon practicing law. Michelle, how the heck did you get into TV? What was your path?

M.B.: I grew up wanting to go to Harvard Law School and save the world. I thought I could be a politician and truly make a difference. I spent my first several college years in Austin at UT, worked at the Capitol, all while pursuing this ‘law’ dream. Meanwhile, I slowly acquired an addiction to Jerry Springer (pre-fake-fighting) and afternoons at Barton Springs. This lifestyle was not conducive to attending my classes. So my grades start to plummet just as I’m realizing the political road was not for me.

With an abysmal GPA, I left Austin and took off. Spent time in various cities, “living the dream.” Or as my parents called it: wasting time. When I finally made my way back to Boerne (where my parents live), it became clear I needed a plan. Through my dad, I got a meeting with an executive of the team who put me in touch with the broadcasting maestro, and voila! Actually, not quite that easy. I called many times and was annoyingly persistent. One day I was allowed to shoot a segment on how to care for one’s pet for the team’s locally broadcast children’s show. I was beyond horrible, uncomfortable and awkward. I got one more shot. My cameraman that day, Eddie Ray Rodriguez, said “forget the camera’s there.’ Simple yet effective advice. And that was it. The bug bit. And I’ve been chasing the little red light ever since.

J.P.: I just read this on your Wikipedia page, and was immediately fascinated (Beadle was one of the last people out of 142 to audition for SportsNation. ESPN called her back and asked her to write about what she would do to make the show better.Thinking it was a joke, she wrote “a sarcastic list of 10 stupid things,” which helped her land the job.). A. Is it even true? B. Can you explain—in greater detail—what happened?

M.B.: The audition for SportsNation came at a time when I’d been on a few, and was very prepared to hear ‘no’ again. My chemistry with Colin Cowherd was immediate and easy but not the whole thing. I met with a number of suits, and one of them ‘assigned’ me the list of 10 things I’d do to improve the show. Now I’m thinking, ‘How do I improve a show that doesn’t exist?’ My list was ten strong but extremely sarcastic. I remember including my brilliant idea of ‘adding more purple to the set.’ Luckily the list was intercepted by Jamie Horowitz and Kevin Wildes before it reached its destination, and we, together, came up with real magic. Or at least enough magic to get me the gig.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.10.19 AM

J.P.: In 2012 you left ESPN for NBC and immediately seemed to regret the decision and loathe NBC. You were very open about your unhappiness. What caused it? How long did it take you to realize, “Glub—bad move,” and did you seriously consider leaving the business?

M.B.: I’ve spoken a little bit about the last two years. They weren’t great. I enjoyed my time at Access Hollywood. Loved my work family in New York. And I got to do some interviews that will always be cool to look back on: Michelle Obama at the White House, the Anchorman crew,  the people who make the things that entertain me. But on the sports side, it was a simple case of just a really bad fit. I came in with the highest of hopes: the Olympics, Triple Crown, my own show. I left with a greater appreciation for people I’d worked with in my past and a lot of life lessons learned. But yeah, I was considering quitting the whole TV thing and going to a nonexistent plan.

J.P.: You’ve done a shitload of red carpet work for award shows. I say this with no disrespect—but it strikes me as sorta vapid work. What are you wearing? You look gorgeous. Blah, blah. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or right. Or neither.

M.B.: I hate red carpets. I. HATE. RED. CARPETS.  I did a few while at Access Hollywood. But I tried to have as much fun as possible. Covering the Country Music Awards in Nashville, I asked as many non-fashion questions as possible. I’m with you … people fake laughing at unfunny jokes while kissing celebrity booty is not entertaining.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.09.03 AMJ.P.: A while ago I wrote a blog post that was pretty critical of Erin Andrews. My point wasn’t to bash Andrews, but sports TV—which seems to rarely place women in the booths, and always seems to hire perky, pretty, tall blondes and plant them along the sidelines while feeding them bullshit questions. In short, I think it demeans qualified, talented, sports knowledgeable women. You agree? Disagree?

M.B.: It’s not rocket science that TV likes to put attractive people in front of the camera. And obviously, women have been, far and away, a recipient of this process. And yes, it’s annoying when you see that put someone in a position that they should probably otherwise not have. But let’s be honest, across the board, in any industry, we’ve all witnessed folks who might not be perfectly qualified. We get a tougher time in this business because as females the spotlight is hot. We are expected to fail, to not do the work. I’m proud of the new crop of women who have made a helluva showing: Allie LaForce, Kristin Ledlow. They have massive knowledge and presence, and for the Neanderthals who can’t hear them speaking, they just happen to both be gorgeous.

J.P.: If one YouTubes and Googles Michelle Beadle, he/she finds a lot of shit about your breasts, your legs, your outfits. How do you deal with this stuff?

M.B.: No. 1: Never Google yourself. Ever. I’ve given my parent the same instructions. A few years ago I learned the hard way that any jerk can say what  they want and it can get you. The Aaron Rodgers crap that hit the internet was a flat-out blatant lie, yet I, to this day, find morons who tweet about it like it was fact. I’ve never Googled myself since. Nothing good comes of it. And if there’s a positive story out there, it will find you.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.11.10 AMJ.P.: You’re a big fan of professional wrestling—which strikes me as both weird and weird. Where did this come from? How often do you attend events? And you do realize it’s predetermined, yes?

M.B.: PREDETERMINED?!?!?!?!?! I won’t even engage in that silliness. I got into wrestling in my 20’s. Was working in a restaurant in San Antonio and all my fellow servers were fans. It became standard practice to watch RAW on the reg. I never grew up watching or being around soap operas. I always equate wrestling to my soaps. I love the storylines, the athleticism. And for those of us who have had to speak into a microphone in front of a large group of people, some of those guys are amazing with the promo skills . Do I consider myself a nerd for loving it? Yup. I’ve been lucky enough to form a relationship with the WWE over the last several years, and as a result been to many events. Front Row. Sweating  and sometimes I bring my own signs.

J.P.: You have a natural, refreshing presence on TV. I’m not just saying that. You come off as someone it’d be cool to hang with. Is that at all practiced? Perfected? Did you have to ever loosen up, change your approach? In short, where did that come from?

M.B.: I believe this to be a major compliment. So first of all, thank you. I don’t think about it all. This may actually be a problem. But going all the way back to that cameraman who gave me the “be yourself” advice, I’ve never worried about cameras or me. I know that when I watch television, the people who I feel most satisfied watching are those that genuinely come across as humans. Not prompter-reading robots. I mean look, I’m discussing tattoos and tweets, this should be fun. It’s sports.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.10.49 AMQUAZ EXPRESS WITH MICHELLE BEADLE:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): J.R. Richard, potato latkes, Rick Perry, Dave Briggs, Tommy Dreamer, Raymond Felton, Laura Branigan, The Best Damn Sports Show Period, earmuffs, The Rainbow Connection, Oreos, John Steinbeck: Earmuffs (I suffer poor circulation), Rainbow Connection (should have been first if not for that damn circulation and New York City winters), Laura Branigan (she got me), John Steinbeck (I can read), J. R Richard (amazing story), The Best Damn Sports Show (liked it early on), Tommy Dreamer, Raymond Felton (I like basketball), potato latkes (mmmmmmm—carbs),  Rick Perry (don’t even think I’m getting political on this), Oreos (I’m not a sweet tooth).

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I believe I’m going to die every time I get on a plane. 50-50 chance, right? My tears upon takeoff are real. And I’m a big proponent of Xanax to try and squash some of the anxiety. My friends do not enjoy flying with me. And I completely understand. Have I mentioned I hate flying?

• Nicest athlete you’ve ever dealt with?: Dikembe Mutumbo. Easy. Willing to do anything and laughs the whole way through.

• How many licks does it take to get to the bottom of a Tootsie Pop?: Four bites plus paper taste.

• Nicknames kids came up for you having to do with “Beadle”?: Beadlejuice, Beadlemania, Beadster, I call myself Beadsy, Sphincter McGillicutty

• Five best sportscasters of your lifetime: In no particular order— Dan and Keith as one; Scott Van Pelt; Jim Ross; Rob Lowe; Bob Ley; 6th man award: Doris Burke.

• Six guys walk into a bar …: and my pants stay on.

• Celine Dion calls. She wants you to spend a year MCing her new Las Vegas show, “Celine Eats Pork Then Vomits Everywhere While Singing George Michael’s Freedom.” Bright side: You’ll earn $54.7 million for the year. Negative side: You have to change your name to Ed Ott and, nightly, clean up the vomit. You in?: This is a ridiculous question. 54.7 million??? I’ve done far worse for much less. I’ll even analyze her diet for her nightly

• You’re from Texas. I sorta hate Texas. Give my five reasons I’m wrong: Fresh tortillas, Coach Bud Kilmer, The McConaissance, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shiner Bock.

• My neighbor recently took one of my books without asking, then requested I autograph it. What’s the proper response?: Send a bill to his house or sleep with his wife. Seems fair. One or the other.

  • Adam Goldfarb

    Great interview

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life