Monday’s media summit featuring Mike Francesa, a pioneer of sports radio, and Bill Simmons, a pioneer of Internet-based sportswriting, covered a wide range of topics in 5 1/2 hours on the air — not to mention their animated discussions during commercial breaks.
The two also left Francesa’s WFAN studio to chat with Newsday. So here, for your reading pleasure, is a near-complete transcript of some of their thoughts on various matters:
Simmons on how he came to be a fan of the old “Mike and the Mad Dog” program:
“I loved him and Dog [Chris Russo]. I was trapped in Boston with the worst sports radio ever and I always in my head knew there was something better and I didn’t really realize it until I would come back for the summers or the holidays to see my mom and stepdad and I’d listen to these guys and be like, ‘Who the hell are these guys?’
“They talked like my friends talked, and I’d never heard that on talk radio before.”
Simmons on whether it would have worked to have him join Francesa as a regular co-host after Russo left in 2008:
“Oh, of course. I think it would have been easy. I’ve done a lot of podcasts with different types of people and I have a good sense of when to step up and when to lay back and Mike, you know, he talks. With Mike it’s great for me because I can pick my spots, I’ll set some picks, get some rebounds and it’s great and there’s a mutual respect, which you have to have.
“And he loves sports. We just talked about Charles Barkley’s career. I didn’t know that was going to happen. Sports radio has to be like that. You can’t script it. You have to be able to ride with where it’s going and you have to have a deep reservoir of appreciation and memory for things. That’s one of the reasons he’s great. He remembers everything.”
Francesa on the briefly considered idea of having Simmons become his co-host in 2008:
“A couple of people I trust who will remain nameless who didn’t even know Bill said, ‘Man, you were right about this guy, this would have worked really well.’ They said that to me today [Monday]: This guy really would have worked.
“That was my first thought at the time. Listen, he’s a talented guy. He would have been really good because he’s really good, that’s why. He has a lot of fresh stuff, and that’s what this is. What makes guys good at this is having personality but also having a real interesting take on things. That’s what cuts through.
“They might not agree. They might think you’re from Mars. But you’re not going to cookie-cutter it. He’s got a unique take on things. Bill is different than a lot of guys. He brings something that’s fresh.
“I’m sure there are people who think Bill Simmons is a big deal. I’m sure Bill does think he’s a big deal. Brent [Musburger] told me this many years ago: There’s no such thing as good talent that doesn’t have an ego. Every talent that’s worth anything has an ego.”
Simmons on his post-ESPN professional life so far:
“Oh, my God, I’m so happy. My wife, even like my family, has noticed. I think I had a great run there and I think it was time to go. I knew that well before everything finally went down. I knew I was leaving and they knew I was leaving.
“To be in a situation where you’re surrounded by really smart people, really fun people, people who are generating good ideas, I have that with the HBO show (“Any Given Wednesday”) and The Ringer (website), too.
“We have joint meetings with the two sides. For me it’s like everything I ever wanted. It’s just a chance to come up with cool stuff, over and over again.”
Simmons on ESPN’s future:
“ESPN succeeds because of games and because of ‘SportsCenter’ and HBO succeeds because of the people they pick to go into business with creatively. Both sides work. Everyone is trying to write them off and say they’re on the way down. I don’t know what the future is. I do think they need to start adapting to where things have gone.
“Their weird campaign against social media shows me they don’t see where things are going. At the same time they have great sports and great relationships with these leagues and get to show a ton of games and people are always going to want to see games and they’re always going to have that.”
Simmons on publicly criticizing ESPN:
“My thing is, if I’m going to poke fun at all different types people then they have to be part of it. I’ve always tried to talk about them honestly . . . People forget I was there for 14 years and made a lot of friends and worked with a lot of people.
“It’s honestly like if an athlete got traded to another team. It’s not like he’s never going to talk to players on that team. It definitely took a while to adjust to, but they’re going to be fine and obviously I’m fine.”
On “Any Given Wednesday,” which premieres June 22:
“It’s sports, pop culture and tech. I think if it was just about sports I think that’s a harder task once a week. Pop culture and tech gives you a chance to audible. I have so much support . . . I just don’t think people realize sometimes how important the chemistry is, how people relate to each other. We had people (at the defunct ESPN site Grantland) that really worked harder than they had to to make the site great.”
On the advantage television has over column-writing in terms of lasting impact:
“The problem is everyone reacts these days. Up until five or six years ago you had time to think about what you were going to say and [now] that angle is taken. A lot of people write it and a lot of people do good stuff. I still feel my column can stand out, but TV is different. Not a lot of people have a TV show. It’s the only medium that no matter how much changes, TV still matters.
“I think it’s a more fun place to make an impact. Even on the Internet we would have the best story ever on Grantland and three hours later people would move on to the next story. You look at HBO’s Sunday night lineup and that 2 1/2 hours every night week after week they have everyone’s attention. You can’t do that on the Internet.”