JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Can someone who never played professionally in the NFL say he played professionally in the NFL?

So earlier today I appeared on a sports radio show in Cleveland. I’d never heard of the program before, which isn’t odd or unusual. Even though I’ve worked in sports forever, I don’t pay all that much attention to talk radio. Just not on my radar.

Anyhow, the show is called Kiley & Booms, and runs against ESPN on Cleveland’s CBS station. I knew little, entered the interview (via phone), and—BAM! Fierce stuff from the man known as Kevin Kiley. You can hear the interview here, if you’re extremely bored, but to surmise:

• Kiley believes there’s a pattern to my books, in that I strive to tear apart athletes.

• Kiley (seems to) believe I lack integrity.

Oh, Kiley also has never read any of the books I’ve written. Not a one. And Kiley apparently prepared for the interview by scanning my (severely flawed and inaccurate) Wikipedia page.

Alas, not a big deal. Interviews can—and should—be tough. If Kiley—whose style reminded me very much of Sean Hannity—thought that was the way to go, hey, not a biggie. Talk radio is quick and fast and fast and quick. His right.

After we concluded, however, my curiosity urged me to Google Kevin Kiley, a man I’d never before heard of. His bio, on the CBS Radio website, reads thusly:

A graduate of the University of Wyoming and former NFL linebacker, Kevin Kiley has an extensive sports broadcast background. In his early broadcasting years, Kiley won two Emmy awards including Best Sports Anchor for his work at WJLA-TV in Washington. Kiley’s resume rapidly expanded to include broadcasting the NFL for Turner Broadcasting; writing, appearing in and co-producing football specials for the NFL Players Association; writing, producing and hosting a series of one-hour television specials titled the NFL Rookie Premiere airing on FOX; covering Sunday night and Monday night NFL football for Westwood One for the past ten years; covering the Olympics in Athens and Italy; and most recently co-hosting a show with Michael Irvin in Miami.

I then located his ESPN Dallas bio, from a past gig. Which reads like this:

Kevin Kiley joins 103.3 FM ESPN as co-host of the Michael Irvin Show.

Previously, Kiley had accumulated a diverse résumé on radio and television, including talk shows on ESPN Radio Los Angeles, Fox Sports Radio (with comedian Chuck Booms) and on WTEM in Washington. Kiley also spent over a decade at Turner Sports (TBS/TNT), covering everything from the NFL to the Goodwill Games. In the late 1980s, Kiley was at ESPN.Kiley played college football at the University of Wyoming and professionally in the NFL and the World Football League.

There’s just one small problem: Kevin Kiley never played in the NFL. Not one single regular-season game. He was, apparently, in Jets camp until final cuts in 1974, and that was it. Hell, go to any of the Pro Football databases. No Kevin Kiley. Not a single mention. And, as anyone will tell you, attending camp with a team does not, under any circumstance or definition, make you a “former” NFL player.

Which doesn’t even matter. I don’t know Kiley, but I doubt he’s trying to lie—perhaps merely exaggerate his credentials a tad. But does he have the right to question another’s integrity? Especially the integrity of a person he doesn’t know? For writing a biography he hasn’t read?

Probably not.