Throughout my career in sports journalism, I’ve never been a guy who’s longed for TV experience.
I’m a writer. It’s what I love to do, and it’s what (some people think, some don’t think) I’m good at. So, through the years, as people have suggested TV as a side career (or, in my mother’s case, a route to greater exposure), I’ve quickly dismissed the idea. In my mind, many of the folks on TV were, well, sorta lame. They’d often speak with authority, but minus any reporting. They were instant celebrities, for reasons I couldn’t possibly comprehend. They drew attention to themselves by screaming and debating and barking, often behind points they probably didn’t even believe.
Then, a couple of years ago, I received an e-mail from a producer for Jim Rome’s CBS Sports Network show, wondering if I’d be interested in appearing as a guest panelist. The perks included a nice daily check, a free week in Southern California, hotel, car, reimbursed gas.
“OK,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
Then I did it again.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve appeared on Rome, but it’s probably oh, a dozen. And I’ve loved it. Like, loved every minute of it. I love Southern California. I loved the hotel where I’d stay. I loved being able to report Showtime on the side for free. Mostly, I love working with the Jim Rome staff, and I love working with Jim Rome.
Hell, I’ll take this a step further. I’ve always been a fan of Southern California—dating back to my Sports Illustrated days of covering the Dodgers, Angels and Padres. But it wasn’t until the Rome appearances began that I really thought about a move to the West Coast. I started bugging the wife about it. California, California, California. Finally, she accompanied me on a Rome week—and had a blast. The climate, the beaches, the food, the atmosphere.
Now here we are.
It was recently announced that Jim’s CBS show is coming to an end. I appeared as a guest on the past week’s four episodes—likely my final time sitting across the desk from Jim. And I’m sad. Truly sad. People tend to still think of Jim for the Jim Everett incident of years ago, just as they think of me for John Rocker. And I can tell you—with 100-percent sincerity—that I know not a better person in the business. You won’t find a more prepared, more in-touch, more human host than Jim Rome.
That the program is almost over breaks my heart. I’ll always owe gratitude to Jim and his staff. Yes, they taught me tons about TV.
But they also made me a Californian.