Michelle Beadle Interview: A Candid Conversation with the Outspoken Host of ESPN's "SportsNation"
Image attributed to Blake Little
Although born in Italy, Michelle Beadle spent the majority of her childhood in the Texas towns of Roanoke, near Dallas, and Boerne, near San Antonio. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, but after three years there and deciding against a law career, took some time off and later went to the University of Texas at San Antonio where she graduated. Her career began as an intern for the San Antonio Spurs and was later a reporter.
In addition to hosting Big Game Hunters on Fox Sports Net, covering the Professional Bull Riders’ Bud Light Cup tour at TNN, working for the Travel Channel and the YES Network, Beadle was co-host of Kids on Deck and Sportslife NYC. She has hosted several entertainment-themed and reality-based shows including People.com’s feature, What You Missed Over the Weekend, Fine Living Network’s I Want Your Job, Animal Planet’s Animal Planet Report and has been a Red Carpet reporter for the Golden Globes, Grammy Awards, SAG Awards and the Tony Awards.
“If I’m being told by an entire industry that I can’t do something when it’s very clear and obvious I’m more than capable of doing that thing, then yeah, out of pure pride and stubbornness, I would’ve kept going. I’m so grateful for people like that and people along the way that have said, ‘I don’t care what you’re saying. I’m going to continue to do this.’ It would’ve been a whole lot easier to just quit and find something else to do. I have to believe I would’ve continued to do it.”
In 2009, Beadle joined ESPN as co-host with Colin Cowherd of SportsNation. She was later named the co-host of Winner’s Bracket along with Marcellus Wiley, part of ESPN Sports Saturday. In 2012, Beadle left ESPN for a couple of years to be a host on the NBC Sports Network and a correspondent on Access Hollywood. She returned to SportsNation in 2014 with co-hosts Wiley and Max Kellerman and joined Grantland, a subsidiary of ESPN, hosting a podcast called Beadlemania.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Michelle, how are you?
Michelle Beadle: I’m good and you?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): A little saddened today to find out that one more Hollywood supercouple has split … Miss Piggy and Kermit.
Michelle Beadle: That was utterly perfect, wasn’t it? I read it and thought, “This is the most perfect press release I’ve ever read.” Yeah, it’s sad. But also brilliant (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Exactly (laughs). Tell me a little about SportsNation.
Michelle Beadle: We’re sort of like the sports show for your children and anyone who doesn’t take this too seriously. There’s a lot of funny videos and sarcasm. There are plenty of other places where you can get into some hot debates over different sports stories, and we’re sort of not that, and it makes the whole thing just a little bit more of a carefree, fun watch.
The three of us are very different from each other. Marcellus (Wiley) is a former athlete. Max (Kellerman) is awesome, but he’s definitely uptight. He’s just well-dressed all the time and serious, and then I sort of embarrassingly play traffic cop and make fun at both of them, so it works out well that way.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do the fans contribute to the topics of the show?
Michelle Beadle: Yeah. I was there when we started the show about six years ago, and it was really one of the only shows that was embracing what was then a fledgling social media scene. Now it’s just crazy because everybody’s got Twitter and everything. But yeah, we do take tweets, and its very fan friendly in that regard to give the people a voice. We had someone make fun of our Frisbee highlight the other day, so one of the Ultimate Frisbee guys called us out on Twitter. It’s a very interactive way that we do things which I love, to be honest with you. We have a live audience every day. That also helps to try and give it a different feel to everything else that’s going on.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do most of the fans support Tom Brady and Deflategate?
Michelle Beadle: It’s funny. Much like any deep fan base that’s been there for quite some time, they are unapologetic in their love for Tom Brady. You either love the Patriots and cheer for them, and in that way, you think this whole thing is overblown and he’s innocent, or you’re everybody else (laughs). Personally, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t actually care. What he has been accused of and is apparently guilty of having done is just a negligible amount of air difference between one ball and another.
The only time I start to get a little upset or angry or annoyed is when there’s a lie or cover-up. It’s that holier than thou, “I’m not guilty,” that tends to rub people the wrong way. But we had fun with it. The story itself is absurd, and the fact that one of the biggest names in the league is wrapped up in this is … you almost couldn’t write this any better. It’s almost script worthy at this point.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): ESPN has fired Bill Simmons after almost fifteen years. Was Colin Cowherd, your former SportsNation co-host, also fired?
Michelle Beadle: No. Colin wasn’t fired. He was already done actually. I think they just came to an agreement that he didn’t need to finish that last week or so. He was already on his way out. It was good. From everything I can tell, they tried to keep Colin, but I think he wanted to go out there and see what was new and try something different. I believe he moved out here which is part of the big plan I suppose.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you thought about leaving to try something else, or are you happy at ESPN?
Michelle Beadle: I’m happy. They’re giving me a chance for the next couple of weeks to do radio which is actually in the now abandoned Cowherd spot. I’ve always been very honest about this. The only reason I left the first time was because I just wanted to do more. I love doing SportsNation. I will always want to do SportsNation, but I’d also love to do it in addition to other things.
Getting to do radio and trying other things, that’s all I’ve really asked to do, and they’ve been pretty good about that and pretty open about listening to me. I think everyone’s always paid attention to the landscape to see what’s going on and where people are moving, but I’ll be honest with you, having left for two years, and what I have now seen as the biggest failure in my professional life as far as those two years are concerned, partly my fault but not all of it, I’m very hesitant to make any big moves anytime soon.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In the early 1970s, female sportscaster Jeannie Morris was not allowed to work in the press box at Metropolitan Stadium when it stood in Minneapolis because she was a woman.
Michelle Beadle: Yeah. You don’t want a woman to get too close to you. God knows what would happen (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Right. She was ordered to cover the Bears-Vikings game outside in a blizzard.
Michelle Beadle: Oh Lord.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think you would’ve survived in that kind of sexist environment as a sportscaster during that time?
Michelle Beadle: I’d like to think that I would be the same person that I am now, but I always ask myself, “Would I have been one of those super active hippies that were a part of everything, or would I just have been quietly in the background?” If I would’ve been myself, then I’d like to believe that I would’ve stuck it out. There are very few things that motivate me or get me angrier than being told I can’t do something.
If I’m being told by an entire industry that I can’t do something when it’s very clear and obvious I’m more than capable of doing that thing, then yeah, out of pure pride and stubbornness, I would’ve kept going. I’m so grateful for people like that and people along the way that have said, “I don’t care what you’re saying. I’m going to continue to do this.” It would’ve been a whole lot easier to just quit and find something else to do. I have to believe I would’ve continued to do it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your mom was a democrat and your dad a republican?
Michelle Beadle: Not just a democrat. Mom was from Italy, so it’s almost a really a different creature. She was the hippie that was handcuffing herself to the American Embassy in Italy. My dad’s very conservative in his approach to life. It was a nice mix, and when you’re growing up in a small town in Texas that’s already overwhelmingly conservative, it’s sort of different, you know. You get a different perspective, you go into history class with a bit of a different outlook, and I’m more than appreciative. At the time, I probably thought, “Oh God, this is so much drama.” But as a thirty-nine year old, I would not have changed it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Does your dad like Donald Trump?
Michelle Beadle: That’s so funny because my dad does not love Donald Trump, never really has. When I was doing Access Hollywood, I had to do an interview with Donald Trump, who by the way, for what I had to do, was fine, a lovely man. Luckily I don’t have to deal with him in this capacity. Who would have known that just three years later Donald Trump would be leading the Republican Party candidates at the moment? (laughs) I’m just looking forward to the debates. That’s must-see television for me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think it could be time for a female president, or is it still too soon?
Michelle Beadle: Isn’t “too soon” the funniest thing? Too soon for what? All I’ve ever been concerned about is that it’s the right first anything. You don’t want it to be the first anything just because of something out of your control whether it be the color of your skin or your gender or any of those things. I’ve always thought we were ready for the first female president because I am a woman, and I don’t understand what the big damn difference is. I just want it to always be the first.
We’re doing the same thing in sports right now. Who’s going to be the first NFL coach, and who’s going to be the first head NBA coach? It’s one of those things where I don’t want it to be just for the sake of being. I want it to be because that person is more than qualified. Oh, and P.S., happens to be a woman. Yeah. I’d like to believe we are ready for our first female president. It’s embarrassing if we’re not. We are arguably the greatest country in the world, and we’re supposed to be slightly evolved although lately I’d probably argue that a bit, so what’s taking so long? Maybe we’re waiting on the right one. I have no idea.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Boxer Floyd Mayweather who served jail time for domestic abuse and has been charged with several crimes over the years, banned you from his fight with Manny Pacquiao a few months ago because (and I’m quoting you), “I have to believe that my outspoken stance had something to do with my credential being pulled for the night.” Should athletes charged and/or convicted of assault, domestic abuse, violent crimes, etc., be allowed to play professional sports and earn the big bucks?
Michelle Beadle: I’m in the minority party, I believe, at this point. But I believe, no. There are a million jobs in this country that you’re not even allowed to apply for if you have a felony charge on your record or a felony conviction on your record. Maybe it’s the Scorpio in me, or maybe it’s the Italian in me, but I’m not great big on second chances especially when it comes to second chances of abuse or horrific crimes. Somewhere along the line, it’s gotten to the point where we’ve decided that playing professional sports is one’s right rather than a privilege. I don’t believe that.
I think there are thousands of dudes that could fill a spot that would be hungry and eager and good human beings. And here we are always defending the rights of so and so to make a living. I think we’ve lost ourselves. I think we’ve become too quick to be not even politically correct, but just pretend that we’re this evolved humanity where we want to forgive everyone. I don’t necessarily think that’s a step in the right direction. There are plenty of jobs out there for somebody with a felony conviction on their record. I don’t think rewarding them with a $100 million contract is the message I necessarily want to send. Everyone’s like, “Get over it! People get second chances and change.” That will never work for me. I will never believe that, unfortunately for them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Another Scorpio here.
Michelle Beadle: (laughs) Well, then you know. You can be my friend, but if you cross that, that’s it. We’re done.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You seem to get attacked quite frequently on Twitter (laughs). How did the FSU (Florida State University) feud start?
Michelle Beadle: (laughs) It’s always something. People don’t like to be told things. FSU had quite the run with bad dudes playing on their football team. God forbid that we speak about that because a lot of people, fans especially, like to sweep things under the rug and just concentrate on the important things in life like football (laughs). So if you bring that up, you’re an automatic target. It just so happens with that particular group of humans … they’re special. They’re above and beyond when it comes to sort of the dregs that Twitter has become, and I’m not even talking about what they said to me because it’s all words, and in the end, it doesn’t matter. But they’ve done things like “out” journalists’ phone numbers and home addresses, just the type of things that are not what you do.
It’s not our fault that your running back did this. These are things you should deal with within your own university, coach and athletic department. They’ve focused their anger on the wrong people, and it has been gross. It has really been gross to watch. I made a sport of it for a while there, but I’ve kind of backed off and let it go back to irrelevancy as far as I’m concerned. But yeah, everybody’s got an opinion like other body parts, so that’s where we are now. If you make it a joke or a game, it actually can take on a humorous quality. As long as they’re not coming at me on my doorstep. Then we have a different situation on our hands. As of now, they’ve been very far away and blockable, so it has worked out.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): People share so much about themselves on social media. I always wonder if they realize it’s out there in cyber land forever; i.e., archives, Wayback Machine, etc.
Michelle Beadle: It’s pretty permanent. I once spoke at a camp for broadcasting kids, probably forty or fifty of them, ranging in ages from nine to eighteen. It’s just a different time. I didn’t do this at their age. They’re already way ahead of me, but it’s just different. You may think that you are just sending out innocuous tweets with what you thought was just a dumb opinion, but lo and behold, that turns into something.
I think the biggest lesson is that we’re all learning, and it’s a work in progress obviously, is that words have power, and the bigger your “following” gets, the more that thing becomes either a big deal in a few minutes or you have to realize that there are going to be consequences sometimes. I don’t know if we all have grasped that yet. I don’t know that I always grasp it. I don’t know if people in my industry grasp it. We’re talking about adults, so I can’t imagine what a seventeen-year-old kid is thinking other than they’re going to live forever and that they’ll be fine and untouchable (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I know (laughs). I understand you really campaigned to be cast in Sharknado 3. Why?
Michelle Beadle: I did. I have been on board with that franchise since day one. I was in New York and had no idea what Sharknado was, then I noticed a couple of people I followed talking about it on Twitter. I was like, “Oh let me check this out.” It turns out that it was just so campy and cheesy and over the top. It just owned the fact that it had a budget of about $47.00, and they just wear that so well.
It’s just a fun ride. I was excited about number two. When it turned out that Marcellus had a shot in the movie and had never seen the first two, I was like, “Wait! Is this something we can actually be in?” So yeah, I basically dropped all pride, and we started a hashtag campaign. It was kind of awesome that it worked out. Everybody’s got a dumb bucket list of things maybe no one else sees as important, but that just happened to be one on mine.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sharknado 4?
Michelle Beadle: I didn’t die in 3, so I can still survive for 4 (laughs). I’m just saying that I’m available at the last minute.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I can’t end this interview without talking about the great work you do for animals!
Michelle Beadle: I was just lucky enough to join Best Friends Animal Society out here in LA. That’s one of these great groups of humans that have basically dedicated their lives to not only finding homes for animals, but also trying to stop the process of having these ridiculous numbers of strays. If that means getting them spayed or neutered and having festivals and events where people learn about things, then so be it. Somehow, someway, it has to stop because it’s an overwhelming number, and it’s just getting bigger every year. We’ll have a Strut Your Mutt event out here in October. They have those all over the country to raise awareness, raise money, just to do as much as you can.
I now have four dogs actually. A stray showed up here last week (laughs). So “Stella” is now the fourth dog in our house. If I had a million acres, I would probably have a million dogs. Unfortunately, I have not even one acre and now have four dogs, so we’re not on a really good math equation right now, but hopefully that’ll get better as time goes on. I would take them all! I like them more than I like people. They bring a happiness to me that really nothing else does honestly, so it’s a no brainer for me. It’s just a question of time, money and space.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Anything coming up, Michelle?
Michelle Beadle: The only thing I have is that I’m doing radio for two weeks which is awesome, and I’m honored I was even asked to do it. Maybe I’ll only get one day out of it. We’ll see how the first day goes (laughs). I’ll be filling in with a guy named Ben Lyons. They’re still in the process of figuring out Colin’s time slot and what to do with it. In the meantime for me, it’s just an awesome chance to do something else and show that I can do something else.
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