Quite Frankly…This Show is Going to Be Big
I guess I didn’t know what to expect. I had seen the ads for Stephen A. Smith’s new show, “Quite Frankly” on ESPN2 for the last month or so, and simply assumed the show would be a reflection of ‘Screamin A’ himself– loud, pretentious, and obnoxious. But now after watching the premiere episode last night at 6:30, I realize that I had assumed way too much ands really had not even considered what the show may be about. For those of you scoring at home, here’s the tale of the tape–
- Network: ESPN2
- Time: Weekdays from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM and replayed from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM
- Format: 10 minutes of Stephen A doing his typical schtick as he discusses topics from around the sports world followed by a 50 minute interview with an important figure in sports filmed in front of a live audience.
Now before you read on, I want you to stop and think about the format, especially if you haven’t seen the show yet. Does it sound like it would work? Now maybe we could do without the 10 minutes of opening Stephen A bullshit, (especially if it involves another lousy satellite interview with a Philadelphia Eagles beat writer who stutters on every sentence), but after only one episode, I’m completely sold that the 50 minute interview is going to be the best thing ESPN has introduced to the world since PTI. Last night’s interview– Stephen A’s Philadelphia buddy, Mr. Allen Iverson. Ask yourself this– were you ever witness to an Allen Iverson interview that lasted longer than 5 minutes? Have you ever seen him talk in front of a live audience besides at a press conference? Can you remember a single interview where you knew that he was comfortable with the person interviewing him? The answer to every single question for all of you is presumably, “no”. And that is exactly why this is going to be a hit. that he was comfortable with the person interviewing him? The answer to every single question for all of you is presumably, “no”. And that is exactly why this is going to be a hit.
Actors, musicians, politicians– we’ve all seen them sit through long, personal interviews on various talk shows including Oprah, Inside the Actor’s Studio, Larry King Live, etc. And we watch because we care about these people, we care about who they are. After sitting at the tip of my chair with goosebumps that could have been mistaken for pimples last night, I realized that we’ve reached a point in sports where even the average fan has become so intimate and personal with athletes that it’s impossible not to be curious about who these people really are. They may show up on the Budweiser Hot Seat, they might make an appearance on The Late Show, and pieces of a sit-down may show up during TNT Nokia NBA Tip-Off, but none of these brief, often scripted interviews really allows us to see a side of athletes that we have never been able to before. By 7:30 of last night, I felt like I knew who Allen Iverson was about 100 times better than I did at 6:30. Nearly every single question (well, let’s be serious– I could pick that guy’s brain for days, but you got me) that you would have wanted to ask AI yourself, was answered– thoughtfully and thoroughly. Now I’m sure some of you are wondering if I remembered that “Up Close” ultimately got cancelled. Well Stephen A. Smith is different from Roy Firestone, Gary Miller, Chris Meyers and whoever the hell else hosted “Up Close” at some point or another. This guy LOVES to be boys with the athletes he covers and so he’s built a lot of great relationships since he started off with the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now as much as I despise this about him from a basketball analysis standpoint, it’s going to really work in his favor since he’ll be able to attract quality guests and encourage them to speak their mind. And don’t underestimate the live audience factor– when a crowd of people is there clinging on to your every word and provoking your emotions with their reactions, it makes wanting to talk a lot easier. You could tell that AI was digging that crowd– he rarely replied to Stephen A’s questions by talking directly at him, but rather speaking to the crowd in a way that truly showed he wants the people to know who the real Allen Iverson is. You have to respect that. And when people in the audience were able to ask AI questions, you could just see the excitement in Allen who made it seem as though being able to answer questions about what drives and inspires him as people listen with every ounce of their attention– that’s just part of the dream he’s living.
Sports nowadays aren’t merely games for fans to follow– in the last 20 years, sports have become a way of life even for fans. Take Anthony and I for example. We’re such ridiculous sports fans that we decided instead of spending all our time following sports, why not cover our favorite sport and give something back? My point is, we’re not just drawn in by the game itself anymore, but rather by the 365 day marathon of news and drama that whets our appetites up until the very last minute before the tip-off, the kick-off, the first pitch, the puck drops, the bell sounds, the tee-off, the flag waves, the first serve, etc. So if that’s the case, why has it taken so long for a network to come out with a sports talk show that enables viewers to know the athletes that they pay more attention to than 90% of the people they see on a daily basis? I believe it has something to do with the perception that athletes are drawn out to be money-driven machines, personality-lacking buffoons, self-absorbed jerks. But while they may not soak up the camera like some attention-craving celebrities, they inherit it regardless and I’m thrilled that a bridge has finally been constructed that will allow fans to witness a personal side of the people we pay so much attention to. And for the betterment of the games, getting to know some of these athletes will only cause us to care more about them, thus cheer more whole-heartedly when the ball is in their hands with the game on the line.
Allen Iverson was a brilliant selection as Stephen A’s guest on the premiere show since he’s an enormous figure in sports with a personality that sparks people’s interest. Some of you may be concerned that Stephen A will have a difficult time finding guests that may not be as alluring and inviting as AI, but this week’s guest list suggests the contrary– Terrell Owens, Larry Brown, and Charlie Wies. And once word gets out about how well Iverson came across, and how much of an opportunity these guys will get to speak their minds or clear their names, everyone is going to get their agent on the phone and tell them to book a gig on “Quite Frankly”. Ron Artest, Jeremy Roenick, Jason Giambi, Pete Rose, Anna Kournikova, Charles Barkley, Michael Phelps, Jon Gruden, Jennie Finch, John Daly, Barry Bonds, Barry Sanders, Andre Agassi, Marion Jones, Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Todd Bertuzzi, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Bettman, Kenny Rogers, Matt Leinart, Danica Patrick, Phil Mickelson, John Thompson, Derek Jeter . That’s 25 sports figures off the top of my head that would be crazy to turn away opportunities to appear on the show, and 25 sports figures that I’d have a hard time flipping the channel off of if I saw them on. I’ve gone out of my way not to delve into anything Iverson talked about last night with the hopes that you may get a chance to see a rerun of the interview since ESPN will likely replay the hell out of the show during its premiere week. But I suggest you tune in at 6:3o tonight on ESPN2 to check out “Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith”, the talk show that could change sports.