Colin Cowherd is an easy guy not to like. Maybe it’s his loud, semi-obnoxious voice. Maybe it’s the impression he gives off, that feeling you get when you think hey, this dude likes to hear himself talk. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it’s doubtful that your first impression of Colin Cowherd is anything in the neighborhood of wow, this guy sure is likeable.

I bought a new car a few years back, and it came with this trial subscription to XM radio. The only thing that shit’s good for is the comedy channels, Soul Town and ESPN. On my way into work, I started tuning in to ESPN Radio, and that’s when I caught The Herd, Colin’s radio show. The first thing I thought when I heard him was man, this guy’s annoying as hell.

But I kept listening. It was the strangest thing; I just couldn’t get enough of the guy. The more I tuned in, the more I told myself that I was listening to this guy because he was annoying and different and he said things I didn’t agree with. I listened so that I could be engaged by his program in a negative way. But a funny thing happened the more I listened. I gradually stopped being engaged in a negative way, and I just became engaged.

The dude makes you want to listen to him.

Contrast Colin’s style to a guy like Jim Rome. Rome’s show is littered with pauses and repetition. He says something… and then he lets it sit in the air for a second… and then he says it again. Colin doesn’t do that. He’s got too much to say every morning to take an approach like that. Whether he’s deconstructing the realities of college football, clowning on the government with Curt Schilling, making fun of Jack Johnson’s way-too-mellow music or going on a rant about small market teams, Colin always has something to say.

And that’s refreshing. Really, it is. When a guy can be articulate logical, intriguing takes in nanoseconds and build up an argument or a stance that’s founded in logic – even if you don’t agree with it – that makes for good radio. And it makes for good television, too.

Colin’s made the jump from radio to TV with the show SportsNation. The show appears on ESPN2 at it features Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle in a serious of segments’ where they talk about the sports stories of the day and integrate the results of polls that are featured on It’s less stale than PTI. It features more segments, more Michelle Beadle and a lot less Kornheiser.

I spoke with Colin Cowherd recently and we talked about the show, his style, the differences between radio and TV and what it’s like to work with the lovely Michelle Beadle. Here’s how the interview went down:

CS: What’s it like shifting from radio to TV? Are you getting more celeb treatment now when you’re out and about?

CC: Oh yea, I think TV makes you visible. You know, I knew that going in. But I don’t notice it much, cause my head’s down. I basically come to ESPN to work then I go home, so it’s not like I hang out a lot. So I’ve never really noticed that stuff much. I’ll notice it in the airports, but that’s about it.

CS: So you do The Herd and you tape Sports Nation at the same spot in Bristol?

CC: Yea, just down the hall.

CS: Gotcha. And what do you like better, radio or TV?

CC: Oh, it depends. I mean there’s a lot of things about TV that I really love. It’s a funny staff, it’s easier.  I mean let’s be honest, if you do something and it’s fun and it’s easier – radio is more ditch digging and it’s hard to come up every day with different topics especially in June, July and August. Anybody could do radio in the football season, but to keep doing the May, June, July and August radio, it’s tough. You know baseball’s not a great, driving subject on syndicated radio, because there’s only two monthly games that the nation really cares about. You know people in Cincinnati care about the Reds, but you put the Reds on ESPN and nobody watches. And that’s just the reality of it. I see the ratings, so you know radio is hard, but when you have a great show the way you feel is very rewarding.

CS: So you said it’s more difficult, but how does the preparation for The Herd differ from what you do for SportsNation?

CC: Preparation for my radio show is about 2 ½ hours. It’s really trying – I love it – but it’s trying. You know the TV show prep’s closer to 30 minutes.

CS: Oh wow.

CC: I’ve already done preparations because I did the radio show. So television is just sort of getting a sense of readdressing topics that you’ve already talked about and how Beadle and I are going to go about it, and then what we’re going to argue about. So it’s much easier prep for TV.

CS: I gotta say Coli,n when I first started listening to The Herd, you kind of rubbed me the wrong way at first. I was like, I don’t know if I agree with this guy, and I kind of just tuned in like I was watching Fox News just to hear some opposing viewpoints and takes that weren’t mine. But the more I started tuning in, you kinda won me over a bit. Have other listeners expressed this to you? Like “hey I didn’t like you at first man, but you kinda won me over.”

CC: Well I think like nobody liked Simon Cowell initially. The first time you hear Howard Stern it’s different. I think anybody with a strong personality, initially you’re just not used to it. Because most people don’t have strong opinions. So you know, whether it’s political or sports or entertainment, I think anybody with a strong opinion comes off initially as, you know, whether you’re are a consumer or listener or a viewer your initial reaction is “Whoa whoa slow down!”

CS: (laughs) Yea.

CC: But then I think over time, I think it’s hard to deny that if you listen to my show every day and if you give it two or three weeks, it’s hard to deny that we don’t put on a pretty good product. We work our tails off, we really take it seriously, and with every single segment I’ve thought about. So, I mean people can fire cheap shots, but I know when I’m good and I know when I’m not. I mean you know when you’re writing a column, is it good or is it not? You know when you’re really doing well.

CS: Right.

CC: Everybody knows that. It doesn’t matter if you work in a warehouse or you work on Wall Street. So I always feel that we do more good work than not good work.

CS: Yea, I tend to agree. So back to SportsNation for a sec, what’s it like working with Michelle Beadle? She seems like she really knows her shit.

CC: Yea she’s funny and smart, you know, and the things I appreciate about her are things the audience doesn’t see. She’s really got a wit, she’s got an ability to take anything I throw at her, she can fill in the blanks if I don’t have a great day. The audience sees this beautiful, likeable funny person and I just see like a broadcast professional who does all the little things well. So I could literally walk on to that set with no notes and you know she would just fill in the blanks. She’s got a real good sense of tempo and comedic timing. It’s hard to explain unless you’re right next to her.

CS: Right. Well what’s your favorite SportsNation segment? You guys have got a lot of different segments.

CC: You know it’s funny, the Pirate’s growing on me. I mean Ron Burgundy is great because it’s so absurd and I can just be a complete douche. I mean I can literally with Ron Burgundy say things you’d never be allowed in the history of this network to say.

CS: (laughs)

CC: That’s just funny. And I like any time I get to go outside and like use a water hose on people or I like any time we go outside the studio, like into the parking lot. I just think it looks different and the guys on the show, the staff, are really funny. Again the stuff you don’t see on SportsNation is the stuff I love. You know you see the big splashy video, but the behind the scenes stuff is what makes it a gas.

CS: It’s much more enjoyable to actually shoot the thing, eh?

CC: Yea, it’s really fun.

CS: So on yesterday’s radio show you talked a little bit about how college athletes get comped for all kinds of things.

CC: Yea.

CS: Like food, clothing, transportation, living expenses, tuition all that. Do you think there will ever be a time when college athletes get paid more for their efforts?

CC: I don’t. I don’t understand the college football guy getting paid. I mean think about this – we do realize right that with these footballs powers, 80% of the guys on the football team wouldn’t be allowed in the college unless they could run really fast? And now we want to pay them? I mean shouldn’t we understand that, by the way a free education is compensation? People do get that right?

CS: Right.

CC: So if you’re getting a $40,000 scholarship a year you’re getting $40,000. We just don’t value education. So the idea they’re not getting paid, uh, yea they are, about $90,000 a year if you add room, board, clothing, education. They get about $90,000 a year.

CS: Yea, that’s definitely more than I got in college.

CC: Yea.

CS: (laughs). What do you think about Nick Saban’s recent comments when he compared agents who paid college players to pimps?

CC: Well everybody – the agents are like the IRS. They’re like the media, nobody likes them. But you know what? It still comes down to personal accountability.

CS: Right.

CC: You could offer me drugs, if I say “no” I make the drug dealer irrelevant. And you can keep blaming the agents, and they’re certainly not perfect, but most agents are good. Most agents are above board. And Reggie Bush knew exactly what he was doing. Stop blaming people for you accepting stuff, be it money, drugs, cash, whatever.

CS: Yea. I mean that makes sense, the accountability thing. The whole moral compass is still there even when you’re college aged.

CC: Yea. If my son went to Florida and accepted money, I’m supposed to yell at the agent? No, I’m going to punish my son. He took the money. He lacked an ethical compass.

CS: Do you think Reggie Bush should give back the Heisman and if so, do you think Vince Young should refuse to accept it?

CC: Oh I’m not a big fan of giving somebody the award. I mean Reggie was the best player.

CS: Right.

CC: Listen, the Heisman people are not moralists. That’s not their job. Their job is to give it to the best football player. The NCAA’s job is to be basically the moralists of college football; the ethical compass of football is the NCAA. That’s not the Heisman’s job. The Heisman’s job is “who’s the best player? Let’s give him the award.” I don’t think they want to go there. I don’t think the Heisman committee wants to get into taking away awards based on off-field stuff.

CS: Right. It was like the rookie the NFL player who won the defensive player of the year award [Brian Cushing]. Where they just re-voted and gave it right back to him.

CC: Yea.

CS: It’s the same kind of thing. I mean you can’t really go back and factor in all this off-field stuff when it’s strictly a performance-based situation.

CC: Right.

CS: So why do you think the NFL’s the most popular sports league in America?

CC: You can bet it, it’s once a week. Society has gotten more phonetic and more demanding. We have less time. And so it’s much easier to ask a busy guy on Sunday to show up at 1 and 4 and watch games then ask him to sit Monday through Friday like baseball and the NBA and hockey and keep up with a million games and a million players. He can’t do it. But he can watch — what are the sports that are coming up? MMA, NFL, college football. Light, once a week, once a month, big games on the weekends so a busy guy can stay up to date without feeling overwhelmed like he does in baseball, the NBA, or the NHL.

colin cowherd - sportsnation espnCS: So do you think it makes sense for the NFL to expand its regular season? You think they’re gonna do that? The whole 18 games thing?

CC: No. No, fewer’s better. My radio got better when I went from four hours to three. More is not better. More food is not better, better food is better.

CS: (laughs)

CC: I think more NFL games means more injuries, more star players get hurt. It dilutes the product and I think it hurts small markets cause they don’t have as many stars generally speaking.

CS: Yea, how’s Jacksonville gonna sell out tickets for 18 straight games?

CC: Well yea, and by the way one or two injuries to Buffalo, Charlotte, Jacksonville — and by the way, as good as Indianapolis is, one injury to Peyton Manning and they stink.

CS: Right.

CC: You know don’t use Indianapolis as this small market team; they basically drafted the right superstar. They’re basically Cleveland with Lebron. They drafted the right guy. But free agents– who had the best free agents? Who had the best off-season NFL this year? New York.

CS: Yea

CC: Not Indianapolis, not Buffalo, not Jacksonville — New. York. City. Free agents still prefer the sexy big rich markets.

CS: Do you think all those free agent acquisitions are going to help Rex Ryan and that new-look New York Jets team?

CC: It won’t hurt. I mean you know listen, it’s a talent league. Get the most good players you can under the cap, and they got good players.

CS: And what do you think about Rex Ryan’s style? Do you think it’s good for the team? You know the whole brash, shit-talking, grandiose, larger-than-life thing?

CC: I always think that works short term. It also makes you a huge target.

CS: Right.

CC: I like– listen Jets fans need to realize you were not a great team for 13 weeks last year okay? (laughs)

CS: (laughs)

CC: You got red hot at the end of the year. The idea that this year you’re just gonna pick up where you left off and crush everybody, you were not a great team for 13 weeks. I saw the Atlanta game where you couldn’t move the football. It’s still Mark Sanchez, second year, coming off an injury. You know people have this team already in the Super Bowl? I’d just slow down a little bit.

CS: Yea, that’s a good point. Who do you think is the best running back in the NFL?

CC: I don’t know. I know Adrian Peterson can– you know Chris Johnson’s just speed, but Adrian can run past you, run over you, run around you. It’s becoming a quarterback-receiver league though. There’s just not very many lead running backs. They don’t get taken in the first round very often and if they do they’re like C.J. Stiller or they could do like three or four things well. But you know just grabbing a big, strong running back, they only last like 3 ½ years. The league is so big, so strong, so violent, so fast, running-backs don’t last. Whereas T.O. can play for 12-13 years.

CS: Where do you think that guy’s gonna go?

CC: Oh there’ll be a desperate team. You know there’ll be a team that just needs a pop. You know, like Buffalo last year. We need you to sell tickets. [Note: Terrell Owens signed with the Cincinnati Bengals at the end of July]

CS: Right.

CC: Small market falls in love with him. I don’t think the elite teams need him. He’s 36 and he’s a wide receiver. He only had 55 catches last year. He’s not an elite receiver anymore and I just don’t think- you don’t get the bang for the buck. You spend the money, you get the headaches, you get the ego, but I get 50 catches. You know the one thing you do is you give me 90 and 11 touchdowns, but you’re not getting that, you’ll get half that.

CS: Right, it’s just not worth the headaches for a team that has more to lose, yea.

CC: Yea.

CS: Do you think Michael Vick ever starts in the NFL again?

CC: Most overrated guy – he’s the Paris Hilton of sports. I don’t get it. I mean Marty Mornhinweg was quoted today saying “love his athleticism and accuracy.” Yea, except for athleticism doesn’t matter in the NFL at quarterback. If it did Tom Brady and Manning wouldn’t be right there. Like Aaron Rodgers. And accuracy is highly overrated. It’s not about that. Mark Sanchez isn’t that accurate, and to be honest with you, Drew Brees is one of the few guys in the league that’s unbelievably accurate. It’s not about accurate; it’s about timing, it’s about arm strength, can you squeeze a ball in? Do you have moxy? Do you know when to audible and call the right protections? The idea that athleticism– if athleticism mattered in the NFL at quarterback, then Michael Vick would be unbelievable.

CS: Right.

CC: You know, why does Brett Favre ultimately hurt himself in the playoffs? He’s unbelievable athletic, why does he hurt himself?

CS: Bad decisions.

CC: Cause he makes a terrible decision every year.

CS: Yea.

CC: Michael Vick and Brett Favre are the best athletic quarterbacks, but they hurt themselves in the games cause they makes dumb mistakes.

CS: Yea, I always thought this was the funny thing about JaMarcus Russell. You would just see like he’s trying to hit a tight end on a crossing pattern and he’s throwing these flamethrower bullets and it’s like, you gotta have some touch too, you know? You’ve got that awesome, amazing arm, but sometimes you don’t need to use it like that, you know?

CC: Yea. Drew Brees, Brady, Manning, McNabb, you know McNabb’s not accurate at all but he’s a good quarterback. He barely gets accurate, you could argue that McNabb is the least accurate great quarterback in the league but he’s smart. He’s got mocks, he knows how to lead a huddle, player like him.

CS: You think Big Ben will ever overcome his image as a total dirtbag?

CC: You know I think in life you create your own legacy and people think Joe Mauer’s a nice guy because Joe Mauer’s actions have led us to believe he’s a nice guy. And people don’t think Big Ben’s necessarily a nice guy because his actions have led us to believe he’s not a good guy. I mean I’ve never met anybody n my life who is a good guy and had a terrible reputation, and I’ve never met anybody in my life that had a terrible reputation but is this, he was a terrible guy but had a great reputation, it doesn’t work that way. You earn your legacy. Even for public figures who we see just glimpses of. Over time, if you’re a good guy, you get a better reputation. And you know Big Ben’s reputation as a person – and it’s not just the stuff that gets him in trouble with the law – he’s been seen as a diva in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t relate to the regular fans and he’s not beloved in Pittsburgh and there’s a reason for it.

CS: Just real quick before I let you go, who do you think is gonna win the Super Bowl this year?

CC: Baltimore is going to beat the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers or the Atlanta Falcons, I like Baltimore.

CS: Baltimore. All right Colin I really appreciate it man, I’ll let you go and thanks for taking the time.

CC: Hey Chris, thanks.

CS: All right, take care man.

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