All right, finally free of ESPN and Yankee-land and back in the ATL rollin’ with my homies. Is “homies” spelled with one “m” or two?
As jaded as I am about the circumstances that surrounded my exit from ESPN, I can’t say it was all bad. Thinking back on it, I did have some remarkable experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything – at least anything that doesn’t include Alyssa Milano.
I saw Boston and Manhattan, not to mention Newport, RI, Cape Code, Vermont, Maine, Washington, D.C., LA and Beverly Hills for the first time. I met Kobe Bryant and Matthew McConaughey. OK, so I didn’t actually “meet” them, but I spoke to both of them on the phone and McConaughey sounds as dreamy on the phone as I’m guessing he looks in person. Speaking of looks in person, meeting Matt Leinart and Kirk Herbstreit – I did meet them – makes me feel more insecure about my appearance than I ever did before.
I lived the baseline fantasy for every non-Islamic man in the world, I went to a party at the Playboy Mansion. It’s everything you’d imagine and more. Remarkably vapid and beautiful women dressed up in the bunny costumes doling out liquor to celebrities. Peyton Manning was there, so was Sugar Ray Leonard, Andy Roddick, Donovan McNabb, Gary Shandling, Rick Schroeder, Ben Roethlisberger, Mario Lopez and Mini-Me. I got drunk off my ass, hardly talked to any girls and ended up eating more than I wanted to, so it was pretty much like any other night out on the town for me.
I stayed in a $10,000 a night suite at the Green Valley Ranch in Vegas as well as Caesar’s Palace, the Palms and hotels in New York, Atlanta and LA I never would have otherwise.
I had at least half of the 10 best meals of my life.
I got to meet and know Tony Kornheiser who was at all times a dear to me. I was invited into his home, drove around town and had lunch with him.
I became close friends for a time with Colin Cowherd and enjoyed our creative relationship more than any other professional relationship I’ve had.
Tito Ortiz mistakenly gave me Jenna Jameson’s – his girlfriend – home phone number. No, I don’t still have it.
I had dinner with Terry Bowden – who stuck me with the bill - and Wayne from “The Wonder Years,” lunch with Doug Flutie, and rode in a limo around Columbus, OH with Gerry DiNardo.
I was able to be at one of the greatest college football games ever: #1 USC vs. #2 Texas in the Rose Bowl for the national championship in 2006.
I did and saw a lot of things I never thought I would, but I’m most proud of one thing: along with Colin Cowherd, I brought college football to syndicated sports radio.
Before he arrived at ESPN, no one on national radio talked about college football, it was all NFL, MLB and NBA. When he got there and we were paired together, we proved that college football could live and thrive on syndicated radio year round if handled properly. The explosion in the popularity of college football in the past five years is due in no small part to Colin Cowherd establishing a beach-head for its discussion on his radio show and my working with him to do so behind the scenes.
Before I was excommunicated, we also broke out mixed-martial-arts onto mainstream sports radio before anyone else.
My exit from ESPN ended up being a disaster with burned bridges, hard feelings and bitter animosity on my part and no love loss returned from the company toward me. I wasn’t ever fit for working at ESPN. I thought very little of the company going in, had my mind changed for a while, but I’m a free thinker, I’m critical, I have a personality and I challenge corporate mantras and political correctness – not the sort of things to be if you want to get along at ESPN.
But that’s all past and a new day has dawned.