Today we unveil a new feature on Deadspin, creatively titled, "Interviews of a Lifetime," where I, A.J. Daulerio, will attempt to interview a person of note in the sports, media,or entertainment community and attempt to learn something newsworthy that could be passed on to you fine readers of the internet. These will come when they come. Hopefully, more often than not.
First up: ESPN's Kenny Mayne.
What made Suzy Kolber's baby?
Kenny Mayne contemplates this question as we sit across from each other a tiny table in the library at the Regency hotel on 61st and Park in Manhattan. He repeats it out loud — slowly — lets it simmer, smirks, then tries to think of the best way to answer it without saying anything too offensive.
"What made the baby?" he repeats, making sure he got the question right.
Yes. What. The Kolber tot is a milkshake baby. So where did it come from?
"That is public knowledge, right?" he asks.
I say, yes, but then I'm not sure. I mean, she's not married, there doesn't appear to be a man in her life, and, as I explain to Mayne, there have long been questions about her sexuality and whether or not she's a lesbian.
Mayne smirks again, the patented Kenny Mayne smirk. He chooses his answer carefully since Kolber is a friend of his and he's seen pictures of the baby and then reminds himself (and me) out loud that he still has to get the baby a present.
"I think Suzy's devotion to her child and wanting to be a mother is what made the baby." Proud of his answer, he smiles.
The reason I'm sitting here in this fancy hotel, at this tiny table, talking to Kenny Mayne is because Kenny Mayne is writing a book. Or has written a book. It's called "An Incomplete & Inaccurate History of Sport," and it hits bookstores April 22. We set up this interview the day before; he agreed to meet and said he'd be wearing blue. He was. The book is comprised of short little chapters outlining everything from tackle football to orienteering, with some factual elements, generously sprinkled with bone-dry, here's-what-I-think riffs that may or may not have anything to do with the chapter titles. There are pictures and crude illustrations by his young daughters.
Bottom line: if you love Kenny Mayne, you'll love the book. If you don't like Kenny Mayne, you'll hate it. If you have no idea who Kenny Mayne is, the book will be as enjoyable to read as an Icelandic car insurance policy.
Here is some information gleaned from our two-hour conversation:
• This is a fancy-ass hotel he's staying at, and Kenny Mayne seemingly knows every single person who works there. We pause a few times during the interview so he can acknowledge busboys, waiters, hostesses and various other hotel employees. Others spotted at the hotel in the lobby? Diane Sawyer. Colin Powell. Oh, and the black piano-playing dude from Melinda and Melinda who ended up boinking Chole Sevigny. (Ed. Note: That would be Chiwetel Ejiofor, and he's actually pretty awesome.)
• He was paid a little under six figures to do "Dancing With The Stars."
• He read his Media Approval Rating and was impressed at how well thought out the comments were.
• He read one-quarter of "God Save The Fan" in the bookstore. (Ed. Note: Buy it, dick.)
• He has recently re-upped his contract with ESPN — but he won't be doing SportsCenter this time around.
• He jokingly asked for a signing bonus during the negotiations. He did not get it.
• He owns a 2.5 percent share of a 4-year-old racehorse.
• When there are important, real world stories to be done on ESPN, Bob Ley is called in. That's what happened on 9/11. Mayne says "Yeah, they call in the general." Bob Ley is "the general."
• He has a weird accent that sounds vaguely Canadian.
• He has a notebook of quips that he's used on SportsCenter.
• Snoop Dogg blurbs his book, but he's never smoked herb with him even though he's had plenty of opportunities.
• He loves Pearl Jam and is attending their concert on June 27 with Neil Everett.
• He has not seen "Two Girls One Cup." After I explain to him in graphic detail of what it is, he simply says, with a wide-eyed expression, "Ah, I don't know if I'd want to see that..."
• He admits that "Who's Now" was not his "favorite thing ESPN has ever done."
I tell him that sometimes he seemed bored doing SportsCenter, and ask him if that was done intentionally.
"That was actually a criticism of one of the [ESPN] bosses. That doing something in a deadpan way may come across like that," he says." But I don't think I'm bored, I just think it's funnier if I don't laugh at my own joke, ring the bell, or announce, 'Okay, I'm going to say something funny now.'" And he is a funny guy. He considers himself a creative, cerebral-type guy, who has aspirations of being Christopher Guest, more than being a glorified sports news reader.
Mayne hedges a little bit when asked about his future with ESPN by saying that he plans on fulfilling his contract the next two years, but he does envision a life outside of the WWL.
"If I had my druthers, I'd not work and just make independent films," he says. "But I like the position I'm in with ESPN right now and the security so we're not quite there yet." (He does not come off pretentious when he says this. However, it is noted, that when typed out, it does appear pretentious. I assure you it's not.)
But what about the environment at ESPN? The big, corporate overlord seems like it would be creatively stifling, especially with those inter-office memos. He's evasive — except about the memos.
"Yeah, I'd like to know who your sources are on that. They seem to get to you guys rather quickly. It's probably somewhat amusing to the rank-and-file employees to see our inter-office memos posted five minutes after they're distributed. I can understand how our bosses wouldn't like it. Norby probably doesn't love it."
Now, onto more pertinent matters: Salisbury. Mayne says he was completely thrown off-guard when they let Salisbury go, but he does offer that the timing of Cris Carter hopping on board almost as soon as NFL Live went under, may suggest that ESPN brass new Carter would be available. He said he had no knowledge of Salisbury's firing prior to when it happened and had only heard about some of his, um, "problems" from what he read online and in the paper. (Mayne is not a big drinker and says he hasn't been drunk in seven years. This is probably why he didn't hang out with Salisbury very much. We have two Cokes at the hotel, which cost $13.01. Told you it was a fancy hotel.)
"I thought Sean did a great job when he was there. I also thought Sterling Sharpe did a great job when he was there. I liked Michael Irvin when he was there and then, of course, they replaced him with Emmitt Smith..."
Right. Emmitt. What do you think of Emmitt, Kenny?
"I think he's a great dancer. Great guy. I think he's getting a lot better on television..."
Loosely translated and interpreted: As a current employee of ESPN, Emmitt Smith is a great dancer.
We get back to the book for a little bit. One section that stands out is when Mayne talks about one of his many Rock N' Jock softball appearances. He talks glowingly about being on a team with a teenage Jessica Biel. In the span of 50 words in the book, he mentions this fact at least three times. I imply that he didn't hide his attraction to her that well.
"Well, I think I also said that she could be my niece...she was 18, 19 at the time."
Right, but did you have a boner?
"She was a young, attractive lass. I think it's okay, when she's an, uh, older person that you could mention something like that in the book."
Right, but what if she grew up to be a beast? Would you mention it then?
"No. Then it wouldn't be bragging rights. She was a good contributor to our team."
Throughout the conversation, it's obvious that the on-camera Kenny Mayne is remarkably close to his real-life persona: self-effacing, weird-thinking, droll. Outside of a couple of "shits" and one "give a fuck" he doesn't curse. He's in that rarified air of the sports entertainment industry of, essentially, being paid to be himself. He's well aware of what this interview would entail ("You're trying to get me to say something "saucy" about my co-workers"), but chose to participate anyway. He is hopeful that the book does well, and he's more than willing to do anything possible to ensure that it does sell well. He says the publisher has earmarked 40-50 thousand as a success and he's frustrated by how low the number is. "I want to sell a million. And all the publishers were kind of patronizing me, saying, yeah, good luck with that. I could conceivably just stick it on the shelf and just not care — but wouldn't you rather succeed than not succeed?"
Go ahead. Help him succeed