Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Sean Salisbury Isn't Angry Anymore

Illustration for article titled Sean Salisbury Isnt Angry Anymore

And here we have the second portion of our interview. It's more of the same, but Sean does calm down (somewhat) to emphasize a few things. Even though he sounds enraged when he's telling you "he's not angry." He's wholeheartedly trying not to be, but I get the sense that he could sound enraged when he's ordering a pizza; he's just an amped-up guy. This whole interview process was like trying untangle the world's biggest ball of Christmas lights — especially writing the transcription. After five minutes of listening it's pretty obvious that it'll take years to straighten it out and it might be better just to plug 'em in and hope for the best. But I think it fits in that it does truly "humanize" Salisbury in a way — for better or worse — which has been part of Deadspin's m.o. since the first Kyle Orton drunk photos raced across the internet. Sean uses semantics when it comes to the "cellphone" rumor and that's the way it has to be. There are plenty of other stories floating around as to what exactly prompted his ESPN suspension in 2006 (wasn't his dick; wasn't an intern; he was ratted out, are the most talked about ones) but that is really kind of secondary to why he felt this interview needed to happen. I believe he truly wanted to attempt to clear his name from all of this (probably won't happen) but also wanted to step out from behind the two-way mirror and just let people know, ' I 'm a real, flawed person, but it really fucking sucks to be called a fetus-faced windbag.' That's a brave step for anyone to take. But I don't think he was trying to do it as a way to alter the way blog items are written about him or to change the way commentors destroy him. He'll take that stuff and not like it — but he'll learn from it too. Anyway, on to the conclusion of this mess.Is it fair to say that all of this stuff that has happened to you in the last two years – the death of your father, the job situation, the internet "rumors"...well, how did you work through something that emotionally? SS: I've got no choice, A.J. I'm a Dad. I've got a 15-year-old son, a 14-year-old son, and a 12-year-old daughter. I'm single. And I'm a dad. And between my ex and I living close to each other and trying to manage things with kids and going to sporting events and a soccer mom…— believe me: the most exciting part of my life is when Adam Sandler lets me play in his movies every once in a while or watching my kids play sports. I don't do much. But I'm telling you – my life the last two years, A.J. with my dad's death, with an assistant of mine that I trusted my life with who stole six-figures from me, while my dad is dying so I didn't know about it until after they were gone, to changing jobs after 12 years with a company that I loved that I had some of the best friends in the world at, it was a great company and an unbelievable sports business. I can't remember from 2006 to a little after March of this year and … No doubt the last two years have changed my life and have also changed the way I look at things, but they have also been the two most miserable years of my life. And I've lived a charmed life, man. They say it comes in threes, but mine came in about 8's. A lot of my friends have been supportive and I'll recover from this and with my new start at OPENsports which I think, and not just because I'm a part of it, I think it'll be innovative, technologically – you've gone on some of it-we'lll have some quality, quality stuff on blogs and on video and I'll be on every day doing it and expand on things and I'm just blessed to be a part of it and get paid to do something I love. And this is my first venture hard into the internet, which to be honest with you, the reason I haven't taken a radio or TV job, yes, I'm waiting for the perfect one and a lot of them are taken, I'm really content right now doing this and I think it's going to be a fun season, I'm giving inside information that people aren't going to get because of the relationships that I have, just like your relationships, and hopefully we can make OPEN Sports the best in the business. I don't like second or third place – I've done that enough when I was a quarterback. With my background and the people in OPEN Sports if people want the best information they're going to get that-hard-hitting sports information and it's going to allow the people to be involved which I like. I need another John Clayton with me, buddy and I think we're going to blow this thing up. And to mention, I'd like to put this out there: A.J., the most asked question I've had in my life or the last 12 years is "Do you like John Clayton?" And you know what, since 1986 when I was a rookie and John was a beat writer covering the Seahawks, John Clayton has been one of the closest to me. I've known him longer than anyone at ESPN. And all of that stuff we did was not scripted. Most of the time our 4-down segment was…we'd give ‘em our answers they'd ask us 20 questions during the day, they'd surprise us when we were going to go on. We loved each other walking to work, we'd go on there and try to beat each other's brains out just like you would with your friends in a one-on-one pick up game. Never once were John and I offended by each other. That's business. And we had a blast doing it. And I can guarantee you 4-downs – and I mean this with as much love for John Clayton-it'll never be the same. Just like the old SportsCenters. You can never do what Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann did. This might be a pat on the back for John and I but I'm going to say it anyway: 4-Downs will never be the same. Period. Just like at PTI if Tony and Mike retire? You ain't getting another PTI like Tony and Mike ran it. So, I was fortunate to be a part of that. I love John Clayton. People need to know that. Those arguments and stuff weren't fake, but off the air…one of the first two people that called me when I left ESPN was John Clayton. So, I miss those guys and I'm fortunate that I learned a lot and to get the degree I got from ESPN was pretty damn good, but now I'm moving on to the doctorate because I'm not real good with the internet. Yeah, obviously. …And OPENsports is going to open up a can of worms that people are going to love. Well, not to get all squishy on you…but can you tell at this point in your career…just how reflective you are you being about all this stuff? Did you always have this in you? Or was this a formal process you had to go through to get to that softer side in order for you to contine? Well, I've always had it, but you know what, A.J.? Those guys that are supposed to have an ego and macho and pride and all that – and God knows I have an ego just like the rest of us – anybody who's an athlete, and hey I wasn't a great athlete — or a journalist, or who goes on TV...hey we got egos. When we go on TV we want to look good and wear the right suit. So yeah, I've been reflective. I never felt the grass was greener. I may come across like that because I've got an explosive personality or because I'm opinionated. People will meet you and a lot of people will tell me that I can be a completely different guy off the air. I read two books a week. I sit in bed and read more than anything. If you walked into my house and in my bedroom I've got 100 books that I've read. And so I'm not as dumb as I look or as I sound. So, yeah, I'm probably a little bit more reflective because there have been things that have been snatched from me: PRIVACY. And things that I've snatched away from myself, moving on from a secure comfortable career and a great place at ESPN. I've gone out on a limb just to make a change, but I believe in it. And I believe in my skills. And I also believe in the people around me and the support group I've had. I'm more reflective now….or should I say…I'm a more calculated thinker. Because I've been damaged, and for a while there my reputation was damaged by some – not by all, the ones who know me or the ones who were close to the situation get it and know that wasn't the case – and you know comebacks are always awesome. I've only been away from five or six months but I'm going to come back in full force and it's going to be hopefully great stuff and I'm not going to give you guys anything to write negative about me except hopefully my opinion or something I said about the New York Jets. Now that you're fully aware of that atmosphere that exists online-whether it be us or somebody else – you're putting yourself out there now, almost asking for scrutiny in one aspect, but you're also saying , essentially, okay, "I'm not going to be out at a bar drinking right now." Is that something you're comfortable with? Or is that a complete lifestyle change? I'm not afraid of criticism. I put myself out there. What athlete in college or professional sports – or who sacrifices vacations to put themselves in professional sports – doesn't put something out there for criticism. Every time you line up behind center you're putting yourself out there for criticism. Every time you put something on the air, or I put something on the air. You gotta be able to take the criticism. But you take the positive stuff but you also have to be able to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer. I don't have a problem with that. We're all sensitive. If everybody was saying something good about me? About my talent or what I did? I'm not doing my job. That means I'm sitting on the fence the whole time and people would turn the channel. The best people in this business, the Howie Longs, the Terry Bradshaws, the Troy Aikmans, they're what we call "needle movers", man. I've tried to pride myself on that. Dan Patrick was a needle mover. Tony and Mike Wilbon. Those guys are needle movers. I'm not trying to say bad about some guy's personal life…hey, if a guy throws five interceptions, he sucked that day! It's nothing personal. You suck that day. Some days we all suck. Heck, some of us more than others. I don't have a problem with putting myself out there because this is what I do. If I was scared I'd have a bunch of dogs around me. And as far as socializing? I'm a single guy…I'm allowed to go out to a sushi place and if I'm sitting around with my buddies having sushi, I'm allowed to do that. It's not like I'm going to hide out. I'm not going to do that! Let's say you and I are hanging out on a Saturday night and we're watching college football and LSU plays Georgia, Georgia at LSU, and we're sitting in a college bar eating chicken wings and somebody wants to write something about it? LET ‘EM. I don't care about that. I'm not going to be peeing off of some roof or doing those things. I'll try to do the right thing like I always do and try not to do something dumb, which is what I think everyone of us when we leave the house tries to do or when I go on the air and try to say the right thing….on my separation…cause I work hard. I'm not afraid to put myself out there. My life revolves around putting myself out there. And if I'm going to criticize players I sure as hell better be able to take it if somebody wants to criticize me if they don't like my broadcasting. Because you know what? At least I have the guts and the balls to go out and do it and will continue to do it. But it has changed my perspective, you're head is always on a swivel, wondering which one of these 10,000 people is looking for a reason to bait you into a fight so they can punch you in the mouth so they can sue you. For the record, I wasn't planning on doing that…Do you think your ESPN career has hurt you in some way? They're the biggest in the industry and making that transition onto something else is not always a smooth one. There are not that many Dan Patrick jobs out there…. There's not a lot of those gigs out there. But you know what? There were not a lot of those out there when I got mine in the first place. I got two sideline games 12 years ago and I had to prove myself after playing football making a $1,000 or $1,500 a game. And I was not the superstar, Hall Of Fame quarterback or running back that walked off the field and into a studio and they gave him a job because you had to give him a job. I wasn't that guy. I can tell you this, I had a lot of great help around me and a lot of unbelievable production people, but I put in my time. I served my time. Whether people want to believe it or not, I spent 12 years being as good as there was on TV doing what I do. And that's being a football analyst. And I know what I am and what I am not. Howie, Terry…you know, I may not be in their class name-wise, but you want to talk about information, opinion, passion, I do it as well as anybody. My career at ESPN didn't hurt me, some of the "rumors" did – or should I say "the rumor" the "alleged" cellphone thing. But as far as what I put on the air? I'll put my stuff against anybody. Because you know what? I based my opinion on facts I received from coaches, players, and insights. You know what the problem is with 80% of the analysts out there? They're afraid that the depth of their opinion will hurt somebody's feelings. You know what? I'm not. I've had to criticize guys that I hang out with in the off-season. Hey, that's just life. My career at ESPN did nothing but help. They gave me a forum – a foundation-now am I going to get back from it…are there many jobs out there at NBC or CBS? Nope. But I'll get one of those. Because when network's start to realize that Hall of Fame quarterbacks, or running backs, or wide receivers, they'll always make the best broadcasters, God already knows there's a whole bunch of them that weren't any good and aren't good, okay. But that being said, they always get ‘em. They always get the insight. But what people start to realize if a guy gets a job because of who "he was" he probably won't keep that job because he won't work hard enough to do it. The Howie Longs, the Terry Bradshaws, the Chris Collinsworths…there's a reason why they keep ‘em….the Tommy Jacksons…but I tell you this I'll put myself up against anybody. And I wasn't a Hall of Fame quarterback, but I can promise you this, there's no guy that's coming out now that's going to put better work on there than mine... At any point during while this stuff was going down [the suspension, the rumors] did you feel like your job was in jeopardy? Did you see the writing on the wall or were you blindsided? You know what, when I went in there the last time before I left, A.J., the day I shook hands with the two executives and left and we decided that they weren't going to renew my contract and I was ready to move on. I actually thought I was going in at least a couple of days before that. I knew when I went in for that meeting that I thought I was going to leave, but the week before that I thought I was going to have a promotion. Oh, I knew there was a chance that they weren't going to renew the contract. But Im' not changing who I am on the air. Blindsided? No. If you would've told me that in February? No. I think we all wonder about when our contract comes up – am I going to get paid? Do they want me back? –I think there's an insecurity that goes with it. I don't know how to do much, but I know what I'm doing on TV, and radio, and on the internet in talking about football and this is what I do and will continue to do it's just a matter of where I end up…with OPEN Sports which I'm going to be at for a long time…but if there's any radio or TV outside of what I'm doing with them…No, I wouldn't say I was blindsided. I there was a part of me that thought it could happen and when it did happen it was alarming because, man, 12 years? But I picked up and left and moved on an didn't say anything negative and will continue not to. I couldn't be somebody else giving my opinion on TV. If you want vanilla, you want the wrong guy. There are plenty of guys out there that aren't going to tell you shit. But the incident is a huge cross to bear, no? Any place you go, people are going to ask what happened at ESPN? They'll ask themselves "Is there going to be a problem? And "Why should we put you on the air again?" They could ask! You know, people are out there raping and abusing and doing all that stuff, you know... I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! If you do your due diligence and want the truth, I have it, man. That was 2006! I'm not a risk. If I did anything wrong …if something like that happened…why wouldn't they fire me on the spot? I worked two more years. So, I worked for 12 years and my resume speaks for itself. Now, has there been some damaging rumors, some damaging info that's been out there, some setbacks? Yes. Now, bullets have been flying for two years at me. And you know what? I never pointed the finger at another person and I take responsibility when I make a mistake. But I also know when I need to defend myself when I need to, especially when it's a LIE. If somebody wants to go vanilla, and they want vanilla, and are there some people out there who won't hire me because they think I'm too opinionated...sure. Hey, think about some of the people in sports and in broadcasting. You know, eventually things go away, and what I "allegedly" did is completely G-rated because it wasn't there in the first place, but number 2….I'm not stupid enough to do something like that, but I know it's going to be out there. You know what? Three years I'm going to continue to work on this…I'm no risk. I don't do drugs. I don't do anything. I don't abuse kids. I don't hit women. I raise money for charity and I'm a dad. So, I'm not worried about it. It's damaged me a little bit right now, but during this process I've discovered a company that I love in Open Sports. I'm happier in my broadcast career than I've been in 10 years. That's what's surprising too and this is just my and plenty of other people's opinions…but you put a guy like Emmitt Smith on the air who seems …not ready. He's not articulating as well as he possibly could..and on air just for the sole fact that he's a Hall of Fame running back he gets his job. We're supposed to take his word on things over somebody like you…who basically has been doing this for a longtime. Is there some notion at ESPN that people want to see people that they recogn… Absolutely. Absolutely. That's the reason I worked on NFL Live for 11 years and never did Countdown at 11. There's no question. There's no doubt. If you're a Hall of Famer or a big-time player, you will get the first-look. They will move somebody out for a guy, just because he's got a name. And I can tell you as a broadcast fan-forget me being on TV – just as a fan, you and I are sitting around, in about two broadcasts I can tell you whether a guy sucks or not. I worked with Emmitt at the Super Bowl and I love Emmitt. Is he a better running back than he is a broadcaster? Absolutely. That's just like saying am I a better broadcaster than a quarterback? Not even close. Emmitt's getting better. The thing is, they will always put that guy on before they put a guy on that's been there that's just the nature of the business, but I got news for you: eventually that's going to have to come to a close because the guys that give you their best information and opinion are the ones the fans want to see. We'll take a backseat for a while but eventually the cream rises and eventually you put the guys in there you're supposed to. ESPN likes star power and that's okay. But you know what? They can't replace a guy like Tommy Jackson who in my opinion is the best they got there and has been great for a long time. Is there anything else that you'd like get off your chest…? No, man. I just thank you and appreciate it. Thank you for allowing me after two years, you're the first people that I've told this to. All I want to do is put it behind me and focus on football and having fun and doing my job at OPEN Sports. I'm excited and I think if you get it out there the people will like it and you know what A.J.? We all go through some adversity. I blew out my knee twice as a football player and didn't get drafted but fortunately I was able to fool ‘em 10 years and play. Now, you know what? Temporary setback. I'm just a normal guy, man. When people hang around me they'll find out "Man, this is the guy that used to go out and watch football with 8 strangers off the street?" I'm not comfortable wit the fact that people actually think I'm a star. I'm not a star. Just a guy who talks football who I hope provides good information. I miss ESPN but I'm excited about the next venture more than I could ever imagine.And you know what? I don't have any bitterness. ESPN's not going away, but I'm not either. So you're not angry. Okay. No, I'm not going away. Is there a part of me that's been angry through the process? YEAH. You go through all of these thoughts. Do you feel sorry for yourself? You're bitter...You have to convince yourself...You're insecure...You're confident....You're humble....You're…mad. You go through all of those. But you know what? I'm not angry anymore. People always say that when one window or door closes another one opens? I've discovered something in the last five months that I realize that it's okay not to work 18 hours per day, 7 days a week. And this was a favor for me. It actually turned out to be a blessing. I've always been close to my kids but I've had the time of my life the last five months and it actually makes it very difficult to go back to work. But I have to because I have bills to pay and a family to feed but it's been one hell of run, man, and I'm about to start the next phase and get it going and put the nonsense behind me and there are always going to be people out there that believe what they want to believe, but I'll tell you this: this story is over and you guys will be the ones that get the message out there. I don't need to explain myself anymore and dignify it. I got it to you and I'm going to leave it at that. Well, alright… Read Part I

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