I had the privilege of interviewing Paul Gant over the weekend. For those who are unfamiliar with Paul, he is a former ESPN employee, who now hosts his own radio show on blogtalkradio.com. Gant is someone who has seen success over his 10 plus years covering sports. I learned a lot about Paul over the course of our one hour-long conversation this past Saturday night. As knowledgeable as he is about sports, and of all the insight that he possesses, the thing I found most intriguing about Paul — the fact that he teaches at an alternative school in Pennsylvania.
This speaks volumes of the type of guy he is. For someone who left ESPN on his own terms, simply because he felt it was time to move on, Paul is a guy who sees the big picture in life. He’s a family man, who left ESPN, what most people in the sports world would consider a dream job, to be with his wife in New York and to pursue that aforementioned teaching degree. As he put it to me, “I left ESPN on good terms, it was one of those things, where you know in your heart, it’s time for a change. Over the course of our discussion, one thing Gant continued to reiterate was that sports are supposed to be fun. On his show page, Gant begins each description with, “We will be talking sports and having fun doing it.”
He’s not kidding. You can hear it in his voice when he speaks, he’s having fun doing something he loves doing. Over the course of Paul’s career he has interviewed countless athletes and analysts. He has interviewed the likes of Deion Sanders’ wife Pilar, Pro Bowl offensive linemen Willie Roaf and Tra Thomas to boxing great Evander Holyfield, Super Bowl champ Jarvis Green and arguably the top running back in NCAA history, in Herschel Walker. Learning who Paul’s had the opportunity to interview and to speak with, both on and off the air, along with learning about the kind of person he is, I couldn’t wait to get to the Q and A.
What did you do at ESPN? :
Paul Gant: I worked behind the scenes. I started out at Sports Center, and then went over to ESPN Classic to do the wrap around segments for old games. Also from time to time, I would go out and interview certain personalities for the Sports Century series.
: Whom of note did you interview for the Sports Century series?
PG: Well, I would say the most interesting interview was Grant Hill. It was for ESPN 25 — the 25th anniversary of ESPN. I would say Grant was the most enjoyable.
: How did you get to ESPN?
PG: It’s a funny story actually. I was on a train during an internship I had at KYW3, and I saw Marc Zumoff (Sixers play by play announcer) on the train. I ended up taking to Marc; I took his card and eventually called him. I ended up taking an internship at Comcast Sportsnet. At the time, I was out of school and just looking to get into the business. From there, I actually met Rob Ellis, who’s at WIP right now. Rob used to work at ESPN; he set me up with a number with a lady who worked there. I took the interview and that was that.
: At what point did you know or decide you wanted to do radio?
PG: I’ve always had the passion. I really wanted to be a play-by-play announcer, but never really pursued it the way I probably should have. Ultimately, I’ve just always enjoyed talking sports. I listened to WIP pretty much my whole life. I just always enjoyed talk radio, the back and forth of it all, and it’s just something I always wanted to do.
: Is there anyone who inspired you to do radio?
PG: The guy I always liked and I found entertaining was Gary Cobb. He came off as just a regular guy who enjoys doing it, and that’s how I want to be. I want to have fun with it, and want to make it fun for my listeners.
: Who was your most interesting interview and why?
PG: Actually, I’d have to say Holyfield. It was his attitude. I don’t want to call him delusional, but he believes in his heart that he is going to be the undisputed heavyweight champ again. I found that to be fascinating considering his age, and considering his skill set at this stage of his career. I found it very fascinating; it was just that “never say die” attitude. That attitude like, you know what, no matter what people say, no matter what anyone thinks, I’m going to continue to do what I’m going to do. It made me think, that sometimes, the same thing that makes you great, is sometimes the same thing that can lead to your fall.
: Speaking of boxing, Pacquiao/Mayweather, do we see it? If so, who wins?
PG: I think we will. Unfortunately with boxing, these fights usually take a little too long to develop and often times one of the fighters, or both, are no longer in their primes, and the fight isn’t what it could have been. I think if the fight does happen, Mayweather would beat him. I think mainly because of his superior defense. When he (Mayweather) fought Shane Mosley, he made Mosley look slow, which isn’t easy to do. Mayweather’s a little quicker than him (Manny Pacquiao), and if you look at it, I think Pacquiao is all he has left to fight.
: What needs to be done to bring boxing back?
PG: Boxing needs to find a way to get back on network TV. Back in the ’80’s you had all three major networks involved in boxing (ABC, CBS, NBC). The sport needs to make the heavyweight division relevant again. The Klitschko brothers don’t resonate with the American public. For the heavyweight division to be relevant again, there is going to have to be a notable, either charismatic foreigner or a U.S. fighter.
: You had Stephen A. Smith on. You guys talked a little Allen Iverson. Do you think Allen every plays pro ball again, in any league?
PG: I think he will get a shot in the NBA, but it will be a very short leash. It won’t come this year, but probably next year. He will humble himself and take any role available to him.
: Who is someone you would like to interview, who you have not had the opportunity to interview yet?
PG: I would love to interview Iverson. Or even just sit down and have a conversation with him. Also Mike Tyson. He’s a guy who — he’s intelligent, a lot more so than he’s given credit for if you actually listen to him. He’s a guy who is a deep thinker. In the late ’80’s and throughout most of the ’90’s he was the focal point of the heavyweight division, so that’s a guy who I’d definitely like to talk to. Both Mike Tyson and Allen Iverson.
: Is there any specific goal you’re trying to accomplish with your show?
PG: My goal is to try to bring the best and the bring the brightest onto the air and talk about sports, but at the same time, have fun doing it. Sports are fun. That’s all I want people to know, is that sports are fun. And that’s what I try to do when I do the show, make it fun.
That last question/answer describes Paul to the absolute fullest. Throughout our conversation, the one word he kept repeating is fun. And he’s exactly right, sports are supposed to be fun. When it comes down to it, all sports are, are games. Listen to Paul’s show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pgant. You can listen live or check out his archive, and listen at your convenience. Paul has countless insight and knowledge on his craft. I promise you will not be disappointed. Follow Paul on Twitter at http://twitter.com/goforitgant .
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