Growing up in Michigan, I knew of Jalen Rose as a member of the Fab Five, that faceless monolith of basketball greatness operating out of the east side of the state. Who these guys were wasn’t as important as the fact of their youth and the color of their socks. You knew you were supposed to be able to name them, and that was that. We soon learned to distinguish Chris Webber, though, if not for his timeout, then for his draft position. I remember his #4 Warriors jersey exploding all over the local sporting goods store. I remember it being the first time I ever knew that there was an NBA team called “the Warriors,” also learning that they played in some geographically mystical place called “Golden State.” Understanding these things became less important when he left after his first year for the Washington Bullets (whose geography I only thought I understood until reading a Sports Illustrated for Kids reader poll about new mascots for that team, which suggested “the Presidents” as one of the alternatives). I knew a couple of the other members played in the NBA– that’d be Rose and Juan Howard– and I knew the other two, Jimmy King (who did have limited NBA exposure, Wikipedia tells me as I write now) and Ray Jackson, played in the CBA, which remained popular on the west side of the state until east-side star Isiah Thomas drove it into the ground. Given our instruction as to their greatness, I at first didn’t understand why they weren’t all NBA all stars, but my concern diminished as my escalating interest in the rival Spartans grew and my interest in the NBA decreased.
It therefore was with some surprise that I began to hear Rose making post-playing-career appearances in the national sports media, first (to my ears) on Jim Rome’s radio show, where the two considered each other “brothers in smack” (not a drug reference), and then as an NBA analyst on ESPN. Later, Rose rode the social media wave, positioning himself as an independent online presence through his Twitter feed and interactive website.
I haven’t been a podcast person– until recently, my lifestyle lacked one of the two alternatively necessary elements: a long daily commute or the structure of a single, working person– which is why I didn’t mention Grantland’s podcast section in my initial assessment of that site. Since then, though, I have attempted to integrate podcasts into my regular media consumption, and so far, only one has stuck (although I did check in with The Solid Verbal during the college football season).
When I saw the announcement about the
firstsecond episode of the Grantland Network’s “Jalen Rose Show” (the first time it was called that), I didn’t realize it was an actual show or series, and I thought the headline was a reference to Rose’s talkative personality, his ability to carry a segment, a show, a full podcast. Fifteen episodes later, I’m glad I was mistaken.
To give you a flavor of the program, here’s the first of two video clips they have released:
There really isn’t anyone like Rose in sports media today. He is candid, thoughtful, and unintentionally funny. Things he avoid include clichés and directly answering the question asked of him. The former is quite welcome in this time of ESPN supersaturation, and the latter is one of his most important oratorical qualities. He doesn’t dodge questions, like most sports media personalities; rather, his indirect answers are a function of his intelligence and thoughtfulness, which inform the more complete responses he provides. He never begins his answer to a yes-or-no question with a yes or a no; instead, he’ll immediately launch into an anecdote or background explanation that lays the explanatory groundwork for the yay or nay response he’ll conclude with. It’s a style unlike any other in today’s sports media, and it offers the listener at least two benefits: 1) a fresh, engaging aural flow, and 2) a greater opportunity to hear more of Rose’s seemingly endless vignettes from inside the sports world.
And he’s got a lot of those. Did you know he once stole Patrick Ewing’s television? He also shares his unabashed opinions: a question this week about Carlos Boozer’s hair led to his allusion to early male-pattern baldness (“brains blown out”) and the Nixon administration (“the coverup is worse than the crime”).
Good stuff there, new episodes every Monday (it used to be Fridays, and since I know this will hit Jalen’s Google alert, here’s my direct request for a return to Fridays), and they come in easily digestible chunks of forty-five minutes or so. Host David Jacoby does a good job of a) guiding and prodding Rose through a wide-ranging discussion of sports, the sporting lifestyle, fashion, pop culture, and other topics, and b) having a voice that makes you surprised when you see what he looks like. On that first point, the show covers a broad range of sports, although it understandably is weighted toward NBA topics. Rose’s bias in favor of all things Southeast Michigan also is an enjoyable touch for this listener (the Wolverines aside).
Of the only other video clip they’ve released, which comes from the beginning of this week’s episode, Jacoby writes: “We included video in this week’s podcast because we think it is important for people see what happens behind the scenes, like the fact that Jalen will record an entire pod with a baseball bat in his hands. . . . Seriously, as you listen, remember Jalen has a baseball bat in his hands the entire time. It changes everything.”
There may be athletes and non-athletes in sports media today who have more stores to tell than Rose, but there’s no one more candid than Rose in telling more of those stories, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as verbally engaging.