In 2010 Interview With High School Student, Dan Le Batard Predicted What It Would Take To Go National. Today It Actually Happened.

Dan Le Batard has swiftly become one of the best known figures in sports media- and that’s a surprise for the unabashedly provincial man who claims to have never loved a place as much as Miami, Florida.

Today Le Batard’s ESPN radio show moves to one of it’s prime time slots – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The slot was previously held by Colin Cowherd.

The time shift is just the latest peak in the fast growth of Le Batard’s empire. He also hosts a daily television show on ESPN with Bomani Jones and Gonzalo “Papi” Le Batard (his father) called Highly Questionable.

His radio program is also simulcast on Fusion, the Miami-based cable television network geared towards millennials.

Only a few years ago, things were pretty different for Le Batard. Back in February of 2010, I was a junior in high school and a writer for my school’s paper.

While brainstorming in the office of the Lions’ Print- really just a computer lab on the second floor of Chaminade-Madonna College Prep in Hollywood, Florida, I pitched the idea of interviewing Le Batard.

He was one of the best known alums of the school despite being a bit of a mystery to the folks in the development office (They didn’t understand why he wasn’t more involved in the school’s culture.)

Le Batard and his artist brother David (better known as LEBO) were well remembered by some faculty at the school, but few students-outside of the hardcore sports fans had ever heard of Dan.

2010 Question: Would you ever want to have your own TV show?

Le Batard: maybe….eventually….if they let me do it the way we do radio, which is sloppy and would be anti-tv

I was a huge fan of Le Batard and his local radio program, and had been since it came on the air in 2004. Le Batard and his cohost Jon “Stugotz” Weiner were unique, and even the 12 year-old-sports fan in me could appreciate that. Over the next six years, I spent hundreds of hours listening to the show, and it helped push me to be a broadcaster and a journalist. Many other young people in South Florida had a similar experience.

Miami sports talk had been stale and old and musty and angry for decades. Then, seemingly out of the blue, one Miami homer and another recovering New York sports cliché machine entered the scene and changed the game forever.

Fast forward back to 2010. After months of searching, I was finally able to find an email that reached him (I’m not sure how much of this had to do with my inexperience in my fledgling journalistic career.)

We started a short email correspondence – he was short but pleasant and willing to answer a few questions.

What follows is that original email chain – unedited. I find it interesting anyway, because it highlights how quickly things can change in life.

Q) Where were you born and raised, and did your early years have an affect on why you became a journalist/radio host? 

Le Batard: Born in Jersey City, NJ…Came here at four….Growing up here made me want to become, from a very early age, South Florida’s sports voice….I had no national aspirations….I just wanted to talk about sports in our market

Q) You went to Chaminade High School, so why did you go there, and what were you involved in as a student? (Clubs, etc..)

Le Batard: Key Club….Speech Club…..High school newspaper….So long ago….Hard to remember….Was more involved in my church youth group…..

Q) You also went to the University of Miami and wrote for the “Miami Hurricane” during the time when Miami was really the swaggering, non apologetic, badasses that we all love. Why do you think that period and those teams where so important for the city? What is your fondest memory of this time?

Le Batard: They didn’t lose a home game the entire time I was in school….I just loved being that close to something so edgy….You could feel at the time that those teams were doing something different….I was very lucky to have UM get relevant and controversial in football when I started there….

Q)After UM, where did you work? 

Le Batard: Worked at The Herald and interned at the LA Times

Q) What is the worst story that you had to cover as a “grunt” at the Herald? 

Le Batard: Starting out, before The Herald, I had to cover city-council meetings about sewage for The River Cities Gazette, a community weekly….

Q) How did you get into radio? 

Le Batard: was a guest on espn radio every sunday….then they gave me the show….so i was doing national radio from my house, with my dog barking on sunday mornings, on an isdn line….funny….more than 200 radio stations….then they called locally from 790, and it made sense and sounded fun as a career transition

Q) How did the “Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” come about?

Le Batard: Stugotz called and asked if I wanted to do shows with Boog Sciambi….Boog couldn’t do it right away….So I did it with Stugotz….It was truly terrible….But we figured it out….Now it is slightly less terrible

Q) Why do you hate standard sports talk radio, with clichés and all?

Le Batard: Just boring to me….Outgrew it….And very little truth in most of what I hear….Too much is just uninformed, dataless gibberish

Q) Who is the most fascinating person that you have met or interviewed? 

Le Batard: Such a hard question….The most consistently introspective and interesting is Pat Riley….That’s in sports, and doesn’t include Muhammad Ali, who had lost most of his ability to speak by the time I met him…..You asking me for most consistently interesting person or most interesting journey/story?…..Because I gravitate toward the ones close to my heart (Cuban) and the different guys (Ricky Williams, John Amaechi, Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds, Trace Armstrong)

Q) Your show is very funny. Is this by design or is it a by product of the fact that you just hate the norms of how radio has been done? 

Le Batard: There is very little design with our show….Nothing worse than trying to be funny and failing so we don’t try to be funny….I like to laugh, and I think a million things that happen in sports are laughable….But all I’m trying to do is entertain myself…..

Q) How did you become a personality on ESPN?

Le Batard: ESPN realized early that sportswriters make cheap programming….That we are informed, because we learned as reporters, not just as gasbags (we became gasbags later in life, with the help of TV)….We had to ask questions and be curious and inform ourselves, and we had opinions that were informed when asked difficult questions on the spot….So when that movement started, in the 1990s, I was one of the guys who was known in writing circles as having opinions, and ESPN wanted me also to write for their magazine, which was starting, so we merged the two….they gave me tv, and i gave them writing

Q) Really, the only show on ESPN that seems to be similar to you in your beliefs and outlook is “Pardon the Interruption.” Is this a coincidence? 

Le Batard: Not at all….They started it….I followed….they taught me to mock myself….and i loved what they had behind the scenes there, a bunch of friends helping each other and laughing….when i got back from washington, i said i wanted something like that for myself in miami….so we created the radio show, working with and for my friends

Q) Would you ever want to have your own TV show?

Le Batard: maybe….eventually….if they let me do it the way we do radio, which is sloppy and would be anti-tv

Q) Why do you stay in the Miami/South Florida Market? You would never do a national show?

Le Batard: family here….this is only place that matters to me….that’s why i haven’t done in national tv on my own yet….every offer wants me in la or nyc and i’m not leaving here

Q) Why do you think people pretend to be outraged by the whole steroids scandal?

Le Batard: i don’t think they are anymore….i think they are numb….the media keeps it an issue, too late, but i’ve never seen more of a disconnect between a story the media thinks is important and fans really don’t….

Q) Would you be surprised if anyone in baseball today was doing steroids? Take Derek Jeter or Cal Ripen Jr. for example.

Le Batard: never mind baseball….i wouldn’t be surprised by anyone in sports doing it…..it helps heal….and they all need healing

Q) Who is your favorite journalist or radio host?

Le Batard: i like so many…..gary smith of sports illustrated…..scott price……michael lewis…..scott raab of esquire….charles pierce….too many to name

Q) If you weren’t in media, what would you be doing?

Le Batard: i’d be a psychologist or therapist

Q) Who or whom do you attribute your success to? 

Le Batard: Parents….Dad gave me work ethic and Mom gave me everything else

Q) Is Bristol Connecticut really that bad?

Le Batard: yes

Cover Photo Credit: ESPN

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