The Blackest Questions

Laughs, sports & soap operas with Stephen A. Smith

Episode 33

Sports Journalist and New York Times bestselling author Stephen A. Smith brings his high energy and iconic voice to The Blackest Questions as he shares intimate stories about life before fame and talks about his love for soap operas, Michael Jordan and Tom Ford suits.

BLOOMINGTON, MN – FEBRUARY 01: TV personality Stephen A. Smith attends SiriusXM at Super Bowl LII Radio Row at the Mall of America on February 1, 2018 in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi and welcome to the Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor for theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we ask our guest five of the Blackest Questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history past and present. So here’s how this works. We have five rounds of questions about us Black history, the entire diaspora, current events, you name it. And with each round, the questions get a little tougher and the guest has 10 seconds to get it right. If they answered the question correctly, they’ll receive one symbolic Black fist and they’ll hear this. And if they get it wrong, they’ll hear this. But we still love them anyway. And after the five questions, there’ll be a Black bonus round at the end. Just for fun. Our guest for this episode is sports journalist and TV personality Stephen A. Smith, who has spent decades in the sports world making friends and some enemies with his strong opinions and no holds barred approach. He’s a fan favorite, especially a favorite of mine on ESPN and earlier this year released his memoir, Straight Shooter. It’s now a New York Times bestseller. He’s also a podcast host. Podcast, No Mercy and you can find that wherever you get your podcasts. Hello, Stephen A. Thank you so much for joining us on the Blackest Questions.

Stephen A. Smith [00:01:21] Dr. Greer, honored to be with you. How are you doing?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:24] I’m great. I’ve been a fan for a very long time. You know, I’m in Brooklyn, so, you know, I have lots of sports, sports loves and hates that we’ll get into over the course of the next few minutes. Okay. Let’s jump right in. You ready for question number one?

Stephen A. Smith [00:01:39] Whatever you got for me, what’s up?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:41] All right. This basketball player holds the NBA record for most points, scored in a single game. He scored 100 points helping the Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks.

Stephen A. Smith [00:01:54] Wilt Chamberlain.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:55] There we go. Wilt was born in Philly in 1936 and died in Los Angeles in 1999. He was seven foot one and played in the NBA for 14 seasons. He holds more than 70 NBA records, including the only player to average 50 points in a season. So we know that you are a basketball export expert extraordinaire. Who is your favorite basketball player of all time?

Stephen A. Smith [00:02:17] Michael Jordan.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:18] Really?

Stephen A. Smith [00:02:19] Yeah.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:21] That was quick.

Stephen A. Smith [00:02:22] Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan, he was phenomenal. He was sensational in so many ways. Of course, I have adulation for the great Larry Bird and Magic Earvin Magic Johnson, because they revolutionized the game. They made it what it is. Nobody’s more responsible for making the game what it is today than them. Michael Jordan ultimately took it to the next level and really, really cemented that reality. But it started with them when they came into the league. The league was on tape delay. It was drug infested. It wasn’t embraced by advertisers and sponsors. It was considered a quote unquote, Black product that wasn’t meant for mainstream, let alone to go global. And Larry Bird and Magic Johnson changed all of that. And so because of that and the marketing machine behind them that, you know, basically put the NBA in the mind’s eye, that’s how the NBA ultimately got to a point where it could be what it is today. But Michael Jordan was just electrifying. He was a guy that I mean, again, he was Air Jordan. He was, you know, defy adept defying moves. A level of competitive fervor that was unmatched, was so competitive and so great that you literally saw opponents petrified to go up against him. It was as if they were stepping in and octagon or squared circle the box for crying out loud, and they were scared to get knocked out. You would think they wouldn’t have that level of fear because all we’re talking about is basketball. But that’s the level of fear he instilled in many, many, many opponents throughout the years because he was simply that sensational. And then to back it up by winning six NBA championships, being the NBA Finals MVP and all six championship rounds to never allowing a game series to reach seven games in the championship round, then to be a ten time scoring champion, a nine time all defensive player or first team All NBA defensive player. The list goes on and on in terms of the superlatives that you could throw out about him, there was no question in my mind to me that he is the greatest basketball player that ever lived. That’s how I feel about him.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:36] Okay. Well, you know, I was going to say Dominique Wilkins was my favorite, but I guess not.

Stephen A. Smith [00:04:40] Not even. I love I love Dom. I love Dom. I know, Dominique Wilkins, you know,.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:45] No LeBron?

Stephen A. Smith [00:04:46] The Human Highlight Reel. Not even not even close with Dominique. And LeBron, LeBron is phenomenal. Went to ten NBA finals. I’ve got him number two all time behind Jordan but he’s lost six NBA Finals. He has two less MVPs. One less league MVP, two less finals MVPs. When you look at the greatness that LeBron James has put on display as phenomenal as it has been statistically. Watching the games and seeing the competition go up against them, understanding what it all entailed. I don’t think there’s any question that when you look at LeBron James, he was a lot of things. He was not Michael Jordan.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:28] Okay. Now, you played college basketball, Winston-Salem State University.

Stephen A. Smith [00:05:31] I tried to play. I tried to play. I tried to play, Yes.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:35] Did you ever have dreams of being in the NBA?

Stephen A. Smith [00:05:37] Yes, but they were, shooting guard, but they were foolhardy dreams. I was coming out of high school. I was 130 pounds soaking wet. My first year in college at Winston-Salem State. I cracked my kneecap in half. And even if I was 100% healthy, all my best game, I was never good enough to go pro. Could I ball? Yes. Could I ball in the streets and go neighborhood to neighborhood? And you looked at me and said he could really ball? Sure. But I wasn’t on the level of these guys and I knew better than that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:05] All right. Listen, I’m here with Stephen A. Smith. You’re listening to the Blackest Questions. We’re going to take a quick commercial break. Stay tuned. Okay, we are back. We’re playing the Blackest Questions with one of my favorite journalists, Stephen A. Smith. Are you ready for question number two?

Stephen A. Smith [00:06:23] Let’s do it.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:23] Okay. This daytime soap opera was the first to feature a predominantly Black cast. It premiered in 1989 and ran for only two seasons, but included familiar faces like Vivica A. Fox, Debbi Morgan and Kristoff Saint John. What was the name of this soap opera?

Stephen A. Smith [00:06:41] I need multiple choice because I remember the soap opera. I just don’t remember the name until I hear it. I need a multiple choice. Can I get a multiple choice?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:48] No. Multiple choices.

Stephen A. Smith [00:06:49] Oh, my Lord. Oh, my goodness. And I. Listen, I’m on General Hospital. I have a recurring role on Friends with the Stars, Sonny Corinthos, and our friends with Victor Newman, who’s Eric Braeden in real life, The Young and the Restless. These are my buddies and I know my soaps. I used to watch All My Children and One Life to Live. I can’t remember the name of the soap opera. I can’t remember the name.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:14] You ready?

Stephen A. Smith [00:07:15] Go ahead.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:15] It’s called Generations. Generations was centered around two Chicago families, one Black, the other white.

Stephen A. Smith [00:07:21] Oh, I know. I didn’t remember the name.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:23] Stemmed from race and old versus new money. The show was watched by about 2 million households per day, which for soap operas is considered low ratings. The show was canceled after executives realized more Black viewers were watching The Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives. Now, I was a young The Restless fan.

Stephen A. Smith [00:07:39] Yes.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:39] And initially Days of Our Lives. But whenever we switched babysitters, we would switch soap operas.

Stephen A. Smith [00:07:43] I just think it’s unfair. The question. You can’t give me a soap opera question that was around for two years. I mean, when you got General Hospital, Young and The Restless been around for 50. I mean, my God.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:55] We know that you are a huge fan of General Hospital.

Stephen A. Smith [00:07:57] Oh, my goodness.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:58] As you said, you’ve been on several episodes playing the character Brick.

Stephen A. Smith [00:08:01] Trust you with my life. Trust goes both ways, you know that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:07] But we know that people don’t watch soaps the way they used to. But I will say Stephen A.

Stephen A. Smith [00:08:11] Still watch them.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:11] I’ve got some friends who still DVR Young and the Restless every day.

Stephen A. Smith [00:08:15] Let me tell you something.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:16] And they still watch soaps.

Stephen A. Smith [00:08:16] Well, first of all, you look at one of them. Okay. Now The Young and the Restless. That’s because my buddy Eric Braeden. But I TiVo General Hospital. I TiVo General Hospital, DVR General Hospital because I have a recurring role on a soap opera. I’m a part of it. And I’ve been watching the soap for over 40 years. Listen, I will tell you this. If people are not watching, could’ve fool, could have fooled me. I literally am obviously synonymous with the world of sports. There isn’t a city that I go to where I don’t get stopped as Brick.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:46] As Brick.

Stephen A. Smith [00:08:47] You know, as Brick, the surveillance expert for the mob. I’ve had old white men come up to me and say to me, “I don’t mean to bother you, but my wife is scared to come over. She’s a huge fan and she loves Brick. I don’t know what the hell that is, but she does. And she loves Brick. Who’s Brick?” And I was like, “Of course. Yeah, no problem.”

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:07] Walk me through how you, Stephen A., who we can talk about the Knicks. We can talk about the Cowboys. We’ve know about every single aspect of sports. How does one stumble into a reoccurring character on General Hospital?

Stephen A. Smith [00:09:19] Oh, I made a cameo appearance in 2007. Okay. Because they heard I was a fan. I didn’t like that because I was only on for 10 seconds and I never got to meet Maurice Benard, who plays Sonny Corinthos. Fast forward to the year 2016, and they asked me back on because somebody is watching this new executive producer Frank Valentini asked me to come on, make make an appearance. I did a scene with Maurice Bernard. Maurice Bernard is sitting there with his eyes, just like bug eyed looking at me. And he was like, “That was sensational,” and I’m not thinking anything of it. And the next thing I know, the executive producer, Frank, ends up coming downstairs and he says, “Oh my God, that was phenomenal. You did great.” He said, “Let me ask you a question.” He said, “Do you have time to do this?” I said, “What do you mean, do I have time?” He says, “I want to know if I put some more lines in there, could you come back and do some?” I said, “I’ve got to check my schedule.” But I said “It shouldn’t be a conflict for me to get to L.A. to do some scenes for you.” He said, “No, we want to make this a permanent recurring role for you. Whenever you come out here, we want you to be Brick. Sonny’s right hand, dude.” And I was like, “Done, no problem.”.

Stephen A. Smith [00:10:43] You know and it was really, really that simple. Now, Sonny, you know, Maurice Benard in them, they tell me I can act and stuff like that. I don’t want to give myself that much credit because I have such profound respect for actors and actresses and for the art. Because to experience it, to know that you can’t mess up lines, that you hold up on an entire crew when you don’t get your lines right and stuff like that. There’s just so much profound respect that I have for them. I would never call myself an actor, at least not yet. But I know that I know the role because I know the soap, because I watch it all the time. And so as a result of that, I’m like, I know what this role is supposed to be working for Sonny Corinthos. And I just make sure that I adopt that and then I just can’t give enough. Laura Right. Who plays Carly and Sonny Corinthos, played by Maurice Benard and Steve Burton, who left General Hospital, go on Young and a Restless before he came back to General Hospital. I give out those three names more than anything.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:45] Okay?

Stephen A. Smith [00:11:46] Because they literally, at one time or another, have coached me through scenes and they don’t have to do that. But they couldn’t be more kind, more generous with their time. And it’s just it’s a real family in that regard. And I just can’t say enough about how grateful I am that they’ve exhibited and displayed the level of kindness and sincerity that they’ve given me throughout the years and helping me grow in the role. I love them all.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:18] I listen, I know that so many sports fans who are listening to you, the Blackest questions know you from ESPN, but I don’t know if they haven’t picked up your your new memoir just yet. I don’t know if they know that you are such a soap opera fan. And I love this new piece of trivia. Do you have any sights on any other acting you want to do?

Stephen A. Smith [00:12:40] You know what I’ve decided? I’ve decided to take it a little bit more seriously. I’m literally just I’ve got a lot to do right now. But probably sometime this summer, I’m going to I’m going to start taking acting lessons, because what I find fascinating about it is that you can be anything the role says you are.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:01] Mm hmm.

Stephen A. Smith [00:13:02] And it’s one thing to know it because that’s acting. It’s another thing to experience it. It’s another thing to go out there and try to fulfill one’s depiction of what a role should be. And so when I think about some of my all time favorite movies, when I think about Gladiator, when I think about Glory with Denzel or Crimson Tide with Denzel, because he’s my all time favorite, when I think about various movies with with Morgan Freeman and Shawshank Redemption, for example, when I think about a Tom Hanks with Forrest Gump, you know, Gene Hackman, who was an all time favorite of mine as well, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat. The list goes on and on. You know what I marvel at and what Denzel, of course, and Malcolm X, which had to be a dream come true despite the pressure that obviously came along with it. Because you had to do that, right.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:58] Right.

Stephen A. Smith [00:13:58] Just just to to fantasize about being able to marry and engulf yourself and ingratiate yourself with a role. And you don’t have to apologize for it because that’s the role. You know, I think that there’s a level of freedom that comes with it if it’s a role you want to play. If it’s something you want to do, you can do it. And it’s like you don’t have to apologize to anybody because you’re acting. And so for me to ask over the last few years, strictly from doing General Hospital and of course I’m going to be in Creed as well and stuff like Creed III and stuff like that, I have fantasized about doing more acting and so I love Jamie Fox and Law Abiding Citizen with Gerard Butler, stuff like that. It’s like, you see this stuff he like, yeah, or Wesley Snipes in New Jack City You know you look at this kind of.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:58] All time classic, yeah.

Stephen A. Smith [00:14:58] It’s like, yeah, I could see myself doing something like that if I’m worthy and I don’t think I’m worthy yet. So I’m going to go take some acting classes and see what I can pull off.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:11] Listen, we’re all about manifesting here on the Blackest Questions. You know, I was a thespian for a short minute in college before I switched over to political science and classics. But there is something about embodying a role. But I think there is also something that’s different about screen acting versus theater acting. Would you ever want to go on stage?

Stephen A. Smith [00:15:27] No, no, no.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:28] Or are you going to stick with television and movies for now.

Stephen A. Smith [00:15:30] Television and film, That’s it for me. I don’t have any desire to be on Broadway, in the theater and stuff like that. Those are art. Those are artists extraordinaire. And obviously some of the great, great actors of our time we see can do both. And so I applaud them, I revere them, profound respect to them. And all I do is look at them and marvel at their greatness and applaud it. For me personally, with film and television, I think I can do that. My issue is, is anything that I choose to do, I aspire to do on an elite level. To make sure that I respect the industry. When I think about what I do in the world of sports television, everybody says I’m the guy. Well, guess what? Howard Cosell came before me. Bryant Gumbel came before me. Bob Costas came before me.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:16:18] Greg Gumbel.

Stephen A. Smith [00:16:20] Greg Gumbel, you know, and various others throughout history. I you know, people at ESPN that I work with, the Chris Berman is the Stuart Scott. God rest his soul. Jon Saunders God rest his soul, Dick Vitale and others, they paved the way for somebody like me. And so for me, one of the greatest compliments Dr. Greer I’ve ever received in my career was when ESPN let me go in 2009 over a contract dispute, and I came back to ESPN. They brought me back in 2011 and everybody was sitting there and shaking my hand, Good to see you, blah, blah, blah. And then I walked up to Chris Berman. Boomer, there’s obviously an iconic figure for ESPN for many, many, many years. And he extended his hand and he shook my hand. And I shook his hand and he held me tight and he said, welcome home. You never should have left. And I’m not an emotional guy, but I actually teared up. I didn’t cry, but I actually teared up. It meant so much to me to hear him say that because he was a guy that helped start ESPN, you know, going to games, bringing tapes back to put in and, you know, old school stuff that we could never imagine. Today, he helped build a network, you know, And I know what he meant when he said that to me. He looked at me as somebody, regardless of my bombast city and my demonstrative tendencies and all of this stuff, he viewed me as somebody that upheld the standard. When I look at somebody like Bryant Gumbel texting me and stuff like that, it says to me when they embrace me that I’ve upheld the standard they created, I didn’t veer away from it. I didn’t run away. I might try to take it to another level, but it’s building off of what they built and acknowledging that I stand on their shoulders. And that’s why I’m able to elevate. And it’s very, very important to me that I’m that way in anything that I choose to do. So whether it is sports, whether it’s acting down the line or whatever, the people that have done it and have done it right. I want to at the very least, be gifted enough and respectful enough of the industry so they’ll know I understand what shoulders I stand on. I thank you for it, and I hope that I don’t disappoint you while I try to do what I try to do.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:18:51] Oh, I love it. I’m so excited to see what you do next. We’re going to take a quick commercial break. I’m here with Brick a.k.a Stephen Smith. You’re listening to the Blackest Questions. And we’ll be back in just a moment. Okay, we’re back. I’m with Stephen A. Smith, podcaster, memoirist, and you know him from ESPN. Are you ready for question number three?

Stephen A. Smith [00:19:17] I don’t know. After that second question, Dr. Greer, I mean, I mean, that was a hard one right there. Let’s go for it. I probably will get the next one’s wrong, but let’s try. Let’s try.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:28] Okay. Let’s see how question number three goes. This Black fashion designer is known as the king of knockoffs. And while sometimes controversial, he is credited with introducing high fashion to the world of hip hop. Who is he?

[00:19:44] Oh.

[00:19:45] I’ve got his new sweatshirt. I should have worn it today.

Stephen A. Smith [00:19:48] I’m thinking names like Dame Dash. Timberland.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:52] Oh, more than that.

Stephen A. Smith [00:19:55] Oh. Mm. No, I don’t know.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:03] Dapper Dan. Dapper Dan is a self-taught tailor from Harlem, New York, who is dressed everyone from L.L. Cool J. Salt and Pepper to Floyd Mayweather.

Stephen A. Smith [00:20:12] Well, he ain’t never dressed me. See, I don’t know that stuff, Dr. Greer. I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, Dapper Dan, they never offered me anything to wear. I don’t know Dapper Dan like that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:24] Well, you know,.

Stephen A. Smith [00:20:24] I don’t know.

[00:20:25] So you can get the new sweatshirt from the Gap. I’ve got my new Dapp sweatshirt. He dropped out of high school, but later enrolled in an educational program sponsored by Columbia University that sent him to the continent of Africa. He returned with a sparked interest in fashion. And in the early 1980s, he had a store that was open 24 hours a day. I created custom clothing. So I’ve been told that you were enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology, better known as F.I.T, before you got the basketball scholarship and you left to pursue that. So what were your fashion goals back in the day?

Stephen A. Smith [00:20:56] There were none. I went there for advertising and communications with the sole express goal of ultimately transferring from that junior college to a four year institution where I would major in communications. I paid no attention to the fashion element of it at all. You know, even while I was that Fashion Institute of Technology, that was something that I had to do. I took psychology and sociology classes. Of course, my English writing and persuasive writing classes and stuff like that. PR classes for the purposes of, you know, of communications. But that was it. I was never, ever associated or affiliated in any way with fashion, even though I was at Fashion Institute Technology. I went there on a partial basketball scholarship. We a junior college team. We finished 35 and four and ranked 15th in the nation. I went there for that and to accumulate enough credit credits in the field of communications that will enable me to transfer to any four year institution where I would be able to finish in three years as opposed to going to school for additional four years.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:01] So you weren’t interested in fashion, but you were known as, you know, sort of a debonair person. Do you follow anyone in the fashion industry?

Stephen A. Smith [00:22:11] No, not at all. Not at all. I buy, you know, occasionally my Tom Ford suits my Brioni suits. And other than that, I have a tailor that makes some blazers for me in slacks. And I might rock that from time to time because everything doesn’t need to be Tom Ford or Brioni. But what happened was, is that I used to wear these real baggy outfits, right?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:32] Oh we remember.

[00:22:32] Because it was it was very, very comfortable for me. And so what happened is, is that this was the change in my life. First, it was a couple of changes. Number one, Billy King, the former president of basketball operations of the Philadelphia 76, was a VP at the time where Larry Brown was the head coach and Pat Croce was a minority owner. And they were very, very sharp dressers. Pat Croce was particular about his shoes. Larry Brown taught me how to rock suede shoes with a suit from time to time, and his suits were very, very dapper. And of course, Billy King prided himself and then the guy named Aaron Mackey, who’s not a head coach at Temple University, head basketball coach Temple University is his nickname was Blue. Everybody called them Blue, but he was a really, really sharp dresser, could really dress his tail off and always rocked the blue suits. Right. And so the combination of all of them used to tease me about my outfits because, you know, they knew I tried to dress. I would wear these baggy suits, but I’d have a shirt and tie on and all of this other stuff. And they would tease me. And so I had to, like, get in that kind of, you know, slim it up a little bit, but not too much because I didn’t like the straight leg because I just thought that that was just it was just it was just uncomfortable for me.

[00:23:44] So then a couple of a few years later, Dwayne Wade is now a star with the Miami Heat. And he’s very, very, very big in the fashion. And so he had he was doing business and had connected with these fashion designers from Europe. And he held an event. In Miami. I’m sorry, in New York. So the event was in New York. They made me promise to show up, and that’s my guy. So I was going to show up for him. So I show up there and one of my baggy suits, and he’s on stage with everybody. And I got there just a couple of minutes late because I had to work. The Dwayne Wade stops the event. And says to everybody, “You see why certain people need help. They need all the help they could get.” And pointed out my baggy outfits, you know, basically highlight that you can fit three legs into that one pant leg. He got me really, really good because I used to get on him about his outfits all the time. We wear pink and some of these other bizarre colors and stuff like that. I’m like, what you doing? And he really got me. And so from that point forward, I tried on a Tom Ford suit. And when I tried on a Tom Ford suit and it fit me perfectly. It was this woman in the store and she was like, “Oh my God, you are something special. Lord have mercy.” She doesn’t work there. She’s just a customer. She was like. “That is you.” You know, and so on. And so I try to not go outside and everyone was looking at me differently.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:17] It’s like going from Black and white to Technicolor.

Stephen A. Smith [00:25:18] It was like, whoa. It’s like it went from Black and white to Technicolor. I was like, It’s like that. Okay, I guess this works. So I still like, I still, like, not as baggy as it used to be because I’m not comfortable with a straight leg without a suit, but with a suit on, I’m comfortable with it. Without a suit. I like a little roll with a nice fly blazer, pocket, square tie the whole bit. But my wardrobe is definitely elevated to the point where I do believe I’m the best dressed man in sports television.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:49] We’re going to take a quick commercial break with the best dressed man in sports television, Stephen A. Smith. So we are pressed for time, but we’re going to skip to question number five. So we’re only going to give you four questions. This show.

Stephen A. Smith [00:26:06] Thank you. Because I keep getting them wrong. Anyway, I only got the first one right. But go ahead.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:10] But this last one, I don’t want to get your blood pressure up real fast, but here we go. Last question. This football player was an original member of the Dallas Cowboys and was drafted in 1960 where he played in a racially divided Dallas, Texas. He was the first Black star in the Cowboys and also made history as the first Black football player at the University of Colorado and the first Black sports anchor for CBS. Who is he?

Stephen A. Smith [00:26:37] I’m ashamed because I should know that. It’s just that when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, I pay attention to them losing not anything historical. Wow.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:49] The answer is Frank Clark.

Stephen A. Smith [00:26:53] I would not have guessed that.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:55] Frank Clark played with the Cowboys for eight seasons. He played both wide receiver and tight end. He held the Cowboys record for most touchdowns in a season with 14. For 45 years he held that record until 2007 when his broken by Terrell Owens. So we know that you have a special disdain for the Dallas Cowboys and your criticism of them is some of the biggest viral moments in football Sundays. Where did the disdain for the Cowboys come from and what’s your favorite football team?

Stephen A. Smith [00:27:23] Well, you know, first of all, I once had an ex-girlfriend in high school who dumped me. She was a Cowboys fan. That didn’t help.

[00:27:29] Okay, well, that’s enough.

[00:27:31] No, no, no, no, that’s not it. But. But. But I will tell you, in all serious, all seriousness, my disdain from the Cowboys emanates from their fans. It’s not the organization. It’s not. It’s not the Dallas Cowboys. And I should have known that answer in all seriousness about Frank Clark. I should have paid more attention than that. Usually I just look up my history. But the bottom line is I should have known that one. So that’s on me. But I will tell you this. The Cowboy fans are the most nauseating, disgusting fan base in American history.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:28:00] More so than the Eagles?

Stephen A. Smith [00:28:01] More so than everybody.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:28:03] Okay.

[00:28:03] It doesn’t matter how awful they are, they’re always going to win the Super Bowl next year. It doesn’t matter how futile. It doesn’t matter how moribund or pathetic they are, they are always going to be the champion next year and they live every season as if they are already the champions. That is what annoys me about them. Prime time Deion Sanders played for the Cowboys. Love them. My brother Michael Irvin. Play for them. Love him. My brother Emmitt Smith, my man Troy Aikman. Good dude, love him to death. Colleague at ESPN love these dudes. Jimmie Johnson, one of my favorite coaches of all time. All of them. Jerry Jones, my buddy. The bottom line is this. At the end of the day, the Cowboys fans are what ruined it for everybody. Ruined it absolutely for everybody. And I saw your head shaking about Jerry Jones. We can talk about that if you want to. But but that might be a different podcast. That’s a different podcast episode. But you know what? I’m just to me, I’m not going to hold the still photo from 66 years ago against somebody. I’m just not going to do it unless I see something that’s evident you standing in the crowd. That’s just me. I need more evidence than that. Having said all of that, at the end of the day, when I think about Jerry Jones, I think about a marketing genius for the Dallas Cowboys who somehow manages to keep them relevant when they’re not worthy of being relevant, he somehow pulls it off year after year after year. And he’s got these cowboy fans believe in every single year they’re going to be Super Bowl.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:29:34] This year is going to be the one. All right. So we’re going to take a quick commercial break. I’m with Brick, a.k.a. Stephen A. Smith, memoirist, podcaster. And you’re listening to the Blackest Questions. Stephen A., you’re born in the Bronx, but you grew up in Queens. After reading your book and you talk about sort of, you know, your upbringing. Tell us a little bit more about your book, Straight Shooter, a memoir of Second Chances and First Takes.

Stephen A. Smith [00:30:00] Well, the book was written, first of all, as a dedication to my mother, who passed away in 2017 after a lengthy battle with cancer. God rest her soul, she was always a straight shooter. She’s the greatest woman I’ve ever known. I’m a proud mama’s boy in that regard. There has never been, thank God for the existence of my two daughters, because there was never any one alive that I could have imagined loving as much as I loved my mother. And I miss her. I miss her every day. And I’ve been through a lot in my life, certainly not because of her. She’s also the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever known in a human being. And in writing this memoir to motivate and inspire, I had to highlight a lot of things that I’ve endured in my life. It was basically primarily a book to also celebrate her and the greatness that she exhibited, the perseverance and tenacity that she had to show. Unfortunately, because of the negligence of my father, which I also had to highlight because I couldn’t celebrate her without telling why she needed to be celebrated. And so, you know, that combined with my trials and tribulations that I had to endure throughout my life from get left back, from suffering from dyslexia, from having the relationship that I had with my father, who had little to no belief in me, to my mother’s unwavering faith in me, to how that ultimately propelled me through junior high school and high school and college to being where I am today. And so, you know, for me, again, it is to inspire and motivate. But it was also to highlight her greatness and also to let people know, give them insight into who I am, how I am, how I think, why I’ve adopted the perspectives that I’ve adopted throughout the years, and to provide to sit in a chair that I sit in every day. I thought it was incredibly important that I provide that perspective so people will understand why I think the way that I think why I am, the way that I am. I thought I owed that to the viewer, the reader, the listener, etc. because I sit in the chair that a lot of people consider to be incredibly influential and to whom much is given, much is required is a lot of responsibility that comes with that. And I just wanted to highlight for people there’s a responsibility that I embrace. Here’s why.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:28] It’s a beautiful reflection. It’s so thoughtfully written. And for those of you who haven’t read it or listened to it, be sure to check out Stephen A. Smith’s memoir, New York Times bestselling memoir, I should say, Straight Shooter, a memoir of Second Chances and Thirsty. Time for a quick break. We’ll be right back. Okay, We’re back. I’m with Stephen A. Smith. Are you ready for the lightning round?

Stephen A. Smith [00:32:55] Oh, Lord. How many? Do you just want to advertise to everybody what I don’t know, unless I look it up because I can’t get an answer right. You ask me questions for the 1960s. I mean, you ask me about fashion. I mean, I’m like, what? This is unbelievable. Well, go ahead.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:13] This is Black Lightning Round. There are no right or wrong answers. You just give me the first thing that pops into your head once I ask you the question. You ready?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:18] Sure. Sure.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:19] Okay. Back in your prime. If you could play it against any basketball player, dead or alive. Who are you picking?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:25] Steph Curry.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:27] Okay. Are you a morning person or night owl?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:30] Night owl.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:31] Of all the places you’ve visited, what’s your favorite?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:35] Barbados.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:37] When you want to indulge, are you grabbing something sweet or something salty?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:41] Sweet.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:42] Which boxing movie franchise are you watching, Rocky or Creed?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:46] Rocky.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:48] Which would you rather ask for permission or ask for forgiveness?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:52] Forgiveness.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:53] I think we all know that answer. And last one. Are you playing dominoes or spades?

Stephen A. Smith [00:33:58] Spades.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:33:59] All right, listen, you have been playing the Blackest Questions for our listeners out there we’ve been talking to Stephen A. Smith. Go pick up his new book, Straight Shooter, a memoir of Second Chances and first takes. Listen to his new podcast, No Mercy with Stephen A. Smith. I want to thank you all for listening to the Blackest Questions. This show is produced by Sasha Armstrong and Geoffrey Trudeau, and Regina Griffin is our director of podcasts. If you like what you heard, subscribe to this podcast. So you never miss an episode. And you can find out more in theGrio Black Podcast Network on theGrio app, the website or YouTube. Thank you so much for listening.

[00:34:50] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here. Everything you’ve been waiting for Black culture amplified. Find your voice on the Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile app and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard.

Panama Jackson [00:35:05] The real Black Podcast Network presents Dear Culture: Tru’ish Black Stories.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:35:12] When you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways. It’s, you know, I would say of my four, Randy Watson is my number one.

Michael Harriot [00:35:26] When the news about Ricky first broke, what I heard about it is the thing you hear about, you know, every time somebody Black dies that it was gang related. That means the police don’t know what happened. So they just said probably the gang’s probably, you know, the other Black dudes.

Damon Young [00:35:43] When I think of a killer, you know, I think about I think about how impressionable white people can be. I think about how, you know, if you watch that movie again, you know, if you should have laughed like three times.

Panama Jackson [00:35:55] Where were you when you heard the story about them suckers getting served by waves, dance crew?

Shamira Ibrahim [00:36:02] You know, it’s crazy that you mention this. So as a New Yorker, right, everyone knows where they were on 911, right? You know, couple of years later, Right. 2003. Everyone hears about this crazy moment in a boxing ring because that’s where dancers duke it out. Right in boxing rings.

Panama Jackson [00:36:18] If you could say something to Ricky right now, what would you say to him?

Monique Judge [00:36:23] Ricky, you should’ve never got that girl pregnant. You knew I had a crush on you. You should have got with me.

Panama Jackson [00:36:27] Is there moments in Black culture examined like never before. Join us each week as we dive into the Black moments that changed us. That changed the world. Make sure to subscribe to Dear Culture so you never miss an episode.