Big Lead Sports Bar


15 Questions with Jim Colony of ESPN Radio

As you may or may not know, I've always been a fan of ESPN Radio 1250's Jim Colony. If you've ever listened to the station, you've probably heard him doing the drive time sports news. He also makes regular appearances on a number of other ESPN programs, including Steel City Game Day and Pittsburgh Game Night. For you out-of-towners who are regular readers, let me give you this advice: if you're not familiar with Jim, I highly suggest you boot up your computers sometime and listen online.
Jim endures endless ribbing from Mark Madden on a regular basis and by all appearances is a tremendously good sport about it. He's always well-prepared and has his finger on the pulse of the Pittsburgh sports beat.
I'd always wanted to interview Jim for the site, because I think he's extremely under appreciated in the city. As luck would have it, Jim happened to email me last week and give me a heads up about an upcoming "Extra Point" segment he was taping regarding Barry Bonds. It appears that he and I shared the same opinion on the Pirates' treatment of Mr. Bonds and he wanted to let me know ahead of time that he wasn't guilty of plagiarism and that he wanted to tape his segment with a clear conscience.
I thought it was a classy move and would expect nothing less from Jim. He's a true professional in every sense. While I had his attention, I thought now would be a great time to ask for an interview. I figured that he's always the one interviewing people, so maybe he'd enjoy being on the receiving end for once.
I proposed 10 questions, but threw in 15 in case there were any he couldn't answer. Not only did he answer all 15, but he answered them in great detail. I was blown away.
So sit back and enjoy 15 questions with Jim Colony. In my totally unbiased opinion, it's a great read. And don't forget to catch Jim all the time on ESPN Radio 1250.
1. If ESPN Radio offered Mark Madden the opportunity to replace Dan Patrick, would you follow him to Bristol?

Mark would do well on the national stage . . . if they'd let him be himself. He would be unique ... but I doubt that will happen (for reasons Mark has outlined on his show). In any case, if the offer was right we'd strongly consider it (since my wife and I are from NE and the kids are out of HS) but the sell-a-house-here/buy-a-house-there sticker-shock would be severe. Plus we like Pittsburgh and have good friends here. This is our home. I also like being able to cover the local teams. Being stuck in studio would probably get pretty boring after awhile - and a short while at that.

Incidentally, the guy Bristol should go after for that mid-day show is Tim Benz.
2. What athletes, Pittsburgh-based or otherwise, have made your life easier as a member of the sports media?

Most players I've covered have been fairly easy to deal with, so I'll give props to the guys who make for good drop-ins ... the funny little sound bites that I can use over and over. In Boston, I got a lot of mileage out of Robert Parish and Red Sox manager Joe Morgan. Here, it's been Bill Cowher, Lloyd McClendon, Walt Harris, and Ben Howland. Michel Therrien shows great promise, along with Colby Armstrong and Ryan Whitney. Mike Tomlin is a potential drop-in gold-mine. Special media catagory ... Cope, DeNardo and Bob Smizik.

To answer the oft-asked question, hockey players are the most down-to-earth guys.
3. And the natural follow-up, which athletes have made you question why you got into this field in the first place?

No one, really. If some guy doesn't want to talk to me/us, there are (fill in the blank) 52, 24, 22 others that I/we can go to. A quick story, though. The first month I was here (July of '91), Huey Richardson held out and on the day he finally signed several of us wanted to talk to him and he started walking with us holding our microphones and note pads as if he was somebody important (although I guess as the Steelers' #1 draft pick he was). But I decided "F this" and stopped following that circus so I missed the big scoop. Turns out the scoop was the first time he lined up in practice and showed right away that he couldn't play.
4. You work for ESPN, so you're obviously on the inside and can definitively answer this question: Who's Now?

Not the guy who thought of it, that's for sure.
5. What do you see in your crystal ball for the Steelers and Penguins this season? Lombardi Trophy? Stanley Cup? 8-8? 82-0?

The Vegas over-under on number of Steelers' wins is 9, which is spot on. I guess that's why Vegas has all those big buildings. As I write this, I haven't been to camp yet so we don't know what potential disaster(s) may follow. But there is something about Tomlin and I think Ben Roethlisberger will skew toward the '04 regular season and '05 playoffs Ben. I'll say at least 10-6 with a shot at 11-5.
The Penguins will be a better team, yet I'm not sure they can top 105 points since the Atlantic Division appears much improved. As long as Marc Andre Fleury continues his progression, there's no reason they can't get to at least the Conference, if not the Cup, Finals. So they could win it all this soon.

6. Given the fact that you were both New Hampshire Wildcats, do you share a special bond with Dan Kreider?

Of course! And now, there's not only Dan and I, along with my wife, her mother, and Channel 2 weather legend Bob Kudzma ... the Pens signed goalie Ty Conklin who backstopped UNH to the NCAA championship game in '01. Special props to Pine-Richland alum Dan Wagner a recent grad who co-captained the Wildcats' nationally-ranked footbal team, but I believe he took a job out of the Pittsburgh area. You, too, Brian Levey.
7. Which job would you least want to have right now: Roger Goodell's, David Stern's, Bud Selig's, or Gary Bettman's?

If I may go back to my SAT days for a moment . . . E. All of the above.

But to answer the question ... oddly enough, even though he has no scandals (well, except for blocking Balsillie in both Pgh and Nashville which doesn't count) - and is also the one commissioner who has a player who is the unquestioned (and it's not even close) best in his sport with an unassailable reputation - Gary Bettman probably still has the toughest job. To most people, his league doesn't matter.
8. You've been a sports media member for a long time. How much has the presence of sports blogs changed your industry?

I am probably more internet savvy than a lot of people, but I'm not all that savvy since this blog stuff is relatively new to me. The first "blog" I really knew about was Ecklund's website during the NHL lockout ... and, unless you consider mainstream ESPN/CBS Sportsline types bloggers ... the only others I check routinely are Pro Football Talk and Raul's.
9. John Fedko appears to be a big fan of yours. Any chance we could see a Colony Fone Zone in the near future?

I heard about this "Colony Fone Zone" from our young producers who are actually awake at that hour; they also found a clip on You Tube. They downloaded into our audio system so you'll probably hear that sound-bite soon. One of our kids was once an "O" in a FEDKO ZONE line-up at a Pine-Richland football game and John has been forever grateful.
10. You really used to jog with Bill Cowher? Let's fill the audience in on that story.

It's not that big of a deal. When I came back in '00 we got to chatting after a morning practice at training camp talking mostly about our kids who are roughly the same age and involved in sports. He was stretching and then, while I was asking a question, he started to run. When I protested, he said, "if you want to talk, you have to run" so (suspending my Huey Richardson Rule) I did and we continued our chat. I had been a recreational runner and, while I was in poor shape, it felt pretty good so we kept it up. I only got one or two good inside stories over the years and have been sitting on a favor. It may be time to cash in.
At least Cowher was only a couple of years younger ... and I actually used to start fast and kept him on pace, so he looked stronger at the finish. I'm in awful shape right now and Mike Tomlin has me by 17 years ... so you can forget about that.
11. Tell us more about Jim Colony away from the studio. What are you watching, what are you listening to, what are you reading (other than ESPN, ESPN Radio, and, of course)?
Sadly, right now, I'm not watching ESPN, but FSN. Ronny Paulino didn't swing at a hanging slider just under the letters over the inside half ... then took a fastball on the outside corner for strike 3. A major-leaguer has to be ready to swing at one of those pitches. Then Jack Wilson got called out on a pitch at his ankles. The TV camera showed Jim Tracy shaking his head on the bench. It would have "done no good", but at some point a manager has to go out there and stick up for his players ... like the other night when Nady got called out on not 1, but 2, check swings. Maybe a manager showing that he cares might do some good. Jason Bay hit a home run (naturally, a solo shot) then somehow failed to follow a routine fly ball that maybe Xavier Nady could have caught from center except he jogged after it because he thought Bay had an easy play. Then 3rd baseman Matt Kata made an error that was ruled a hit and on the first pitch after a Jim Colburn visit, Ian Snell gave up a home run to the f-ing pitcher (his first in the big leagues so maybe that means against the Pirates that doesn't count)!!!
Thank goodness the Johnny Tsunami sequel is also on Disney.
Other than that, I watch Entourage (and did watch The Sopranos and Deadwood) on HBO. 24 is ridiculously unbelievable, and kind of lost it in the second half last season, but I'll be back for another season. I'm convinced that Keifer Sutherland is actually Vic Morrow's biological son. I watch Combat on American Life ... Gallent Men, too. Friday Night Lights walks the fine line between real-life issues and unrealistic scenarios (Matt Sarazen would never have gotten a single snap at North Allegheny - and I mean at Carson Middle School, much less the high school) yet I still watch. I got into Jericho which, apparently, CBS is bringing back after it was cancelled. If only my letter to NBC regarding American Dreams had done as much good. Oh yeah, NUMBERS is good ... I'll watch Las Vegas . . . Deadliest Catch on Discovery is tremendous - an actual reality show! And, of course, the Fedko Fone Zone.
I do listen mostly to us. Other than that, it's Y108 and Froggy ... my wife got me listening to Country and most of it is a lot like the Doobies, CCR, Eagles, Allman Brothers stuff that I listened to a lot of back in the day. That Megaticket is a great deal (yes, we paid) and we enjoy the shows. The Chesney concert was a great event with what we considered 4 headline acts. I have my wife's permission to leave her for Sara Evans as long as she gets Keith Urban.
I usually don't leave the house before 10 AM, but if I'm driving around early enough, I'll listen to Benz on 105.9. I've also been known to check in with my friend, Doug Hoerth, on WJAS Sunday evenings.
As for reading, I love to read, but reading the PG and Trib, other papers and stories online, and magazines doesn't leave a lot of time for books. The last one I completed was Pistol. I was into Pete Maravich as a kid and the Western Pa connection is strong. I also have a few history books that I use as occasional reading material ... so it's not just the P-G sports section every morning.

12. Is training camp going to be as tough as it sounds, or is Coach Tomlin playing some mind games with his team?

13. I mentioned Sharky's on the site the other day, and I got email after email in favor of Dino's. Where do you sit on the debate of Training Camp Bar of Choice?
Last summer was really the first that I spent any amount of time overnight so I'm really somewhat of a newbie. The time I went out, Sharkey's was all media, while the scouts and front office guys hung at Dino's so both were good. Of course, the guy who owns Sharkey's picked up a few rounds, so his place gets the edge. I'll be there Thursday through Saturday - and at Dino's, too.
14. Mentally, is it challenging to keep up with a Super Genius on a daily basis?

Yes, it is. My wife keeps me on my toes.
15. Level with me: does Mark take you out for a beer at the end of the day for being such a good sport?

Only if I'm buying ... and with my widely-publicized minimum wage and those pesky college loans, not to mention the mortgage, I really can't afford it. So I guess the answer is "no."


Hooks Orpik said...

Kudos to colony, usually main-stream media members blatantly rip off bloggers ideas, not contact them beforehand and make sure it's cool.

Good man.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Most underappreciated sports personality in Pittsburgh, Colony is always witty and entertaining.

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

well done Mr. Colony

Bic said...

Wow, never thought I'd have the middle school I went to mentioned on Mondesi's House. (Woo Carson!)

I love listening to Colony and Madden together, but hopefully neither of them have been hanging around John Duffy too much:

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Hey, I was looking at the Carolina Panthers team preview on Deadspin today (I don't really go to Deadspin much anymore, but I do like the team previews), and someone referred to Mondesi as "Ron" in the comments section.

hashmoney said...

yeah so Mr Colony is my neighbor or close enough to be, Hes a pretty cool guy, i went to hs with his son :-P

Anonymous said...

Big Bucco promotional idea...

"Barry" the Hatchet Night!

That's right, Bucco fans. We're gonna "Barry" the hatchet and retire Barry's number this Saturday night after a pre-game concert by Molly Hatchet and right before another pre-game concert by Toto.

The first 15,000 fans in attendance will receive an RJ Reynolds bobblehead that will come with pizza sauce on his head, to commemorate the time Barry Bonds dumped a pizza on RJ's headed on the flight from Cincy to Pittsburgh following the Buccos' Game 6 loss in the last game of the 1990 NLCS!

The whole night is sponsored by Domino's Pizza.

Be the first to "Barry" the hatchet and we'll see you at PNC Park on this Saturday night.

(This means you, Florian!)

Thejim said...

God bless him for having to sit in close proximity to that sweaty, fat bastard.

Unknown said...

Colony's a classy guy as evidenced by his responses. He went into a lot more depth than he had to. It's good to see that he gives some respect to the blogger world.

Unknown said...

I was kinda hoping for a gay world series question...but good interview nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Two words about Jim: The Best. Back in the day his morning show was top notch. Too bad I can't pick up the signal in Bowling Green, KY

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