I am jealous of Graham Bensinger.
Among journalists today, Bensinger is the king of long-form interviews – up to 30 or 60 minutes with a single guest. His interviews are intelligent, well-researched and well-planned. If you ever heard “Costas Coast to Coast” 30 years ago, Bensinger is that good.
I envy Bensinger because I once wanted to be recognized as the king of interviewing. I hosted Weekend AllNight on ESPN Radio from 1999 to 2003. Each Saturday, we’d spend two or three segments interviewing a single guest. My goal was to ask questions that my guests had never been asked before. It kept them and my audience engaged and enthused.
One night, former Cal star QB and later head coach Joe Kapp was my guest. I asked Kapp who Mrs. So-and-So was. He gasped audibly. “She was my third grade teacher,” he replied. “She had as profound an impact on me growing up as anyone.” I knew that because of my research. Kapp went on to explain his teacher’s influence. It was riveting.
Another time, my guest was one of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters. In preparing, I found in the local library an old documentary on VHS tape. The show explained how the Trotters would “accidentally” misfire a pass into the lap of a hot woman in the audience. When my guest would return to the bench after retrieving the errant pass, a teammate would ask if the visit was successful. On the air, I asked my guest what it meant when his teammate asked, “Did you get the digits?” He laughed uproariously for 10 seconds before asking me how I knew about their trick for collecting phone numbers.
Once I interviewed Al Oliver, who won batting titles in both the American and National Leagues. In prepping, I discovered an incredible hot streak he once enjoyed – one that to this day has rarely been matched. I asked Oliver about it. I’ll always remember his reply. “In all the years I’ve been interviewed, nobody has ever asked me about that, and it was one of the most memorable accomplishments of my career.”
I loved interviewing. I loved researching. I loved asking folks questions they had never been asked. I loved listening for great follow-ups. I loved leading my guest to tell stories.
Here’s the point of this blog post: I didn’t love long-form interviewing enough to doggedly pursue it like Graham Bensinger has done. If you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen. Otherwise, you’ll make excuses.
I first heard of Graham Bensinger when he was roughly 13 years old, tracking down big-name athletes and interviewing them on whatever platform he had at that time. He’s pursued it doggedly ever since. He did what I wasn’t willing to do. Today, I feel some regret.
If you want something badly enough in your sportscasting career, don’t make excuses. Make it happen.