Jim Rome's new Showtime series debuts this week, with Kobe Bryant… (Matt Sayles / Associated…)
Jim Rome cut his teeth talking sports on Southern California radio, taking his show to locales such as Reuben's in Brea and the Rose and Crown pub in Anaheim to bond with fans and build an audience, delivering a smart, opinionated style.
Rome this week will introduce the second of three series attached to his move to CBS this year, debuting "Jim Rome on Showtime." Rome has a daily television show on CBS Sports Network, and his CBS radio show will launch in January.
The first Showtime guests will be Kobe Bryant, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Golden State Warriors co-owner and Hollywood executive Peter Guber.
Your career worked out exactly as planned, right?
"I always thought if I came at it pretty hard, maybe there was a place for me in the business. Maybe I could make a living. But I have far exceeded any plan I had for myself."
You connect with the fans because you talk to them as intelligent sports fans talk to each other as friends. You air what you're really thinking. Did you sense early on that's what you wanted to make your show all about?
"I think so. I'd definitely agree with that. The thing I had going for me — the only real advantage and edge I had — was I hit the thing on the ground floor, before sports talk exploded as a genre. I was coming at it from a different point of view. I had a different approach. I thought if I cut through all the B.S., and just shot straight, and came at it honestly, asking the types of questions people wanted to hear, that it would go well."
You must have had some people like we have in my business discouraging that type of style, telling you don't go outside the box, do what has worked in the past. How did you successfully get past that, deciding, "I'm going to do this my way"?
"I kind of negotiated this deal with myself early on. I was kind of introspective even in college. I knew what I wanted to do, and I badly wanted to achieve it, but I hadn't answered the question, 'Why you? Who cares what you have to say? Who are you? What makes you different?' And I thought if I could answer that question, I might have a shot. I grew up listening to sports talk radio. I grew up in Los Angeles, listened to Dodger talk. Whenever I listened, it was always the same thing – the guy with the big voice, and somebody would call that guy and say, 'You have a great show. What are the Dodgers' chances this year? I'll hang up and take your answer off the air.' And I thought, by the way, that's not really entertaining. It's not compelling. And there's no way everyone's going to listen to that every day. Be aggressive. Be informative. Be entertaining. And give them a reason to come back every single day. I made that deal with myself. Don't back down. Just keep coming at it."
The landscape has fostered copycats to that style. You were an original. Has that more than anything allowed you to endure?
"The way I've been able to endure, I've always had a good team of people around me. I always knew you were only as good as your last show. If you don't put your time in, put in the work and B.S. them or lay it up, they'll find someone else to listen to. I've always been motivated by that challenge to not be complacent."
You reached a level at ESPN with "Rome Is Burning," a pinnacle. This move to CBS happens why?
"My feeling with ESPN was I was getting comfortable, and I felt the bigger risk would be in not taking a risk. I needed a new challenge. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, to reach. And I felt at that point in my career, if I don't do it now, I'm never going to do it."
The things you're doing … it's a lot. Is this what you want to do?
"It's exactly what I want. Because there's going to come a time where they'll say, 'Hey, old man, it was a good run, but we don't give a damn what you have to say anymore.' I want to keep that day at bay for as long as I can."
What convinced you the Showtime show is needed?
"One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle is the Showtime show. I think it's going to work. It's different in a lot of ways, far and away the most challenging show I've ever taken on … there's nothing else like it on television. I've always done that daily topical half-hour show, come in, rant, interview, panel, rant, thanks for coming. That's not what this show is. It's nice to know if I want to go to another place and push another envelope, I can do that. There'll be a crossover element. People in the arts, politicians, literary people … who have an opinion on sports."
With Kobe, there'll be a lot to discuss. Do you think his hand was heavy in the Lakers' coaching change? And what are your thoughts on Mike D'Antoni as the answer?