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AA Q&A: Trey Wingo

Compared to some of his cohorts at ESPN, it sometimes seems as though Trey Wingo flies under the radar. He's not bombastic or silly, and he doesn't really bring the hubris. That, in our opinion, is a good thing. And that's why it's usually a joy to watch Wingo do his thing on NFL Live. 

This week, Awful Announcing caught up with Wingo for 10 questions. 

1. Is there a broadcast that stands out for you more than others? I’m guessing SportsCenter on 9/11 registers there.

"That was obviously a very unique situation, and one — quite frankly — that hopefully we never have to go through again, for obvious reasons. But it was just a really weird time. And seeing the smoke coming from the towers and leaving the house and going to work, and I'm pulling out of the driveway and my wife leans out the window, 'A bomb just went off at the Pentagon.' And obviously that was another plane, which we didn't know at the time. I kept driving to work thinking, what am I doing? Why am I going to work today? What could we possibly do that would be of any interest or useful to anybody today? And it was a big discussion about that in the office that week. And Bob [Ley] was there, and he came to the conclusion — rightfully so — that whatever it's supposed to be, our job is to go out there and report on the world of sports and how this has affected that. And we did that, we did that for a week. It was basically Bob and I for most of that entire week, and it was certainly a week I'll never forget. And I was very happy to be out there with Bob doing it. It was just a very strange thing."

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2. So did you have conflicting feelings hosting the country’s preeminent sports show at a time when sports seemed so trivial? You and Ley were praised for handling it well, but it must have been tough.

"We had an internal discussion: Would our resources be better-served handing them over to ABC News so that we could reach as many people as possible? And quite frankly, that sort of happened. We used a lot of their footage and reporters and information, but we tried to do it — at the end of the day our job is to report the news of the day in terms of the sports world and how it was impacted by that. And obviously it was significant because the Jets were practicing and their facility was right across. They could see the burning smoke. And Shea Stadium was used as sort of a place where people could come and go and get equipment and food. So there were stories to be covered, and obviously the big one was whether or not the games were going to be played that Sunday. And rightfully so, they weren't. So it was very conflicting, it was very strange, but I think we made the right call to do the job as we saw fit and understand our place in a time like that."

3. Your dad did a lot work with Life Magazine and was a founding editor at People. Did you ever want to do non-sports journalism?

"I was always fascinated by what my dad did, and I thought he had one of the coolest jobs in the world. A lot of my friends, their dads were bankers or insurance salesmen or businessmen or whatever, and my dad had a really cool job. It was great. Once or twice a year, when there was a teachers' in-service day or it was a school holiday, I'd get to go into work with him. We'd ride the train together into Grand Central and I'd just hang out around the building. He'd have me run errands for him. It was just neat to be a part of that. And I always knew that because of what he did, I wanted to do something like that, but I loved sports much more than he did and I thought it would be a great way to sort of marry the two together. There's always an interest to do other things, but I have fun doing this. This is a lot of fun for me. Could I do something else? Sure I could, but I like this and I like doing this part of it. But just being around my dad and seeing the things that he got to do in his job, which was very unique, it was kind of cool. And that really inspired me to want to get into the business somehow."

4. ESPN is still the “Worldwide Leader” but rivals are attempting to emerge, namely Fox Sports 1. Have you had a chance to watch any of their programming? If so, what are your thoughts on what they’re doing?

"Certainly. I've watched quite a lot of it, actually. And a lot of people there used to work here. This is a very small sort of world that we live in. There's a lot of people that were at ESPN that have moved on to Fox Sports 1. There's a lot of people at NFL Network that used to work here at ESPN. So you can't go anywhere in this business and not know people that are working at another place. I wish them nothing but the best. I hope that the friends of mine that are there are successful. We're going to do what we're going to do and they're going to do what they're going to do and we'll see how it all works out. But I certainly don't think of it as a, like, 'Oh, you guys are terrible!' or anything like that. Hey, go for it. Give it a shot, and I wish you nothing but the best. I think there's room for a lot of people at the table these days. The appetite for sports continues to grow and grow and grow."

4a. Up in Canada, where I'm from, we had three national sports networks for quite some time. And we're about a tenth the size of you. So I definitely agree that it can work. 

"Absolutely. And the guys at FS1 [Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole] came from Canada. So Canada's the gift that keeps on giving."

5. Maybe so in the media world. What are your thoughts on former players or coaches doing highlights? I feel like they butcher them. And as someone who appreciates the craft, it bothers me.

"I think that they can be done well, and I think that they can be done poorly. For me as a host, the thing I try to do with the analysts that are on the show is to put them in positions to use their area of expertise. Point out things that the common fan wouldn't see. I can see a play and say, 'Hey look, here's this great play to so-and-so.' But I think where an analyst really thrives in a highlight situation is where he can say, 'Here's why this happened.' And that's what we try to do a lot, whether it's with Herm Edwards or Mark Schlereth or Tedy Bruschi or Darren Woodson or Damien Woody. All these guys that we get to work with here — Jeff Saturday, who we just hired, Tim Hasselbeck. We can show you what happened, but they can tell us why it happened and how it happened. And I think that's the neatest thing about analysts in highlights. And I think that's the best way. Everybody can work together a little bit and really show off what they know about the game that we as fans don't really know. Stuff we think we know at times, but we don't really know."

6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you were quoted in that controversial ESPN book, “Those Guys Have All the Fun.” Did you decide not to get involved?

"They actually interviewed me once for about 30 minutes. I did have one quote in the book, which was kind of funny. I think the one quote in there was the guy Erik Rydholm, who did Pardon the Interruption, he asked me about it at the time, and I said, 'Well, it's just two old guys talking on television, so I don't quite understand how it's gonna work.' And of course it turned out to be the greatest thing ever, and [Michael] Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser have made that work because of their chemistry. So that was my one contribution to the book, and it turned out to be 100 percent wrong. The book was going to be written, it is what it was going to be, and they asked me to sit down and talk to them and I did, and that was all they took out of it."

6a. Did you read it?

"I did not read it, no. I've read clips of it, but no, I didn't read it." 

7. Did you watch the League of Denial documentary? What are your thoughts?

"Yes I did. I watched it from start to finish. I thought it was a very powerful television program, and I think there are some real things that a lot of us here knew — I've been here since 1997 and a lot of that stuff with Bennet Omalu and Mike Webster had been covered extensively on NFL Live and SportsCenter — but they did a nice job in putting it all together. And I think the league is doing a much better job now of trying to be aware of what goes on with concussions. But I think there were some issues in the past that were overlooked." 

8. Do you have a favorite NFL team? I'm sure you had one growing up.

I did have one growing up, but when you're in the business long enough, you find yourself rooting — not rooting, but enjoying — certain things and certain people. Every team has great guys on them and every team has some guys that are of questionable character. And you find yourself, more than anything, saying, 'Hey, good for that guy.' I think it's more that than anything else. 

8a. So who did you like growing up?

"I grew up a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. My whole family was from Texas. The first game I ever saw on television was a Monday night game between the Cowboys and the Cardinals, where the St. Louis Cardinals just smoked them. But they had that big blue star on their helmet. And I said to my dad, who's from San Antonio, 'What's that?' And he said, 'That's the Dallas Cowboys.' And that's how that got started."

9. You must still have an affinity for the Cowboys, but RGIII — who came from Baylor, your alma mater — is a Redskin. Is there some conflict there?

"No, there really isn't. RGIII is a friend and we talk a lot. I want nothing but the best for him as a person and as a player because I think he has unlimited potential. But when the game's on the line, if the Cowboys do well, the Cowboys do well, and if RGIII does well, he does well. And we'll report it just that way. For me, there's no other way to do it. That's the way I have to approach it."

10. Chris Berman’s done some play-by-play now. I know you’ve done AFL games. Would you be interested in giving that a shot? In other words, what's next for you?

"I don't have the answer to that. All I know is that I love the job that I have. Football has always been my favorite sport, specifically the NFL. It was a thing I loved to do and watch as a kid. Even as a 10-year-old, when the playoffs would start, I would write things down and sort of jot them down in an notebook to try and extrapolate how the next game would play out. So it's always been my passion. I like golf a lot and over the last few years I've been very fortunate to be a part of our U.S. Open and our British Open coverage, which is really a lot of fun. Things are good. I don't know what's ahead, but I'm certainly open to doing as many things as possible. It's been a lot of fun being here. I've been here 17 years now, and it's been a really, really good time for me."

[Image courtesy of ESPN]

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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