ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters did an interesting Q&A with BillPenn.com this week, speaking about her Philadelphia roots, her favorite Thanksgiving foods and what aspects of her job she enjoys most.
But what caught our eye most of all was Salters’ comments about ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. When asked how she likes working with Gruden and Sean McDonough on Monday Night Football, she heaped praise on the coach-turned-ESPN personality.
“I don’t know how Jon doesn’t win analyst of the year every year. He’s so smart. He’s so football smart. His stories, just, I think that if he had the time just to tell stories — he has a story about every thing.
“We’ll be like ‘we’re playing at altitude this week [in Mexico City] and it’s 2,000 feet above Denver’ and Jon will be like ‘let me tell you a story about when I went, you think altitude doesn’t matter? Let me tell you about the time we played in Denver and I almost passed out on the sideline coaching…’ and it will be hilarious.
“Cris Collinsworth isn’t telling that story. Charles Barkley isn’t telling that story. Jon has a story about everything. He’s connected to everybody.
“The other guy who reminds of him in that way in his storytelling is Hubie Brown. Hubie Brown, you could just sit and listen to him and the stories he tells forever. His basketball life and Jon’s football life are just so entertaining.
“I think there’s not enough time for that in the football game. If people could just sit and watch and listen to Jon tell stories about his football career in coaching rather than watch the game, they would probably enjoy him talking about football just as much. It’s that entertaining.”
Yes, Salters is Gruden’s colleague and has to praise him to some extent, but that was particularly effusive. It’s clear she has deep respect and admiration for Gruden’s talents and style. Comparing someone to Hubie Brown in terms of storytelling is quite high praise.
For what it’s worth, Gruden has been nominated seven times for the Sports Emmy for “Outstanding Sports Event Analyst” but has never won. CBS college basketball analyst Bill Raftery took the award in 2016 and Gruden’s NBC rival Cris Collinsworth won the seven previous years.