Last January, we covered the amazing career and sports history of “Reality Steve” Carbone, who went from a Loyola Marymount announcer and famed Jim Rome caller to working for Rome for a year and a half, hosting his own sports radio show in L.A., getting fired for swearing in a column on a colleague’s subscription commentary site (that sentence made more sense when it happened, back in 2002), and then becoming a top commentator on (and spoiler of) reality TV series like The Bachelor. He’d do further sports radio stints in Dallas from 2006-08, and hold other jobs in linen and mortgages, but he’s now turned reality TV writing into a full career.
Carbone recently spoke to the guys from the “Just Not Sports” podcast (which focuses on the other passions of people in sports; they’ve covered everything from Judy Battista’s love for Van Halen to Jonah Keri’s Simpsons obsession to Kelly Clark making furniture, and also ran the #MoreThanMean campaign we wrote about in April 2016) about reality TV, but he also touched on his sports background. And he had some pretty interesting things to say about his history with Rome (Roman history?) in particular. Here’s the interview (starting around 19:00):
And some key parts from it, starting with how Carbone doesn’t think most of those who follow him for reality TV stuff have any idea about his history as a regular Rome caller (including a Smack-Off win in 1998).
“I would guess the majority of my audience, if I had to guess 85 to 90 percent of my audience, maybe even 95 percent, have no idea about my Smack-Off calls, or that I was the Smack-Off champion in 1998,” Carbone said. “I don’t think they have a clue, because it’s not relevant to what I do now so I never talk about it. I reference the fact here or there that I worked for Jim Rome, but I don’t think anyone knows how obsessed I was with it, or that I revolved my class schedule around it in college, stuff like that.”
Carbone wrote his college thesis on Rome, which led to Rome hiring him after he graduated. However, that job (which lasted for a year and a half) soon turned out to be not exactly what he wanted:
“I started working for him two days after graduating college, and it was off and running,” Carbone said. “And I was really intimidated for like the first month or two, and once I eased in and got comfortable then at that point my work suffered because I was just mailing it in. I just wasn’t putting forth the effort that I should have. I was 21, I was a little punk-ass, and I just thought, you know, I was too cool. Jim saw it, Jim called me into his office one day and said, ‘What’s been going on?’ I wouldn’t even call it a mutual understanding, Jim let me go and said this is not working anymore. And he said I know that you want to be on air … and I think you should start making waves toward that.”
So, that worked out for the best, probably. However, Carbone said later that once he was fired in L.A. in 2002, he lost most of his passion for doing sports radio.
“The thing about my radio career was basically I got spoiled,” he said. “I did Rome right out of college, and then six months later I was working in the No. 2 market. And I only knew that. Once I got fired in 2002, could I have easily sent out my demo tape and probably gotten my own show in market No. 50? I think so. But I was so spoiled I was like, no. I grew up in Southern California, the Dodgers and Lakers are the only two teams that I openly root for, I know Southern California sports. I don’t want to work in another market. … I was too stubborn, and I was like, look, if I can’t make it in LA sports radio, then I don’t want to go anywhere else.”
He’s transitioned into a very nice career covering (and spoiling) The Bachelor and other reality TV, though, and said he isn’t surprised by how many sports media members are incredibly into that show.
“It’s part of the pop culture lexicon now,” Carbone said. “You know, we talk about water cooler topics and hot take topics. They talk about what’s being talked about nationally, and this show is just part of the pop culture lexicon now because it’s been around for 34 seasons.”
Carbone added that part of the interest in The Bachelor is from those who view it as prime mockery fodder, too, and the frequent sports angles can help with that.
“It’s something you can easily make fun of,” he said. “You know, last summer with JoJo you had the whole Jordan Rodgers stuff, with the fact that, you know, Aaron Rodgers is not close to his family. They ate that up to the hundredth degree.”
As per Rome and the Smack-Off, Carbone also had quite the story to share about taking on Jim Harbaugh.
“Yeah, Jim Harbaugh called in and had literally one of the worst calls ever,” Carbone said. “And I know in one of the future Smack-Off calls that I had, I even did a Jim Harbaugh impression of his call that year, because he literally said like three sentences.”
That might be the most shocking revelation here. We would have expected Jim Harbaugh to attack even sports radio with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.