While many people are questioning Pat McAfee’s decision to join ESPN, count Mike Greenberg as someone who thinks it’s a great fit.
Greenberg recently spoke to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports for an exclusive interview and McAfee’s pending presence at ESPN was a focal point. The two prominent sports hosts have been trading show appearances for years, with Greenberg noting he was initially warned about letting McAfee on Get Up, considering the former NFL punter’s tendency to go “over the line.”
“When we first started putting (McAfee) on, I was warned by a lot of people, ‘Hey, Greeny, you got to be careful. You know, he sometimes goes over the line.’ And I thought, ‘Yes, but he strikes me as a person who’s smart enough to know where the line is. And he’ll go right to that line.’ He knows the line where he is, is very different from the line where I work and he’ll know not to go over it. And he killed it on our show. Am I proud of it? Yes, I’m delighted.”
Questions about McAfee being a good fit at ESPN are less about his outrageousness and more about the freedom he currently enjoys as an independent podcast host. McAfee ends the show when he wants, he breaks when he wants, he curses when he wants, and he interviews who he wants. While McAfee expects to get most of those freedoms when he launches on ESPN in a few months, it’s fair to question whether those will continue a year or two into their partnership.
Will Aaron Rodgers similarly be able to be unfiltered on ESPN if he continues joining McAfee during the NFL season? Rodgers has been a weekly guest on McAfee’s show for the last three years, where he’s enjoyed the ability to speak freely about topics you wouldn’t necessarily expect to hear on ESPN. But it’s those interviews with Rodgers that has Greenberg especially excited about McAfee’s presence at ESPN.
“McAfee has the number one skill that is required to be a good interviewer,” Greenberg told FOS. “Which is natural curiosity. You can go to journalism school, as I did, and they can teach you a lot of things. But the one thing they can’t teach you is natural curiosity. So in the media today, the person who I think solicits the most interesting stuff out of their guests is Howard Stern.
“Howard Stern was known for most of our lifetimes as a shock jock, right? He’s just outlandish and crazy. But what he is, he’s a naturally curious person. And so is Pat. And so am I.”
“There’s a difference between a good interview and a good interviewer,” Greenberg continued. “A good interviewer gets attention for being an interviewer. A good interview takes place when you are getting the most out of the person that you’re interviewing. I think that’s what Howard Stern has done so well. I think that’s what McAfee has done very well with Rodgers – and will continue to do with other people too.”
This is the second McAfee-Stern comparison in recent days, with Al Michaels dubbing ESPN’s newest talent the new “King of All Media” last week. The comparisons make it seem like people forgot just how massive Stern’s fame used to be.
As an interviewer, McAfee getting the most out of Rodgers is less about the questions that are asked and more about creating a safe space for the polarizing quarterback to comfortably discuss anything that’s on his mind. But that comfort level has been helped along by having weekly conversations for the last three years. Stern similarly gets his guests to feel comfortable on his show, but does it over the course of hours, not years.
Greenberg might love McAfee’s interviews with Rodgers. Aggregators certainly love McAfee’s interviews with Rodgers. What remains to be seen is whether ESPN will love McAfee’s interviews with Rodgers.