After almost a decade as a radio host, Wright’s spent the last year-plus at FS1 (he joined the company last April) in various roles, including as a fill-in host on shows like The Herd. He said that experience has been useful for him, especially when it comes to the differences in TV versus radio.
“I don’t know if anything truly prepares you for the job I’m about to do other than doing the job, so as far as how it’s prepared me, I like to think I’ve gotten better at some of the mechanics of television,” he said. “I did local radio in Kansas City for five years, then local and some national out of Houston for four, but very little TV stuff before I got to FS1, so certainly I’ve learned some different things, like how not to fidget as much as I do when I’m right now talking to you, I’m moving around in my chair.”
“It’s remembering to smile, which I still forget sometimes. People tell me ‘You look so angry!’ and I’m like ‘I’m not angry, I just take these takes seriously, man!’ And they’re like ‘You’ve got to smile, you’re on TV.’ So there’s some little television mechanics and stuff I’ve gotten better at. But I think what will prepare me for the show is doing the show.”
Even more than that, though, Wright is thrilled with his FS1 time so far because of the people he’s worked with and the opportunities he’s received. He credits Colin Cowherd for much of that.
“It has been professionally the greatest thing to ever happen to me,” Wright said. “Colin Cowherd is who I wanted to be. I believe Colin is the single greatest sports radio host ever, and I think that is closer to fact than opinion. When I got to FS1, they told me ‘Listen, early on, let’s get you introduced to the audience by putting you on with Colin.’ After I’d been on with Colin twice, he basically called a meeting with me and told me I was going to be the one filling in for him.”
“That was just the beginning of Colin changing my life, and Colin not only sharing his platform with me, but coaching me through things like living in LA when my wife and kids are in Houston, talking me through some of the pitfalls, and it’s buried for me, like X-level, Z-level, but some of the pitfalls of very low-level celebrity. And now our relationship’s to the point that since I’ve moved to New York, he’s called me at least every other day just to check in.”
“And not everyone shares their platform, man! And it’s not that I’m in a position where he’d be threatened by me, but lots of people, even if they have no reason to be threatened by someone, they’re like ‘Eh.’ Colin not only shared his platform, but gave me the credibility with the audience. People will tweet me to this day saying ‘You know, Nick, I had no idea who you were, but Colin seemed so interested in what you were saying.’ So when someone’s not only that successful and that kind to you, but it’s also the guy you grew up professionally idolizing, that changes your life.”
Wright said he also hit it off with Carter immediately, and developed the chemistry he’s confident will serve them well on-air.
“Back in November, December, I meet Cris Carter, we have lunch together and we find a few similarities, members of our families reminded each other of the other members of our families, and we kind of used that as a place to really get to know each other, and then all of a sudden, Cris has moved to LA because he and I are developing a television show, and he’s inviting me to his house to tell me that I am meeting the best version of Cris Carter that’s ever existed, and while we both have our families that have to be our first priority, the partnership between the two of us has to be our second-biggest priority in the world. And pardon my language, but that’s Cris fucking Carter! And that matters.”
Wright credits his radio career for getting him to this point.
“There’s no way that I’m here without it. In Kansas City, I did weekends, then nights, then middays, then afternoons in a five-year stretch. Every single time, the show was “What’s Wright” with Nick Wright, and I was on the air totally solo. In Houston I had a partner in John Lopez (who was recently rescuing people from the floods), but I also did a solo national show on CBS Sports Radio. The reality is, I didn’t play in a league.
“The reality is, I’m looking now at the screen and Joel Klatt’s in front of me, and if you’re walking down the street and you see Joel Klatt, you’re like ‘That guy should be on TV.’ He’s offensively good-looking; it’s an outrage. That ain’t me. I remember getting to Syracuse, and the dean of the journalism school said to me, ‘You seem smart and you seem driven, but you say you want to do radio and I’ve got to be honest with you, you have a terrible voice.'”
“And so, I don’t have an amazing voice, I’m not the guy you look at and are like ‘I bet he’s a TV guy,’ I didn’t play in a league, I’m not the son of a broadcaster. So why am I where I am? Because I did that local radio, by myself, for years, where the only way folks are listening is if you can be so compelling and so informed that they have to. So I just learned things. I learned how to retain a lot of convoluted statistical information and then convey it in a non-convoluted way and do it without looking at notes.”
He said interviewing was an important part of the job, and one he improved at by studying Dan Le Batard.
“I learned how to interview people. I was a terrible interviewer, terrible. So I started studying Dan Le Batard’s interviews, cause I think he’s the best. And I mimicked what he does, which is to be so educated on your subject and not ask him the buzz questions everyone’s asking. Make them feel comfortable. And that’s going to get the most out of guests.”
“I was filling in for Colin about a year ago, and no one picked this up, but it’s the most proud I’ve been of anything I did in radio. Reggie Bullock, a small-time NBA player, had a sister who used to be his brother. He had an older brother who transitioned to his older sister, and was beaten to death in a hate crime, beaten so badly that the police needed to identify her through dental records. I researched Reggie for four hours the night before he was going to be on the show for a nine-minute interview. I talked to him before the segment, I got him into a comfortable place, to where I brought it up and he felt comfortable discussing it on national TV.”
“That’s two guys on sports television talking about a hate crime against a transgender individual. I don’t know that that’s happened before. That doesn’t happen without my experience in local radio, because I don’t know how to get him there. Radio is so, especially on the local level where you don’t have big-time guests, you don’t have a big production staff…you’ve got to be great. That’s what allowed me, I think, to cut through on television.”
Wright said he’s thrilled about his Fox time so far, and he’s eager for the debut of the new show, but also somewhat nervous. He said it’s the culmination of a long-term dream for him, but there are worries that go along with that.
“Professionally, it’s been the single greatest experience of my life. And it’s all set up for this moment where I get to go, and this is the coolest part but also the scariest part, I get to go and see if I am what I’ve always said in my head what I was. If you asked me, and I think I’m quoted in my college newspaper saying this when they wrote an article about me shortly before I graduated, if you asked me what success is for me professionally, I’ve always said two things.
“Success in the moment is total strangers watching a sporting event and the moment it ends, the first thing they think is ‘I can’t wait to hear what Nick has to say about this.’ Success in the macro is for there to be a moment in time where if you asked 100 random American sports fans ‘Who’s your favorite, or the best’ in sports talk, that a plurality would say Nick Wright.”
“And the scary part about this is I now have the platform, a national daily talk show, that if I’m as good as I’ve convinced myself in my head since I was 15 years old that I could be, that I could actually reach that macro goal. And that’s awesome, but it’s scary. When I’m doing local radio in Kansas City, that macro goal isn’t available to me. So if I don’t get there, it’s not my fault. It’s like ‘dude, you do a local show in Kansas City, you can’t get there.’ But now it’s ‘Hey man, you’ve got a national show on a real network. Three hours a day every day. Go be as good as you thought you could be.’
“So, for a guy like me who tends to stare at the ceiling for an hour before he falls asleep because he has so much stuff bouncing around in his head, that can be ominous, but you’ve just got to go do it.”
First Things First debuts Tuesday. It will air Mondays through Fridays from 6:30 a.m. Eastern through 9:30 a.m. Eastern on FS1. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @getnickwright.