If not for Kirk Herbstreit suggesting Michigan might use COVID-19 concerns to avoid playing Ohio State, the week’s biggest sports media story would arguably be Mina Kimes helping celebrity chef David Chang win $1 million on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, shown on ABC Sunday night.

As many viewers saw on TV (and online Monday morning), the popular ESPN personality and NFL analyst was Chang’s “Phone-A-Friend” to help him determine the correct answer for the final question and the big prize. Had Chang not followed Kimes’ suggestion, he would’ve been left with $32,000 in total winnings. (Or he could’ve walked away with the $500,000 he’d already won, but decided to go big.)

ESPN Daily host Pablo Torre couldn’t let Kimes’s big moment pass without recapping it and providing some behind-the-scenes insight. (Devoted listeners know Kimes preceded Torre host of the show.) So on Tuesday’s podcast, Kimes explained the circumstances of being a “Phone-A-Friend” and her thought process in giving the final answer.

Longtime fans of Millionaire, which was hugely popular in the early 2000s when hosted by Regis Philbin and aired multiple nights on ABC before moving to a syndicated version hosted by Meredith Vieira, know that being the “Phone-A-Friend” means you have to be by your phone at a certain time if the show calls.

“I didn’t realize you only have 30 seconds, so I would’ve had greater economy of words and more clarity,” recalled Kimes. “Dave asked the question pretty quickly, but not that quickly, so I really only had less than 15.”

As you can see, Chang stumbled over Ulysses S. Grant’s name, not an easy one — especially in the pressure-packed scenario of having 30 seconds to read the question to Kimes and get an answer.

There’s not much time to think — nor is there much time to think out loud through your thought process while trying to determine the correct answer. So Kimes ultimately went with her first instinct.

That obviously turned out to be the right decision, but she also might have walked it back with Chang had producers not cut off her phone call as soon as she gave her answer.

“In the moment, I wasn’t thinking to myself ‘How confident are you?’,” said Kimes. “I was not confident at all. I remember I ruled out half of them immediately and then I said, ‘Well, it’s probably this one.’ And then as soon as I said ‘Harrison,’ the phone cut off immediately. I probably would’ve kept talking and said ‘But I’m not sure.'”

Fortunately for Chang, the phone did cut off before Kimes could express any hesitancy and he made the bold decision to answer the final question instead of walking away. As a result, he made Who Wants to Be a Millionaire history by becoming the first celebrity to win the $1 million prize, which he’ll donate to Southern Smoke Foundation, a crisis relief organization for workers in the food and beverage industry.

And as Kimes said at the end of the podcast, she won’t ever have to avoid looking her friend in the eye for giving Chang the wrong answer and costing him $1 million on national television.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.