Roy Firestone is widely considered the best interviewer in television sports. So, how is he as an interviewee?
“Pretty good, I think. I hope,” he said.
And, you know what? He is.
After 14 years, Firestone is leaving his daily interview show and will be replaced by Chris Myers on ESPN’s “Up Close” series. Firestone will do a monthly interview show for ESPN, “Up Close Prime-Time Specials,” and pursue other non-sports projects.
“I’ve just turned 40, and I want to develop some new avenues, so I can relight the fire,” he said. “That’s not to say I’m bored or burned out, because I’m not. I just want to redefine myself, that’s all.”
ESPN will mark his departure from “Up Close” with an hour-long “Roy Firestone Retrospective Special” at 10 p.m. PST Jan. 6. His prime time specials will begin Jan. 21.
“I’ve done a full decade at ESPN and another four years at USA Network. That’s 4,000 or 5,000 guests. I might have to do another retrospective,” he said. “I’ve seen careers begin, thrive and end.”
So, how do you keep track of all those years of interviews?
“Well, when we did the retrospective, we started with hair styles. I started with an Afro, then I had long hair in back, which was kind of trendy for a while,” he said. “Now, it’s short hair. I’m trying to get the Afro back, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Each of Firestone’s prime-time specials will highlight up to four personalities. The first will include Chris Webber, Pete Rose and Jerry Jones.
“My intention with the new series is to make news,” Firestone said. He said he’s already taped a couple of mind-blowing interviews for the first special.
In one, Webber says he never wanted to leave Oakland and his problems there “were his fault as much as anything else. He also did a powerful monologue about being black.”
Also, Rose will lay part of the blame for Bart Giamatti’s untimely death at the former commissioner’s own feet, saying “that Bart could have missed a meal every now and then. It was an amazingly crass thing to say.”
Among Firestone’s non-sports projects are a late-night show, a talk show and personal appearances.
“I’m sort of a Mark Russell looking at sports,” said Firestone, who also does some great sports impressions. “I parody everything from golf to Mike Tyson.
“I do 50 to 60 personal appearances a year. My schedule keeps me very, very busy. I literally gave my guts to the ‘Up Close’ program. It’s been a tremendous run, and hopefully it will continue to be a tremendous run.”