“First order of business is to know what the hell you talking about,” ESPN analyst Stephen A Smith said to our class on Monday.
It’s how he’s built his career, how he’s created a network of connections that he still keeps in contact with. It’s something that I have an incredible amount of respect for, to hear someone who’s been in the field nearly 30 years say they continue to rely on the simple fact of knowing their facts and information better than anyone else.
It’s easier said than done, but building and cultivating his relationships with other journalists, players, and coaches as part of knowing what the hell he’s talking about and being authoritative on the subjects he speaks on. The two are intertwined, and both take hard work to be successful.
But an assurance he left us with was “if you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll get what’s yours.”
People now may see him as an ESPN personality without realizing the work it took to get there. He was only the 21st Black person to be a general sports columnist in 2003, a position that doesn’t come lightly, and was a title he called the greatest honor of his career. And he did all the work necessary to be an authority before he could publish his opinion.
My biggest takeaway from Stephen A is never to forget the foundation I build my career on and never stop picking up the phone and cultivating relationships. Hence, I always know what the hell I’m talking about.