Mike Greenberg: ESPN Host & Author of Got Your Number

Episode 375

Mike Greenberg, ESPN Host & Author of Got Your Number has been among the signature faces and voices of ESPN for more than a quarter century. He is currently the host of Get Up (ESPN), NBA Countdown (ABC and ESPN), #Greeny (ESPN Radio), and Bettor Days (ESPN+) and he previously co-hosted Mike and Mike with Mike Golic. Mike is the author of several New York Times best selling books but Got Your Number is his first sports book. Mike’s career has been inspiring and his book, Got Your Number, is a lot of fun, interesting and terrific! You won’t want to miss our discussion! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I’m super, super excited to have my next guest here who is also a friend. So you may be able to notice that in our communication, as we go back and forth here a little bit, but Mike Greenberg is the ESPN host, also the author of the brand new book, which I have here, if you’re looking at on the video, got your number, which is so so good. Just to give you a little bit of background on Mike in case you’re not familiar with Mike, as I mentioned, he is in ESPN host and also the new author are actually a serial author, but the author of got your number. But he’s been among the signature faces and voices of many, many shows. For a quarter century. He’s currently the host of get up, but also NBA countdown greeny and better days, and he previously co hosted Mike and Mike with Mike Golic. And Mike is the author of several New York Times best selling books. But this is his first sports book, which I thought was really, really surprising probably will surprise a lot of people who know, Mike as well. But I’m excited to hear all about his career and how he got there. And then of course, we’re going to dive into this incredible, incredible books. So welcome, Mike.

Mike Greenberg 2:11
Thank you so much, Kara. It’s really nice to see you. It’s been a long time.

Kara Goldin 2:14
I know. I know. Very excited to have you here. So okay, so before we get into hearing more about your new book, I’d love for you to share with everybody a little bit about your, your career, your dream career for so many. I’m sure. You’ve you’ve had that question when you were back at Northwestern speaking like how the heck do I do What Mike does, right? So can you share a little bit about how did you? How did you decide you want to be a sportscaster and and you know, jump in to have this dream job?

Mike Greenberg 2:50
Sure. So I grew up in New York City and my family, we were sports obsessed. We were about as dysfunctional as your average family, I suppose. But the one area where we always could communicate was about sports. Both of my parents were obsessed sports fans. My mother remains one to this day, my dad is no longer living. But my dad dedicated his first book to Joe DiMaggio. And the book had nothing to do with sports. But that was just his idol as a as a boy who grew up in the Bronx. So I grew up in that household. And all we cared about and talked about was sports. And so I always knew I wanted to do something, if possible in or around sports. And the coverage of sports from a journalistic perspective, seemed like the only opportunity at that time. And so I went to school for it. And then when I got out of school, I had a few fortunate things happen. I started working in local radio in Chicago, and the timing of things. You just you never know how these things. I remember reading, I forget which Malcolm Gladwell book it was now but I’d have been outliers, but how fortunate people are sometimes that things happen in the time in which they happen. So when I graduated from college in 1989, that was the same time that the first old sports radio station in America launched wfh N in New York, and it had great success. And so like in any other business, it was there was a copycat element. And so I was living and working in Chicago. And in 1991, they started the first all sports radio station in Chicago. And I happened to be in the right place at the right time. And one thing led to another. And before I knew it, I was covering and traveling with the Michael Jordan bowls, home and rode pretty much every day when I was 24 years old, which was one of the great breaks you could ever possibly imagine. And I worked locally in sports in Chicago for seven years. And then another fairly, fairly and other extraordinarily fortunate timing thing happened, which is that in 1996, ESPN decided to start to launch a new sports network called ESPN news, which was going to be the best analogy I could make to it would be what CNN Headline News was to CNN. That’s what ESPN noose was to ESPN. And they hired a bunch of young people from all over the country. So I was 29. And I got hired to be an anchor at ESPN. And again, the timing of it worked out really well. And then one thing led to another when I wound up on the radio show, Mike and Mike you were talking about, and that did, we did quite well with that. And so we did that for a number of years, and now have moved to a few other opportunities, including hosting the NBA. But what I think is I’ve, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. And I know that your podcast is not about sports, it’s more about your business background and your entrepreneurial background. And one of the things that I think of some of the stuff that I really liked, by the way, which is some sort of the spiritual stuff that I see you do, particularly on Instagram, and whatnot, but one of the things that I say a lot is that any really successful person who does not acknowledge good fortune, as a factor in their success, is either lying to you, or they’re lying to themselves. So I’ve had plenty of that, because I am very, it is not lost on me that I am just one of literally millions of sports obsessed kids who grew up in this country in the 70s, in the 80s. And the fact that I get to be the one sitting in the middle of all of this sometimes, still doesn’t always feel real to me. And so it is a dream job. And I just hope I don’t wake up anytime soon.

Kara Goldin 6:24
Do you feel like it’s hard? I mean, I feel like it’s such a natural fit for you. And that’s, that’s something that I think people strive for when they’re thinking about careers.

Mike Greenberg 6:35
Here’s, here’s how I would answer that. So what I was talking about, we know each other’s children, for the for the, for people that are, so what I always say. So when I talk about my kids, you know who I’m talking about. So when I what I have said to them in the past, and to their friends who are interested, I always say the most important element of any professional endeavor for a person is happiness. So that doesn’t mean that it isn’t sometimes hard. But it does make me happy. And anything that makes you happy, I think, by definition is going to seem a little bit less hard. Like the things about my job that are hard. One of them. You mentioned the show Mike and Mike, we went on the air at six o’clock in the morning, that was a radio show, my alarm was set for 3:40am every weekday for almost 18 years. That’s hard, right when the alarm is gonna go off at 340 in the morning, you have to adapt your entire life around that. And, and it is just generally hard. But here’s what I would say. Waking up at 340 in the morning, to go do a job you love is hard. Waking up at 340 in the morning to go to a job you did not love would be impossible, at least for me, I could never have done it. So I don’t know if that specifically answers your question. But it’s what I thought of when you asked it, which is to say there are parts of my job that are hard. Sure. But that would be the truth for everyone. But that even on the hard days, I don’t not love it. And I think that makes it in its own way a lot easier.

Kara Goldin 8:03
Yeah, definitely. Well, and you’re also you’re a storyteller, as we mentioned, you’ve got multiple books, and I’m sure there’s so many stories that you’ve heard along the way from incredibly impressive people that seem super unapproachable, maybe to some, but you’ve been able to, to gain their stories along the way. And I think that that is also probably something that really inspires you right where you’re meeting people. I mean, you mentioned Michael Jordan. I mean, that’s a dream, right? Right after, especially for you being a sports fanatic. Right after college. What’s your favorite Michael Jordan story.

Mike Greenberg 8:47
So my favorite Michael Jordan story actually took place when he was playing baseball. So I don’t know that everyone will remember this anymore. But in Michael Jordan, played in the NBA until 1993. And then he retired prematurely very, very young. And he went off to play baseball for a year and a half. And the station I was working for sent me off to cover that. So I traveled around and just followed him around from place to place playing baseball, and he really struggled in baseball. Now, this was a man who was the greatest basketball player that ever lived on I watched him win the gold medal at the Olympics in 1992. And I watched him win NBA championships in 91, and 92 and 93 and be the best player in the world. And then he went to baseball a place where he was quite far from being the best player in the world. Frankly, in almost every game that I saw him play he was the worst player on the field. And what I that my favorite lesson that I learned and I tell this story, anytime I speak at any kind of graduation or anything is when he was his first spring training. He was playing for the White Sox big league team in Sarasota, Florida, which is where they used to have their spring training. And he was something like over his first 18 or 19 He didn’t get a hit in his first 18 or 19 at bats and It was It was humiliating. It was embarrassing. My heart ached watching it for him. And Sports Illustrated did what turned out to be a very famous cover at the time that said, Michael Jordan and the White Sox are embarrassing baseball. It was he was really receiving a lot of criticism. And I was, there was one night they were playing in a tiny little ballpark in spring training on the west coast of Florida. And it was a rainy night. So I think a lot of people thought the game wouldn’t be played, but it was. So there were only a couple of 100 people in the stands. And there were three reporters in the press box of which I was one. And the reporter from the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times and me. And Michael Jordan, got fooled on a pitch and swung sort of out of his shoes, and wound up hitting a little dribble or up to third baseline, right, just imagine a ball that just kind of just comes off the bat, and kind of trickles up the third baseline and he beats it out for a base hit. So we finally got to hit. So after the game is over, we the three of us go down to the clubhouse. And the other players on the team are pouring beer on him. And like in a celebration, which is a baseball tradition. They’re all pouring beer on him. And we asked him, you know, a few questions, and then we’re leaving to go file our stories. And as I’m walking out, Something moved me to turn back and look at him one more time. And I’m so forever glad that I did that is what I saw is Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the most beloved and famous person in the world. In a tiny little cramped locker room smaller than my high school locker room. baseball pants, no shirt, stripped to the waist, covered in cheap beer, baseball bat over shoulder cigar in his hand unlit. And he had a look of satisfaction and happiness on his face. That was the equal of anything I had ever seen. Again, bear in mind, I watched the man win gold medals when NBA championships literally climbed the tallest mountains that exist in sports. And the lesson in that I’ve always taken is that you know in life, celebrate the dribblers. Like, you have what I say to these kids at graduation, you are not going to graduate from college, every day of your lives, you are not going to get engaged to be married every day of your lives, you’re not going to have a baby every day of your lives. But there will be little dribblers you hit up the third baseline worthy of celebration, if you will only look for them. So my advice always is look for them and celebrate them wherever you can. And so look, Michael Jordan, I saw him have a lot of great moments. But that is the one believe it or not that sticks with me the most.

Kara Goldin 12:38
I love that. So so many incredible stories, and you go on to share a lot of those stories in your book got your number. So why did you decide now to write a sports book? Like how did you come up with this idea?

Mike Greenberg 12:54
So it literally was that so I have always wanted to do a sports book and I never had the idea. No, I host radio shows and television shows where you need to be able to fill a few minutes with a particular idea it to fill an entire book, you need an idea that is big enough for that. And I’ve just never had one that I thought was interesting enough. And then one day, this happened to be at the height of COVID. So you’ll remember what those days were like, back before anything had opened. I was there were a few of us that were still going in to the office every day. We never stopped doing our show. But my staff of 18 people there were only four of us in the building and everyone else was working from home. And then after the show was over, we would all just sort of sit around for a while because there wasn’t anywhere to go and anything to do. And because we are just at the end of the day, a bunch of sports geeks, we started having a conversation about how many Hall of Fame quarterbacks all wore the same jersey number. This is the stuff we find interesting. And and it was the number 12 So the number 12 was worn by among others Bob greasy Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Jim Kelly, Joe Nemeth, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. And one person in the room says to me, yeah, greeny they all wore the number 12. But who owns the number 12. And literally in that minute, a light bulb went over my head, and I finally had the idea. So the idea for the book is that sports are so intrinsically about numbers. Numbers are such an incredibly important piece of fabric, they tell or excuse me of sports, they tell the story of sports, maybe more than they do of almost anything else. And so what I did was with the help of my, the, my researcher, extraordinary has been my right hand for 10 years, who did all the research for this, I decided to who owns every number from one to 100 in the history of sports. And with his extraordinary research, I wrote 100 chapters, they’re each about 500 words. So they’re like two to three pages easily. snackable so anyone who was interested in sports, it then becomes about sports debate and sports history. So if you’re a big sports fan or someone you know is, might be a good gift for them, because the debate part comes in because I made some decisions that people will disagree with. I chose someone for the number four and maybe someone else would think, no, it should have been this other person. So that’s where the debate piece comes in. You might disagree with the choices I made. But then the history part comes in whether you agree or disagree. Every single person even the most ardent sports fan will learn things they did not know from this. The research is so extraordinary that you will learn things about Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan and Willie Mays and Wayne Gretzky and Bill Russell and the most famous people in sports history, about whom so much have been written Muhammad Ali Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, I’ll give you a great one here anyway, so there’ll be a lot of sports history in the book. And I’ll give you the one I love about Billie Jean. So we gave Billie Jean King the number 73 Because it was a 1973 that she beat Bobby Riggs in the battle of the sexes. And you could make an argument that that’s one of the five most important sporting events of the 20th century. The number of people particularly but not exclusively, women, who to this day, I have seen Hillary Clinton interview talking about how important that night was to her. And so many other incredibly accomplished again, not only women, but I think largely women because of the of what the the night symbolized 17 magazine, a year after that, which obviously has an overwhelmingly female readership in those days, did a poll of its readers asking, Who do you consider to be the most admired woman in the world? Who do you admire the most of all the women in the world? Gold of my year was the Prime Minister of Israel. She finished second. Billie Jean King finished first. That’s the kind of research that we found in the stories that we tell in a book like this, Billie Jean King, I had the privilege of introducing her at an event one time, and they gave me her bio and said here, choose anything you want from this. And I just started to laugh. As I read. I have introduced a lot of people, very few of them have been named one of the 10 most important Americans of the 20th century. So those are the kinds of stories that we have in the book. And I think people even those who consider themselves great fans of Chrissie Everett, Martina Navratilova, who are in the book, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson who are in the book, I think anyone will learn things about them, they did not already know.

Kara Goldin 17:23
No. And that’s what I felt to that it’s not only a fun book, but also a trivia book. I mean, it made me it definitely gave me all kinds of ideas about people that I knew their name, but I didn’t really know what they were known for, and certainly didn’t know their jersey numbers necessarily, or their scores. But it was, it was super, super interesting. You also talk about generations and how that how age could play into how people, how people respond to opinions on things, which I also thought was fascinating. Can you talk about that a little bit.

Mike Greenberg 17:59
This is a big thing in sports. So if my father were alive, my father to give you an example, my father would have so strongly disagreed with some of the positions I took in this book with some of the people I chose that he, I mean, he would have called me the second it came out and started yelling at me over some of the decisions I made. And then if I had not chosen Joe DiMaggio for number five, he would not only have stopped reading the book, but who would have called up all his friends and told them not to buy it. That’s how passionate he was about things. But the but but that then becomes a generational piece. Okay, so for the generational piece of that, when I talk about the greatest basketball player that ever lived, I talked about Michael Jordan, my son, Steven, who you’ve met, was a basketball player all through his life growing up, he considered the greatest basketball player of all time to be Lebron James. And in every conversation about LeBron James, I bring up Michael Jordan, in exactly the same way that every time I talked about Michael Jordan, my father would bring up Oscar Robertson, because that was the Michael Jordan of his youth. And as I write in the book, everything was better when we were younger, if only because we were younger, and thus had more time. So I think if you find me a sports fan, if you find me a sports fan, who is the age of your daughter, Caitlin, or my son, my daughter, Nikki, you go ask any of the of the kids that they want to camp with who were crazy sports fans, I guarantee you I can tell you who they are, how they will answer certain questions, and how they will be different from the way I would answer those questions. And from the way my father would have answered those questions based exclusively on our age, and I think that applies to a lot of other things, but nothing more than sports. Because sports is ever evolving almost more than anything else is context is important. But the history moves so fast. That I think where people stand on almost any sport warts issue can more than anything be traced to how old they are.

Kara Goldin 20:04
Definitely it it’s, it’s such an interesting perspective. So in the book you you basically folk you focus on 100 numbers. And and sometimes I guess how many of those were actually on jerseys? Because obviously, Chris Hubbard isn’t wearing a number, but she’s known for a number. How did you sort of think about this and define it?

Mike Greenberg 20:27
Well, that was that’s, that’s, that was a really interesting day. So when my first idea is that we would do the book and it would be the jersey numbers. And then as we were sitting Hambo, when I were talking about the process, I said to him, so does this mean we’re going to do this book and not have Muhammad Ali in it? Does this mean we’re going to do a book and not have Billie Jean King in it? Serena Williams in it Tiger Woods in it? Like, are we only including athletes from sports, where there are jersey numbers that was limiting us? So we decided we could find creative ways to include other athletes. So someone like Billie Jean King, for example, we gave the number 73 based upon the year that she won. The number 60 which is one of my favorite chapters, is shared between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. They share it together. Because the argument I make is that they are the greatest rivals the greatest rivalry in the history of sports. They met 60 times in the finals of tournaments alone in the finals. Now by comparison, you and I are close to the same age and I don’t know if you were a tennis fan growing up, but I was. So Chrissy and Martina with a big rivalry on the women’s side, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, with a big rivalry on the men’s side. To give you an indication of just how frequently Chrissy and Martina played each other. They met 14 times in the finals of Grand Slams alone finals of Wimbledon, the US Open the French Open or the Australian Open the biggest tournaments finals. Borg and McEnroe played each other 14 times total ever in anything. Chrissy and Martina their rivalry is so much richer than anyone elses. So we gave them the number of 60. So the answer to your question is, the book has 20 for football players, 20 baseball players, 14 basketball players, nine teams, five Olympians, five boxers, five golfers for hockey players for tennis players, three coaches, two drivers and a horse. that’s those are that’s how that’s the distribution of the 100 numbers.

Kara Goldin 22:27
So, Chris ever by the way, I grew up in in Scottsdale, and she used to play at the village tennis club and I did play tennis I was but Chris Everett always had she had her own court. So we got to actually see her play whenever she was home. So it was a kid seeing her there was just incredible. I mean, we would just sit there and watch her and I think she was one of the first people that I remember watching close up saying they make it look so easy, right that it’s just and I still believe that to be true that when you doesn’t matter what sport it is, it’s just you know, the people that are really good. You know, it’s just fun to watch them.

Mike Greenberg 23:14
Not only that, but as a boy in the 70s I will tell you and my wife Stacy whom you know, obviously and I have become close friends with Chrissie over the years. She is the first woman I ever loved my first crush was on Christmas. I I loved her. And and I have said that to her many times. I said unashamedly. And she remits, she continues to just rule you know, she’s had some health stuff, but she’s doing great. And she rocks long before this was a thing, she would have to use an expression that would did not exist then she was a badass before that was a that was a word anybody ever used?

Kara Goldin 23:51
Well tell her that I talked about the village tennis clubs. So she she will remain a member and she definitely inspired me for sure. So Joe Demacia. You mentioned him and and there was a debate between five or 56. For him. So what was what was that about?

Mike Greenberg 24:13
So so the number of 56 was a tough would have been a tough choice to make because Joe DiMaggio, he wore the jersey number five, that was his number for the Yankees. And so that’s the number and that he has in the book. He also has what I think is probably the most famous and beloved record in all of American sports. So something that people who don’t know sports Well, I think almost anyone would know this. Now, the homerun records have been largely or by MIT, in many people’s view, discredited because of steroids. In recent years. That’s been an enormous controversy, that almost all of the homerun records in baseball, which were always the really famous records held by Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron and people like that. They all been broken by players who were clearly using the performance enhancing drugs that were against the law and against the rules of the sport at the time. And so those records have been to a large degree invalidated, they are no longer revered in the way they used to be. So the two most I think the two most be loved and revered records in American sports today are Cal Ripken is consecutive game streak. He played the most consecutive games of any player ever breaking a record that had been held by Lou Gehrig. And then Joe DiMaggio got a hit and 56 consecutive baseball games. That was a record that he said in 1941. And no one’s even come close to breaking it. And it is a beloved records. So people who know and love baseball will associate that number with him. So the question was, do we give him 56? Or do we give him five, we could have given him the number 56. But as it turned out, we had a player we wanted to give 5060, which was Lawrence Taylor, the great football player for the New York Giants. And so we wound up giving him a 56. And we gave Joe DiMaggio five. But the point is, if we hadn’t gotten DiMaggio in the book at all, I’m telling you, wherever he is, right now, my father would have come back to to he would have called a press conference, to say, no one should read my son’s book, he has no idea what he’s talking.

Kara Goldin 26:16
I love it. That’s, that’s awesome. You know, there’s many people listening who think about entrepreneurship. And you know, there’s no overnight successes. It’s a lot of work. I think it’s the same for these athletes. Are there any overnight successes that you can think of? And when you think about these athletes that really stand out,

Mike Greenberg 26:40
know, that sports in that regard is largely not completely because there are still inequities of a variety of sorts, but for the most part, it really is a meritocracy. And you’re either good enough or not. This is there is no Well, you know, my father was on the board. And there’s none of that stuff. You know, you’re either good enough or you’re not, you can either play or you can’t you are either, you know, maybe the ultimate example of that, let’s just use the most famous reason person, Michael Phelps, like, you either swam you were the first one touch the wall or you weren’t, you know what I mean? Like, there’s no, there’s no in between, you’re either the fastest swimmer, or someone else was the fastest swimmer. And as a result of that, no one gets there by accident. Like you don’t get there by being a vlogger. You don’t get there by being an Instagram influencer, you don’t get there by you don’t get there by accident. You get there with tons and tons and tons and tons of work. And the other thing that I find interesting about it, and an observation I’ve made I don’t know, now that I think about I probably should have tried to get this part of it into the book somewhere. And I’m not sure that I actually did. But the one thing that I have found is I have spent 30 years covering professional sports, is the differentiator, more than anything else is not who’s the fastest. Who’s the strongest, it choose the smartest, that what separates the great ones is the intelligence. So there are a lot of guys who were fast enough and jump high enough, maybe I’m not talking necessarily about track and field, right? Either I’m faster than you or you’re faster than me. And there’s not a whole lot else to talk about. But in sports like basketball, football, baseball, and all that there are probably 500 People who are athletic enough to make it for every one spot that exists. And so the the separator the differentiator is intelligence. And that if the thread of commonality amongst all the great ones, is intelligence, if you spend some time around Wayne Gretzky, around Michael Jordan, around Magic Johnson, around Derek Jeter, these are the way their brains function are fascinating. And it’s not necessarily the same kind of intelligence, it doesn’t mean they would have gotten straight A’s at Stanford. But there is an intelligence about what they do that is beyond that, which anyone else has. And like, I’ll give you another one. But golf is my personal favorite sport. The best golfer is not the one who hits it the farthest. Right? There are plenty people who can hit it way farther than Tiger Woods can hit it. But Tiger Woods won all those because when he’s standing over a putt, that’s 20 feet away from the hole, and $10 million are riding on the outcome. He’ll make it where other people can. And that’s what separates him and Jack Nicklaus and the other great, great great ones from the merely really good ones. And, and so so that was a long answer to a short question. There’s no shortcut to that. There’s no accident. There’s no overnight. Nothing, nothing meaningful. It’s it’s, I think it’s basically impossible to do.

Kara Goldin 30:07
Well, and they all seem to have some naysayers out there to that end, they just get back up. Right?

Mike Greenberg 30:14
alive on that. Yeah, there were there are two different kinds of so that that’s an interesting one sports is so public, and because of the nature of it, and it’s worse now than it’s ever been because of gambling. So let’s just say for the sake of argument that you’re watching a team, I know where you live. So let’s say you’re, you know, you’re watching the the 40 Niners play, and and the 40, Niners quarterback and you happen in San Francisco, they’ve had some great quarterbacks, right, Joe Montana, Stevie on all time, great. But, you know, if, if Joe Montana makes a huge mistake that blows the game, and if you make a huge mistake at work one day, you know, there will be consequences. But there won’t be newspaper articles about it, you know, immediately and there won’t be people in this day and age 1000s of people on Twitter tweeting awful things about it immediately. And people want scream at you, and boo you as you walk around, you know, doing your job. So these athletes do have that element to deal with. And for some of them that destroys that, for some of them. That just gets in their heads and they can’t overcome it. For most of the really great ones, that stuff turns into fuel. That stuff turns into high octane gas, Michael Jordan would find ways Michael Jordan would find a way if he was playing against you. You can have said nothing. You can do an interview in which someone asks you well, how do you feel about going up against Michael tomorrow? And you can say, well, he’s a great player, and I need to be at my best. And Michael will hear that. And he will say, Did you hear what she said about me? Did you hear that? She said that if she plays her best, she’s better than me. She said that she’s you know, and he’ll just he’ll just make stuff up for the sake of getting angry, because it that is where he finds his motivation. And that is where he manifests His greatness. And it has been my experience that most of the really great ones operate that way that they actually thrive on the naysaying and on the criticism, and it’s a fascinating psychological dynamic.

Kara Goldin 32:18
Yeah, no, I totally agree. So what you name Wayne Gretzky, not giving away the whole book, but you name Wayne Gretzky as the greatest athlete in the history of North American team sport. So probably a bit controversial for a few people. But I’d love to hear you chat about that a little bit and share your opinion.

Mike Greenberg 32:41
I think he is. And we’re certainly not giving anything away any book about numbers that didn’t give him the number 99 You should immediately discount. They have retired that number across the entire sport, no hockey player will ever wear 99 Again, because he was so good. And the reason I say that, and I’m one who revered Michael Jordan. And I believe Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player that ever lived. I believe that Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player that ever lived. I believe that. I don’t know. You could argue so many different people for football, but you can’t even really narrow it down. The point is that there are legitimate arguments to be had about that. You could argue that Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a more accomplished basketball player than Michael there were some now who will say they think LeBron James is a better basketball player than Michael and on and on that would go. You could say Tom Brady is the greatest football player that ever lived because he won the most championships either. We’ll say Jim Brown was the greatest player, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice. There’s other names that you could put into that mix. Babe Ruth, there were reasons to diminish Babe Ruth, he played at a time before this sport was integrated. Maybe you think Willie Mays is the greatest player, you can have all these debates. No one will debate that Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player that ever lived. There is no one who will disagree with that. If you ever hear anyone say that anyone besides Wayne Gretzky is the best hockey player that ever lived. Just to be aware, you have met someone who doesn’t know anything about hockey. There’s no one who’s valid opinion would even entertain that. And so that’s the justification that I use for saying, I will say Gretzky is the greatest player in the history of team sports. You can’t compare them to individual sports, they’re totally different. How do you compare Wayne Gretzky to Serena Williams to Michael Phelps to you can’t do it. Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever. Serena is the greatest tennis player ever. This you have to keep individual sports and team sports separate because the criteria are so different. But when it comes to baseball, basketball, football and hockey, which are the four primary North American sports, I think it is in arguable that the greatest player of them all is Gretzky. What was

Kara Goldin 34:45
the average age of a person that by the time you sat there you look across all of these, like, can you What would you say?

Mike Greenberg 34:56
I mean, some of the people are long dead, you know who are in this book. So I’d like for example. So the age that they were when they sort of earned their way again, it’s kind of hard to say so golfers, for example, the greatness of the golfer is usually determined by their longevity. One of the reasons that people consider Jack Nicklaus to be the greatest golfer that ever lived is that he was 46 years old when he won his last masters. By far the oldest ever to win that tournament, the most famous golf tournament in the world, no basketball player is ever going to be playing at the age of 46. The fact that Tom Brady was playing in the NFL at the age of 46, this past year was ludicrous and unheard of. So the age piece of it, most of them are, you know, as as is the case with most athletes are much, much younger. But then again, in this case, there is the whole disparate range of eras. So, Babe Ruth is in the book, and he played in the 20s in the 30s. And Jesse Owens is in the book and he for his, what he accomplished in the 1936 Olympics. And, you know, on through big teacher president came then in the 40s, who is probably the greatest female athlete that ever lived, and then into the, you know, into the 60s, and Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell, and people like that, and Wilt Chamberlain, and then into the 70s, which is more of the era of the era in which I, you know, started becoming a sports fan, and there were players there. So, and all the way through to the modern day they were active athletes in the book, Steph Curry has a number in the book, Kevin Durant, Lebron James. Who else was active is in the book, I’m trying, I’m sure that people I’m forgetting Mike Trout is in the book. There are a few others. So you know, the age and the eras really span the entirety, certainly the last 100 or so years.

Kara Goldin 36:41
So I was so excited that you didn’t have to remove a toe along the way. So the Aaron Rodgers conversation what what does that name mean to you today?

Mike Greenberg 36:56
It means hope. So, for those of us who are who take our sports disproportionately seriously. So the first book I ever wrote was a book called Why my wife thinks I’m an idiot, and otherwise known as every husband’s autobiography. The the one of the things that I wrote in there was that the reason that those of us love sports, those of us who love sport the way I do, the reason we do it is because there’s nothing in the world better than investing everything into something that means absolutely nothing. But at the end of the day, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m well aware that the outcome of the football game I’m watching doesn’t actually impact anything. And yet, while it’s going on, it is overwhelmingly the most important thing in my life. And I think that’s very healthy actually. Having said that, the New York Jets have been my obsession all of my life. I my parents had season tickets before I was born. And they have never been in the Super Bowl in my conscious lifetime. They want they’ve only won one Super Bowl, they’ve only been in it once they want it once Joe Namath was the quarterback. And I was one year old. So my parents, according to them, I was watching the game, but I don’t have any obviously, any recollection of it. So. So all my life, all I wanted was to see it actually is sort of on a slightly sad note, all I used to say all I want is to sit next to my dad, and watch the Jets play in the Super Bowl. And unfortunately, I’m never gonna get the chance to do that outside of, you know, in spirits. But now I’m getting worried about my kids like, I now I hope they get to watch the Jets play in the Superbowl with their dad, I’m not as young as I used to be. So the Jets are a really, really good football team with just terrible quarterback play. And we are as you and I have this conversation on the verge it could happen any minute of finalizing a trade for Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks that ever lived. And it is not hyperbole to say that the Jets become a legitimate contender to win the Superbowl for what would be the first time in my conscious lifetime. So as they both know, my children both know that if that happens, because Nikki is the older one she gets to choose us if she doesn’t have to either legally change your name to Aaron or Rogers whichever one she wants. Rogers could be kind of a cute girl’s name. So she could become Rogers Greenberg or she could be Aaron Greenberg and then my son Steven will be stuck with the other one. I will rename my children which is the highest honor that I can give. I would name a child after Aaron but I’m not having any more children. So I’m just going to have to rename the ones I already have. Whose story the jets had a quarterback named Chad Pennington. And when Stevie was born, I wanted to name him Chad. And Stacey would not allow that. So that’s how we became Steven. Not that there’s anything wrong with the name Chad, but I that was what I wanted, and she didn’t and so that was I got voted down on that one, one to one as usual. But anyway, but so the point of the story is that if Aaron Rodgers comes maybe we win and that would be a really, really, really cool thing to see happen.

Kara Goldin 40:04
That would be incredible. Well, you touched on how sports creates family memories and, and I loved that aspect in the intro of your book too. It made me really think about that as well.

Mike Greenberg 40:21
What’s the best part of it like, there was a day, the first jet game. So I grew up going to Shea Stadium, which no longer exists in Queens, New York with my father. And we went to every game, some of my favorite memories of my childhood. On Sunday, cold December, Sundays in New York, I’d get up and my mother would just start putting clothes on me, I literally would go to these games wearing everything. My mother would put like three thermals and two pants in the ski jacket in the Ski hat and, and my dad and I, we had a blanket that we kept in the trunk of the car just for the jet games. And we’d go we’d sit at Shea Stadium, we cover ourselves in a blanket, we watched the whole game. That was my whole top. So when Steven was old enough to go to his first game, he was three, we took him to a game. And we sat there and I’ve got Stevie on one side of me, and my dad on the other side of me, and I were watching the game. And I thought to myself, this is a day. If you love sports, then this is a day you don’t get it a movie, you don’t get it a Broadway show, you don’t have this experience anywhere else. But any game. And I’m I love both of those things. I love Broadway and I enjoy movies, I guess as much as anyone else. But there’s, for those of us who love this stuff. There’s nothing like that. There’s nothing more meaningful than that bond that we all share. And as I said my mother very much with it as well, my mother grew up walking distance from Yankee Stadium, I think I mentioned this already. And she had an uncle who took her to games all the time. And in fact, when my parents, there were times they couldn’t watch the jet games in the same room because they’d start fighting, they would both get so anxious and hinted that they literally would go watch the game in separate rooms, because they would start, they both my mother is the most knowledgeable sports fan. I know. She to this day knows more about sports than I do. And so so you know, when you grow up in that family, when that is your culture, then there’s nothing more important than that. And so those are the best memories. And you know, when our kids were little states that I took them to games all the time, particularly baseball, because that was easy and fun. And it’s in the afternoon. And it’s you know, in the spring in the summer, so the weather is nice and goes to the Yankee stadium to watch a baseball game and it was the best the best. And, you know, those are the best memories I have. And I hope that my kids would say the same thing. I hope that that both of my kids would say that some of their favorite memories of their childhood are of of watching games with their father.

Kara Goldin 42:57
That’s incredible. Well, such a great book and so appreciate you coming on everyone needs to get this book. Got your number. And thank you again, Mike. Really appreciate it. I miss you. It

Mike Greenberg 43:09
has been too long. Please say hello to everybody there. And I hope that our paths will cross again much, much sooner.

Kara Goldin 43:15
Yes, definitely. And we’ll have all the info in the show notes as well. So thanks, everyone for listening. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book.com and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know and if you liked what you heard Please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening