In a sports world that has truly become big business, this edition of Tracks To Success introduces you to the man who reports it like no other.
Darren Rovell created his own career path and blazed a trail for others in the process. He landed a job at ESPN within a month of graduating college, convincing leaders that they needed news coverage they didn’t have and that he was the right man to do it. Now, he’s recognized as THE authority for sports business coverage.
Rovell has been a lightening rod for attention - running forty yard dashes in front of NFL players, singing national anthems at MLB games and going one-on-one in hoops with Big Cat from Barstool Sports.
He once had dreams of a career on Broadway, instead he’s been a familiar face on network television, breaking news and making news while amassing a following of more than 2 million on social media - some who love him and some who clearly don’t.
Rovell tells all in this can’t miss chat with Kraig Kann.
Welcome to Tracks. To Success brought to you by presentation partners. This is the podcast that brings you inspiring people and they're inspiring stories. How did they find their way to the top? And How can their path help you do the same? Here's your host network, broadcaster, executive and entrepreneur. Kraig Kann
Right now on this edition of Tracks To Success, you'll hear from one of the most widely known Sports business analysts. You can make a strong argument when it comes to Sports business, he is the analyst. But the thing about him is that people actually love to argue with him, his social media, following surpasses 2 million and his tweets come rapid fire drafted preloaded schedule, ready with news. You can always find ways to use Dan. Some news you won't get anywhere else and many will take him to task over. And he's fine with that. He went to Northwestern, but bypass to a great journalism screen for a major in theater.
2 (1m 14s):
And he did it with a purpose. He's been a part of ESPN twice CNBC once and Now calls. The action network is home bedding on a long run in there after building a resume. That includes documentary's hard news reporting, election coverage, and singing the national Anthem. Oh, and Canada's to at a major league game with his Twitter handle plastered to the back of the Jersey. He wore, frankly, you can love him, hate him, follow him, or mute him. But his belief that sports and commerce are forever married and ready for consumption has made him a capitalist or at the follow up.
2 (1m 60s):
His name is Darren Ravel. His inspiring story. In this addition of Tracks To, Success, Darren really appreciate this. I don't know how I pulled this off, but to get you pulled away from all this stuff that you do each and every day, the number of social media posts and everything else, phone calls, I don't have, I don't know how I did it. How did I pull this off? How to get you?
0 (2m 28s):
It was a lesson in persistence. Kraig you know, we, we had some, a, we had some back and forth. Most of the time I left it it as a cliffhanger or, and then you came back and back and back until I was finally, like, I got to do this thing ready. I got, I gotta knock things off my list.
2 (2m 45s):
I'm glad to be on your list. That's cool. So tell me how many hours a week or maybe a day let's do a day. How many hours a day on the phone calls, social media. I'm sure you get those weekly activity, numbers and stuff. What's the number
0 (3m 1s):
Screen time is about 13 hours a day. So I, you know, wake up around six o'clock things have changed a little bit recently, but ah, you know, go through my phone, do my standard. Like this day in history. Sometimes it's planned. Sometimes its not for Twitter, just kind of catching up on things and always have a combination of video stuff, sometimes TB stuff. And then throughout the day, just keeping up with the maddening pace of social media, although I've posted every single post myself, I do have help to make sure I don't miss major stories. So there are guys, I have one guy specifically whose job it is just to give me levels of alerts.
0 (3m 47s):
So if it's, if it's urgent, he'll give me a phone call. If it's a semi urgent, but not immediate, he'll text me a and then an email will be like, okay, check these out. But a that's the only way I can be saying in this world and how fast it moves. Yeah.
3 (4m 5s):
He or she, that person that is in the, in the office when you're like singing songs or you know, doing some sort of dance in your office area or somebody different
0 (4m 16s):
In this person, this person's like a personal employee of mine, a in new Orleans. So just yeah, yeah. Not just remotely making sure that
3 (4m 28s):
No I'm good. Darren Rovell enterprises. Okay. So here's the thing, right? I get excited about doing this interview. I've followed you for a long time. I didn't really need to Google a ton of things or look at a ton of things. But, but it was interesting. I pop it open and I just want to see what comes up quickly. And one of the first things, it comes up quickly. This Sports guy, this is an article, this Sports guy, the S is a dollar sign. Why so many people hate Darren Rovell I mean, seriously, that's what happens? How do you deal with that?
0 (4m 60s):
So it's interesting. Cause my daughter Googled me for the first time, my eight year old daughter and that's what popped up and she was a little bit confused. And so I've always explained it to adults kind of what it is and perhaps why it is, but explaining it to my child was something more challenging. So Buzzfeed called me for that story years ago and said, Hey, we wanted to do a story on how you're the most hated man, whatever would you participate as it is, of course I'd like to participate. I'm actually interested to know what you'd find out. And some of what they found out was that people don't like me because Sports is their escape. And I take away from their escape. I make it about business.
0 (5m 42s):
You can't stop that. That's what I do. You know, there's combinations have other things, whether its, you know, jealousy, I think some of it comes. I've had more of my rise due to social media. I would say, umm, there's a lot of, but I've made a decision long ago that I am who I am. What I put out is genuine and authentic. That's the number one thing. The only person I have to answer to as myself and what anyone shouts at me or says of me, I really don't care. The one thing I will say is that I want to be relevant. I do. I want to be in the conversation. I'm not going to force conversation. I'm not going to say things that, that aren't a me.
0 (6m 25s):
But I think the worst place to be in this world is in the middle. Like just reading a prompter. People don't know what they feel about you. Good or bad. When people say Darren Rovell, they either love me or hate me. And I think that's a good position to be in.
3 (6m 38s):
I do a lot of thinking about guests, you know, whose story resonates. Who's compelling. Who entertains, who motivate, who inspires you carved a niche and I've followed you for a while. And I wanted to know more, but let me throw this at you. And you work for the action network. Now focuses on bedding. We're going to get into more of that a little while, but this is bizarre to me legally. Now the 4th of July is allowing us to gamble and bet on the hot dog eating contest, like where has this whole thing gone? We've gotten way off the rails.
0 (7m 18s):
Listen, there are some things that you say these, this is ridiculous. This is what I know. Given the volume of bedding on Korean baseball and the bedding on things that are available, whether it was iRacing or a real NASCAR, I can tell you that bedding is going to be one of the first thing. It's one of the first sector's that bounces back in this economy. Sure. People might be down 25% in their income, but they've, over-index so much in boredom that a plus are not, maybe they are not paying for their seats and they have to get that little cortisol on them. That little adrenaline and the betting does that
3 (7m 53s):
Talks about one of the other things. It comes up that article that you just referenced and then you've got Darren Rovell run in the 40 yard dash at Nike headquarters with a dominant SU there. I mean you, you are not afraid, man. You will put yourself out there and the number of comments and all of that stuff. What made you do that to yourself?
0 (8m 17s):
You know, what's interesting is people still don't know like, do you think most average people look good running the 40 yard dash? No, no. Correct. Most people look awful. Okay. Because, but the only thing that they can compare it to is watching the NFL combine. So like again, when it was at Nike, there was a glass window that was on like the fourth floor that you were running into. So the whole time I had trepidation, not like I was running so fast, I'd bust through it like Superman, but like that was hesitancy and yeah, I mean, I, I ran a five, nine, nine, and then people say, Hey, you're horrible.
0 (8m 57s):
Will you, you know, what are you running with? Something in your pants below, you know? And then, then, and then people, then I say, well, you know, I did run in the Chicago marathon faster than Tiki barber and people who are like, you know, like, okay, like I did run nine 30 to nine 50, you know, miles through a 20 miles, you know? So, so it is, and then people say, Oh, come on. Like that's whatever, you can never really come back. But I don't really, I don't know what it is. I talked to my wife and she's surprised that when I was a kid, I really was carefree. I don't really have many negative memories. I don't remember any, any sort of issues or anything like that with growing up.
0 (9m 41s):
So I think I've kind of been like almost like uniquely blessed in that. And as long again, as long as people are watching me and commenting on me, I don't, I don't care what they think of me. Yeah.
3 (9m 52s):
Let's celebrate this career path. Cause you just kind of led me to it long before you were this business analyst, then a guy breaking stories, putting things out there for consumption. You're a kid in New York based on what I already shared, where you are a Sports freak, a neighborhood bully as a kid that got bullied. What kind of kid were you at
0 (10m 10s):
That definitely a sports freak. Definitely almost all baseball. You know, just, just love the statistics. Memorize players went to a card show every week, you know, whether it was at a bowling alley or at a hotel lobby. Ah, man, I love my childhood and I loved that the sports played in it, the role of sports played in it. I will say that I knew pretty early on that I wasn't going to be an athlete that was going to be pro. And I, I kinda think that because I had that thought faster than my friends and I wanted to work in Sports and be Sports to be part of my life so much, you know, I started writing, you know, my own publication when I was 10, 11 years old and selling it for a dollar, you know?
0 (10m 54s):
So, so that's kind of where things started. I just, I just wanted to be in Sports so badly, remember, you know, right away to minor league teams for their minor league hats and waiting for them and just, just collectibles and memorabilia and the Mets. And man, it was a great time to grow up, especially when you consider sports radio, you know, WFAN had just stirred it up as the 24 hour sports network when I was eight years old and I used to wake up at 12 o'clock midnight, I'd set the alarm to Steve summers, captain midnight and listen to him from 12 to three. So when my mom was wondering why, when she put me to bed at eight o'clock, I was tired when I woke up at seven o'clock, you know, she didn't know until I was long at a high school that I had a three hour block of content in the middle of my night.
3 (11m 42s):
I did the same thing in Chicago, man, add a transistor radio under the sheets, listening to the Blackhawks games and, and bulls games. And I had the tape recorder when I was 10 years old doing my own games in my room. And then I determined that that, that
0 (11m 54s):
That's that's tough because you needed the radio for Blackhawk games. I mean, were they have been on TV?
3 (11m 59s):
All right. No, no. They were not. You remember that? And the other yeah,
0 (12m 3s):
Yeah, absolutely. Bill was good. Old bill works. They don't don't give away T V when you can't fill up a Chicago stadium.
3 (12m 10s):
No, you nailed it. And I determined that the sun times in the Tribune didn't do a good job of promoting my team. So I wrote my own sports page and then I delivered it, but I didn't charge a dollar C I didn't do that. I wasn't that smart. You were. So tell me about your mom and dad. Were they big influencers for you?
0 (12m 27s):
Yeah, my mom was a, was a Spanish teacher. She, she just allowed me to do everything I wanted. I did a lot of plays. I did a lot of theatre. I was one of those guys' that, you know, when the kids concert was, I was the guy standing in the middle of screaming. She's been a unique challenge for me since I married someone who was shy when they were younger and all three of my kids are shy, but yeah, really supportive. My mom was a Big Brooklyn Dodgers fan. She lived in the house with crazy Brooklyn Dodgers fans. And in, in New York, my dad definitely fostered my, my love for the game.
0 (13m 8s):
He was a, a huge Cubs fan. I grew up in Chicago, a probably the biggest thing my dad did for me though, his and I don't really remember kind of overtly learning this, but he, he was a niche guy. I mean, he was a guy who had a PhD in biophysics and biochemistry and also had his, the marketing wherewithal. So he's started a medical consultancy from that where the scientists' and the marketers kind of came together and all these, these guys wouldn't normally speak the same language. So he had a really cool niche. And I think that by osmosis or whatever you want to call it, that kind of made me understand how to build your value by picking an industry that is small enough, that you could be the only, or the best In, but big enough that people will eventually care.
0 (14m 1s):
And I think that's what led me to Sports business
3 (14m 3s):
Of entrepreneurship. You ended up at Northwestern, so you were hardly lacking in academic skill, but you majored in theater. Is that, is that right? What was the thinking there?
0 (14m 13s):
So I was, I was convinced I can make it on Broadway. Umm, I have a pretty damn good voice. I'm very confident about it. I was in To opera was at Northwestern. I was in a couple of plays. I thought I could make a career out of it. It's good that I went to Northwestern where the theater was so competitive. I had the idea that I was going to work in Sports luckily I was, you know, obviously in a school that not only he had academics, but I had the big 10 Northwestern just coming all, come off the Rose bowl. They were really competitive and football. I actually, instead of going to the daily paper, I started writing well, majoring in theater, I started riding for the weekly paper that no one read called the Northwestern Chronicle.
0 (15m 3s):
And out of frustration, when I became the sports editor, I turned it into it, basically a gambling rag and that got people reading again. Umm, I was this the Sports director of the radio station, which is just a tremendous learning experience. We had the largest student run radio station in the country, as far as a, how far the, the listenership goes 2 million. You can go to million, two, the Wisconsin border. Ah, and, and so, but my sophomore year I kind of realized I'm like, you know what? I can be the best and I, maybe I can make it on Broadway, but this industry is not fair and you could have a amazing rise and an amazing role.
0 (15m 48s):
And then maybe six months later you could be a waiter. And so I continued to be a theater major. I thought it was great for stage presents for talking for memorization a very much better in some cases than the journalism school, as far as presenting, you know, doing, doing some of the things that you're required to do as a journalist and you know, junior year, while still being in theatre. I was just reading the USA today, a green money pages, as much as I was reading the red Sports section. And I said, you know what? I, I love business. I want to be a S Sports business journalist.
0 (16m 28s):
And I'm, there was a very little, at the time I started a Sports business radio show and I quickly found out that, you know, everyone wants to talk to athletes and they've for the most part, don't want to talk to you. And no one's really talking to the business people and they have tremendous stories. So why not? Even as a student, just forget that I'm a student and let's put out the best sports business radio show in the country. And that's what I did for two years. And it was built. My Rolodex was amazing and made me fall in love with that specific part of the industry.
3 (16m 59s):
You were a guy also who walked around football games, wearing a purple blazer, right for Northwestern Wildcat games. I mean, you, you were standing out at you, you seemingly even tho a theater major and started in the sports business radio show. If you will, we're putting yourself out there in and getting noticed on this Rolodex of contacts that to help you maybe land that internship at Fox. Is that correct?
0 (17m 24s):
So, yeah, I, the funny thing is, so my, so my, my sophomore year after my sophomore year at Northwestern, I did get a job at Fox in media relations, which was great to see kind of how things went. I remember my first day they were telling me how to take the ruler and T now I really feel old and the newspaper and rip it and then make a clip and then put it down. And everyday the clip page would be 50, 50, 60 pages of clips that you give to the Fox executives. They said, and then the next day the Fox Fox bought the Dodgers and the clip pack was 143 pages and a poor Darren Rovell in turn was really working in it.
0 (18m 5s):
So from then, from there, because I had the Fox connections, I, my junior year got Fox sports.com and a, you know, basically said, Hey, do you mind if I do my own project here? I think I could build a Sports business website and didn't get paid any money and was able to build a Sports business website called the Fox sports big.com, which launched as I went back to Northwestern my senior year, and I worked through it, worked with it throughout, and then, then comes a, an interview with ESPN, you know, really looking for an intern at Northwestern my senior year. And as luck would have, it was not an HR person. It was David Albright, a senior executive at ESPN.
0 (18m 47s):
And I said, you guys needed a business reporter. And he said, why? And I said, well, you know, if you look at your front page today, there's all these dollar signs. There's two S two storeys with dollar signs in, they are written by the AP writers. Umm, and he said, so He so what are you saying? I'm saying, well, the other, the other stories you would think would be embarrassing if they were written by AP writers, Peter Gamons is writing baseball. Andy Katz is write in college basketball. If your, the worldwide leader in Sports, you know, you should probably have someone with, for sports business. So I think it was just a moment in time. I went to Bristol, I interviewed with the great John Walsh and you know, 21 years old, I was the second youngest on air person.
0 (19m 34s):
They were hired and their history only short of max Kellerman. And I moved up to Bristol and I had my dream job from day one really blessed in a really strange
3 (19m 45s):
The thing about this and you kind of glossed over the best part of this story. As I understand it is, is your five minute pitch go and give me five minutes. And this guy was actually like a recruiter coming on campus to try to get editorial folks to come up there and work. And you, and this is what I respect about you. And if I was talking to a room full of college students, which I do, I would say, you've got to find a way to not just follow the curve of what everybody else does, but to set your own. And that's kind of what you did. You gave him this pitch and then what, 10 days later, bam. You're at, ESPN doing stuff at the worldwide leader.
0 (20m 23s):
Yeah. 30 days later. I'm on sports center. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, you got it. You've gotta, you gotta Zig when other people's ed you, especially, you know, I had looked at all the more of my friends who were at the middle school of journalism and I thought a lot of them had some great tapes, things that were better than me. They weren't as good promoting themselves. And they weren't as good understanding that when they were sending packages to whoever these directors were of these stations, they didn't realize the struggle alone for that director to open the package. So you have to send it in a box. So you have to wrap it with your resume or you have to do some crazy things, listen to so many people want to work in Sports for free that in order to prove that you deserve money, any money at all, you have to be good enough.
0 (21m 10s):
And I never, I never took that for granted. I wanted to be in sports so bad and work in Sports so badly that, that a, you know, I, I never left any stone unturned and I always wanted to, you know, market myself to the hilt to the point that when I gave THE the man David Albright, my, my resume, it was an eight page, a laminated color media dyed of myself that I have spent a thousand dollars has a college student that I did not have, umm, to basically give to him and kind of blow things away in, in the minutes that I had. That's cool.
3 (21m 50s):
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0 (22m 37s):
3 (22m 37s):
In 2006, you left ESPN after all of that to go to CNBC, which is obviously a great opportunity to be in the NBC family. You hosted your own show Sports business with Darren Rovell. That was a cool show by the way, it didn't last long enough. Yeah, it was during all that time. That's social media really, you know, exploded Twitter during that time that you were there as well. So this is a two part question. Number one. Why did you leave ESPN for this opportunity? He was it because you can do your own show and number two, how much did you benefit from that social media explosion?
0 (23m 13s):
So number one, I left ESPN because after six years, when I turned 27 years old, you know, they were giving me 3% raises and still treating me like the kid, even though I wasn't the kid anymore. And I felt like the opportunity to go from the worldwide leader in sports to the worldwide leader in business was great. I always wanna do the business of the Olympics with signing the deal with CNBC. I got two of the coolest Olympics in Beijing and Vancouver. So it was really a no brainer to me because I knew that I had to, I knew I had to get along financially a little bit more and I felt, I felt like I deserved it and I wanted more guarantees.
0 (23m 58s):
I wanted it to be on outside the lines more guaranteed and they didn't give it to me. And I, I love the opportunity with CNBC. I love the idea of going from being the nerd at the sports network, to the cool guy at the business network and a, it turned out really well. Umm, I was always worried when I made that move in 2006. So of course, you know, Twitter was coming around in 2009, 10. I worried when I made that move that people would forget about me or they wouldn't be able to follow me. And I think there was some people who were, who I was lost to the world for. And there was some people who at CNBC was, were introduced to me for the first time.
0 (24m 41s):
But really I would say in 2011, 12, that's when social media started taking off and a, I think CNBC didn't really like it at the time, but you know, I, I kind of started devoting a lot of time to it and I went on Twitter not to put out articles and put my opinion out there and get out there and spread my brand. I went on Twitter because I'm always trying to swim a, in this space where it's so easy to drown where I have to do this secondary business story. So in order to know that I have to no, the first part of the story and if I can do anything with speed, that's going to help me.
0 (25m 23s):
And so Twitter, I just couldn't believe I could follow the right people and the information would just come to me. So that, that, that's how it went down. And, and obviously I went all in on Twitter and it, and it paid dividends for me.
3 (25m 38s):
Yeah. You went all in all right. 2011 major league baseball game, you talked about your grade singing voice and you put it to the test, the rays and the blue Jays. You sung both national anthems at that game, but you did it with a Jersey on with your Twitter handle on the back. Am I correct? I mean you flat out and put you in that marketing move. Brilliant.
0 (26m 1s):
You know, don't, don't, don't leave, don't leave anything on the table, you know? Ah, and I, and I, and I don't think I have, I've always been kind of just, if you want to say like he's too much into himself or whatever, which by the way I don't think is true. I think people will come up with whatever they want. But if, if no, if I, if you are not going to promote yourself to the hilt, no one will. And, and I kind of probably learned this from my dad. I just don't leave any opportunity on the table.
3 (26m 34s):
This is almost game day. I'm your host, Sean Green. Thank you so much for tuning in on this Friday, September 4th, 2020.
4 (26m 44s):
We have been trying to get this show up for about four months over summer and quarantine. We were working together as a collective unit to get HTF and finally up. And it's finally here. So I'm so thankful that you tune in on this Friday to join me on almost GameDay with that being said, let's get into the first topic. All right. Cam Newton officially his, the Patriots starting quarterback for week one. He beat out Brian Hoyer and Jared stun for the job. Many people saw this coming, but too, a lot of Patriots fans. It wasn't a quick ope let's hand him the Baton, right? This was a little bit of after six years away, you go back to ESPN.
4 (27m 31s):
Was it ever the same, going back? Did they treat you differently or was it better? I mean, they did treat me different.
0 (27m 39s):
I think I kick their butt for six years and they were, they were nice enough to have me back. And you know, I, it was amazing to see having left in 2006, not gone back to campus. And then six years later return, I mean, that was probably the biggest growth period for ESPN and it might be considered the biggest growth period in their history. When, when I left, I could walk to the cafeteria and six, six years later, there were all these shuttle buses going to the cafeteria because it was such a, a monolith that, you know, it was unreal. You know, I th there were differences and that I didn't live up there anymore.
0 (28m 20s):
So I would drive up there two times a week or so when I lived there, my first six years, a in Bristol, I would go to work at seven o'clock return at seven, go to work at seven, o'clock go to 7:00 PM, eat dinner, and then go back till 2:00 AM a. And I do that everyday, Monday through Friday. And that's how I was able to write two books, but I was 21 by the time it was 26 and really still do the ESPN stuff, but it was different when I went back, you know, clearly I'm a much older person at that time. And ah, and the business of Sports had exploded. There were, there was no quit in from 2000 to 2006.
0 (29m 2s):
I think there were some questions of, you know, what is this guy doing here? It, he's not essential. He is a bit player. And I think by 2012, I was clearly an essential player. If you didn't know about base your compensation, your owners capacity to spend endorsements. If you didn't know that if you didn't, they definitely needed MI. So, you know, it, it, it felt good to be back. It really did. Now there were complications with Twitter because by that time I was, you know, so big on Twitter that there was a, Hey, you know, make sure you don't break something to Twitter or make sure you run the THE every single thing that you're to put on Twitter by the, by the news desk, that was probably the most palpable tension that was going back and forth.
0 (29m 48s):
But I don't think it ultimately affected my, my use of it.
3 (29m 52s):
This might be an ego driven question for you. See how you go with this to some degree you just mentioned that Sports business exploded. I, no, you covered it, but do you feel like you helped raise awareness of it?
0 (30m 8s):
Oh yeah. You know, Def definitely. I mean, when I, so when I S so if you go through the history of Sports business, somewhere in 90 to 93 sports center, every time someone was signed would say, this person, you know, is making this type of contract before it wasn't a, a, a, a slam dunk 'em. And then in 98 sports business journal came. So certainly that was a big thing. Ah, and then I came in 2000. I would like to think certainly through Twitter, you know, I've kind of let people be known that I'm a conduit. And if you pass things through me, I'll give you credit. So I think I've turned people into many sports business reporters. I know I can't find any everything, but yeah, I, I think I've pounded it so much, certainly on Twitter Mmm.
0 (30m 54s):
That people understand that the way I look at it and they, Now kind of, some people Now look at the game the way I have, and from a sport's business standpoint.
3 (31m 4s):
So where do you find this stuff? Darren, I mean, you just talked about all the time that you spend looking for stuff on your phone or, or making calls, et cetera, where do you come up with all this stuff?
0 (31m 16s):
It's exhausting, but I have a ton of sources, people out there, some people who want to be known, some people who don't want to be known, I have tons of lists of things like, ya know, on this day they should just check in, do something on memorabilia, do something on. I certainly miss doing stadium food throughout this, but yeah, no, I, I have a lot of handwritten lists I have, cause I like to see things in front of my eyes. But yeah, I think part of what also makes me me is the eclectic nature of things and that people never know what they're going to get. Whether it's something that just happened on the stock market or the Sports food, or normally I like to tie it to business obviously.
0 (32m 2s):
But yeah, I like to switch it up and I switch it up. Not only for you, but I switch it up for me. I enjoyed doing this so much
3 (32m 11s):
In your time at ESPN and CNBC, you were on world news tonight, Nightline good morning, America, NBC election coverage, all of that sort of stuff. You, you are a part of some documentaries. I mentioned this show that you hosted was the coolest thing you've ever been a part of her done. This might be a loaded question. Swoosh inside Nike, the documentary, right?
0 (32m 34s):
No, that was a great, that was the documentaries at CNBC where my greatest, I mean, I, I just love doing them basically saying to Nike, I'm doing a documentary on you guys and saying that part of the documentary will be Phil Knight for the first time ever on camera admitting that his use of child labor was a mistake and otherwise we're not doing it, you know, and, and then saying, okay, he's ready to talk. You know, that's like a, wow. And then, you know, we want to talk to Jordan about everything that went on behind Michael Jordan and Nike signing in this and that. And, and that was, yes, we got that too.
0 (33m 15s):
And then we got, you know, we, we, we, we don't believe you that that child labor is not there anymore or that the practices are, they are what they are. And you know, you're still picking countries like Vietnam and you're cherry picking them because they don't have unions. Are they they're weak. So let's go to Vietnam. We went to Vietnam and we looked at the factory. We did a really crazy investigation. We had a translator. I'm just really proud of the work we did for that journalistically. So not only was it cool, that was right. But maybe the most proud piece at CNBC for me was a premise on why do so many Indians own Dunkin donuts?
0 (34m 0s):
So when I was doing a, a, a documentary on franchises, I asked the person at a Dunkin donuts, why do so many Indians own Dunkin donuts? And she said, Oh, we can't tell that we can't do that story. I go, well, do they go? And she said, I don't know. So I said, I need a full, like, give me a full list of franchisees. And we found that there were 700 plus Patels owning Dunkin doughnuts in Chicago land area alone.
5 (34m 28s):
And I then said, well, do it
0 (34m 31s):
A little digging. I want to do this story. And week later she called me back and she said, well, you were right. A, they do over-index in ownership. They're a huge part of our ownership and a half a person for you to talk to you to find out why. Well, the story goes, there was a guy named Amrit Patel who came from India with five or six of his family members. And they worked for him or him in a single Dunkin donuts and the Chicago land area. And when Amarin has Dunkin donuts was successful. He gave them the franchise fee to each go and start their own Dunkin donuts. But he gave the franchise fee in cash. So they never had any debt. And he essentially became the Johnny Appleseed in the deal was to take care of your own people.
0 (35m 16s):
You work with your family in a Dunkin donuts. Once you're successful, you give them the franchise fee in cash. And it created this whole chain that Now, that's why there are so many Indians owning Dunkin donuts. And I just, I there's a lot of pride that I have, and that I had a genuine curiosity that was dismissed. It turned out to be reality. And it just turned out to be one of the great stories
3 (35m 42s):
You are the most successful people. They get their, because of curiosity, you know, they want to learn more. They want to talk to people. You've interviewed some, some really big swingers. I mean, I'd be here for a long time putting names down. And that's one of the greatest things that I've always found that I've enjoyed is, is interviewing people no matter where I was in the media business, but you've interviewed Michael Jordan. You've interviewed Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong among big name athletes who gets it, give me one person that you were blown away by not by their accomplishments, but by the way, they handle fame. By the way, they treat people along the way.
0 (36m 21s):
Well, let me split that up. I could believe a Kobe, his ability to be who he was off the court, he legit was better off the court than on it, which is obviously saying a lot. He asked for my telephone number a while back, maybe in 2006 or so, because we had always done some business interviews and we got to be friends. And man, he, he was unbelievable, very talented total sponge, as far as the business goes. So I was, I was blown away by how he absorbed, you know, Harvard case studies, how he got, you know, Hollywood and right away.
0 (37m 9s):
And obviously just a horrible tragedy that he's not with us. The tragedy is even greater. That again, he had more to give us off the basketball court than on, I think other people blow it away by, by friendship, by humility, you know, JJ Watts, one of those guys that I'm blown away with. He, he was raised by tremendous parents in Wisconsin. And he is he his, all of what you would want a Sports roll model to be
3 (37m 43s):
David stern, Jerry Jones, Vince McMahon. Who's the biggest Big money. Executive who's impressed. You
0 (37m 52s):
Visiting man, who has actually a funny one because I've interviewed Vince, but Vince is the only person to accuse me of murder. What, so what happened? So what happened was a while I was at CNBC, mr. McMahon, the character of Vince McMahon in the WWE, he got blown up in a car and there was a question as to whether he survived Now I was not trying to be a curmudgeon or a jerk, but the number one material risk to the stock of the WWE is what Vince McMahon no longer being with the company.
0 (38m 33s):
So the fact that they created a, that he wasn't, that he might be dead and that someone perhaps investing in stocks might not understand the nuance that wrestling fans know. I thought that that was tremendously dangerous to play with. And I thought maybe the sec was going to get involved with that. So I reported it and, and the WWE, he came back saying that they're not sure if Vince McMahon is alive or dead, but they are investigating several people for his murder, including CNBC Sports business reporter Darren Rovell. And I read that on the air.
0 (39m 15s):
3 (39m 16s):
0 (39m 18s):
You start, David stern was a whole, another one we lost David's during was always, always great. You know, he, he, he read everything. So like, if you said something about, I once wrote something like a lead about how he had a gray tie and he always wore red. So it was a little bit weird. So he, he, he knew that, right? Like he, he be like, aah, wearing a red tie Now I love how he red everything. That was that. That was awesome.
3 (39m 47s):
Yeah. You want people that embrace it. So with that is Sports to much about business Now Now hold on for a second, because you can say, Hey, I hope not because that's how I make my living, but I'm talking like labor issues, contracts never seemingly enough for athletes, always strife money Now to college athletes, it's exploding rights fees, et cetera, is Sports is his the way we have grown up with sports guys, like you and me, our parents, et cetera, going away.
0 (40m 20s):
My answer to that, is it just, it is what it is. That's what it is. You know, we, the only thing that I could say is that it is complex. And I hope, and I see my job as a dealing with those complexities and helping people understand them, helping people understand when there's a fight in the midst of COVID-19 when baseball turns from a, you know, just a regular we're there's COVID-19 and we're in a place where we don't know to, it turned into a real labor dispute and why it's so important for major league baseball players, not to have a single season where revenue sharing is part of that and how that leads to a cap.
0 (41m 10s):
And so yes, the complexity and the business and how it's more business definitely benefits me. But I'd like to think that as someone who's covering the space, that I help explain it and make fans feel a little,
3 (41m 25s):
No, I think that you do, are you discouraged about the future of sports?
0 (41m 29s):
No, no, I'm not. I, I, a man, I just hope to get back to normalcy. That, that, that's what I hope. Yeah. I hope somehow we have the greatest, a fall in sports history. Controversy follows you. Ah, you can't shake it's stories that get Big attention come from you as well. Johnny Manziel piece on outside the lines about taking money from autographs, you know, I was, I was, so I was so close. I was so close on that. I was, I was one ATM receipt away from, from making a Heisman trophy quarterback ineligible for the following year.
0 (42m 10s):
Are you saying you took pride in that? Well, I mean, he was doing, I mean, listen, it's reporting it's it's reporting. He was, he was signing autographs for money. So yeah, I mean, I spent a long time new in that. Not like I wished any ill will against Johnny. And the funny thing is years later, right? He was at an autograph signing and it was close to me and I made sure I went there to, to tell him that. And I think we did, he didn't have any, a hard feelings, even though the, a, the chancellor of the Texas a and M system spent an entire press conference calling me stupid. But yeah, no, those are, those are just, those are the things, you know, I, I take pride in that.
0 (42m 54s):
I'm not scared to be controversial or step into controversy. You know, I, I do see myself sometimes as a hired gun in that I'm in the middle of nowhere. I'm not a guy who has to show up in the clubhouse everyday or at games. And because I don't really have that conflict, that gives me an advantage.
1 (43m 16s):
In addition to hosting this podcast, Craig leads the Kann advisory group focused on elevating communication for companies and individuals, company consulting, and powering team and individual workshops, mind altering webinars. And Kraig inspiring keynotes for your conference or company meeting. They're all on the menu of services. Kann advisory helps companies clarify their message, helps professionals build and showcase their brand and helps everyone present their best selves. So if you're the leader of a team or company looking to give your employees a game changing one day experience, or an individual who wants to become a speaker and presenter that gets other people talking visit Kann advisory.com.
1 (44m 6s):
And when you do connect, make sure to mention the Tracks To Success podcast to receive a special discount on any of the Kann advisory services. That's Kann advisory.com. Now back to the interview,
0 (44m 23s):
You're working that, that series about athletes and their financial hardship broke. I loved that by the way, there were some alleged
3 (44m 32s):
Inaccuracies attributed to you, a fake social media account from a high school kid. Once alleged that NBA players found their way to an escort service run by him. You ran with that. You then had to retract that. I bring all this stuff up and you can comment on this in a second. I bring it up because there is such a fine line today. You know, this, I'm not giving you a lecture in journalism about what to run with and what not to run with. And everybody seems to have sources and everybody Now with a phone feels like they're a media person. So how tough is it to do what you do as fast as you do it, which you do and be accurate.
0 (45m 10s):
So, you know, I'd like to think that over and I'm happy you brought that up actually. Or I'd like to think that over a 20 year career I've made mistakes that I could count on my hand, the, the escort service one was an interesting one because a guy who had approached me saying that his business was down because of the NBA work stoppage. I asked him questions that I felt was, were difficult. And I felt like by him answering it, I felt like he did enough. I didn't call him. I didn't check. And you know, luckily I've learned a lot from that. I will say that anyone on a local news station can, can believe anyone who says they saw something, even though they, they don't, if someone wants to, you know, years later that guy came back and said, he, it was a great source of pride that he duped me.
0 (46m 3s):
You know, if people wanna do that, then that's fine on broke 'em. And that's part of my week, yet on growth as part of my weekly pedia entry, I didn't have any inaccuracies. As far as I was concerned, its that the NFL players association hasn't hasn't liked me. And you know, they say that there's inaccuracies and write a letter to my boss. It turns out nothing's inaccurate. So it's almost like that's really a tough point. Like the escort service thing. It's like, Oh my God, my bad, bad mistake in journalism. I rushed, I didn't go through what I normally should go through. And I got caught and I should've got called out on it. But then when people say it's wrong and it's not wrong.
0 (46m 46s):
And then you can't go back or you're, you know, you have to bite your lip or sit on your hands. Or again, as I said, it still in my Wiki PD entry, I don't care. But, but, but that does become difficult because you can't keep, you can't keep fighting back and forth. You've got to move onto your next thing. You've got to move onto your next thing. That's going to make you, you, you obviously can't make these mistakes all the time and you try to limit it. But at the same time, if you don't, if you don't learn from those mistakes, then you're, you're, you're going to make them again. And I will not make the mistake related to that, that escort thing that I did in the rush to expediency, right?
3 (47m 26s):
To all the listeners of this podcast. Here's an example of fast Darren moves. I texted him about this podcast. He got back to me within literally about 20 seconds. That's not a joke. That's not an exaggeration. Might of been less, by the way, his response, when I sent that was it's fast or it's nothing. Okay. That was your quote. I looked it back up that's my life was the second part of your text. You sent me two texts. So it's faster, nothing. That's my life. Explain what that means.
0 (48m 0s):
I mean, there's just so much going on. You know, there's, there's so much up in, in the air. There's so much either have a responsibility to cover as a journalist or have a responsibility to cover it because it's what people want to read. And everyday I have trouble going to sleep every night. Cause I am so excited and I'm so amped up and I have so many things on my list to do and I have no problem waking up in the morning. So yeah, it's just, it's just completely busy. I do not have days that are slow. These Saturdays and Sundays have been slow we're which is nice. But then, you know, I have a family, I have six year old twin boys and an eight year old girl and I have to make time for them focus time.
0 (48m 44s):
I literally have to plot out what focus time is and just hope nothing happens within those, those blocks. Cause it that's how it is. And I'm, I'm proud. I'm proud of, you know, what I've been able to do. I mean, that's been the hardest part of, you know, you got your working for your family, but you also live for your family. And so being able to, to give time to your family and be completely present in this world has become harder. Not only because there's more distractions, but your kids have become more distracted. And so that's, that's a challenge that I've embraced and I think I've won it.
3 (49m 21s):
Your a playful guy. How about this story about you and Big Cat from Barstool and him wanting to play you one-on-one in basketball, right? It didn't that happen at a, at a Cubs game on, on social media night. You were there. Were you singing? What was the story? Right?
0 (49m 36s):
Yeah. I was singing in the seventh inning stretch and he asked me if I would play afterwords, I was in a notoriously bad shape. He was in great shape, ripped. My dad was with me cause he's a Cubs fan and he wanted to, to come. And I said, dad, this guy's gonna kick my butt. You know, probably I probably won't score. They're going to film the hell out of it and make fun of me. And he said, well, why would you do that? And I said, well, if you, if you understand how the Barstool people work and how the dynamic of Barstool is, which you, which you, it is naturally complex and hard to understand if you don't know them, if you embrace them, no matter how you embrace them, no matter what the results are, a it's harder for them to hate you.
0 (50m 22s):
And so this was a move too. Hey, you know like stern Ravel guy, that guy, they call the, and the guy who they, you know, rip off, he showed up the last 11, nothing, but he showed up after the Cubs game of basketball, they had, my dad was so distraught. My dads, a branding guy, he goes, I think this is bad for your brand. And I think it turned out to be really good because I kind of became very difficult for them to, to really hate me. Not like that was my goal, but anytime you can convert people to at least respecting you, I think that's doing something
3 (50m 53s):
Cool. And all that said, I mean, you are so respected. I mean, we can talk about the fact that you say, and you've said this probably 10 times already about people hating you or whatever. You're on the advisory board at Northwestern for graduate programs in sports administration. And my gut tells me, cause I don't know the answer to this that you do enjoy giving back that you do enjoy, you know, fostering futures, if you will, for students that might want to do what you do because lets face it. You kind of paved the way for it to be a deal.
0 (51m 28s):
Yeah. I mean, I think that all a sudden I do a lot of mentorship there. I won't just do it. You, you have to be able to show me the drive. It's not just I'm going to do it because you know, it's my friend's brother or whatever it is. Like if you show me the drive, I have, you know, 10 people on mentoring at a time, you know, the importance of just really working so hard. And as I said before, to prove to yourself, to prove to someone else that you deserve to make money in. Sports, I'm proud to have mentored, you know, many people who've, who've gone on to great things.
0 (52m 8s):
And you know, I do think I, I have to pay back. Part of it is because from the Northwestern standpoint, going to that school was, was undoubtedly something that boosted my career and my life. And I think, you know, being born in the year I was born, if you look at outliers and Steve jobs and bill Gates were both born in 1958. And that meant that the first computers we're in libraries when they were a freshman for me, I was [email protected] boom hit a hit. And when I went to Northwestern, I was like, ah, do I really need my email? And when I got out, boy, did I need an email? So, so I feel very fortunate.
0 (52m 49s):
I feel lucky and I feel blessed. And so I do give back and, and, and try to, you know, build the next bunch of careers,
3 (53m 0s):
Talking with Darren Ravel of the action network. Just a few more things Darren before I let you go, let's talk about the action network, your employer, all about sports betting. Some think it could actually harm Sports others say its been going on in any way. So just let it all happen. Let it be legal. Are you nervous at all in what you do about athletes and coaches and owners falling to the dark side and seeing the integrity of games or Sports compromise?
0 (53m 28s):
Listen, I mean, if it's all above board and it's legal, it is true that there's, there's really no way you can do something that nefarious without it being caught. I mean, it is just so monitored. I do worry about college a little bit, obviously in a scenario where you have people who aren't paid and the money being so, so Big, but, but things we'll be caught. Ah, and I have faith in that, the leagues and the teams, you know, they've said that it's going to cost them more money and that's why they should get integrity fees. I think there are certain conflicts that do come up, but, but, but I do not think that games will be compromised because the money is out in front.
0 (54m 13s):
I mean, it's much worse when its in the back alleys with the envelopes
3 (54m 19s):
Earlier, we talked about this story of you pitching yourself to ESPN out of college. The fact of the matter is you bet on yourself and you've done that for quite some time. You've basically given a stiff arm, two, all of your critics who take their shots at you and pretty much laugh it off. For the most part. You have two at some point during all of this though. Doubt yourself for a question yourself about some of these things. No. Have you ever felt insecure with all that goes on around it?
0 (54m 50s):
No. I mean in moment's, you know, sometimes you say things that you think like on Twitter, for example, like I was trending nationally because when bill Buckner guide, I said, you know, rest in peace bill, I'm sorry that you are big moment of pain in probably, you know, a compromise your life was my big moment of joy as a Mets fan and the ball rolling through your leg to this day. I don't understand what is so horrible about that other than honesty. But people made it like, Oh my God, he's making about him. Bill Buckner died. Isn't and that there were some times where I put out a tweet and what I thought it kind of suggested is not what it suggests based on how the masses react.
0 (55m 37s):
And so, you know, yeah, there, there are moments. There are definitely moments. I'm not going to lie about that. But in general, I don't suffer every day by people yelling and screaming at me. I love every day, but, but I would say I've, I've made mistakes just like everyone else. And then, you know, how do you react to those mistakes externally and internally?
3 (55m 60s):
This podcast is called Tracks To Success Darren your path impressive. Because as I said, you've been a pioneer, you've been a trail blazer in sports business reporting. So what's your message. What would you say if you were going back to a college campus or your on a stage at a, at a big conference somewhere, what's your message to anybody who might be afraid to put themselves out there?
0 (56m 26s):
Yeah. If you don't put yourself out there, you're not going to get out there. You're going to be a in a, in a, in a position that people create for you, don't do that, create your own position, figure out what you love. Try to, you know, not work for life, but, but get something that you can do everyday that you love. And it will never count as work. But if you're not going to develop your brand, that doesn't mean that other people won't define you, sow, try to define yourself, try to get out there. And the more you get out there in terms of where you want to be, the better chance you have to actually get there.
3 (57m 7s):
Would you not agree that we're all a brand any way? I mean, you can't do anything about it. I kind of laugh off people say, Oh, there's no such thing as being a brand. The bottom line is as you, you pretty much are one.
0 (57m 20s):
Yeah. Your, your branded in a way, there was a, there was one point, you know, it's, it's, it's like, you know, when, when the, when, when, when the whole sexual harassment thing, the, the me too thing came out, you know, I have, when I was at ESPN for my first six years, I said, I will never date anyone from ESPN for even a coffee or like in terms of like a date. And part of that was because it was the branding. It was, it was, it was me as a brand. It was me as a person. It was that I would never want that.
0 (58m 0s):
I would never want anyone to, to be put in a situation, you know, where I would be accused of something. And so if I think of myself as a brand yes, as a person. But when I think about myself as a brand, like, I don't want to put my brand and my person at risk. And so I've made some good decisions based on thinking about myself as a brand, more than a person. When you think about yourself as a brand, before you wind up doing something stupid and your, in the newspapers or your in the courtroom, it actually helps me. I don't know if that makes any sense. Yeah.
3 (58m 34s):
Yeah. It does make sense. By the way I followed the brand, I've watched a build your brand. Ah, I'm a fan of the brand. And I love the fact that you embrace everything that kinda comes with it. Probably some challenging conversations with your young kids at times when, when things come out about you. But I love that. You've been able to handle that and put stories out there and get people to pay attention more than 2 million followers on Twitter. How many tweets, by the way, ah, did you set on a timer while we've been doing this thing?
0 (59m 4s):
Oh, nothing I mentioned to you. Yeah. I played paid a complete attention to you. All right. Okay.
3 (59m 10s):
When you go back and I'm going to look to see how many things were their Darren. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the time.
0 (59m 16s):
This has been great. Thanks, Greg. Darren climbed the ladder
2 (59m 23s):
Have sports business in a way of serving as a pioneer for covering the financial doings of Sports. He's now fully committed to the action network where the business of sports betting is King. And that leads me to my one last thing. If you want to be an influencer first and foremost, you need to bet on yourself, attack, whatever it is that you love with a passion, just like he talked about and a belief that you won't just do it, you will be it finding a way to be recognized for making a difference, not a paycheck. The money comes when you stick to your crap and find a way to do it better than those who claim to be your competitors.
2 (1h 0m 4s):
I was once told that everyone will be known for something so determined. What you want that to be. Darren did it from the moment he talked his way into a job at ESPN and every step beyond, he found a way to stand out and he's had the confidence to shrug off and deflect the doubters and the critics. You do that as well. Stay true to you, be the boss of your own brand and always deliver value to your audience. Do that. And you're Tracks, To, Success become a whole lot easier. Hey, do me a favor rape this podcast for me. Give it a review before you share it with someone, you know, and if you have a guest you'd like me to talk to email [email protected] until next time Kraig Kann.
2 (1h 0m 53s):
Thanks for listening.
1 (1h 0m 57s):
You've been listening to Tracks To Success brought to you by presentation partners, visual storytellers, passionate about connecting presenters with their audience. Don't forget to subscribe to the show for more great interviews and thoughts on reaching your highest personal and professional summit. You can follow Kraig on Twitter and Instagram using the handle at Kraig Kann and four exclusive Tracks To Success content and news about our upcoming guests. You can find Tracks To Success on Twitter. It's at Tracks To Success.