December 02, 2009
Versus, cable home to the National Hockey League, continues to try and develop buzz-worthy original programming. Although, let's face it: At this point, a guy being placed in an unfamiliar job, and the culture clash that follows, is about as original a television concept as a drama set inside a city hospital.
So the success or failure of "Sports Jobs" on Versus likely comes down to three factors: The quality of the production, the quirkiness of the jobs and the appeal of host Junior Seau.
If you're watching the NHL on Versus, then you've seen the ads pimping this new show, which features the 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots taking on a variety of different "Sports Jobs." On tonight's season premiere (10 p.m. EST), Seau takes us inside the construction of the new stadium for the Jets and Giants; in an additional episode, he plays ball boy for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Next Wednesday is the episode featuring Seau as an equipment manager for the Washington Capitals. He spoke with us recently about working that sports job, gauging the toughness of hockey players and the impression Alex Ovechkin(notes) made on him. That, along with talk about his three days as a reporter for Sports Illustrated, concussions in the NFL and NHL and attempting to be a TV star after football. Oh, and a strange moment involving man-on-man tickling. Enjoy.
Q. Who do you think is going to have a bigger beef with you after this show airs: The guy who does "Dirty Jobs" or Shaq for that show on ABC?
SEAU: Well, I don't think either one of them will. When you look at our show, it's basically promoting the people that are unsung. With "Dirty Jobs," they're promoting the jobs. With Shaq, he's promoting celebrities that are making billions of dollars. We're totally the opposite of that.
So let's talk about "Sports Jobs." How do you go about developing a personality for TV? Were you inspired by anyone, or do you do your own thing?
Being inspired by others' work on TV wasn't something I was going to try and assimilate. I knew going into this that it was either going to have to be me or be nothing.
The great thing about Versus is that they allow the personality to be mine. The format the show has was obviously delivered by Versus, and it's something I believe in: Promoting people behind the scenes in sports that don't get any kind of love. And there are so many groups of people out there in every different sport. Hopefully our show can go into a second season and people can be educated about what they do and how they go about their daily lives.
You were an equipment manager for the Washington Capitals for the show. What did you know about that gig going into it?
Sorry, but can you repeat that? I have a guy here that was tickling me.
(Ed. Note: At this point we feet it important to acknowledge that in the short history of Puck Daddy interviews, this is/was the first time this phrase had ever been uttered by an interviewee. It has appeared at least a dozen times from an interviewer, however.)
Sure. As far as being an equipment manager, did you have a sense for what that was going to be like, based on what you saw in the NFL?
Going into that show, it was something I was familiar with. After 20 years in the National Football League, I eventually had a relationship with all of my trainers and equipment managers and field crews that have been part of my life.
When I went with the Capitals, it was like I was at home: Picking up jerseys, doing laundry -- which I haven't done in, like, 15 years -- it was a great experience but it was also a learning experience about how much passion these men have at what they do.
On a player to player basis, who has more equipment: Football or hockey?
Oh, definitely a hockey player. There's so much more going on. They wear leotards underneath those pads.
What's that one stud's name?
Yeah, Alex. Watching him, you'd think that he would be a prima donna. That guy is a jokester. He lightens it up. The reason why the Capitals are doing so well is basically because the guy puts it in perspective. He's not bigger than anybody on that team, and he cares for the players in that locker room, which I got to see firsthand.
What's your hockey history? Are you a fan, or did you go into this thing sort of blind?
I learned how to ice skate during the show. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It doesn't snow in San Diego. I'm pretty sure if it was a cold climate and we had ice rinks, I definitely would have been on the ice.
Hockey players have this reputation for being blue-collar guys, low key. Was this your first interaction with players like this, and how did you find them?
I found them as cordial, laidback and tough. All in one. You see a hockey player, you'd never know he's a professional athlete. But you put the skates on him, and he becomes a beast. That was something I recognized from the start. You better watch out if you're ever walking into a bar; never judge a book by its cover.
They definitely have a linebacker mentality. But these guys are crazy. They're nuts. They really enjoy their sport. And because they have so many games, they really can't treat it, as far as intensity or total focus, like we do [in football]. Ten games for them is one game for us.
Both hockey and football have something in common recently, which is a lot of attention on concussion prevention. Do you think enough is done to curb them? Are they simply going to be part of the game?
When I first started playing football, a headache was called a "headache." And now it's called "a concussion."
It's amazing how time has changed things. A twisted ankle back then was an ankle injury; now, it's a high- or a mid-[ankle injury]. That brings up a lot of awareness about what we need to do as far as educating players and coaches about what we put our players through and what they should expect.
So you think it's an issue? Because we've got some old-school hockey guys that still say a headache should be a "headache."
We're going to say that because we're dealing with the now. The League needs to protect the players for the future, or there's going to be more problems.
As writers, we wanted to ask you about the show in which you played a sports reporter. Did that give you a new appreciation for what the media goes through?
After that show, I basically came to the conclusion that I treated reporters really poorly.
Being a reporter and chasing down an assignment isn't an easy thing to do, especially when you're dealing with athletes that are so focused and trying to get their little game plan together to perform under adverse conditions ... it's tough. Trying to get that assignment done in a matter of time, and getting it back to Sports Illustrated to see what they can do with it ... there's so much going on behind the scenes.
So it's safe to say that a lot of athletes don't have an appreciation for deadlines?
No. "Deadlines" is basically "get the running back or the quarterback on the ground."