Thursday, June 14, 2007

Interview: Fox and Friends' Brian Kilmeade

Brian Kilmeade is a busy guy these days. He's a co-host of Fox and Friends on the Fox News Channel, co-hosts Brian and the Judge with Andrew Napolitano on Fox News Radio and writes books in his spare time. His second book, It's How You Play The Game, has just been published by Regan Books. I caught up with him in Washington, D. C. while he was on the first leg of his book tour.

You’re co-hosting a television show and radio show on a daily basis and writing books on the side. How do you find time to do all of that?

I think that I am just as busy as everybody else, but I have the advantage of being more structured. I really have no control of my schedule until noon. I get up at 2:30. I’m out the door at 2:50. From that time until noon, I really have no say in my schedule. Then I do a quick video blog at 12:15, which is on Fox I pick three or four sports stories and comment on them a day, and then I am really free to do what I want. When I am not writing a book or my book tour is done, I can pick up my kids from school, I can run track, I can go watch them play, attend practice with them, have a catch, or bring them to the doctor. So the only thing I sacrifice is sleep and that’s about it.

Tell us about It’s How You Play the Game. How did the idea for this book come about?

With my first book, The Games Do Count, I wanted to start with people like myself but were more accomplished, but really had the same sports experience as me. That is you gave everything, but you didn’t become Joe Montana, you did not become Cal Ripken, so did you waste your time? That’s why the games do count because they do count even if not in the wins and loss columns, because they do count to you. Then I found out from talking to the President, and talking to John Kerry, and the 73 other people I interviewed that they were passionate about what they did in sports, but no they don’t really have the trophy shelf to reflect an accomplishment. This happened, that happened, that’s why I am glad I played, this is why I still watch today. I thought, wow, this is pretty unbelievable. Then I started getting letters, hand-written letters, from people that would tell me about their coaches. They would say, “I was reading your book, and I was reminded to call my soccer coach, call my football coach, to thank my dad for being my coach. Then I started signing books and going on book tours. I got almost nothing for an advance. I am not Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly, so I don’t have this huge name, but I am at a great place, on a great show. The minute the book started selling on its own, then they toured me, and I had a chance to talk to people. No one talked about wins or championships, or even great moments. They talked about how proud they were that they tried and the glory in the effort. Then I got handwritten letters to go along with the e-mail. So I sat down Judith Regan who is a genius, and she said “Brian, ethics and values would have sold your book, not sports”, and I said, “I agree.” I said that I wanted get history involved, and I wanted to be able to write about George Patton, Abraham Lincoln, John Wayne, and Gene Kelly because I know in researching that they played and played hard and that they just happened to die, so I couldn’t interview them. I also wanted to find a way to humanize superstars, and let people know that we are just like them, like you and I are just like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Mugsy Bogues, Shawn Elliott and Jerry West. And the way to do that is to tell them how they developed. I didn’t care how they got good. I cared about how they learned character, values, and ethics.

So I just said how did you learn how to play, how did you learn how to act, how did you learn how to coach. From Terry Bradshaw on down, no one brought me to the Super Bowl, and I was not that interested. Terry Bradshaw would say, “Brian, the first thing that I did well was 5th Grade throwing the ball into a rug.” Cal Ripken said to me, “I learned leadership because my dad, after playing with him all day and saw him running every clinic, at the end of the day would look me in the eye and say Cal, I am leaving, you are the man of the house now. He looked at us and gave us the responsibility.”

I thought if I could share those stories with people, they will think that they are like Joe Montana. I am like Cal Ripken, and I can relate to these stories and maybe I shouldn’t quit, maybe I should follow through. Maybe the fact that I am on the base [promoting the book] does not make me a loser, it makes me like Rush Limbaugh, and it makes me like Senator Bob Dole. I wanted to get people-relevance to their own view in coaching and playing career.

It’s interesting that through all of these stories, nobody talked about winning as being the real key to their success.

Gene Kelly said it best through his son. “My Dad always told me that you have to do everything you can to win, but you can’t be caught up in just winning. It is so much more than just winning. What you have an obligation to do is to do everything you can to win, within the rules, but you cannot grade yourself on the outcome. If you did then that means that there are 9,000,000 losers every day. You are not a loser if the game did not come out your way. What are you going to learn from it?”

I also want to tell you, if you get The Games You Count or It’s How You Play the Game, you are not going to get a bunch of great stories that put a smile on your face. You are going to get some people that will tell you stories that make you cringe because they show arrogance, they showed a lack of gumption, but they learn from that. They regret it, and they gave themselves another chance, and they said, “I will not repeat that behavior.”

After The Games Do Count, I wanted to get away [from sports]. I love history and I picked up “Patton” and said I am going to read it. I get to page 45, and there are letters from George Patton writing home to his dad lamenting the fact that he can’t break the line at West Point as a linebacker, and how am I ever going to get in the game against Navy to fulfill my dreams? Wait a second. George Patton was frustrated at self-doubt, and he felt that he had no control over his future or wasn’t tough enough to play? A lot of people want to write themselves off or their kids off because they don’t seem to be amounting to anything. Well, George Patton and Abraham Lincoln were not amounting to much for a long time. I thought if I could put history in there, and also the fact that I have these letters, I said to myself there might be an adequate sequel to The Games Do Count that would get me just as passionate to do it.

One of things I noticed in some of the stories you tell is that the Dads made a real difference in a lot these folks lives. Did you find that a common thread through some of these stories and learn from it as a Dad, too?

I have learned that (1) I will not be the type of Dad that says my 9 year old doesn’t want to baseball so he won’t. I will push them to do stuff, and then give them a chance, after a season, to make their choice. Kids at 9 years old aren’t equipped to make that decision. I want a kid, active and taking part, and showing his dedication, showing up on time and going through it. If I had a kid that loved music and just wanted to do plays, I would bring him every day and do something after school that requires you to work outside. However, I will say this, I have learned that the wrong thing to do is to live through your kids. I think you should give your kid every opportunity to be successful, and also if you can possibly get your kids motivated to the point that they want to practice whatever they do outside of the sport, I think if you have a future Hall of Fame, business person, social worker, whatever it is, so that they can show that type of self-motivation early, that’s tremendous, and that is what I was trying to instill. That’s what I do to my 10 year old. I want them to say that I have got to get better, and it is going to be alone in my backyard. Instead of hanging out with friends at night, I am going out in the backyard and throw a ball against the pitch back or against the wall because if you have those traits, there is no doubt in my mind that you are going to be OK in college and any career.

(2) I think fun is important. A lot times you can have fun giving it your all, sweating and showing emotion, but that’s fun. Walking around not caring doesn’t really help anybody. I am talking about youth sports.

I’ll give you an example: Joe Montana – his story was great – he was playing against his dad, and he used to play one on one basketball against his dad. “I lot of times I would beat him, but my dad would throw me to the ground, step on my foot, trip me from behind, and when I complained, he asked me to call a ref, or go inside. I was just determined to not to let him get to me. I was determined to beat him. And I also learned that day, that time, that no one is going to save me. Deal with it. The ref’s bad, the crowds are bad, the conditions are bad, the coach did not put me in. Find a way.” Joe Montana found a way, all of the time at the 49ers, but I wasn’t interested in the pro career. I wanted to find out how he found out that he had to find a way.

Just imagine how different his career would have been had it not been for finding that way.

Mickey Mantle said something that is not in my book, but I met Mickey Mantle’s sons, and they said that he said,” I look at one of my sons, and he was Mickey, Jr., and if had my dad as a dad, he would have been a Major League star.” But Mickey, the next generation, was caught up in drinking, not in being a dad like his dad, who was a coal miner, passed away young, who was determined that he saw something in Mickey and he was determined to fulfill the challenge. Mickey said, “I let me sons down because I was not as determined for them to fulfill their talent.” I think as a parent, you have an obligation to allow your kid to find out, I hope, find out what they are good at, what they like, and pursue it hard. I think even if you go through school and don’t do it, as long as you learn what you did wrong, you will have a second chance. That is what this book says. It is not about leading these majestic lives that you want to emulate, but it is about famous people who have had the same struggles you had, and managed to persevere.

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