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Sports journalism lost someone special.

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold
The Truth Network Radio
December 12, 2022 3:54 pm

Sports journalism lost someone special.

The Adam Gold Show / Adam Gold

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December 12, 2022 3:54 pm

Richard Deitsch, The Athletic, former colleague of Grant Wahl knew him well and shares his stories with Adam. What was Grant Wahl like? Where did his passion for soccer start? How did he impact others, through his work and life? What did Richard respect the most about Grant?

The Adam Gold Show
Adam Gold
The Adam Gold Show
Adam Gold

I had an opportunity to talk to Richard Deitch from The Athletic.

I'm going to bring you that conversation in a second. The the passing of Grant Wall at the World Cup really, really hit home, because if you are a fan of a particular sport, it doesn't have to be soccer. If you are a fan, let's just say of college basketball, there are people who have meant. An enormous amount to the sport of college basketball that weren't players. Who weren't necessarily coaches, although I'll just use the example of Dick Vitale here. Dick Vitale, I will say, is the single most responsible person for the growth of college basketball. Not a player, not a coach, a broadcaster. Nobody has been more of an ambassador for college basketball than Dick Vitale. And he overcame, he beat cancer. I could not be more thrilled for Dick Vitale, could not be more thrilled for us.

And he is back doing his thing. Grant Wall is very similar to that, John Madden as a broadcaster, what he meant to the NFL, very similar. Although Grant Wall was not a dynamic personality, he just had an unbelievable passion for covering the sport.

And if you are a fan of soccer, undoubtedly you are a fan of Grant Wall. He was on this program in November, and I can't take the tab down off my. I have a bunch of tabs open for information that I use. I've read all the stuff on it. There's nothing new coming on it. I've listened to all the podcast, but I'm not taking it down. And I talked to Richard Deitch about that from The Athletic. Richard Deitch, media columnist for The Athletic, is joining us here on The Adam Gold Show. I've talked about this already on the show today.

I am a new soccer fan. I mean, it's not even a year that I have become completely enamored and entrenched watching and following the sport. And I really owe a lot of that to Grant Wall and his podcast and his writing coverage, all of that. You were on the ground floor of that because you guys were at SI together. You even tried your hand at a podcast with Grant, which I'm frankly envious of. And I appreciated your piece in The Athletic, not only for your words, but you link to so many other really important things to read or listen to as it pertains to Grant's impact. What were your thoughts? How did you react to the news?

Well, first, thanks for the invite and thanks for letting me talk about Grant a little bit. I mean, I'm still in shock, to be honest. It still doesn't feel real. Still sort of trying to process just the news alone. You know, the World Cup still going on. And I think there's a part of my mind that just thinks he's still there over in the tournament and then eventually he'll come back.

But that's obviously not not the case. You know, you you you talked about this is probably going to be his largest legacy. You know, you talked about that. You learned and became a fan of the game through his words or you, you know, there were or through his passion or or just his interest and just how much he covered it. And he really, you know, you got to remember.

And I think, you know, this I'm sure your listeners know this, too. Like, you know, the United States, when it comes to the history of soccer, this is not Argentina, this is not Brazil. It's still a very new country in many ways when it comes to soccer, even if the NAL and ASL, you know, existed in the 70s. And Grant was a big part of that. I mean, he was he was unquestionably the most prominent soccer journalist in America. He he wrote big stories at a time when the place that we both worked at Sports Illustrated was a really, really big and important place. You're talking about millions and millions of people reading those words and being introduced to the global stars or to issues in the sport. And so he really had just an outsized kind of influence because he he educated a lot of people in a sport that they weren't particularly educated.

And it's just it's very different. You know, baseball has been written about for 100 plus years. The NFL has been written about for more than 100 years now.

College football, same thing. There's been a lot of great writers who have gone down those road, gone down those roads, but there haven't been many writers who have written at Grant's level when it comes to his sport. And so on top of obviously that he really made himself available to people and he really helped a lot of people during their careers. That's his legacy.

His legacy is that he he really helped introduce and and proselytize in many ways, a game that still remains new to a lot of Americans. We talked to him a couple of times. Actually, he was just on the show back on November 10th.

I just went back and checked the date that he was on. And he was so excited to be covering his eighth World Cup. He he really took a chance because he was a great college basketball writer, too. First time I ever met Grant was at a Final Four. And I know he had spent time here on Tobacco Road like everybody else does who covers the sport of college basketball at a high level.

But he really chose the path of soccer well before this explosion ever took place. Do you know why? With the new Chevy Silverado, you might be driving in this. But with the Silverado's redesigned interior and large infotainment screens, it'll feel more like this. Introducing the new 2022 Chevy Silverado. Find new upgrades.

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Now through Thursday at Macy's, savings off sale and clearance prices. Exclusions apply. Yeah, you know, I'm laughing at you saying you took a chance. I mean, in some ways, for sure. In other ways, you know, nice free trips to Paris and Argentina and some of the most beautiful places in the world. He fell in love with soccer when he was at Princeton as a student there. He did a senior thesis or it was one of his years there where he wrote about soccer in Argentina. And that's where he he first fell in love with the game, Bob Bradley, who went on to obviously coach the U.S. national team and and teams abroad, as well as teams in MLS. He was the coach of Princeton then. And they developed friendship, a student and coach. And and I think that was a big part of his education and soccer development, too.

So that's where it started. And he always he always loved it. He certainly loved college basketball as well.

You know, it's from Kansas. So obviously that state is very steeped in college basketball. So I think he had he really had parallel love. I mean, I remember when we first started, he started a year before I did.

He started 96, I believe, and I was 97. And he was legit basketball, you know, like nerd. Like he loved the sport.

He played it. He was into it. So it's not like he was just only a connoisseur of soccer. And he covered obviously a lot of final fours and some great college players in the early 2000s. If you go back to Assad, you see like some of the like people who became stars in the NBA, who he profiled. And obviously, very, very famously, he was the first person to write a national cover story on LeBron James. Spent a couple of days with him in Akron when LeBron was 16. And, you know, LeBron, who has really said some nice things about Grant. And that was a big moment for LeBron.

LeBron was pretty famous in Akron and in Ohio, but he wasn't famous nationally. And that S.I. story made him so. And that was at a time when the cover of S.I.

really meant something. And so that was a big moment in Grant's career. I think if I'm if I'm remembering it right, you know, I'm sort of my I have to go back to sort of thinking about this like the early 2000s.

It's a while now. I think he kind of got written out in basketball in many ways. Like I think like the I remember talking to him was, you know, like sort of like at a certain point, like if you do, you do your seven final four.

You know what I mean? Or you do like your 15th profile of a college basketball player and still a great job and all that. But I think he had done that. And that's I think one of the reasons he really likes soccer. Is it just was like a lot of uncharted territory. And I can tell you working there, none of the top editors gave soccer like the respect it really should have had. It just he had to fight to get story assignments and he really had to fight to get travel money to go abroad. I mean, I can remember in the office there were there were all the writers who were wondering, hey, you know, why is Grant going to wherever? There were certainly editors who were like, you know, why are we sending this guy to do a profile of some, you know, Argentine or or Italian soccer player? So it was not like 2022 where if like, you know, Leo Messi or Kelly Mbappe said, hey, you know, well, yes, American journalist, we'll give you two hours to interview one on one.

Everybody, you know, now would be be able to get be able to greenlight that in a second. But back then, that was not the case. He really had to fight for that. He he essentially and this is true. I wrote this in my piece. He essentially willed high level soccer coverage into his into existence at SI, because that was not the case prior to him. It's Richard Deitch from The Athletic is joining us here on the Adam Gold Show. And if you read his most recent piece, it's about Grant Wahl. And again, what what you do at the end of your media columns is you provide links to other great stories. And of all the things that have been written about Grant, the fact that you link to all of these things, including the most recent Football with Grant Wahl podcast. And I'm going to have to check myself here because I will tear up because I listened to it a couple of times where his partner, Chris Winningham, essentially eulogized Grant for about seven and a half minutes. And it's incredibly moving. And again, if if you loved that podcast or respected it, it has to move you.

But again, I want to thank you for just linking to all of those things. He really he's probably as influential as any figure who isn't a player as to how soccer has taken foot in this country, because he was such a dogged pursuer of attention for the game. I think that's unquestionably so. I mean, in terms of like the figures, you know, I don't know, like media slash player figures like who would be influential in the growth of soccer in this country, like, you know, Landon Donovan would be on that list. Alexi Lawless would have to be on that list just given, you know, the combination of playing and and and broadcasting, you know, on like the women's side. Obviously, people like Avi Avi Wambach can be a truly Saudi Alex Morgan, et cetera. But he's on that list, you know what I mean?

Like wherever that top 10 sort of plays, like he's there. And he's certainly the only media person there unless you want me to count lawless and tell a 12. And but, you know, they're they're players, right, too.

So it's a little bit different. But but yeah, I mean, again, he there was soccer soccer in the U.S. in terms of people consuming it was very local for a long time. Like if you wanted to get like local coverage, like I'm sure the Kansas City Star had like a local writer covering soccer. Right.

And the Philadelphia Inquirer has a really good one. Jonathan Tannenwald does it. But but there's only one guy really at the national level who was doing it and did it for years. And that was Grant. He also this is where I really respected him for because he was he was on this early. He he morphed a lot of his work to digital to S.I. dot com, and he was not steeped in what a lot of people were steeped in at S.I. at the time, where I only have to be in the magazine, like, you know what I mean?

My words only matter if I'm in this publication. That's, you know, 40, 50 years. But Grant wasn't like that. He sort of saw the power of the Web, at least in terms of like pushing soccer pretty early. And he was one of the more famous writers at S.I.

to start working on S.I. dot com very regularly. Interesting enough, Peter King and Paul Zimmerman were the others, too, in terms of their sports and football. And I think he really grew his audience that way because it turns out that there are a lot of young soccer fans.

Right. And a lot of those people were very digitally centric and savvy and they consumed his mailbags there and they consumed his his work there. So he, you know, sort of a small career choice that he made, but it really turned out to be a smart one. And then again, he was very early in trying to do podcasting. I like I can tell you, I don't remember the date of when it was, I think.

I want to say we did this in like 2013 or 2012 or 2014. I mean, I was horrific. I really should have been fired on the spot, like mispronouncing names. My MLS knowledge was was awful. I was faking it the whole time. I'd read the paper. Right.

Just ask very generic questions. I mean, it was embarrassing, like I'm just going to be blunt. But he was great. Like he knew all that stuff cold. He got us very famous writers on from from England and Spain to come on this this podcast. And even then, he was kind of experimenting with like audio, like to sort of figure out what his audio voice was. And like you just mentioned now, obviously, he did a podcast with Chris.

It was a top 100 podcast. Right. And so he's very unique or he was very unique in just terms of in terms of how he approached his career. And it's not going to be duplicated. Obviously, there will be other people who cover soccer in the U.S. as we head forward. But but but no one is going to have his reach for many, many years.

It just it's institutionally what he's done over the last 20 something years. Can't be duplicated. Richard Deitch on Twitter at Richard Deitch from the Athletic Media Columnist. I thank you very much for your time today. Again, the piece is great. I wish people would just go read your piece, but also click all the links at the bottom of it, because all of that stuff is important, especially if you're a soccer fan. Even if you're not a soccer fan, you see what kind of a guy Grant Wall was. And I haven't taken the you know, his sub stack page down.

I still have that up in one of my tabs. And I I'm just I I can't bring myself to not have football with Grant Wall, the podcast up. Richard, thank you so much. I'll talk to you again soon. Best of luck. Yeah, thank you for letting me talk about it. Appreciate it. And I think that's the my takeaway is how the there are a lot of people there are a lot of people who worked with Grant and they all want to talk about Grant. Go check out Richard Deitch's piece and click all the links. Really, really good thing. Don't forget to check out Grant on dot com.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-18 16:00:45 / 2022-12-18 16:07:57 / 7

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