The SportsNewser Interview: James Brown

By Marcus Vanderberg Comment

You would be hard pressed to find a classier guy in the business than CBS Sports announcer James Brown.

The Inside the NFL and The NFL Today host spoke to 25 high school students from the Newark Collegiate Academy in Newark, N.J. on Friday. The students had the opportunity to speak to Brown on his broadcast career and will have an opportunity to tour the CBS Sports studios.

Following the event, Brown spoke to SportsNewser about the maturity of Michael Vick and his emotional moment during the Chris Henry segment on Thanksgiving.

SportsNewser: You spoke at Newark Collegiate Academy this morning in Newark. As a former athlete turned broadcaster, how important is education in the journalism world?

James Brown: Oh my goodness gracious. Critically. One of the points I hopefully drove home successfully to the young people there is that is [education] the foundation. I spent a lot of time talking about the foundation. Having a rock solid foundation and that education is the key. I was borrowing if you will from the language of architecture in building, telling them the many skyscrapers that they see in New York, while they stand so tall and sturdy and withstand the storms and wind beating against it, that which enables the building to do that is not seen. And that’s the foundation. Education is that because ultimately in the game of life, which is a lot longer than the game of sports or anything like that, what will serve them well is what they put between their ears.

You were the first person to sit down with Michael Vick after he was released from jail. Have you noticed a change in Vick’s maturity since that interview in 2008.

It’s a maturity that’s born of having gone through an incredible low. It is one born of being on the end of understandable venom having been thrown his way. It’s a maturity born of having plenty of time to think through the flaws and the poor decisions that were made. What I continue to say, I know I have been overworking this expression, but a resolute focus and determination to do it the right way. What I was telling the kids, knowing that so many of them do relate to him, that what he’s doing on the athletic field carries over in terms of the lesson in the game of life. He’s now studying. Applying himself. Getting in the bed early. He’s out influencing people to form the right habits. Clearly what he did is inexcusable on any level, period. But he’s looking to make amends and the only metric you can use to determine his level of sincerity is what he does over time. So far, he’s done an excellent job of ensuring that this is more than just lip service.

Why did the Chris Henry piece on Thanksgiving touch you so much emotionally?

I guess I saw a number of personal things as well. People who don’t really know me don’t know that in essence, I’m kind of a big softie anyways. It’s pretty easy to move me to tears though you wouldn’t see that on television. But anything that has the components that that did – a mother making a tough decision about what to do with the organs of her deceased son and all the pain she was going through, but to be thinking bigger than herself and to be thinking outside of herself in such a giving and loving way to help prolong live for four different families was just awesome. I felt the genuineness in her and I felt the sincerity in the expressions of the four families that she touched. The only thing I really felt bad about in showing the emotion … I didn’t feel bad about showing the emotion. I would do that all day long without any hint of shame. I just wanted to give our producer (Charlie Bloom) credit because so often, it’s hard for us in television to get out of the way of the story. When it came time to talk, I couldn’t talk. Thank God Boomer picked it up quickly. I don’t know if you saw it but there was a wide shot and Dan Marino was pulling tissues out to hand to me. The thing about it is we saw the story before we went on the air. But when it was replayed again and I had a chance to let it settle in, it settled in.

Who is the most memorable colleague you have worked with during your career:

That would be awfully hard to pick just one person. Wow. I’m not trying to be politically correct but it would be awfully difficult. I remember competing with Jim Nantz to get the job many years ago here at CBS. When he was the one who earned the job, and he did earn it, it was clear what his talent level was and is. I think he’s as professionally sound and technically proficient as anybody. Terry Bradshaw is just a personality. Plus, he’s smarter than people like to give him credit for. I have worked with some great people. Actually, I just opened my eyes and looked at somebody who brought back to my mind a remembrance. John Madden. He epitomizes what I was trying to tell these youngsters about passion. In terms of football, which I have been so closely associated with over all these years, there’s absolutely no equal to someone who loved his game of football so passionately. He changed the face of the coverage of football on television. He would have to be at the top of the list.

Have you been able to utilize any of your broadcasting skills with the Brown Technology Group?

No, I haven’t done anything that’s television related as far as the technology arena is concerned other than giving speeches. Obviously having worked on and blessed to be working on major sporting events, there’s a comfort level that comes as a result of that. The key to that is just being prepared. That’s the only way one can feel comfortable. That’s about the extent of it but I have two partners who are extremely well-versed in that arena in my brother and our CEO.