by Brandon Reiter
Stephen A. Smith is one of, if not the most recognized name in all of sports media. This month, he released his first memoir, Straight Shooter, where he opens up about many aspects of his life and career: his relationship with his absentee father, his respect and love for his late mother, his rise through the ranks at ESPN, and more.
I am a huge Stephen A. fan. When I was studying for exams in college, I would routinely listen to his long-standing sports debate show, First Take, during its glory days, when he sparred with Skip Bayless. If you’ve ever heard SAS go on a rant, there is something so unique and refreshing about his voice, tone, demeaner, and just the way he says certain phrases. My personal favorite: “The Dallas Cowboys ARE A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN!!”
Despite my fandom, this book left me wanting a bit more. It’s not bad, and definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a fan, but I wish SAS focused a little more on his career and unique experiences he’s had being such a prominent sports media persona. Instead, the book focused more on his rough upbringing and general distaste for his father, who seemed like a real piece of poo. I know this is necessary and what he wanted to right about but the points he made about his relationship with his father felt a bit repetitive and belabored the point.
While he did discuss his mindset and approach to his work, the scenes that were major career altering moments for him felt too crammed and lacked the message and context he was intending to deliver. He discussed just three moments in his on-air career where he faced public backlash from live comments he made and what he learned from them. However, those anecdotes felt like they were shoved in there just so he could be on the record defending his true intentions and character that was blown out of proportion due to his misguided articulation on sensitive topics. They were very interesting, but would have been better if he gave readers more interesting moments and perspective on what it’s like to be a sports ‘insider’, even if it wasn’t just about defending himself or leaning from a mistake. He lives such an interesting life, especially to sports fans, and I just wished he could have included more.
In spite of my qualms with the memoir as a whole, there was plenty of good lessons and morals to take away. Stephen A. showed us how a minority could rise to ultimate prominence in an industry dominated by old white executives. He showed humility while reminiscing on his transgressions, and that you are allowed to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. He stressed the importance of having a team and support system, even though his career has been spent building up his own name.
I was a fan of SAS before I read the book, and feel like he is more relatable to me, a younger white guy, now that I have took a peak inside his mind without the Disney filters on.