Breaking Stereotypes with Sarah Spain

December 1, 2020

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Sarah Spain is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning radio host, TV personality and writer. She’s the co-host of “Spain and Fitz,” airing weeknights on national ESPN radio, host of the “That’s What She Said” podcast, a writer for, and a regular panelist on “Around The Horn” and “Highly Questionable.” A graduate of Cornell University, she was an English major and a heptathlete and co-captain of the Track & Field team.

John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking engine revolutionizing the talent booking industry, with hundreds of athletes, entrepreneurs, speakers, and business leaders. Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent for your next event. For more information, please visit

John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian. And I’m so honored and excited to have Sarah Spain. She’s a radio host, TV personality and writer at ESPN. Welcome to the Impact, Sarah.

Sarah Spain: Thanks for having me.

John: Sarah, I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years but I’m even a bigger fan now when I was preparing for this show. I learned more about you than I ever imagined was even possible. And I’m just going to tell our audience here. Usually, I let the guests share their bio but I need to share your bio with our audience because I need them to know who you are.

Sarah: Okay.

John: Emmy and Peabody Award-winning radio host, TV personality and writer. Of course, we all know you as that co-host. It’s not enough for you to have one podcast. You’ve got Spain & Fitz airing weeknights on ESPN nationally and also That’s What She said. You’re a writer for espnW which we’re going to get into a little bit later, and also a regular panelist where I came to know you on Around the Horn, Highly Questionable. A graduate of Cornell University with an English major. You were a heptathlete there, a co-captain of the Track and Field team. And, by the way, a 4.0 student. My gosh, who are your parents, Sarah Spain? Why don’t they have a book on how to raise perfect children? This is incredible.

Sarah: Well, if I tell you that they’re both lawyers, but that they’re not the stereotypical. I know when people hear that, they assume certain things but, yeah, I know my parents are amazing. I try to bring them up as often as possible when people ask why I felt like empowered to do the things I do and not worry about rules for gender roles or anything else. I always point to having a really amazing mom and dad who raised me right.

John: Obviously, there is just no way they — it’s just — you just, people, kids don’t and great people like you don’t plop onto this planet without great parents. So, I mean–

Sarah: That is really nice.

John: I am huge fans of your mom and dad. Please, tell them I’d love to have him on the show. We could do a whole show on how to raise great children. And I promise you–

Sarah: I would love to do that. That would be fascinating.

John: –I will give them so much airtime and publicity on this. They deserve a book. They need a book. Anyway, this is really great. I was sharing with you offline a little bit. I’m just honored to have you on. I’m the CEO of your fan club. Been that way for years but to have a great woman leader doing what you do, being a father of a daughter who is now a lawyer herself, a woman’s rights attorney now having a — my first grandchild being a daughter. To have leaders like you out there kicking butt, taking names and just really knocking down all the doors and breaking all the ceilings is just incredible. You are an incredible story in so many ways.

Sarah: Thank you.

John: And I wanted to start with–

Sarah: But you’re super important too because, honestly, as much credit as women breaking down barriers get, we need male allies that are here for it and want it because the problem is the men who are intimidated or frustrated or trying to push down women who are trying to excel. So, I love to hear from guys who are into it and supportive because we need that.

John: Well, definitely got that here. And again, I’m just so thankful for your time today. Let’s talk a little bit about that, sports, women, sexism, where — we have a little — talk about a little bit me too and what’s going on right now. Are we in the — we just finished a World Series so we’ll just use the baseball analogy. Are we in the top or the second or the bottom of the seventh now when it comes to women and sports and the sexism that might or might not still exist?

Sarah: What I said to someone the other day that I think is pretty accurate is that the ceiling is higher than ever, but the basement is the same. And by that, I mean we’re seeing women in so many places that previously felt untouchable, color and play-by-play and analysis. My colleague who I love who’s so fantastic, Mina Kimes, is on NFL live right next to former players breaking it down and doing X and O’s and it’s just as assertive and believable and knowledge-worthy. And so, that’s awesome. And then, the basement which is every woman who tries to enter this industry at the lowest level that doesn’t have agency or power within whatever company she’s at is the same, right? So I can say, now, well, I’m not getting sexually harassed anymore. That’s because I’ve been in the industry for a decade and I’ve established a voice and also because I have power. You try to mess with me now, you’re in trouble, right?

John: Right.

Sarah: But when I was just coming up and it’s still the same unfortunately, you look at the Washington Football Team.

John: Right.

Sarah: And the stories coming out of there. It’s 50, 60 women, many of whom had to sign NDA’s because they knew on those women’s way out that what they had done and how they have treated them was wrong. So I think that the ceiling is high and wonderful and the conversations we’re having are so much better than they ever used to be. People are calling it out when they see it. People are taking a stand but, unfortunately, I don’t know how to combat what happens to women just getting started when they don’t have the power and when they’re working for somewhere that maybe doesn’t have an HR that cares or doesn’t have a leadership that cares because who do you go to then? You don’t really have anything other than to just try to plow through it and keep working your way up. And that shouldn’t be the case fill.

John: You’re a writer. You’re a radio host. You’re a TV personality now, which really sounds so fun that you get to do, exercise so many forms of creativity and share, truth telling in your voice. Is there one or another of the different roles that you play as a storyteller that you love more than others?

Sarah: I love that you pointed out I’m a writer after I use the word knowledge- worthy, which is not a word instead of knowledgeable, but I got really excited about Mina Kimes, and I just combined words. It was a portmanteau that I unintentionally did. All of them and it’s not a cop-out to say that I was a heptathlete which is Jack of all trades, master of none, right? You go to practice every day, you have seven events. So you never get bored of running sprints because one day, you’re throwing and the next, you’re jumping and the next, you’re doing hurdles. I feel that way about my career. Like when I’m doing radio, I love that it’s extemporaneous and immediate and that the majority of the work is done on the air, right? We do have an hour or so prep but then it’s two hours or three hours of the actual content where I’m engaging with the audience and my co-host.

Sarah: TV is a little bit of hurry up and wait because you have makeup and prep and then it’s maybe, for Around the Horn, 22 minutes, right? And you got to get those quick sound bites out but it’s really fun because you’re interacting and you involve your body and your face and all the other stuff. And then writing, by the time you’re done, hopefully, assuming your deadline wasn’t too quick, you prepared yourself. You have the exact product you wanted. You went over it and edited it and honed it down to the very word that you wanted to choose for that. And so, the presentation is more specific and ideal than maybe what comes out of your mouth in the midst of a radio show, but it takes so much time and it’s lonely and you’re sitting in a chair for hours by yourself trying to pull it out of your head.

Sarah: So I think if I did just one of them, it would be tough but because of that mix, a lot of it is, especially as a total extrovert getting the energy from other people and then when I go to do the writing, that’s a couple hours I can spare where I’m alone in a room and ready to shut it down and work.

John: One of my favorite stories you covered was Runs In The Family.

Sarah: Yeah.

John: I’ve watched it three times, cried three times. Are you constantly curating topics or stories that you want to cover in the near future and distant future? Is that part of the process of what you do?

Sarah: I wish it was more. I find the thing — if anybody ever asks me, what do you want more of in life, it would just be time. I don’t have time to be as creative as I would like. A lot of creativity comes from observing and sitting and thinking and letting your mind wander, and I don’t have time for that. And those long-form stories come from deciding you want to do a deep-dive into something that makes you think. And with that story, it came to me because a friend of mine, really good friend, was teammates with Deland McCullough back at Miami of Ohio, so that story was about. And he said, oh my God, this is insane. He was in the room with him and Sherman Smith at the time, and he’s mind was blown. He said you got to take this to ESPN, because I’m his friend, he comes to me and I’m not giving that story away for a second, right, that’s mine. But going out and seeking new story, they’ve have reached out to me about this longform podcast storytelling that they’re doing. I love doing that stuff. It’s just a matter of when do I have the time to sit and say I’m invest in this and have the time because that’s another thing. That product ends up being so beautiful and you could watch it multiple times and learn new things and cry about it, because it takes months, right? You’re flying all over to do all the interviews. The amount of stuff left on the cutting room floor that you don’t use but that helps tell the story and influence you is so much a part of it, but the investment in those is huge. So I would like to say I have more on deck. I’m hoping something like that comes along and slaps you in the face again where I say, all right, we’re making the time. I’m going to figure out when to do it because it’s that good.

John: For our listeners who’ve just joined us, we’ve got Sarah Spain with us. To find Sarah and all the great work that she’s up to, you could go to Sarah, you mentioned being heptathlete. You were a high achiever, in both high school, college, 4.0 GPA, where does that drive? Is that something that’s a DNA hardwired thing or did you have external forces, forces outside of you driving you and mentoring you and pushing you for that kind of high achievement, both athletically and also academically which is rare?

Sarah: Yeah. It’s tough to say. I sometimes try to talk to my parents and try to figure out how much of it was — I want to say the majority of it was do what I say — or do what I do, not as I say, but I mean they said it too but so many parents think they tell their kids what to do. That’s what they’ll pay attention to but they’re really watching and my parents had incredible work ethic. They’re super curious and knowledgeable. I used that word right this time. And they are invested in learning, and so what we talked about at home and watched and all that other stuff. My parents aren’t really sports fans which is interesting. We grew up playing sports. We were active. We played tennis and golf and out in the backyard, throwing around the baseball or softball or whatever, but they didn’t sit around and watch.

Sarah: And so, I think I curated a whole bunch of interest, I was all-state and band and chorus. I was like doing all the things.

John: Oh my God.

Sarah: But I think they just had a great example of what it means to work hard and also to time manage, right? If I wanted to do all the things that I wanted to do then I didn’t really have a lot of time to like mess around and do nothing. And so at my age now, even I sometimes have a little trouble just relaxing because I feel guilty just like sitting, watching TV when there’s other stuff to be done. But I do think they set a great example of what hard work looks like. And then, we just are, kind of, a competitive family. My sister went to Lehigh and we went to her graduation and there was a party at one of the houses that the kids lived at. And all the parents were there and we started playing beer pong, and my family ran the table like, no, and we wouldn’t give up the tables to some of the guests. And we eventually just said like everyone’s getting a little too tipsy because no one –we’re playing over and over that we had to like give up the table to two new challengers. We have a very competitive family and my sister was a college athlete as well. She actually played in the women’s NFL for a couple of years, Tackle Football League.

John: Come on. Oh my gosh.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. And she’s worked for — well, she just left HUD trying to end homelessness in Chicago. She went to law school. I think we’re just a competitive high-achieving family. But what I always say is they were not oppressive or strict or judgmental. There wasn’t a lot of like it wasn’t if you don’t do this or get this, you’re in trouble. It was almost like inherent and I don’t know what tricks they pulled if they pulled some tricks but they didn’t need to like yell or be strict. They just were extremely supportive and like you want to do that, go for it. You want to try this, go for it. Yeah, it was pretty amazing.

John: American needs more parents like that.

Sarah: I haven’t fought with my parents since eighth grade and that was because I made the finals of a USTA tennis tournament and it was the school dance, and I didn’t want to miss seeing this boy I had a crush on and my mom got mad and said, “You have to play in the tournament because you won and you beat other people and took their chance to be in the final. You can go to the dance late.” And I hate you, “I’m really so sad.” I went and played and then I went to dance, everything was fine but that is legitimately the last fight I’ve gotten in with my parents my entire life. So, they’re pretty awesome.

John: Unbelievable. I mean, literally, they have a book in them, at least one book. I mean, they’ve got to come on up. They’ve got to join me here. American needs to hear this — how does this not even possible? I mean, it’s just — I mean, is your sister younger or older?

Sarah: She’s older by just a couple years.

John: Got it. Got it. She’s still out in Chicago then? You guys are close?

Sarah: Yeah. She’s in the burbs. Surprisingly, we switched roles. She used to always say she was the edgy one and I don’t think I need to have kids to get married. Now, she’s married with two kids and I’m the old spinster with the dogs. I’m married but just have many dogs and she has a much more sort of traditional, I guess. But, yeah, we used to not get along that great. We were very similar but we thought we were different but the similarities I think is what causes the fight. And then now, in our adult years, we get along great.

John: Social justice has become a big thing while you’ve been reporting on sports, and especially, in these even more modern times during this COVID-19 tragedy, talk a little bit about the role of social justice athletes. I grew up, I’m much older than you, I grew up in the Muhammad Ali era so to me, it’s not that weird for athletes to stand up for what they feel is right, but I think people have mixed opinions on that. Where do you feel this is going to fall out as we evolve here in the months and years ahead?

Sarah: Well, one thing I’ll say is that I don’t deny that there’s an understanding of people who say when I’m spending all day maybe hearing about COVID or the civil unrest or other issues or dealing with a loss of my job or other things like I do want to use sports as an escape or entertainment escape. So, I get that.

John: Right.

Sarah: But I also think it’s very selfish to expect human beings who once they walk off that court or field are subject to the inequalities and the oppression and the fear that comes with the racial issues in our country, to expect them to go out there and entertain you and then have to deal with what happens to being a person of color once they’re not protected by being on the stage that they perform on.

John: Right.

Sarah: And so I think you can acknowledge that you’d rather that the world wasn’t a place that required this and then you could say but I understand why and I’m okay with it and I’m going to balance what I want with what’s right for our country, the influence that these people have and the work that they put in to achieve, the agency that they have to like have a platform. I also think that most of the time, the people who say they don’t want to hear about these things, they don’t want to hear about things they disagree with. They don’t understand that paying leagues, to send out a veteran on the field to get a standing ovation, which is paid for by our military out of taxpayer dollars is an act of politics as well. They don’t understand that. Military flyovers are technically political because they’re so ingrained and because it’s things that they agree with, the idea of patriotism and honoring veterans and no one’s going to, yeah, I’m fine with that but they have to understand what’s going on behind the scenes to present those things and to associate them. There was no natural association between the military and sports until very recently.

John: Good point.

Sarah: And not a lot of people question it but they’re willing to question other topics that cross over mainly because it threatens their sense of what’s right and wrong and progress and what’s dangerous in terms of changing viewpoints, all the other stuff. So, I can accept that people would rather just watch basketball but I don’t think it’s up to you what your personal preferences. Particularly, when we do see someone like and this really went vastly under-covered like Thabo Sefolosha literally missed playoff games because of police brutality. They broke his leg. He couldn’t play. And we’re supposed to just accept that if you’re a basketball player, you don’t get to talk about this.

Sarah: One thing, I remember I had Chelsea Handler on my podcast and she said the idea that someone who has been really successful doesn’t get to talk about something outside of what they were a success at, it’s to ignore entirely whatever qualities they had that made them so successful. Not everyone who’s a great athlete is going to be a great speaker. But just because you are a great athlete does not preclude you from being a great speaker. And so, people need to understand that a lot of the voices that they’re hearing from are very successful at one thing because they are bright and articulate and curious and intelligent and all the other things and qualities that made them a great comedian or writer or whatever can also be applied to understanding and caring about activism.

John: That’s a great point. Really well said. For our listeners out there who just tuned in, we’ve got Sarah Spain with us. You cannot only find her at but also listen to her two great podcasts, “That’s What She Said” and “Spain & Fitz”. As an overachiever, why two podcasts? Tell me about why did you choose two different platforms and what’s the mission of both podcasts so our listeners can get a taste of what you’re really up to at both of those platforms?

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, so different. So “Spain & Fitz” was actually — Jason Fitz was my co-host couple years ago and then he got moved to morning stuff and it became “Spain & Company” and now, Fitz is back, which I love. I love working with him and he’s an interesting cap because we’re not traditional, right? So first, you have a woman into sports radio which is still super rare and then you’ve got Fitz who’s spent most of his life as a musician. He was at Juilliard when he was 11. He was in the Band Perry for eight years. He’s a multi-time Grammy-nominated musician and he makes the switch to sport. So it’s not going to be your standard two old white guys fighting over the Mount Rushmore of Chicago sports, right? It’s a bit different vibe but that’s on weeknights 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern on the ESPN Radio, nationally and terrestrially, and then it goes into a pod if you want to listen to the show and you missed it.

Sarah: “That’s What She Said” is just a podcast, no terrestrial radio. And that is totally my baby, technically under ESPN but no one really tells me what to do with this. So I have Saturday night lives’ cast members. I have neuroscientists. I have musicians. I just had Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam. He’s going to be if that’s going to get published on Tuesday. But, yeah, anybody that I find interesting, who wrote a book about habits and how to change them, who does neuroscience, who is anyone I find interesting. So that’s like a good hour of just, to my listeners, trust me on this. If I’m telling you you should listen to this person and sometimes it’s someone amazing and it’s Charles Barkley or whoever that they know.

John: Right.

Sarah: But sometimes, they kind of, “I love to get the messages although I wasn’t sure I was going to be interested in this and then this person was so interesting.” So, that’s totally my space to scratch the itches of things that I wanted to do outside the sport’s world, but sometimes it is the forte as well.

John: That’s awesome. To have the ability to do “Spain & Fitz” as part of your general career approach in terms of sports and reporting but then to also have something where you get to really exercise even more of your creative juices sounds really, really like a great one-two punch of creativity of two podcasts.

Sarah: Yeah. Well, and also, I took this, I tried to, I did it as well as I could within the time constraints but there was a free Stanford online class on creativity maybe six or seven years ago. And I took it in part because I had found myself getting to be so one note because of the time required to do my job. If I’m hosting hours of radio every night, I got to know every trade and every acquisition, every injury, every play. And so, I end up spending a lot of my day before the TV I’m doing or the radio at night just listening to radio or podcasts or reading about sports. And so a lot of things that I was really passionate about, music and poetry and literature and stuff, has I don’t really get into that nearly as much as I used to. So I tried to take that class to remind myself of the idea that like you end up sometimes just repeating and following the through lines of other people’s thoughts if you don’t separate yourself from them and then reengage from a different angle. Sometimes creativity comes from restriction really. If you’re given parameters with and you have to do something, it suddenly changes the way you look at it and you see it totally differently. So, I try to scratch those itches enough that I don’t become the person who sounds like everybody else doing sports radio because the thing that makes me different is actually like the benefit for me.

John: Well, you opened the door, you mentioned you have on “That’s What She Said” Saturday night live guests, people who are–

Sarah: Yes.

John: –on Saturday night live and I learned about you which I didn’t know about you while I was preparing for this podcast. And I’m always, always loving when you, Katie Nolan, Mina Kimes, all start cracking each other up with Dan or somebody, two guys or whatever. So I learned that you were actually a graduate of Second City Improv.

Sarah: Oh, yeah. Yeah. From a very young age, I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live, I still do and that would be the dream. I would quit everything right now to do it. I remember, it was probably like fourth or fifth grade project was just presenting something at school and instead of presenting it like a normal kid, I made it the “The McLaughlin Group” which was an old sketch with Dana Carvey. And I asked my classmates to answer things and I go, “Roll.” And I was 10, right? I would turn a presentation in class into like the valley girls from SNL. Yeah, so that was always–

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John: Are you deep with your husband or with your colleagues, Jason Fitz or with the “Highly Questionable” folks, are you always trying out little bits? And do you still love that creativity?

Sarah: I still do as much as I can. The “Around the Horn Halloween” show is one of my favorites where I get to be a character. I was Freddie Mercury so I did the accent. I was Gardner Minshew. I made a whole character around him. I was Melania Trump and the Progressive Girl and Adele. I can’t give away this year’s yet but I will be on the “Halloween” episode this year with another character, another accent.

John: On “Around the Horn”.

Sarah: And then Fitz. Yeah, “Around the Horn”. Yeah.

John: You got to tune in.

Sarah: My co-host Fitz is also an SNL fan. We both separately, before we met each other through “Saturday Night Live” birthday party so that challenged what we are. So he and I are always going back more than that.

John: So you’ll be watching an episode at home on “Saturday Night” with your husband and just be thinking either out loud or to yourself, “Man, I wish I was on that show.”

Sarah: Yes, every time. Even recently when it’s been a little uneven. We sometimes DVR because we actually sometimes have plans on Saturday the last year or so. Yeah, but I still love it and I love all the old ones and I just think the concept of it is magic. It’s so cool.

John: So who is your favorite male and female comedian?

Sarah: Eddie Murphy. Even though some of his old stuff doesn’t age that well, he’s actually owned up to it and changed, which is part of the key of evolving. He was like 19 when he did “Delirious” which I think is still the greatest stand-up special of all time. So I’ll afford him a little bit of time to mature but Eddie Murphy’s my all-time favourite for guys. And then I’m sort of torn because I’m a total Tina Fey and Amy Poehler like obsessive and their improbability and just quick with and everything is up there for me as some of my favorites, and Mindy Kalin. What I also love about those women is not only are they amazing comedians but they’re like showrunners and directors and writers, like they’re doing all the things.

John: Tina Fey was the first head writer on Saturday Night Live.

Sarah: Head writer, yeah, female head writer. Yeah.

John: All those three of those you just mentioned are all just super incredible people, well, how talented are they in everything they do.

Sarah: Yeah.

John: Imagine following up Saturday Night Live with 30 Rock. I mean like hello.

Sarah: Yeah, right? So I’ve been trying to do the quarantine thing where instead of introducing myself to new characters when I’m anxious enough already, I just go back to things that make me feel happy and 30 Rock from the beginning is going to be one of those. I just need the whole Parts & Wreck, which was incredible, of course.

John: I totally agree with the feel. This is the time not to be watching anything other than comedy.

Sarah: Yes. I don’t need new people and I definitely don’t need murders or terrible things.

John: No.

Sarah: Just give me The Golden Girls and I’m good.

John: One of the things I’ve been totally loving right now on showtime, there’s a whole series on The Comedy Store. I highly recommend it. The documentary.

Sarah: I’m too into it. My husband has not gotten through Episode 2 yet because he’s busy and I am waiting for him to get in through, I’m like, “Hurry it up. This is so good. I want to get back to it.”

John: How great is that? The whole documentary on how the whole system worked back then?

Sarah: No, and especially the people I didn’t really know. Yeah, because I, of course, have heard of Freddie Prinze but I’m more of a Freddie Prinze Jr. in terms of age. So I just thought, “Oh, yeah, his dad was an actor or something.” And so to watch that was just mind-blowing.

John: And how he was minted literally from there to Carson, to chica with a friend.

Sarah: Yeah.

John: And when he passed, his net worth was something like $5 million. Do you know how much $5.72 million was? It just was a systemology and literally the geography of The Comedy Store to Burbank’s and Carson Show and how Mitzi was literally anointing you to become the next, the whole thing is just–

Sarah: But remember how you’d always tear that, right? If you got to go from doing stand-up and they invited you to the couch, that was like the endorsement. It was just such a cool like old-school traditional feel about that. Yeah.

John: I mean just the whole of it. We’re going to switch from Comedy now back to women in sports. I don’t want to glance over, I want to do a deeper dive with you on you were the co-host I think the last week or two weeks ago on espnW, the virtual sports conference. Talk a little bit about how that was and what it means to you and what actually occurred during this conference.

Sarah: So, what’s too bad about it is because of COVID, we were virtual but the good thing about that is we do end up getting to so many more people. I know our one in the spring, we had over 19,000 people streaming it. I don’t know what the number was for this one. But usually we’re in Southern California at this beautiful resort for two or three days and you really get to interact with all the people there. So that’s sort of lost in the virtual but the content was still fantastic. This was the 11th, I want to say, Summit. So espnW right from the start when it was first hatched at ESPN a little over a decade ago, started doing these summits and the idea was to bring together women in sports, athletes, coaches, women in leadership roles and major companies and sponsors, et cetera, and just have conversations with a bunch of people that are all trying to further the idea of — sometimes it’s not straight sports. Sometimes it’s just leadership in general but the line-up this year. We had Natalie Portman who is one of the co-owners of that do new NWSL franchise, Angel City. Jennifer Garner, Jessica Chastain and Uzo Aduba, Serena Williams and her husband and daughter, all that. And then we had Chelsea Clinton who just did a sports version of her book. She persisted in sports. I had Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach who are both owners of Angel City but we didn’t really talk that. We talk about all the challenges facing women and leadership and traditional gender roles and how do we push past that.

Sarah: So the conversations what’s fascinating to me as having been a part of it for 10 years is even 10 years ago, it was how do we get women in the broadcast booth to call a game or can women have it all, what’s it like to balance motherhood? And we stopped asking a lot of the dumb questions and we got onto let’s stop playing by the rules that society has told us and stop having conversations about scarcity and two women hate each other and start really addressing how to move past some of that stuff and get to the real nitty-gritty and the importance of. And the announcements every year are incredible, right, because it goes from a woman hosting NBA pregame to now Doris Burke is on the call for a final’s game, on the call not setting it up as a host. And so that’s been really cool even just to track — we always do a sizzle reel of highlights from the year in women’s sports and to go back to the beginning and then look at this year and see the incredible strides. It’s pretty awesome. I always say afterwards, I feel like the Kool-Aid man which is definitely a dated reference and showing my age, but I’m always like, I want to like run through a wall and just start kicking up and doing everything.

John: The Kool-Aid man. I know you’re a foodie also. So if you and your husband, this is your last night in Chicago and you’re never coming back and you are going to eat at one restaurant, where do you, guys, going to eat tonight?

Sarah: Okay. So, it’s my last night in Chicago. That’s a tough one because there’s this amazing Peruvian place called Tonto. And I had never even knew that I liked Peruvian until I went there and it’s so different and magical, and you can’t repeat it. But, on the other hand, so I’m never getting back to Chicago, I feel like I have to go to Lou Malnati’s and get a deep dish.

John: Yeah, that’s true too. How about LA? I know you spent some time in LA. Where would you go in LA? One night only?

Sarah: Well, so there’s an amazing place called Crossroads and the last three years or so, I’ve been vegetarian.

John: Yeah.

Sarah: So, Crossroads is one of those where you don’t miss the meat at all. It’s amazing food.

John: That’s right.

Sarah: And then, I also love this place Katana that was on Sunset. I don’t know if it’s still open but it was this beautiful and it was so LA, right? It’s on Sunset. It’s got these big white steps leading up to this gorgeous building, very sceny. I remember my girlfriends were visiting me and we were all broke as hell and we’re like our one nice dinner. We’re going to go to this place Katana. We sit down and this guy comes over and goes, “I’d like to buy you, ladies, all your dinner. Here’s my number. I’d like to take you out but I don’t want to bother you, I’m going to go back to my table. I’ll just tell the waiter to make sure to take care of everything and hopefully you’ll give me a call.” And they were, “Ella is awesome.” It does not happen every night. So that was like a delicious meal but also had that vibe of, “I’m really doing it. I’m doing it in Hollywood.”

John: And I’m going to put you in my movie too besides take you out.

Sarah: Exactly. Exactly. And then I tried to call the guy, “I don’t think I’m going to go out with you though. Thanks for dinner.” If he seems like a nicer dude, I might have given him a shot but he was a little weird.

John: That’s so funny. That’s such an LA story though but I do know what Katana is.

Sarah: It’s so LA.

John: And I know Crossroads. Crossroads is a great place. That was a great choice as well.

Sarah: Good, yeah.

John: I want to be cognizant of time, Sarah, and again for our listeners out there who have joined us along the way, we’ve got Sarah Spain. You could find her at And, of course, listen to her two podcasts, Spain & Fitz, That’s What She Said. Read what she’s writing. See her on TV, Around the Horn, Highly Questionable. I want to ask you this. During the pandemic, we all really enjoyed the Last Dance.

Sarah: Yeah.

John: And at the end eighth episode was the only time that Jordan broke, last three minutes of the eighth episode where he got emotional. And he said, “Leadership has a price and winning has a price.” And, Sarah, you are definitely one of the key woman leaders not only in sports but in television, in writing. You’re a leader and you’re proven winner over and over again. How do you take away from that, the price that winners and leaders pay to achieve what they need to achieve?

Sarah: Well, I thought this was such a fascinating conversation piece in this. And I remember the Monty Jones said something and we started texting back and forth. And part of it was there were absolutely aspects of Jordan that were not ideal. If you were creating the perfect person, of course, you would have a punch that you made or be a bad dude at times but there was also a really mark a difference in my opinion between the people who hated him for it and the people who said sometimes that’s what it takes if you’re going to be the greatest of all time. And the difference, and this was the money I talked about, are you usually the person at your job that’s working harder than everybody else or are you the person who shows up on a group project and kind of coz a little? Are you usually the person that is one of the stars of your team or were you always like a sub? And it’s not a bragging moment. If you’re always that person showing up the earliest, leaving the latest, working the hardest, being the best, you get it when you’re watching Jordan, that that’s what it takes.

Sarah: And if you’re not that person, then you’re used to being frustrated by whatever that passion is that somebody else has that maybe you don’t. And that’s not to say that there’s plenty of passion people that don’t have the skills to be the greatest ever. They’re working just as hard, they wanted as much. It’s just not meant for them. But I think you understand it better if you’re someone who’s willing to put in the work. And I do think also, there’s a moment in life where you decide, do I care the most about being liked or do I care the most about achieving the thing I want to do. And it’s not to say you have to be disliked or a bad person but, for instance, as a woman in sports, I made that pivot really early because when I was just update anchor on ESPN 1000 and I was sarcastic and funny and whatever, everybody, “I want to get a beer with Sarah. That’s my dream girl.” And when I started chiming in on hey, don’t say, throws like a girl or like, hey, saying that female athlete lost her fastball has nothing to do with her sport. You’re just talking about her looks and you aren’t talking about anything about women on this show unless it looks like, what, can we talk about something? Every time I started to chime in and make myself a voice for women in this industry and in general, that’s when people start to say I’m out on her.

Sarah: And that was the choice for me. I would much rather influence this industry and make it easier for women coming behind me and speak out about these issues than be the most liked. And so, I associate that with anything that you care the most about, it’s going to be really hard. And, actually, Glennon Doyle was just on that espnW Summit. There’s hard numbers in research that the more successful a man gets and the more power he gets, the more liked he is and it is the reverse for women. People do not like to speak. There’s something about a woman that is stepped into her own power is wealthy, is successful. It’s like Beyonce is basically the one woman that we let these super fierce and love her for it.

John: Right.

Sarah: And everyone else would try to tear them down. When Anne Hathaway was hosting the Oscar, let’s tear her down. When Amy Schumer gets popular, let’s say she’s filling all the guys’ joke. When Jennifer Lawrence becomes like the “it” girl, let’s tear her down. We don’t let women be great. And so women have to be self-deprecating and make fun of themselves and talk about what’s wrong with themselves. Screw that. If people aren’t going to like me because I’m going to try to set an example for what it is to be confident and to step into your power and to lead others do the same, then I’m okay with the people decided that they don’t like me anymore. I have plenty of insecurities. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about myself. I’m not leading with those so that you could feel more comfortable because I make you insecure. I’m going to shine and I want you all to shine with me. And if you don’t then that’s your problem. Figure it out.

John: That’s great. I love that. Before I let you go, as a reporter and a writer and a journalist in every sense of the word, who’s your dream get, who would you love to interview that you haven’t ever interviewed before?

Sarah: So, I used to say Michael Jordan, of course, because I was obsessed with Michael Jordan. But after the Last Dance, I think we got a lot out of him. And also, I still don’t know that he’s ever the person who’s fully going to just let it all down–

John: Come clean.

Sarah: –and be someone you can get to. That’s a tough one. I mean, probably Barack Obama.

John: That’s cool.

Sarah: I just think he’s fascinating. There’s so many though. I mean, there’s so many people that — there’s also that disappointment like there’s always that risk that you get with someone great. And then, they aren’t there. But, yeah, I mean Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling, those women who are like just beating down doors and doing amazing things. That will be pretty awesome too.

John: Knowing you you’re going to get to do those things. You’ve got a long way to go. You’re young and you’ve got so much going on. Again, I thank you, Sarah, for your time today. For our listeners out there, go listen to Spain & Fitz, That’s What She Said, that’s Sarah Spain’s two great podcasts. Go to to learn the latest and greatest of what’s going on. And read her stuff on Watch her on Highly Questionable, Around the Horn, like I do. Sarah Spain, you do make an impact. I’m grateful for what you do because I’m a dad and I’m also a granddad to girls. And I’ll tell you what, you are a leader and a winner. And thank you again for joining us today on the Impact Podcast.

Sarah: Thanks so much for having me. It was fun.