John Feinstein’s career in sportswriting has taken him everywhere from professional locker rooms to the practice fields of America’s military service academies. But his journey has been defined by the people he’s built relationships with along the way. Kojo chats with Feinstein about his latest work, and the stories in today’s headlines that resonate far beyond the sports pages.

Guests

  • John Feinstein author, One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game (Little Brown & Co)

Transcript

  • 12:28:28

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIJohn Feinstein's journeys in sports writing have taken him everywhere from the cathedrals of college basketball to the training grounds of America's military service academies. He's written newspaper articles, columns and books that have put him on the bench next to legendary coaches like Bobby Knight and inside the ropes at some of golf's greatest tournaments.

  • 12:28:48

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut all of these stories were built on the relationships he crafted along the way, relationships that sometimes go as far back as the days he spent covering cops, courts and Prince George's County as a cub reporter for The Washington Post. John Feinstein joins us to reflect on that journey and to explore some of today's headlines that resonate far beyond the sports pages. John is a sportswriter, columnist and author. His latest book is called "One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats of the Game." John Feinstein, thank for joining us.

  • 12:29:18

    MR. JOHN FEINSTEINKojo, it's good to be back. Thanks for having me.

  • 12:29:20

    NNAMDICould wait for this. You've always prided yourself on finding the great human stories behind the sports so many of us watch and love, the young cadets and midshipmen who play in the Army-Navy football game, the no-name golfers, who are desperately trying to qualify for the professional tour. But in this book, you turned your focus inward onto the experiences you've had and the relationships you've built during the time you've spent covering sports. Why did you choose this exercise?

  • 12:29:45

    FEINSTEINWell, Kojo, there are couple of reasons. I was coming up on the 25th anniversary of "Season on the Brink," which is my first book and which really kind of launched -- did launch me as an author. And realizing it was going to be a milestone, at least for me, I started thinking, what do I want to do around the 25th anniversary? Simon & Schuster was kind enough to say they wanted to bring out a 25th anniversary edition of the book. That's nice.

  • 12:30:11

    FEINSTEINBut I thought that, over the years, I've developed so many relationships with so many people. As you said, some of them are the very famous in sports, from Bob Knight to Dean Smith to Tiger Woods and John McEnroe and Mike Krzyzewski and others. And of some of them are those people like the kids who were no longer kids, they're men now, who I wrote about in "A Civil War," from Army and Navy, and the kids I wrote about in the "Patriot League" book...

  • 12:30:36

    NNAMDII love that book.

  • 12:30:37

    FEINSTEIN...that I did a few years ago. That was a lot of fun.

  • 12:30:38

    NNAMDI"The Last Amateurs."

  • 12:30:39

    FEINSTEIN"The Last Amateurs." That was a lot of fun. I went back and saw Chris Spitler, who is sort of the hero of that book, the kid who figured out he was the worst player in Division I college basketball then proceeded to use that as a pick-up line in parties. But I also know that from my own experience that people always say, well, what was it like being around Knight during that winter, or how did you get him to give you the access?

  • 12:31:00

    FEINSTEINWhat was it like hanging out with John McEnroe? Was he really that crazy? Why do you like Mike Krzyzewski? You get that question a lot around here, particularly from Maryland fans. How did you develop the relationship you had with Dean Smith when you're Duke and he coached in North Carolina? A Duke graduate anyway. And I thought it might be fun to kind of give those answers through stories 'cause telling stories has always been what I've enjoyed doing the most.

  • 12:31:25

    FEINSTEINAnd I do have a lot of stories that I had never told about my relationships with these people. How did it evolve? Some of the funny moments, some of the poignant moments and some of the embarrassing moments for me -- I certainly had more than a few of those -- and when I proposed the idea to my publisher and my agent and also my wife, Christine, who is a great editor for me in many ways, they all thought it made perfect sense. They said you tell these stories to your friends all the time. Why not tell them to everybody else?

  • 12:31:52

    NNAMDIIt's a no-brainer, John. 800-433-8850 if you have questions or comments for John Feinstein. Call us, 800-433-8850. If you'd like to know about any of the people he writes about in this book or about him, 800-433-8850. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org and ask a question or make a comment there. Or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. A few years ago, we interviewed New York Times media columnist David Carr on this broadcast about a memoir.

  • 12:32:20

    NNAMDIHe'd written about his long battles with drug abuse, a book where challenged himself to use all of his tools, as a reporter, to dig into his own past. When you were writing this book, I can't help but know how many times you had to go back to notes...

  • 12:32:36

    FEINSTEINOh, yeah.

  • 12:32:36

    NNAMDI...to remember, to see, to recall things that you couldn't even remember. Did you try to look at yourself and your experiences kind of as a reporter would?

  • 12:32:45

    FEINSTEINI -- in a sense, I did. This is not -- I don't consider this a memoir. I hope I still have one in me when I'm a few years older. But I guess you describe it as a professional memoir. And I certainly did go back to old notes and tapes. I keep a box for every book I do, and it has notes and tapes from that book. And I went through each of the boxes for the 10 books that I wrote about in "One on One."

  • 12:33:08

    FEINSTEINAnd I was amazed that some of the things that I had forgotten through the years. I've got a pretty good memory, but there were things that cropped up. There was a note I had made to myself. Well, I used to sit with Jim Valvano, you know, the NC State basketball coach who died so tragically of cancer in 1993. After his team won the national title in 1983, I would often sit up with him until 2, 3, 4 in the morning after a game because coaches can't sleep after games. A lot of guys watch tape. Knight would watch tape until your eyeballs fell out.

  • 12:33:36

    FEINSTEINJim Valvano would order pizza and wine and beer, sit around and tell stories with his buddies, and I was usually the last one left in the room. And I dug out some -- and I would never take notes. You know, you're sitting there with a guy at three o'clock in the morning, drinking a glass of wine. You don't start taking notes. But when I would get in my car 'cause Valvano would tell these funny stories and he would get very serious sometimes about what am I going to be when I grow up because he felt like he done coaching after winning the national championship at 37, I would scribble notes to myself.

  • 12:34:04

    FEINSTEINAnd one of the things I came across was a note in 1989 where he had just finished reading "Perestroika," and he said to me categorically, Soviet Union out of here, two years. And I wrote that down, and then 21 months later, the Soviet Union was gone. And I remember that as an example of just how smart...

  • 12:34:23

    NNAMDIJim Valvano called it.

  • 12:34:25

    FEINSTEINHe called it. He really did. He should have made a bet in Vegas. I'm sure there were odds somewhere. But things like that -- I found an old quote from Knight that came up during this whole Joe Paterno thing last month. And I'd remember it vaguely but not exactly, and what he said to me at one point was, I know as long as I win, people in Indiana will say I'm eccentric. If I ever stop winning, they'll say I'm an embarrassment. And that's exactly what did happen at Knight.

  • 12:34:52

    FEINSTEINThe incidents that occurred in 1999 and 2000 that led to his firing were no better, no worse than any of the incidents that happened to him in the '70s and the '80s. The only difference was he wasn't going to the Final Four anymore. And I thought about that in the context of Paterno in the -- that the cult of the super coach who can do no wrong as long as he is winning games, and that as much as anything led to what happened at Penn State.

  • 12:35:14

    NNAMDIPut on the headphones, please, because we're going to take calls because you went to that issue. And so I'm going to go to Jim in Baltimore, Md., who wants to talk about that issue. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:35:25

    JIMYes. I'd like John to comment, if he could, about the culture of deification around coaches in the light of -- especially in the light of the incidents at Penn State. And then I remember a week after the Penn State story broke, Mike Krzyzewski, you know, won whatever the number was (unintelligible)...

  • 12:35:45

    FEINSTEINNine hundred three.

  • 12:35:46

    JIM...coach of all time. And ESPN, for example, was positively slobbering over Krzyzewski, and then -- you know, then there was the Sportsman of the Year, the Sports Illustrated thing. It's just -- there just seems to be a disconnect to me there. And I'll take my answer off the air.

  • 12:36:02

    NNAMDIWell, Jim, allow me to pile on because John Feinstein wrote this fall that the scandal that erupted at Penn State that forced Joe Paterno out has ended the era of the dynastic iconic coach. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? What do you think we've learned from this episode about that?

  • 12:36:17

    FEINSTEINI don't think it's a bad thing. Yeah, I think Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim who's now under fire and ironically is the longest serving coach at any university in college basketball at 36 years. Krzyzewski is a few years behind at 32. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. The point I was making is because of the pressures that are brought to veteran coaches, it's very difficult for one coach to stay at one place for a long time. In our current climate, Mike Krzyzewski wouldn't have made it out of his third year.

  • 12:36:45

    FEINSTEINI was with him the night that he ended his third season by losing to Virginia in the ACC Tournament, 109-66. And I sat with him with a couple other guys in a Denny's at two o'clock in the morning in Atlanta when one of his friends -- one of the guys with us raised a water glass and said here's to forgetting tonight. And Krzyzewski said here's to never -- fill in the blank -- forgetting tonight and has never forgotten it. He can still recite everything that happens to you that night.

  • 12:37:13

    FEINSTEINAnd eight years later when Duke won the national championship, the first thing he said to me on the court after the game was, we've come a long way from the Denny's. So he didn't forget, and he still remembers. But Jim's point…

  • 12:37:25

    NNAMDICorrect.

  • 12:37:27

    FEINSTEIN...I left Krzyzewski a message the day after he broke Bob Knight's record. I congratulated him on the 903rd win, and I also said, watching the game on ESPN, I felt badly for Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Mother Theresa since clearly the three of them combined aren't near -- weren't nearly the human being that you are.

  • 12:37:46

    FEINSTEINBecause that -- Jim is 100 percent right. That's what it sounded like. I still sometimes -- I will remind Krzyzewski, you know, going back to the Denny's and when he was struggling, I knew you when you were Mike Krzyzewski before you became COACH K, all caps. And that's the problem that we have is it -- it's not just winning and making the fans happy. It's that you control what goes on at that university because you are the university's biggest fundraiser.

  • 12:38:13

    NNAMDIBob Knight is thread that connects virtually this entire book, "One on One..."

  • 12:38:17

    FEINSTEINSix degrees, yeah.

  • 12:38:18

    NNAMDI...because your first book, "Season on the Brink," was about spending an entire season with Bob Knight, and you talk about how, especially when you said a expletive deleted a second ago, how we was so upset with you because there were -- he felt too many expletives in the book. And you had cut out the overwhelming majority of those...

  • 12:38:38

    FEINSTEINI'd still be writing if I hadn't.

  • 12:38:39

    NNAMDI…expletives in book. But I'm wondering, given the nature of his own tension- filled relationship with Mike Krzyzewski in which they didn't speak for several years, and his own tension-filled relationship with you, the emotions that went through your mind when you saw Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski embracing when Mike Krzyzewski broke his record.

  • 12:38:59

    FEINSTEINHonestly, I laughed.

  • 12:39:01

    FEINSTEINBecause, literally, about 30 feet away from where that embrace took place in 1996, I saw Bob Knight turn his back on Mike Krzyzewski. They had stopped talking in 1992 after Duke beat Indiana in the Final Four -- the ultimate act of disloyalty in Bob Knight's mind -- and they had not spoken. And Krzyzewski decided, look, I'm going to make the first gesture here and show you're still my mentor. I'm the still the pupil. He walked over to the Indiana bench before an Indiana-Duke game in Madison Square Garden and waited for Knight to come out of the locker room.

  • 12:39:34

    FEINSTEINKnight always comes out of the locker room at the last possible second. And he stood there and waited, dutifully waited like the former Army captain he once was for his general. And Knight comes walking out of the locker room, he -- I was standing right there. He looks directly at Krzyzewski, and he turns his back on him and starts pretending to tell a story to D. Wayne Lukas, the horse trainer 'cause Knight always had somebody with him wherever he is 'cause he has to have an audience.

  • 12:39:57

    FEINSTEINAnd Krzyzewski kind of looked at that and just kind of threw his hands up in the air, walked back to the Duke bench. And after that game, he said to me, that's the period on the end of this sentence. I'm done.

  • 12:40:07

    FEINSTEINBut again, to his credit, five years later, when he was elected to the Hall of Fame, he called Knight and said, I wouldn't be going in the Hall of Fame if not for you. I'd like you to give the induction speech. And that bridged the gap. And now the two of them are lovey-dovey.

  • 12:40:18

    NNAMDIHow about you and Bob Knight? You spent...

  • 12:40:20

    FEINSTEINWe're not lovey-dovey.

  • 12:40:23

    NNAMDISpent a year together. He hated you after that.

  • 12:40:25

    FEINSTEINYep.

  • 12:40:25

    NNAMDII remember you had a very tension-filled, difficult relationship with John Thompson Jr., and Red Auerbach, in a way, forced you two to come together...

  • 12:40:34

    FEINSTEINTrue.

  • 12:40:35

    NNAMDI...in order to write about Red. No such epiphany with Bob Knight.

  • 12:40:38

    FEINSTEINWell, interestingly, when I was doing "Let Me Tell You a Story," the book I wrote with Red Auerbach that you're referencing, I did talk to Knight for about two hours on the phone about Red. He loved Red, as did John Thompson. I call him the elder, so people don't get confused between he and his son. But -- and John and I, in many ways, became closer -- I wouldn't say close, but closer because we did both love Red Auerbach. You know, we shared that.

  • 12:41:06

    FEINSTEINAnd we both wanted to look after him as best we could in his waning years so along with many other people. But I did talk to Knight for two hours. He was -- when Bob Knight is good, there's nobody better, and that's why -- that's not why, but when I was researching "One on One", since the book begins with him, since my writing career as an author began with him, I always thought the book would end with me going back to him and saying, OK, Bob. It's been 25 years. I'm telling these stories about our relationship.

  • 12:41:34

    FEINSTEINDo you want to sit down and talk about it? And as you know, 'cause you read the book, I did go to Madison Square Garden. And what I remember about that night are two things. Maryland was playing Pittsburgh. And I went to see Gary Williams before I went to see Knight, and I told him while I was there. And Gary looked at me and said, you got to be kidding. You know he's not going to talk to you. And I said, of course, I know he's not going to talk to me, but I have to make the effort as a reporter.

  • 12:41:55

    FEINSTEINAnd, sure enough, I went and waited out all night, held court with various people. And, finally, when he was done, I said, Bob, have you got minute? And he looks at me and says, no. I said, Bob, I want to ask you one question, which was what I wanted to do. Do you want to talk to me for this book, yes or no? I'm doing a book. Here's the deal. Do you want to talk? And he looked at me and he said, are you deaf? I said no. And I just said, OK, Bob. That's fine.

  • 12:42:19

    FEINSTEINBut if you don't like this book, don't come to me because I did give you the chance to sit down and talk to me. And that was the end of it. And, of course, as you know, I didn't end the book with that.

  • 12:42:27

    NNAMDIHe did not indeed. John Feinstein's book is called "One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game." If you've called, stay on the line. We will get to your call. Have to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation. You can call us, 800-433-8850. Send email to kojo@wamu.org, a tweet, @ kojoshow. Or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:44:42

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with John Feinstein about his latest book. It's called "One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game." One of the things that enlightened me during the course of this book is to tell people a little bit about how, as Brendan Sweeney likes to say, we put the sausage together on the show. Most talk shows do pre-interviews with the guests on talk shows. And for some strange reason that we could never understand, John Feinstein has always refused to be pre-interviewed. Well, voila. I'm reading...

  • 12:45:11

    FEINSTEINIt's nothing personal.

  • 12:45:11

    NNAMDII'm reading "One on One." Tell us the story about what happened.

  • 12:45:14

    FEINSTEINWell, in 1991 when "Hard Courts" came out, my tennis book, my book on life on the tennis tour, which preceded "A Good Walk Spoiled," which is my book on life on a gold tour, "Nightline" called during the U.S. Open and wanted to know if I would come on. Jimmy Connors was making his big run, his last big run at the age of 39 to the semis, and they wanted to do a...

  • 12:45:35

    NNAMDII remember it well.

  • 12:45:36

    FEINSTEINWe all do if we love tennis. And would I come on on Friday night before Connors played Jim Courier in the semis and talk about Connors and talk about Tennis and, obviously, to promote the book? Well, of course, sure. So the guy says, well, I'll get back to you, and we haven't decided yet for sure if we're doing it. Then he calls and says, we're on. We're going to do it Friday night. We need to do a pre-interview with you. OK, fine. I've done them before. I always thought they're a waste of time because they ask you 20 questions...

  • 12:46:00

    NNAMDIYeah. That's right. Kill my job.

  • 12:46:01

    FEINSTEINBut, Kojo, they ask 20 questions, and then none of them come up on the air. So -- but, OK, fine. It's "Nightline." We're going to do the pre-interview. And the guy says to me, why are people going so crazy about Jimmy Connors? He was the bad boy all these years. Now, they love him. I said, he's 39, he's not supposed to be able to do this anymore. And what he's doing, essentially, is defying mortality. And who among us can't relate to that? And he said, oh, yeah, OK. He goes on to ask a few more questions.

  • 12:46:26

    FEINSTEINWell, we'll get back to you with details tomorrow. The next day, he calls and he says, sorry, you didn't make the cut. I said, what cut? And he said, oh, well, you know, we had a bunch of people we were considering. And we decided to go with Arthur Ashe. I certainly have no problem with that, and Arthur was a good friend.

  • 12:46:41

    FEINSTEINAnd Robert Lipsyte from The New York Times, who's also a friend of mine, but -- who had written one tennis column in a year in that year, and I said, wait a minute, you didn't tell me there was a tryout involved here. You asked me if I could come on. He said, I asked you if you were available. So he got me on the technicality 'cause I said, yes, I was available. That was bad enough. But then that night, 'cause I'm a masochist, I turned on the show.

  • 12:47:05

    FEINSTEINAnd Ted Koppel's opening line is what James Scott Connors has done in the last two weeks at the National Tennis Center is defy mortality. Who among us cannot relate to that feeling? And I went, I won't tell you what I said on the air. No.

  • 12:47:17

    NNAMDIOh, no. Please don't. This is a family show.

  • 12:47:18

    FEINSTEINThe FCC, all that stuff, but it was not a pleasant reaction. And then, just as one more topper, Sports Illustrated always does their list of top 10 quotes from each year. Number one that year was Ted Koppel on Jimmy Connors. So after that, I said I'm done with pre-interviews.

  • 12:47:35

    NNAMDICompletely understandable. I was trying to get to Trisha (sp?) in Tysons Corner, Va., but I can't seem to be able to pull Trisha up now. You mentioned that you wrote this book 'cause -- instead of writing a 25th anniversary of sorts on your first book "A Season on the Brink." Back then, you were a reporter at The Washington Post who had this ambitious idea of following Bobby Knight, the legendary and tyrannical basketball coach for an entire winter. More than a few people told you that idea was crazy. Why did you feel it was something you had to do?

  • 12:48:03

    FEINSTEINI just, you know, Kojo, I'm like anybody, I guess, who was in the journalism or writing business. I always wanted to write a book someday. And it was something sort of out there. But from my experiences as an undergraduate at Duke when Duke was terrible in basketball, by the way, I knew a lot went on behind the scenes of any basketball team as with anything, I suppose, that were very interesting and people never knew about. And I carry this idea with me.

  • 12:48:31

    FEINSTEINI -- the first person I proposed it to was Dean Smith after North Carolina won the national championship in 1982. And he actually considered it, but came back and said, I'm not ready to do a book like that. I am not ready to be as honest about people and things as you might want me to. And, sadly, by the time I finally got Dean to agree to a biography 27 years later, his health was such that I couldn't carry forward with it, which is probably the greatest regret of my professional career.

  • 12:48:55

    FEINSTEINBut I had a good relationship with Bob Knight. I had covered his national championship team in 1981. I covered his Olympic team in '84. I'd written a magazine piece about him leading up to the Olympics and was actually in Bloomington the week that he threw the infamous chair. I wasn't in town at that moment when he threw the chair 'cause I brilliantly left that morning. But when he -- after I wrote a piece on the chair throw, he actually invited me to come to a dinner with his coaching buddies at the final four.

  • 12:49:26

    FEINSTEINWhen he issued that invitation, it occurred to me he was inviting me into his inner circle. Maybe I can convince him to let me do it for an entire season. And if I do that, maybe I can get somebody to give me a book contract. And, of course, the irony of all that was, number one, he did say yes that night at the final four when I proposed the idea to him in his hotel room. The great Pete Newell was in the room, the great coach. And Mike Krzyzewski was there because they were doing a clinic together the next day.

  • 12:49:52

    FEINSTEINAnd when we walked out of the room, as soon as the door closed, Krzyzewski looked at me and said, are you out of your mind? You're volunteering to spend a year with him? I said, well, you spent four years with him. You played for him at Army. You coached under him. He said, that was the only way I could go to college, and I needed a job. You've been to college and you have a job. What are you thinking? And, of course, he was right, but I'm very glad I didn't listen to him.

  • 12:50:16

    FEINSTEINAnd as you know, five publishers rejected the idea. The notion was it's a Midwestern basketball coach, and, you know, he hasn't won anything in four years, five years, just had his worst year ever. Who cares? Fortunately, a guy named Jeff Neuman at Macmillan saw some potential in the book and gave me a small advance, and off I went.

  • 12:50:34

    NNAMDIYou say that Bob Woodward was your mentor at the Post, that he actively lobbied you to stay away from sports beat, in addition to which, I found out in this book, both of your parents were involved with classical music.

  • 12:50:46

    FEINSTEINYes.

  • 12:50:46

    NNAMDIWhat kept you pulling back to sports?

  • 12:50:49

    FEINSTEINI don't know. Ever since I was little, I had this passion for sports. I learned to read reading The New York Times sports page 'cause my parents weren't up in the morning. And I wanted to find out how the Mets had done or the Knicks had done or the Rangers had done, and I couldn't wait. It's not like there was an Internet in those days. We got the scores at night. I didn't stay up late enough for the news.

  • 12:51:09

    FEINSTEINSo I was, you know, a reasonably good athlete, certainly not a great athlete on any level as a kid, but I went to every game I could. I would watch a game on TV, listen to a game on the radio. I kept sports records, every game I watched. I kept score if it was baseball. I had my own system for football, basketball, hockey, golf, everything. I...

  • 12:51:32

    NNAMDIIt didn't come from your peers. It didn't came -- come from your parents.

  • 12:51:34

    FEINSTEINNo.

  • 12:51:34

    NNAMDIIt just came from you?

  • 12:51:35

    FEINSTEINBut I think what came from my parents was the passion.

  • 12:51:39

    NNAMDIYeah.

  • 12:51:39

    FEINSTEINMy dad, in particular, was very passionate about what he did. He would work for Sol Hurok, the great impresario, representing many great artists. Isaac Stern was his best friend. There were always great artists in our apartment in New York, none of whom -- I was like, where's Tom Seaver and Willis Reed? I don't need to meet Rudolf Nureyev or Margot Fonteyn or Arthur Rubinstein. And -- but he was very passionate and eventually was the first executive director of the Kennedy Center...

  • 12:52:04

    NNAMDISure was.

  • 12:52:04

    FEINSTEIN...and then ran the Washington Opera. And I turned my passion in a different direction. He gave me the passion. It just manifested itself in a different way.

  • 12:52:13

    NNAMDIHere's Elizabeth in Falls Church, Va. Elizabeth, your turn.

  • 12:52:17

    ELIZABETHOh, hi. Thanks so much for taking my call. Actually, my question is sort of related to parenthood. Back in 2001, I had heard an interview, a piece on NPR, where I believe it was you, Mr. Feinstein, who said you were writing a book based on how everything you needed to know about fatherhood could be learned from baseball. And then a couple of years later, my husband and I, we had our first, and I went to go try to find that book for him, but I never could.

  • 12:52:46

    FEINSTEINWell, that's because I didn't write it. It must have been somebody else who wrote that book. And I honestly don't know who it was or -- I wish I could help you find it, but it's probably...

  • 12:52:58

    NNAMDIGoogle fatherhood and baseball.

  • 12:52:59

    FEINSTEIN…probably a very good topic. And you do learn a lot from -- about fatherhood not just from baseball, but from watching other parents deal with their children in sports. That's the book I would write if I was writing one.

  • 12:53:11

    NNAMDINot only did he not write that book, Elizabeth, but -- and thank you for your call -- here's another thing he didn't really want to do. George Solomon, the longtime sports editor at the Post, tried to pull you off covering college sports and put you on one of the most high-profile beats of the paper, the Washington Redskins. But you were miserable covering the Redskins, even though you were aware of how important they were to the Post. Why?

  • 12:53:35

    FEINSTEINBecause, to me, covering the Redskins was a little bit -- you know, there is a similarity between covering the Redskins and covering the White House because a lot of what you get is hand-fed to you. You don't have very much access. You spend a lot of time chasing down tiny, little stories, except that they're big stories because they involve either the Redskins or the president of the United States.

  • 12:53:55

    FEINSTEINI loved doing what I was doing, covering college sports because I could go out, chase down the stories I thought were great stories. I didn't have to spend my time with George Solomon because it was the most important beat in sports, saying, you know, the left tackle twisted his ankle in practice. I remember, one day I was sitting in the office. There was nothing going on. I was working on a takeout piece, and George said that whomever was supposed to be at Redskins Park that day was sick.

  • 12:54:17

    FEINSTEINCan I make a couple of calls to find out, make sure nothing was going on out there? So I called. Then I talked to a couple of people. I talked to Joe Gibbs. There was nothing going on, you know? He just said -- I asked about the backup quarterback who had been hurt, and he said, yeah, I think he'll practice Wednesday. And so I reported back to George, and he said, well, can you write a few inches?

  • 12:54:36

    FEINSTEINI said, what am I going to write? The backup quarterback is going to practice on Wednesday. And he said, write it. So I wrote 10 and 12 inches. It was the lead story, and I just didn't want to do that. Fortunately, because of my relationship with Bob and with David Maraniss, who had become the Metro editor at that point, I was able to go and say to them, look, I don't want to cover the Redskins. You always said I could come back and cover politics, and I went back and covered politics for two years.

  • 12:54:58

    NNAMDIYou got to know Woodward well when you were on the Prince George's County beat for the Post, a beat you say is so fascinating that it's impossible to stay off the front page. Given what we've been reading lately about the Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson, his wife and -- you still follow Prince George's, still stay up to speed on that one?

  • 12:55:14

    FEINSTEINOh, sure. It's like -- you know, it takes me back to my youth. And, really, nothing has changed. I mean, there are stories there. They're not good stories in terms of the world, but they're great stories if you're a newspaper guy covering any beat. And I was on the front page all the time. And you mentioned right at the beginning that I like to write about people who aren't the rich and the famous.

  • 12:55:37

    FEINSTEINI believe that comes from my experience covering police and courts in Prince George's County because what I found on that beat was you didn't have to be rich and famous to have a great story to tell.

  • 12:55:48

    NNAMDIAnd while we're on the subject of Maryland, you've also called on the University of Maryland to fire football coach Randy Edsall, which would cost the school some money. Why do you think it's necessary?

  • 12:55:57

    FEINSTEINBecause I think, ultimately, it would save the school money, and I don't think Randy Edsall gets it. I would never call for the firing of a coach just because he went 2-10 in his first year. As I mentioned, if Mike Krzyzewski or Dean Smith had been judged on their first three years at Duke and North Carolina, they'd have never become Mike Krzyzewski or Dean Smith. Krzyzewski was 38-47 after three years.

  • 12:56:17

    FEINSTEINDean Smith was hung an effigy on the Carolina campus during his fourth year there. So I believe you do give coaches time to establish themselves, to understand the place, the job, the players they're coaching. Having said that, when you go from 9-4 to 2-10 and you blame everybody but yourself, there's a missing element there. You're not getting something. And every story I've read quoting Randy Edsall since the end of the season, it's not his fault.

  • 12:56:43

    FEINSTEINHe's doing the right thing. The players just have to understand him better. The parents have to understand him better. The media has -- maybe he needs to understand some other people. And I know Maryland has a huge deficit. They're eliminating sports at the moment, so it sounds ridiculous to say buy out a coach. But they're not going to sell any tickets. They're not going to get any sponsorships. They're not going to get any booster contributions as long as Randy Edsall is the football coach.

  • 12:57:06

    FEINSTEINSo if you can buy him out for next year's salary and throw in another half a season or whatever -- 'cause he's going to want to coach somewhere -- it will ultimately save you more money than it will cost you.

  • 12:57:16

    NNAMDIAnd before we leave, I'd like to thank you for helping me to get an MRI on my back. I was reading your book, that...

  • 12:57:21

    FEINSTEINApologize.

  • 12:57:22

    NNAMDI...Jim Valvano had back pain and he got an MRI and discovered he had cancer. I went out and booked an MRI the next morning because I was having back pain at the time and spent that night in fear. Fortunately, my MRI showed something completely different.

  • 12:57:35

    FEINSTEINI'm glad you're OK.

  • 12:57:36

    NNAMDIIn addition to which, thank you so much for appearing on the show because an individual, who shall remain nameless, who works for another station, says the only use John Feinstein has for me is to ask me for Kojo's telephone number.

  • 12:57:46

    FEINSTEINAnd he should remain nameless. But now I know it by heart, Kojo, so you're in trouble.

  • 12:57:50

    NNAMDIThank you very much. John Feinstein is a sports writer, columnist and author. His latest book is "One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats of the Game," a really enjoyable read for me. John Feinstein, thank you.

  • 12:58:03

    FEINSTEINThanks for having me, Kojo. Happy holiday.

  • 12:58:04

    NNAMDIHappy holidays to you. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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