ESPN's Colin Cowherd Loves Los Angeles

Colin Cowherd Loves Los Angeles by Caleb Bacon
Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio (Photo by Joe Faraoni / used with permission

The Herd with Colin Cowherd is a sports talk radio program listened to by both its admirers and its detractors.

Heard locally on KSPN 710 AM (7 a.m. to 10 a.m.,) Cowherd’s been polarizing national ESPN Radio audiences since 2003. On The Herd, Cowherd often explains that his points-of-view feature perspective free from the emotion and unwavering loyalty for which sports fans are best known. (Such takes have lead to his being torn apart for labeling one quarterback as “good” and not “great.”)

Despite his anti-homer approach, there’s one topic for which it seems he only gushes. Cowherd, a Connecticut resident who has lived in each of the nation’s four quarters, has nothing but love for Los Angeles.

He appreciates our fair city and even understands the LA sports fan. “I don’t think you quite have the... maybe the passion in LA that you have in a New York,” he said, “but I also think a lot of that is explainable. There’s so many things to do and the weather’s so good that if your team stinks you kind of bail on them a little sooner than you would in Cleveland.”

LAist had a chance to talk the super-busy Cowherd -- who also co-hosts SportsNation on ESPN television and is putting the finishing touches on a book which is to be released later this year (“It’s a sports book to make people think,” he said) -- about LA pro sports, LA college football, LA food, and more.

LAist: Do you feel a stronger connection to your West Coast audience because you’re heard drive-time in Los Angeles rather than late morning on the East Coast?

I really do, and for a lot of reasons -- I’m a West Coast Guy, I’m in LA a lot, I really like the people, and California’s my favorite state. I think people see me as the one guy at ESPN who’s not afraid to give the West Coast a little love -- whether that’s right or wrong, I hear that a lot when I’m out.

In the radio business I think LA’s the number one radio market because a lot of people in New York take the subway where almost everybody in LA takes a car. I always have viewed Los Angeles as the number one radio market in the country. I think the quality is excellent, the competition is excellent, and it’s a very car-driven culture.

Do you have a favorite part of Los Angeles?

I like the beach communities a lot, like Manhattan Beach.

I’ve heard you mention on your show that you love staying at the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach.

I love that joint. I was there last weekend. I walked in and [USC Football Head Coach] Lane Kiffin was there and we just sat and BS-ed about recruiting for an hour. Another one of my favorite cities is Miami, another one is San Diego. When you can put a great city by a beach -- I’m in. If you put New York City on a beach I’d like New York City more.

How do you feel Southern California weather impacts sports fans?

Miami, San Diego, and Los Angeles get called “average sports cities” -- but no, they’re cities with options and cities with significantly better weather.

I think what happens is if you have a great team in Los Angeles people will come, but if your team gets mediocre or below average, a Los Angles sports fan will bail sooner than a Detroit sports fan. Especially in a winter league, where is a Detroit sports fan going to go? There’s nothing to do in Detroit in the winter. You’re locked in for five months. But in Los Angeles, in February or March, if a team stinks, there’s a lot of things to do so you’re not restricted by the weather.

Which do you feel is the most well-run franchise in LA?

The Angels and the Lakers are both very well run. The difference is the Angels have been a little more reluctant or unable to land the superstar where the Lakers perennially get the big guy.

The Angels treat their fans really well, the product’s always above average, they’re always pretty competitive, they’ve got enough name players, and they play good baseball. With the Lakers -- listen, the Yankees have glamour, but they don’t win as often as the Lakers do. The Lakers not only get stars, but once they get them they treat them well. Stars talk to other stars and players want to play in LA. They treat employees very well.

Will the Dodgers make the playoffs this year?

I actually think that they’re wildly underrated. This is a team that go to the NLCS in ‘08 and ‘09. This is a team that’s got fundamental issues in ownership but has an excellent starting staff.

If Tony Gwynn Jr. can hit a little and they move him to center, because he’s got a great glove, then you can put [Andre] Ethier and [Matt] Kemp in the corners -- then I think you’ve got an excellent outfield. There’s some “ifs” here, but let’s just say that Jonathan Broxton is at least good because he blew up last year. If Broxton turns, and Tony Gwynn can hit a little, I think you have an excellent starting staff, an above average closer, an excellent outfield and I think that’s good enough to win. I mean hell, the Giants barely made the playoffs and won the whole thing.

You often refer to the USC football program as being a “hybrid” of college and professional. Do you think this is due to being in LA?

I don’t know why I’ve given this so much though but, other than the Miami Hurricanes and USC, is there really a major college football program in a major metropolitan area? Most of them are rural. Now Columbus, Ohio isn’t the sticks, but most of them are kind of small. I mean, go to your top twenty: Eugene, Oregon; Auburn, Alabama; Boise State; Madison, Wisconsin.

But with Miami and USC, you’re in major media markets and major NFL-level, NBA, Major League Baseball, kind of towns. I think it does to some degree change the sensibility of the program. With most college football programs you’d never say “glamorous” but the Miami Hurricanes and the USC Trojans are glamorous programs.

Do you foresee any schools in large cities football schools progressing simply due to being in a city?

No. The reality is your urban areas in this country are pro sports towns. LA has always been unique that it is a very good college town for a city of its size. Atlanta is similar to Los Angeles in that Atlanta “loves” college football. Atlanta is number one, Los Angeles is number two -- as far as major cities in the country where you can talk college football on the radio and people will listen.

With the NFL returning to Los Angeles, do you think this will make the quality of life better, the same or worse?

How about the sports quality of life? It’ll be way better. I think sports will be way better. Also, I think you can live residentially in LA downtown now and I’m not just talking if it’s a last option -- it’s a very attractive place.

How do you think a Downtown stadium will affect traffic?

I don’t think it’ll be brutal. Remember, the NFL’s only on Sunday and Sunday can have a little lighter traffic than other days. Let’s be honest -- the stadium’s not going to be as big as the Coliseum. USC in its prime was getting 92,000 there, this’ll probably be a 68,000 person stadium. It’ll be substantially smaller than the Coliseum and very similar to the Staples Center -- very [luxury] suite-friendly.

Do you see UCLA as ever fielding a competitively viable football team?

If they can keep a quarterback healthy this decade I think that would go a long way. I can’t think of another program in college football that has had more injuries to their starting quarterbacks over the last decade than UCLA. When’s the last year UCLA had a quarterback play every single game? It’s like USC never has quarterback injuries, the Bruins have one every year. If they can keep guys healthy, their talent’s not bad. Before this year they had two very good recruiting classes.

Do you prefer the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum?

*laughs* I prefer the football played in the Coliseum. The Rose Bowl is literally my favorite sporting event of the year, so I’ll always have a soft spot for the Rose Bowl. Pasadena’s great and I’ve been to so many good games there but at the Coliseum on a Saturday night, when USC’s rolling, and they get a big game -- man, it’s really hard to top.

Do you think LA’s car culture affects sports fandom?

I think car-driven culture doesn’t mean much for sports, but I do think it can mean a lot for a city. I think one of the reasons New York is such a well-read city is if you’ve got a 45 minute train ride to and from work every day you’re going to be reading. That’s an hour-and-a-half of reading every day -- I think all of us could benefit form that. Whereas if you’re in a car, you’re going to listen to radio. I don’t know what it means for sports but that’s what I think it means for the culture.

Would you want to do your television show SportsNation full-time from LA?

I would move to LA tomorrow but I am divorced and we’ve got a lot of kids here to deal with. I would love to do it there. In fifteen years when my son graduates high school -- if he does, he’s a bit kooky -- I’ll probably make a push to move to Los Angeles. Now, that’s if I’m here at ESPN -- maybe I’m not here. If I was here in fifteen years and my son graduated, I would definitely tell the company I’m done with either radio or TV and I’m going to do one of them. I think in fifteen years I’ll be sixty years-old, I’m not going to be doing this schedule forever.

CBS is developing a half-hour sitcom based on your life. Any news?

The sitcom’s almost like somebody called me and said: “do you want five percent of a restaurant? You won’t cook the food, you won’t lease the building, you won’t hire the employees but we’ll give you a couple of things on the menu and you can make suggestions.”

I’m not writing this, producing it, casting it, or acting in it. All I’m basically doing is letting them, for a small percentage, write about relationships that seem like they’re like my life. I’m a radio/TV guy and I just wrote a book. Those three things are my bread and butter. So if the sitcom works great, if it doesn’t fine, it’s not going to change my life either way. It may not even get made.

You’ve mentioned on your show that you love the burgers at the The Counter. Where else do you like to dine in LA?

The Counter is my favorite, what you would call, “chain burger place.” I think it’s great. Petros down in Manhattan Beach is a Greek place that I think is just unbelievable. Also, Wolfgang Puck’s at LA Live. I think I probably eat at the places most people do.

Where will you eat in LA if your agent is paying?

When the agent’s paying we often go to Hollywood and we’ll go to Koi, AOC, Katana -- those kind of places.

I’ve always thought LA is wildly underrated as a food city. There’s a lot of really creative people in Los Angeles and you see it in the movies and you see it in the restaurants. They craft really healthy, creative food.

Follow Caleb Bacon on Twitter @thecalebbacon.