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Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 2 years ago

Don Yaeger

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

11 x New York Times Bestselling author, Don Yaeger, joins the huddle. His works include books on; Walter Payton, Joe Namath, President George Washington, and many more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

With interviews including John Wooden,Michael Jordan, Walter Peyton and even Snoop Dog, this eleven time New YorkTimes best selling author of twenty nine books has covered stories acrossthe world from China to Iraq. He's also an awardwinning motivational speakerand longtime writer and editor for sports illustrated. Please welcome intothe Huddle Donny Eger gave today on huddoeup Ot Gus. We got a great guess, author, a coach. You know he speaks all over the place.I mean his bio is tremendous. It's huge Heshou be been all over this world andand just like he said he loves to tell stories about people he loves so, and he makes a live in doing it. Nothing bet on that yeah. So today, inthe hall with us, is Don Yeger don thanks for being in the hoddle with us,and we really appreciate you being on with US awesome. They guy appreciate itvery much so John. We always start at the same spot.We want to know when you were growing up in Hawaii. What was that influence? What was thatspark for your love of sports? Where it was it your family members? Was it acoach somebody? Well, I think the spark starts in yourneighborhood right and I lived in a coldasack and we were the only Anglo family on ourand R. So we were the. I was the howling right, the white kid a little bigger than a lot O, some ofthe other kids at that stage. But you know my dad put a hoop up outside andyou know just a football in the in the in the street: We're not very bright.We just did you know the neighborhood and you know kind of came out every dayas soon as you could to to play, and then it was every you know my parentskind of had that every organized game you could play approach right. If it'sa whatever season it was. I was expectedto kind of be in the season and be doing it, which was which was cool. Imean you know today by eight years. Old Kids are specialright there and they've. They figured out that they're going to be this andthat's what they're going to be for forever, and so they stop playinganything else and in my house it that never ended, and so we were. I just I fell in love with sports andthe COPA, but I fell in love with the Kaaraderie of o relationship that come from it, and and so it was, it just became a part of what w at what made me feel you know. Hawaii is a unique place togrow up yeah because there is no. There is no majority right, you know,there's no, and so you look at all my schoolpictures as a kid and I'm easy to pick out right, I'm thelittle white kid in the middle with he boat Di on, but you know, there' be acouple of Koreans here and a couple of Filipinos there and a couple of toninsthere, and you know I mean it was just so there was no, I mean you community was important, but it wasimportant in a slightly different way because you everyone had to find theirspot and for me sports help. Me Find My spot what island did you grow up on? SoI was born on the Big island of Hawaii in the little town called Hilo, andthen I was raised on the main island te Wahu, a a little town called Maanaloa.Well, that's great. My wife and I were married in Maui, yeah mally's WorldMaas Bor, the rich people like you went yeah we weren't rich. I did I I did A it was after my first year playing andI did a...

...super bowl party for the hotel and theypaid for ten days of Ruman Board. If I went to this party and got to talk toeverybody, I'm like yes and then my buddy got his free airline ticket. Soit all worked out pretty good. This John Freeis John sreez yeah quarterback,so we GAD a. We had a great great time over there. There's no vet awesome yeah.It is a unique environment. You know and again the thing you don'tappreciate when Youre growing up there is how how how unique it is, and so- but it gaveme this really amazing foundation where everyone had value. I did you know youdon't see color, because you can't, you see color Y, ' You're an idiot rightall right, so you just really it's funny becauseyears later, so if you lived there- and I know this wasn't where you'reintending to go, but if you lived there past a certain age, the you earn adesignation within the island as a Comana, which means you're. A NativeHawaiian does not matter your coloring or ethnic background. You're, a native right youand so, and and the Hawaii Tourism Bura is constantly reaching back to thecominus seeking to get them to come back like you know, for whatever right,and so when you go on the website, I'm coming back to Hawaii. They line up allkinds of things for you and there's discounts and this and that so my wife, who is half Filipino rightand I show up the very first time, we're there and and they look at herand they're like welcome home 'Vgo. No, no! No! No, like you know, let's go tit,let's go! It's right is she's. Just this er first visit right Yand. I don'tdon't give her credit, because she's got some color in her skin III. Houd ofthat do you pull out your d. You pullout your class photo and say no.This is me raght yeah. I pull up my social security card,which shows a shows them where, because the first three did just tell you whereyou were born so anyway, right so di, were you did you do a lot of the watersports there as well? Or did you I do this? I did surf, but not I wasn'texceptional. I would because, but you did because everybody did and thechallenge a couple of different times. You know you get Cutt in an undertow and you're. You know an eight year oldkid and your you're sure you've met your maker. Itcan be pretty hairy, and so you kind of it's a yeah. I have a few of that. I had a fewof those experiences and, but I was never sports for me- was what happened in ThiStreet in the backyard and the and the driveway. You know mostly dwhat broughtyour family to why to begin with, were they in the military or my dad was apreacher, a methodist preacher and, and so the church gave him an assignment there and that'swhere, and so he passed her to church and it was I was like I mean we movedfrom there to Oakanowa Japan when I was eleven, so we I lived in I', never evenstepped foot in the cut in o t e United States. I was thirteen when we moved to Indianapolis Indianalike Hawaii, Japan, Indianapolis and I don't know if you have any listenersfrom Anianapolis, but that is not the path most people take right e, usually people going the other way Li,let's get to Hawaii before it's over, so right yeah. That would be a hardlike hey you're, going to go to Hawai cool I'll, be in Hawaii that'd, begreat love to raise my family there, all right! Now we're going to move into Japan. You know another good island, just amazing things to do their greatfood. Everything. Now we're going to send you to Indianapolis and Oa InorCity Indianapolis, Indiana Yeah, so so is that why are you a cold fan? I actually weirdly, I'm not a fan ofany specific team. Weird I just I have through my work. I have friends on alot of teams yeah. So mostly I root for...

...my friends and try not to root, becausebecause I find that if I, if I'm spending too much time rooting for ateam, I'm often rooting against a friend on another team. So I just Iroot for all my friends to do well and not get hurt. So you get that that'sAlli! That's that's a hard root on some Sundays. Yes, well done what waslifelike in Japan and did you play sports in Japan? I nobaseball is a big sport. Yeah in that area, I played. I played baseball onEah, that's what I did and you know- and I was a catcher because againlittle white guy R rig was the white guy. You know thicker than a little Ben, then a lotof those kids I was playing against, and so Iblocked the plate. Let me tell you: If you wanted to slide in home, you betterbe ready and it was legal. At that point it was lega exactly it was.Prepete rose, yes, but yeah we yeah, so I played you know on the my mom who passed away few years ago. Ididn't realize it like saved everything. You know I mean I kind of think youmove several times all that stuff ultimately has got to be gone and sheactually had, like all my kids sports pictures, all my all those other thingsin one bag and Itas Fun, I' forgotten. I was on a bunch of those teams whichis bad but Tus how bat, how bad I was and how bad the team likely was, butbut it was yeah again, parental influence was out the door play out thedoor and play, and you know I growin up in Hawaii, my team was theSan Francisco Forty niners a they had a wide receiver and GoldenRichards at the time. I'm a a little older than I think, both of you but and- and we were all into you know he adplay at the University of Hawaii, and so we were all like you know it was. Itwas pretty cool and we were. We were just into the forty niners, so I mean first ever like Christmas gift that Ican remember, was a full set of pads and a helmet and and I'd throw the ballto my little sister and go out, and you know, nailor didn't last long andparents had to kind of tone that down but yeah it was you. Do you just find yourself loving everything about the game? Yeah? No, that happened to mydaughter as well. My two sons wereplaying football in the backyard,my daughter Becaese. I think I can play with him. She goes out and my sentgunner got her. Just puts ha shoulder into it. Laser out, she's crying shecomes Idad. There may be me, I said you wanted to play with them. That's partof it so at has she never played football Gan with them yeah. But you know it's interesting that you werein Japan and one of the things about it was is that you know you talked aboutyour neighborhood in your community. When you move to Japan, then do youhave the same kind of neighborhood and community th t that goes out and playsand, and I mean it's a whole different area of the world? How did how was thatfor you? Well, interestingly, my parents again kind of chose a home on a circle right. You know andthey kind of the n. The Circle was big enough that it would you could it wouldserve as our sports field, and so I just played with everybody. You know Imean well played differently. One Day: it's you know baseball the next day,it's football Xay, it's we were just tryind, we triedeverything and if somebody had it in an involved, a ball, we did it and- and that's just you know again it'sfunny. So I'm now I'm a lateant left dad, and so I have an eleven and a tenand my eleven year old son. You know he's on the autism spectrum,so team sports are a little challenging for him R Ght, but he if he could dothe entire...

...his entire life and basically never gooutside because he loves you know what he can do on video games and things andI'm going Galli. You know you have no idea what you're missing, like yougotta do this, and but I also get you know, life is you push people tho wantto be comfortable and and a little outside of ther comfort zone is goodtoo far and they can resent it d. So we're youknow it's a difficult thing, raising kids right, it really is and the one thing I thinkthat is missing when you don't go outside and play sports. Is that whenyou're with your friends and things and you get knocked down, you just get backup right and you learn failures. You learn, you know, get that kick in the stomachand you get back up and you know you may be crying, but your buddies arethere and you just keep playing through that stuff, and I think that's onething the kids miss today. It's not a mean thing: it's not like aorganized sports thing where it's a coach saying get up and all this it'sin front of your buddies and you got to learn to just have that will to getback up and and go through that which, when we all playd sports, when we wereyoung, like you just go through that I've done itmany many times, then You'e had older kids, younger kids, all different agegroups, wwe learn to Bel to manage situations to, because you don't havereferee and you ou get to work it out yourself, an Yo figure out what thestrike zone is. You're, like liffeball or whatever you know it's a it's. Ittakes home thinking that a lot of people are relying on Yeah Ka Jave hasa wicked whifflball pitch so dos I really it's a yeah like a twelve to six.It drops at it my curve, ball drop, O Tis, ridiculous good and would beenvious. I tyeah that's. The only game we could play now is WILF aball. Hereit's the safest one for T, I know, but every once in a while. Youpull that bullet muscle back here when you overswayng. I know I can imagine itso yeah. So then, what year? When did you move to Indianapolis so coming into high school? I moved toIndianapolis, and- and so this is, I know I guess when youand I were talking kind of prep and we 're thinking about it like how doesyour youth and how oes the sports and the other things that you'veexperienced influence you. So I came to move to Indiana and again because I'dspent so much of my carer, my life in Hawaii and Japan. A lot of my American peers in Japan and my myfriends even in Hawaii, were from military backgrounds right, militaryfamilies, and so I just invisioned myself being a military guy. One day Imean you K, O that's kind of that was everything kind of seemed to point mein that direction. So we're signing up for classes freshman year Indanapolis,and so I signed up for ROTC I'd go. Do the RTC learn what it meansbecome, an officer lead people become successful and the night before classstarted the counsilor called the house and said: Hey, not enough. Kids signedup, so we canceled our OTC. But don't worry. We we put you on thestudent newspaper because Oh there was a slot there and you know and afreshman I could put. They could put you there and I liked writing. I don't think I had anyappreciation that it would become a career, but that that random moment intime when something I envisioned wasn't available something you know somebody filling a slot put me in a place. I literally found my passion within weeks, like I realized how muchI enjoyed asking questions, learning things that other peoplewouldn't weren't, learning we're not learning and and then crafting it in away that other people could consume it, and-...

...and you know, for all the careerplanning you could try and all the all the other things that sometimes peopleare busy. You know taking test to define. You know what am I best at my my career in its own way was began on the you know, small steppingstones of because of a because a class was wasnot there weren't enough, kids that wanted to be an RTC. Otherwise I mightI might today be a you know, be a colonel in the United States army whoknows but anyway, yeah that that's that's what this is all about. Bese,you find your passion at different ages, Dauer Amidski last night. She wastelling us about how she really didn't understand and findher pasting passion until she went and did her psych rotation at Western sicehere inPittsburgh, and she got a mentor that she absolutely thought was brilliantand in saw how she changed people's lives, and she said that's exactly whatI want to do and there she was twenty six years old. So we all have adifferent time when that passion comes to us. But the point of it is: Is thatonce you find it, you take hold of it and you really push forward yeah. So itwasn't long. I mean if you, if you were freshman writing from the school paperat what point you probably became editor as Sophomore Youre, rising star polly inthat right. Actually, it's funny. I had had a newspaper advisor and allthese silly funny thing, but newspaper advisor who who would ultimately tell me that shedidn't think I was cut out for it and and didn't. Let me become all of thosethings and so, ironically, a few years later, through a series of crazy circumstances,I became the youngest ebernomine for the poet Urprize, rightlike and andpretty soon I got this little package from my high school and it was theSudvisor who had now inducted me Pottus. Whatever the word is, is if youdied right imously. I could never say that word I shouldn't. I should learnTNAT to not to try words. I can't say on Fuck Thatas me all the time, but butshe had decided that now I was worthy of their induction in their little whatever like journalism, society thatthey had for o r high school and- and I thought it was really funny like youwhen I left, I was neither in that society, nor was I did she think shethought I was okay, but not like th. This guyis not GOINGTO, go find himselfat any level and then at nineteen, I'm I'm in this crazyplace and she's, and this package arrives. I'm going really honestly nowyou than you want me in yeah, I'm okay, I cound live without your club at thistage yeah. No now what was it that you wrote that earned you that honor. So I was then at at Ball State University right, one ofAmerica's finest syst, well, one of Muntsy, Indianas, spinist institutionand and while there I had done a series of stories abouthow the university was investing its money and and the U, and what Idiscovered was that the university was taking public dollars, millions andmillions of public dollars and at below market value, investing it in banksthat the president of the university and the chairman, the board of Trustees,have had outsized investments. In so t he, the President N, the UniversityTrustees were making money off of the university's public money and the grandjury was was in padled and a couple folks were indicted. ND president losthis job and all this crazy stuff,...

...because this little college kid decidedto look at how they were investing their money, which was crazy, so andDida started a lot of. Did you know how to investigate then, or did you justkind of I had I just again, I think my whole deal was I've always known how toI've always loved, asking questions and then, following you know, following threads right, ifyou, if you ask a question and and one of the things that drives me crazy,when I'm listening to interviews or doing things is, if somebody sayssomething that leads to a really obvious, you should ask that nextquestion right, give me just a little deeper. So I understand that person andbut they've got a card with their. You know. Eight questions are supposed toask in this podcast, and so you know they're on to the next question anyway long web saying I don't knowthat I ever really figured out Howd to be I'v been a great investigator. WhatI was was just somebody I had a high. You know. I've heard this phraserecently with a couple of executives. I work with a CQ, a high curiosity,quotion right right. I didn't have a high IQ evidence by thefact that I chose. I was a ball state. I didn't have a high eq evidence by the fact that I was ajournalist right and they're all weird. So I see q worked for me and curiositybecame my thing. Well, as Leis Seinberg said, you have to be a good listener,you know and all his negotiations it's about listening, having a quiet, mindand understanding what that coach hat gm, that owner wants andtrying to figure out how to get there and I'm assuming H N. When you have aHigh Cq, you kind of go about that. The same way: Yeah you're you're, asking questions, sometimes you'relistening for answers, they're not really giving you right, and maybe the answer is maybe answer isa parent, but you don't want to assume it. So ask the question, and sometimes you know I mean it'. Some of thestories I mean I had a chance of few years agoto write a book with a running. Back probably remember him of war done, work played in Tampa and Atlanta, but he was you know an eighteen yearold, high school senior, when his bother, who was a police officer, was shot and killed in a Robberi at abank and he's eighteen he's no father. He raises his five youngerbrothers and sisters goes become a first round pick in the NFL startscharity buying homes for women like his mom, crazy. The guy is so incredible. I'vebeen interviewed ten thousand timesabout all the amazing things he's done, but one day he and I were just talking-and I yeah the CQ curiosity question. What for mewas if you're, if that, guy that killed your mom were to sit anthere were t, be three of us in a room today. What kind of questions would you askhim? What would you want to know about him, yeah, Whoa, yeah and ultimately, as we began thatconversation about what he'd want to learn from the guy that killed his mom,we discovered we could actually go to Louisiana andsit on death row with the guy, and we did we. We went there and we spent anhour on death row and which wark got to go Ey to iy with the guy that killedhis mom. Alright, like that's just an incredible moment that doesn't but, but it kind of grew from aquestion. That's a weird question to ask somebody: Righti went to say if youcould look in the eye, the guy that killed your mom and so that that willingness to be a littlemore curious about stories and maybe...

...ask a question that for all the years of interviews somepeople might not have it answered, has served me a serv me professionally,pretty well now, plind graduation of ball state, I'm sure there wasn't ashortage of job offer. After just what we've heard, what was your first bigjob? What did you you know? What was your next? What was your next opportunity that youtook yeah? I actually went to San Antonio Texas to work for the bignewspaper in San Antonio, which was a pretty incredible like opportunityright out of college, most people in my profession. You knowyou had to like go to work and the Wewa Hitchka Times, and you know all thoseother things, and I got this really cool chance and I'd inturned there the year before and and it was a mixture of sports and news,which was cool- that I did both even at a big newspaper. I got a chanceto do both, and so I get to play at my passion, but most sports journalism is 't fueled by high seat. This isgoing to sound, really horrible to all my peers. Hopefully I don't like itcrucified here. Most sports journalism isn't fueled by high CQ people rightright. You know they want to know what were you feelingor you know, just the there's, the the seven questions you have to asksomebody after a game after moment whatever, and so I was kind of findingmy space into the mixture of those two places in journalism, went from San Antonito, Dallas DallasMorning News and was you know the youngest reporter on their staff attime and then went down to a smaller paper to have more responsibility inFlorida and then got picked up at sports, illustrated, which you know, there's only thirty ridersfor sportsuaalls Stra in the whole world. So it was a pretty cool por timeand a pretty cool mean my peers are the most talentedpeople I ever had a chance to work with and every day was an opportunity tolearn from them yeah. So if you have a high set to me, it's like all right. Ijust played this game. I know what I did right wrong. Ahi Canyou know I threw three interceptions. We lost the game so when a reportercomes in and they said well, how did you feel about your game, its? It waswhen you have a high CQ as a reporter you're going to ask a better question:that's going to Maou to a better answer, and I think that's what you're gonggetting in right. I mean. How did you feel? How do you think I felt rightexactly ith three interceptions that we lost the game. You know what you reallywant to ask. Is You know where, where you' want to gomight be something about? You know guys e you've played your entire life andhad three games before where you've ever done. This right is there: Is there something you think abouteither your preparation or maybe your the way, you're feeling walking on thefield or is there something they were doing? I mean you know: Where can youhelp me understand how how do you process what happened today?In that sense right and you know it's not just that you threw interceptionthree interceptions. Maybe I mean there was a maybe maybe in that process.You'll share with me that that that morning your daughter hadwoke up really sick and when you got to the field you didn't want to play, butyou realize your backup was limping and you know what you your your mind wasn'tand you know and you're not making an excuse, but somewhere in here. If I getyou to engage my curiosity and appreciatemy curiosity, you're going to give me a better answer. Well, I also feel likethat, a lot of times the human side is...

...missed in repording as athletes rightit's just about what happened. You Yiu know three hours that you played thatgame. Well, you don't understand what happened thatHathat's happend to me where the week before the coach and eyes been in argumentsand we haven't gotten along right- it was a really stressful situation. Now,if you went into somebody's regular, workday and Aske them about why they'restressed out it, maybe traffic or whatever. Well we go through allathletes go through all that stuff too, and have good and bad days right. It'sjust ours ar magnified absolutely because yours goet to watch be watchedby millions folks. So it's about you know it's about trying to find nonsimple answers to what to to find root causes the things that might mean Gosh, you know, did a book with Michael orthe kid from the blindside right, yeah and as he and I are making our waythrough all the homes he lived in and all the different places he grew up,and he talked about running from this womanfrom the department children of families who kept trying to put whorealized H, hi how bad their mother was and wanted to put them in in foster homes right and and they allthought she was the devil, like the devil incarnate. Now, as a grown man,he appreciates that she had a job and was really looking after their bestinterest because she saw what they couldn't see his children and so thenthe question we his gosh, you know if you could, if you, if youcould find her like what would you say? How would how would you? How would youhandle a moment with like a lunch with her Hhe's? Like man, andnext thing, you know, you know I spendin four days finder.She was in her last year. She 's ready to retire and Michael Ore is walking into take her to lunch. To say thank you. That's like the coolest thing ever, you know changed her changed him madethe book better. I mean you know every bit of it happens because you're tryingto figure things out that could have been like. I could have left. Let himjust talk about her as the devil and it would have been good content for a bookyeah or you ask you, go just a little deeper yeah and all of that really kindof comes from. I think growing up around you know my dad was a preacher right, so he wasconstantly trying to explore how to how to get through to people,and so anyway, Don a it's an a place like sportsillustrateevint. How are the writing assignments divvied up like how doesthat work cause? There's Onway, like you said, there's maybe thirty writersand there's a world of topics and how does that work yeah. So there's ahandful of beat people right I mean you know Peter King right would have been you're,probably the guy that you might have seen most often legend, I mean the bestnfl writer ever worked around. He had everybody in his phone. I,though, an anybody that, if he wanted to per iking, you know Tim Laden and Baseball TomBredy, ten Latin College football, Tom Breduci, film Taylor and the NBA, everyone F em,there's a handful who had like beats, and then there was the rest of us rightand and the rest of us just kind of. Sometimes the story would become aparent either through a beat writer that needed somebody. That's not on the beat to tell it,because you know you might have migt ruffle a few feathers and it's easier,forpeter king, to go all that donager guy. What a painment about that guy isright and then keep all of his sources...

...happy, and sometimes it was just that it justworked better to have somebody and then sometimes they were crazy stories. Thatcame my way because people I might have been interviewing or other things thatand just your mind is constantly thinking. What's the story they're notgoing to get in any other medium, and how can I uniquely tell it and ifyou tryng, to constantly think that way? Yo You just you find yourself in themiddle of really cool opportunities, HAC sitting in southern China, withwith you know, Chinese mobsters, who arecounterfeiting, US golf clubs, because they figured out that it's they couldmake more money. Selling Counterfeit Golf Clubs and trying to smuggle drugsin the United States is one of those it's one of these mopser guys said tome until they develop. You know: Gup Gun Golf Club, stiffing dogs. We have amarket right, right and, and so they'r shipping you know, grips, and you knowheads and everything else and putting them together, UnitedStates and you're buying them on Ebay thinking. What a deal and the truth isit's all counterfeit and it was just fastnating to kind of find yourself inthe middle of stories that would, in most other environments, never get told.How do you gain access to Chinese mobsters? Doing that, like Wi would bewhat's the process of man, it's slow right! You you literally kind of you. I mean wefound ourselves in China for a bit making relationships with people whowere doing certain things. Who then, would grow to trust you a little bitnext thing. You know you're just you know, as in anything in life, right,you're, you're! Slowly. If you try to go to aggressivelyt too quickly, a probably don't get the story O be bad.Things could happen right, so you you keep you keep working. Did you ever?Have that a fear of something bad that could happen to you yeah a few times I mean I I went to. I went to Iraq when a year after weeinvaded Iraqs the thing about how many years ago that was right as SaddamHussein iad done a piece about Saddam Hussein's son Udey, who was thechairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and when he was in power. The basement of the Iraqi OlympicCommittee building was a thirty one cell torture chamber where, if he sentyou to the Olympics and said Yteay, you know Dave You O. Looking at you buddy,I think you're, the the third best shotputter in Asia and when you go tothe Asian championships, don't come back finishing any worse than thirdright, and if you came back with the fourth, you go to the Torture Chamber, and thatwas his model of leadership. Right was. That was the way that to inspire thebest and to do that story, I went to several countries and track down Iraqiathletes who had who had escaped and they showed me their scars and theytold me their stories. And so a year later US had invaded Iraq and Saddam was dead, the the sons, the sons were dead and we or Saddam had been captured, butnot et killed, but the sons were dead and I was in because that was the firstyear, two thousand and four that a free, racky team was going to go to theOlympics and I was there to travel with them asthey were preparing to go participate in Olympics without threat of torture,and...

...you know, but I'm but you're in Iracqand there's roadside bombs going off. And you know, though I was in acompound there was a rockets being shot by insurgents overthe over the walls into the compound. I MEA yeah, it's just there were moments.Were you you found yourself thinking. This isfor a sports story, that' exactly what I was just Gong Taanswer, but at the oothe day you know it wascompelling and interesting and all things I did before I had childrenright. So when was the first time you wrote abook like you go to San Ajonio. What was the? What was the first book? Youwrote in win was that so the first book I rode- I was working for the newspaperhere in Florida that and- and I had done a I had. I had arranged a little bit ofopportunity that every so I was I covered politics for thenewspaper but half of every year. I would take off to take to tackle somecrazy assignment, try something new. In one of those half years I went toAfghanistan and traveld with the Mujahadin when they were fighting theSoviets. Again, I know sounds crazy. In one of those half years I traveled andlooked at the best schools in America to find out what they had in commonright and one of those half years I took off and investigated the NC Ui like they investigate. Universitieslike I want to understand what was their process, who were the people thatwere behind their investigations? What were what were their activities likehow thid they spend their money? You know, and, and so anytime you investigate theinvestigators. You generally find a pretty good there's, always a there's,always an audience for it, because all the people who hate the NCA we're goingto read it right and be that you. You know there are a lot of people whodidn't know if they'd hate the INCA that might be interested in what you'rewriting and that series of stories for the newspaper again ultimately opened up. My first everbook deal- and you know, company paid me five tousand dollars towrite a book and I thought I was rolling in it like it. An Gash put itall down the floor in ones and let me roll and and but it was my first opportunity-and it really kind of taught me that I didn't fully appreciate how muchharder it is to go long form and maintain people's attention for two hundred eighty pages. It's hardright and thereare very few stories worthy of that and so, which I know,sounds weird, because you' walkingto a bookstore and youre going gods crazy.But for every book that's published there. Fifty that can turn down. So it's a it's a really neat process, and-and now this fall bout number twenty nine comesout for me- just crazy. What was the first book again, so it was calledundue process, the NCAS injustice for all yeah, the tile going to tell you whereI stood on the issue right. How did they like being investigated? They're,usually the ones that's investigating. I still don't get an invitation to goto the final, for let's just put it that way, Yeathin, and that was twentyfive years ago right I mean there's still people there. I think I'm stillin dark boards there, which is goty. So you wrote your first book you're,still working in a newspaper, you're, doing sports and news yeah and major stories that arehappening in our country, all right. That seems pretty interesting. Mostpeople are just in one or the other you've seen rit kind of combined bothit's because I so I love politics. I mean I live today in TallahasseeFlorida...

...and part because I love politics and Iyou know I look at politics and sports in a lot of the same ways right there. There's a winner and a loser at the endof every at the end of everything. Strategy is credibly, important,creating Culturis, really dynamic and then and then more and more these days, it'sall full contact. So you know basically it's the same thing right right, butyeah. So I, my passions have always kind of run in both directions, so I'vekind of I' always done everything I can to keep myfingers in both pods. How do you feel about the athlete becoming moreinvolved in politics now? So look I mean, I think part of whatmakes America great is the ability, for I mean what what are men and womendying on battlefields for right. It's for a freedom of expression. It's forwill it's fornability to to agree and disagree right. The key to all of it in my opinion is,can we can we do it more respectfully of each other, and I think,unfortunately, at every extreme- it's not it's not asrespectful as it once was. I think people are looking for Anand in some ways. The best way to show to show W. Nothing can be just done right. It hasto be done and amplified and the best way to amplify things sometimes is totry to create almost showman like efforts around it and instead of justdisagreeing, let's wlet's or even seeking compromise, let's, let's, let'stry to do what we can to make everybody in some ways, even criticize the otherside, and I so I'm all for athletes having and using a platform just as much asany other profession writers. But what what I struggle with isdisrespectful use of the platform and- and I and I see that far too oftenthese days have you spent time on a camp ain trail as a journalist, I didyeah I've done well, I not lately, but yes, I did, and I covered through presidentialelections, where I one of which I actually traveled with everycandidate from both parties like they were in the primary, which was a lot of fun because you get a chanceto so yeah. You Know Iowa very well. I do know ioa very well. Yes, I'Vei'vebeen to many a county fair there, baby I've eaten a lot of fried butter orwhatever Ho fried butter. Fried SNICKER Igh, I don't Wrry Tho, you name it.They fryit. What election year was that so the first one I did was. Eightyeight Ani did ninety two and ninety six, soyeah and it was was enough right. You said Swegot back to sports writing and get away from the politics yeah. So so then you've written you're on yourtwenty ninth book now, which is amazing, tell you: How long does it usually takeyou to write a book like as it been a big variable or is it pretty similaryear? So it's about a year so, but you know some come togethermore quickly because the events you know the Precipitateo, the book likesay, do it fast right hit mean be as deep as you can. When the DUK Lacrosse, you know, scandal occurred,...

Ou Kow, I was engaged and the deal washey. You know: how quickly can you get in there get people to trust you getpeople tell you their stories and and turn something around. So youknow, but there was a one. Little Five Yearwent aside. I had a I maybe one of the mostimpactful books I had the chance. Was You remember, Walter Peyton? Obviously,Walter was dying and he wanted. He wanted a wrider o tolive with him, so he could tell his story and he hired me to live with them,and so I lived with Walter for the last ten weeks of his life. Wow was therethe morning he died and just it was this it. It impacted me in a great great way,because I my he was my hero right growin up, likehe's a Gotat I mean and and then to like, be invited in. He was forty sixright hand he died, and so I actually couldn't see myself doing that,throwing myself that deeply into another human again for a while, yeahand t. So I didn't do a book for several years and then I got a phonecall from representatives of Tim Magra, thecountry, music, Singer and his dad was dying. Also, his dad was dying of arain timmer and in theire kind of decisions about how to what to do. In this one n. They reachedout to somother folks, including Conni Payton, and you know, one of the thingsthat came up was that in some way having this writer in their kind ofmits to been helpful and conversation, and so I got the opportunity work withhim and his father. It was so back to back books like I wasbrought in to work with people who already knew they were passing when Igot engaged and to really really impactfulopportunities. Did you encounter some resistance from some of the familymembers because of the privacy issues, or was it we pretty welcome them? You know, I think you always encounter issues atthe beginning and then, if people grow to understand your heart and realizethat you know I'm only here, because someone's asked me to be I'm and I will be as respectful as as I can, understanding the circumstancesand bringing empathy to everything I do and yeah and ultimately, in both cases I mean I still stay very, very closewith Conni and and Brittany and and Jare. You know Walter's two children, I still stay for a while. I served on Tim and Tugs Charity Board after Tugpastd. I is stayclose. You know just yeah, you grow after a while. Ithink if they see your heartright, they realize your you're there, becauseyou care not just because you're going to profit from it, righ and and thenyou and then relationships blossom. Thatare pretty cool, and I assume that your CQ takes a while there to, because youdon't want to. You know, overstep your bounds and then you have to got tobuild that relationship before you really want to pull that thread now.someof the end well- and I think that is, I think, that's the heart of CQright is knowing when to ask the curious question: If you ask it tooearly, it's Tnot, a good question. Even if you know could be the best questionI the world asked the wrong time and it takes you nowhere. So, but it's justamazing to me that...

...you know nobody was going to wlack into WalterPayton in a week and say askany of the questions that you probably were ableto ask him because ten weeks spending that time it just proved to them. Tthat you know we will tell him anything andfor you to spend ten weeks. That's amazing! That's like true to me,journalism, reporting and understanding of what it means to tell the story. Yean and- and you know it's an honor- I mean Ibrittny picking just was asked recently to was asked tha question about the bookand about the experience and- and you know, and she said Gosh it'scoming up on twenty years since her dad died in this November and and she said Don, this became part ofour family and I thought that's like right. Choke chepfl bet right I'spretty cool. No, I agree so you just wrote a recent book da You sent us about Joe. So how was that like? So you know Joe is just as big bigger thanlife figure that had to be like a totally different way to look at it and-and I I really interested to see how your brain was working with Joe did.You know him previous to that. Did I had a mutual friend introduced US andand and so the the crazy part was, you know, joe though he hasn't run fromthe limelight kind of after thes Suzi Kober incident on the sideline of SPN didn't seek itlike he used to, and so he, but he also went into Rehab and went, and you know,hasn't touched t e drop a backall since that night, so he is, but his story ofhealing himself from me's worked on the concussion front, and you know withhe's doing some incredible things with hyperbarric treatment and what it has done for him. I meanI've seen the brain skins, what it's done for him, his belief in that in that model of treatment. So really what happened was tha. Istarted talking to Joe had dinner with him a couple times and his agent andsome other people and kind of propose a an idea around he's iconic, but he had to at some states heal himself and the truth is all of us have to dothat at some stage or all of us go through something in life where we haveto heal ourselves. Most of us don't do it on a stage like his or with a backdrop like his, and I meanyou imagine, sitting in an AA meeting with Joe Naman right, you know, and so it was. It was really he's just an amazinghuman and the opportunity to get a chance to not tell the story of flash andFLAMBOYANCE, which is there, because you have to right, but tell the storyof his journey to heal himself e is really what makes t e story special andwhat's make it's. What makes me feel as I do aboutJo right, because that's a hard thing, easy thing to do. Say Man. I am I'mawesome like I'm so awesome. Everybody should continue to remember I'm awesomeand, if you don't remember, let me tell you I'm awesome right instead Joe's like an I'm troubled and had how do I find my way and he his journeyis, really pretty cool yeah.I heard him on Howard Stern and that interview, which was great andhe talked about how he went from...

...drinking alcohol, his new viceis eating,ice cream and youlost weight eating ice cream. It's like! Oh, that's, the onlyperson I've ever heard of losing weight, eating ice cream because Yeahel thattells you how much alcohol and how much Iwas drinking right right there yeah,you know an you know. Itas great was you know, Howard starn is going to askthe questions. He probably has a Cq like yours, right, he's Gon, to askthose questions that are hetting at the right time and Joe was not afraid. JoeSpoke the truth and which was great and love to hear it. Well, but that's thecool part right. I mean about being seventy five wewere working on it or coming up onseventy five. Is it he's hit that place in his life, wherehe can, he can say th what he needs to say and do it authentically and and that worry about you sitting in judgment of himbecause he's Jo Nam right so you've had all these best sellers you've writtenmany many books out of all of your books. Where do you rank them like hey?This is one that I just. I could go back and read again and again, ifyou're on an island, an Yeeu to take one of your ye you're back in Hawaiiyou're, going to give it to you know little Dan and say I want you to readthis book is a Great Bok. So, first UFF do you have multiplechildren? Yes, okay, so if you were on an island, you had to pick one. Youwould do what I don't know. Well, our daughter, ourdaughter. Always he out is Youne a SAV. Then it goes to game. I DON'TKNOWSO! No,I understand what you're saying way, I'm really glad to know you're like thefirst father, I've ever met, who had the guds to actually say to startnaming them in order, and I hope your children don't watch this and ECAUSE.They know they know we mess with them all the time they're actually Lov peope.So so it's tough to do that. But I wouldtell you because because I'd always mean I had a, I had a someone who Irespect greatly. An author friend of mine who said my favorite book is theone I'm working on today. HICIS, you know right's cheesy right, but but itbetter be ecause. If it's not you're in trouble because t you know, you got tobelieve that every time you're trying to find something new and get better, but I had an opportunity number yearsgo to work with John Wooden yeah, where for every other month for twelveyears, I flew to California for a day with John Wooden and just to learn from him and my and Iand my responsibility was to come prepared with questions to learn not toit was not a writing assignment. It was not a you know. It was just. It waspure straight up opportunity to learn and- and I'm kind of riven by that youknow I love learning and so coachwood gave me that chance and ultimately wewrote a book together, came out ot his ninety nint birthday, his last booklast book written by John Woen bfore. He died about mentoring and so to me, if I hadto hand my son a book and say here's what I'd. If I could have you read onebook and be it's a book in which John Wooldn't explores the the the said mentures of his life right,the people who shaped who he would become and then the seven and sevenpeople whose lives he changed by mentoring them and the eighth you know unsaid in thebook is me right, and so it was kind of a cool thing to be able to kind of show the power of what mentoring meanswhen we do it right, an Neu mentor. Now right you go into companies and you help mentorexecutives and help them understand what it means to be to have leadershipand to be a leader, because I think a lot of executives don't reallyunderstand what that means. Yeah. Now it's a big that is a big big deal to do that ND. So it's kind of a anexciting part of what think I think they're they're walkingin the back of the room there and then...

...but yeah. I do a lot of coaching andventoring even today, but that thats great probably use a lot of that stuff.You learn from cooch wooden in the in the stocks absolutely and every andevery one of them you know if you, if you want to be coacher mensored by me,you better be ready to to listen to a few John woodanisms right. No, that'sthat's great. So we're definitely going to have to read that book. Gate Davebecause we have to really bring this show to the next level increase our CQ.Yes, definitely so done before we go. We do one last little segment. It'scalled the no huddle and it's a two minute drill, and we ask you somequestions. You give us quick answers, long answer, it doesn't matter, but wereally like to go through these and asks kind of some more fun stuff. SoDave always starts ofso Dav. Once you start Okay Don. If you could tradeplaces with anyone in history for a day, who would that be anyone in history for a day, whoever served as assistant to motherTheresa like I would be fascinated how anybody can have the heart to do whatshe did every day and those conditions? That's great,really good answer all right. So what is your biggest pet peeve biggest pet peeve is oh, my gosh people who drive slow inthe fast line, then Gessol O A. I hate that too it'sthe worde or secondarily people who were getting off an airplane and decideat the top of the walkway, but before they've exit into the terminal to stopand check their phone or do something like l and like be aware, feel awarethat that there's a whole line of us trying to get past you- and I knowthat's important whatever you're doing, but that facebook post will be therewhen you get off en you take eight more steps, go yeah. We just want to get offthis tid can let us Lik. If you could go back in time and tell ayoung doneger one fanel te tat be be more patient. I was always in ahurryig like I wanted the next big job, the next big title, the next bigassignment at every I mean at every juncture, and- and it probably it served me poorly in otherimportions of my career that today I can. It took me until recently to fullyappreciate I've literally called editors in the last couple of years.You know with whom I had falling out many years ago to just RECO, say: HeyI've recognized that I apologize right now that it's, that is wonderful. II've done that with a few coaches and it's hard e H, so you you've been a sports writer.You've been to many many sporting events. What is your favorite sportsvenue that you've ever been to the Kentucky Derby? It's the greatestpeople watching like if you are, if you're able to just you know, enjoy thesporting into it. But again the best part is a sports is like two minutesright right, but, and then there's all the time in between those two minutesand just enjoy the people watching, and I love to look at folks and ask what they saw in the mirror thatmorning, that's pretty good Ha. I love doingthat Ar Oto Pats, yes like when you go to busy airport and just a you're.Looking at all the different people, you're like I just you know, this worldis made up of like there's, not one person that looked the same in thiswhole airport and I'm sure the Kintucky Derbyes Lo, I just got back from thebeach, and I was asking that too some of the stuff you see on the beach. What about the most over hype thing insports today,...

...most overhyped thing in sports today. I think it's the it's. The culturewe've created that everything has to be analyzed immediately. You know it's thesense that the second a trade is announced awinner and loser has to also be announced right. We've never seeneither. Either of these players now play with their new franchises, theycould be amazing, and you have no idea I mean, but why everything has to beimmediately. Analyzed is to me, maybe I may not answer your question, but it'sone of those things that drives me crazy. Why we have that need forimmediate assessment of everything is is crazy tome all right don. If we were going through your cell phone- and we said wehad to find the most famous person in your cellphone, who would that be? Oh Gosh Shack, maybe snoop dog- I don't know if you say youcould call either one of them right now and they'd say: Hey Don, what's upshack, all right, John You've written a series of bookswith Brian Kilmead, and you can you tell us one thing that we may not knowabout Brian Hilman? That might surprise the general public he is. He is the most self deprecating humanbeing I've ever worked with, like I love his ability laughitg himself and and that's pretty fun. Like I meanI, like, that's a that's a trait I love in people and it's what attracted me tohim. That's an important quality that I o ee,Sho havhe shows a video every once in a while. When he's speaking to people inwhich you know it's, a young brank Yiull meet and he's on he somewhere andwhoever it is. It's in the studio says, and we have Bryan Kinka down there atthe you know, butlike totally calls I and by like the wrong name, multipletimes he's trying to and- and so you know, Brian Kill me signing off rightat the end, but you knowhe just Lik Tryin to make sure the guy back. Theregets it a anyway have to have a little bit of that. They spelled my name wrongit, my probole Jersey, so you know it's like everybody's like. Why did you geta change? I'm like it's the day of the game. I see my Jersey it as my namefelld wrong ot. What am I going to do? I can't like we're in Hawaii they're,not shipping it back at allbt. You do have to laugh for yourself and have agreat sense of human, but I hope we kind of gave you an idea, adifferent kind of interview and o Ye hat fun today on how to Welp, and thankyou for beating the huddle with us. I did thank you very much for inviting mein.

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