- Linda Cohn, SportsCenter anchor
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[Editor's note: Linda Cohn has a love for all things hockey -- hey, she was a goalie, remember? Well, the ESPN anchor has chronicled that love for sports and rock 'n' roll, as well as her climb to becoming one of the most popular sportscasters in the country, in her new book "Cohn-Head: A No Holds Barred Account of Breaking into the Boys' Club." Below is an excerpt from the book.]
Excerpt: "Rock 'n' Roll"
Without a doubt, the very best career I could ever have had was to become a sportscaster. However, in my dreams, if I couldn't be a sportscaster, I would have wanted to be a rock star. If I couldn't have been a rock star, then I would have wanted to be a groupie. Well, the truth is, I already am a groupie, and have been ever since the first time I saw David Cassidy on The Partridge Family.
The funny thing is, as much as I'm a hopeless rock groupie, a lot of rockers are groupies of mine. It's not their fault; it's just the fallout from our modern times. While I've always thought of rock 'n' roll as a thrill-packed business filled with screaming fans and all-night partying, what I've discovered is a lot of nights on the road end with these hard-core rockers sitting in tour buses or motel rooms in front of a TV watching "SportsCenter." I've had more than one musician come up to me somewhere and say, "I go to bed with you every night." Music may be the universal language, but, at least in America, sports come in a close second.
Over the years, I've had the privilege of meeting a number of great artists, largely because they're such big sports fans. A few years ago, when I was at a charity event in Colorado held by John Elway, I had stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air when someone called out, "Hey, Linda." I turned around to see Bruce Hall and Dave Amato, the bass player and lead guitarist from REO Speedwagon, one of my favorite bands from my college days. Turns out, they're huge SportsCenter fans and, when they were playing in Connecticut a few months later, I invited them up for a tour of ESPN. They, in turn, gave me two tickets to a concert they were doing the following night.
The next thing I know, I'm at the concert with Heather, a cameraperson and fellow huge REO fan, when Dave says, "Hey, later on, make your way backstage and you two can sing back up for us on 'Roll with the Changes.'" (That's my favorite REO song. Even more so than "Time for Me to Fly.") During the song, I share a mike with Dave and Heather shares one with Kevin Cronin, the lead singer. After the concert, the band gives me a copy of my performance on DVD and a pass good for access to every concert they'll perform that year. They must have taken a second look at my singing performance, though, because at the end of the year, no one offered to renew my pass. I still have the DVD, but I'm thinking about destroying the evidence.
More recently, after interviewing him for my online hockey column, I've become friendly with John Ondrasick from Five for Fighting. John's a humongous L.A. Kings fan and, as you might know, the name of his group is a hockey penalty reference.
Of all the musicians I've met, though, one of my all-time favorites has to be Bowling for Soup. As far as I'm concerned, there's something you have to love about a band that takes a bad review -- they were once written up as being "the worst pop band in the history of music … period!" -- and puts it on the back of one of their concert T-shirts as a badge of honor.
I first met the band when I was covering the Summer X Games in 2004. Chris Burney, the lead guitarist, is a hopeless Cowboys fan, and he asked a mutual friend, Jed Drake, to introduce us at an X Games after-party we were both attending. Two hours later, we were still talking about the Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars. The rest, as they say, is history.
One day as I was writing this book, I received a text message from Chris about his Cowboys. Greg, the drum tech for the band, is forever sending me good-natured but antagonistic messages about how his Chiefs are the greatest team in the league and my Giants are going to choke. But as much as it surprises me to say this, it's not the sports connection that I love most about them. It's that this heavily tattooed and pierced band,
with a song catalog generously laden with four-letter words and punk/slacker attitude, is one of the nicest, most fun-loving and humble bunch of guys I have ever met.
Last year, when they invited my family and me backstage at a concert they were playing at Rye Playland, I watched from the rear entrance of the concert hall as they signed autographs in the parking lot. When a group of fans noticed me and started yelling "Linda! Linda!" not only wasn't Bowling for Soup bothered that I might steal some of their thunder, they encouraged me to join them to sign autographs.
As much as I love Bowling for Soup and their road crew, nothing compares to my encounter with my very first heartthrob, David Cassidy. As a young girl, I knew when his birthday was (April 8), where he lived (Laurel Canyon), and what kind of car he drove (I don't remember anymore, but I think it was red). When I was 12, I talked my mother into letting me take the Long Island Rail Road with my friend, Erin, into Manhattan to see a David Cassidy concert at Madison Square Garden. Long before I ever saw the Rangers at the Garden, I was up in the cheap seats screaming my head off for David Cassidy.
In 1997, Rich Eisen was set to do a human-interest story in Las Vegas prior to the Evander Holyfield–Michael Moorer fight. It was the first time ESPN was sending him out of the studio to do a piece, and he wanted to really wow them. Rich told me, "I don't want to make this one of those typical Xs and Os boxing preview pieces. It's Vegas, so I want to incorporate some of the regular acts on the strip into the piece to make it funny."
He pulled out some Vegas show flyers and was telling me about the different acts he was going to try to incorporate into the story when I saw a brochure for the MGM Grand with David Cassidy on the cover. Expectedly, I went crazy, and Rich said he would try to incorporate my infatuation with David Cassidy into the piece. Although it's kind of an unwritten law for a reporter not to ask a celebrity for an autograph, I broke the rule and asked Rich if he would please get me a signed photograph if at all possible.
Rich developed an outline for the piece he was going to do and, when he approached David Cassidy with the idea, he was surprised to find out that David was actually a fan of mine. He was happy, he said, to go along with Rich's idea. The final piece begins with Rich meeting David in his dressing room and asking him if they can hang out together after the show. David tells Rich that he'd like to, but his favorite SportsCenter anchor is Linda Cohn (me!) and he feels it would be like cheating on me if he hung out with Rich. Then the camera pans back to reveal that David's entire dressing room is plastered with pictures of me. I know it was just an amusing, made-up piece, but when I saw David acting as if he was infatuated with me, I became that 12-year-old little girl again.
Alas, my fantasy was destroyed a few years later when I was in California for the opening of Disney's California Adventure and I saw David there with a Yankees cap on. A Yankees cap! I could have accepted David being a Dodgers fan since they both moved to Los Angeles around the same time, but why did he have to be a Yankees fan?
We agreed to stay friends despite our differences.
Linda Cohn is an anchor for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS. She has been with the network since 1992. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.