SBJ/November 12-18, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Thinking back, looking ahead: Ed Goren

From a brick to the head to launching Fox Sports, never a dull moment

After more than four decades in the business, Fox Sports Media Group Vice Chairman Ed Goren is stepping down.Goren, who helped to launch Fox Sports in 1994, will remain a consultant for the network for the next year. SportsBusiness Journal staff writer John Ourand caught up with the former Fox Sports executive producer as he was preparing to cover his final World Series with the network.
At Cowboys Stadium for the Fox Sports news conference at Super Bowl XLV in 2011
Photo by: AP IMAGES

After such a long career in sports, it's interesting that you actually got your start in news.
Goren: My dad probably gave me the best advice. He said, “Don’t go into sports. I know you know sports. Get a job in news and learn what a story is about. Learn how to tell a story. Hone your writing skills.” So in the fall of 1966, I started out as a copy boy at CBS News, and I spent a couple of years there.

What do you remember most about your time in the news business?
Goren:
During the Republican convention in 1968, there were riots breaking out in an area of Miami not far from the Orange Bowl. I went out there with my cameraman, and we get put behind a police barricade where we couldn’t see anything. Like a fool, I said to my cameraman, “We’re not getting anything sitting here. Follow me. I’m going to crawl out. Let’s get beyond the barricade and get some decent footage.” The only decent footage that we just missed getting was me getting hit in the head with a brick and being laid out on the street. I was carried off by the cameraman and a couple of the news guys who broke out to get me out of there. I ended up going to the hospital and got some stitches over my eye. My first call was back to New York to my parents to say, “If you hear anything, I’m fine.” As it turned out, a reporter for CBS News was on live for CBS Radio, who knew me. Apparently, he was on the air when I got hit and filed a report.

You spent more than two decades at CBS Sports. But it was your decision to help launch a new network in Fox Sports in 1994 that must have been the most exhilarating.
Goren: If you go back to 1993, Dick Ebersol and NBC were making a lot of noise that they felt they were overpaying for an AFC package. Along the way, the common belief was that this upstart network with a maverick leader in Rupert Murdoch was going after the NBC package. I don’t know why, but at some point I got it into my head that if this Rupert Murdoch was the maverick that everyone said he is, the riverboat gambler that everyone says he is, why would he go after the second-best package and overpay to get it? If he’s overpaying, why not overpay for the best package?

How did you get the Fox Sports job?
Goren with the NFL’s Roger Goodell (left) and former boss David Hill
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Goren:
Fox gets the NFC package, and now there is almost a weekly piece in Rudy Martzke’s USA Today column speculating as to who is going to get the job at Fox. It was all A-list usual suspects. My name never turned up in any column. Out of the blue, in January, I got a call from a guy named George Krieger at Fox asking me if I’d come out and interview for the executive producer job at Fox Sports. He wanted me to come out the day after I was in Dallas with the CBS entourage for a survey before the NFC championship game. My dilemma was, how do I get away from this CBS entourage? I get into Dallas with the entourage. I see Rich Dalrymple, the Cowboys PR guy. I said, “Rich, if anybody asks, I’m staying over tonight to have dinner with you and Jimmy Johnson. If it comes up, that’s what I’m doing, but don’t book a reservation. I’ll explain it later.” We go through the survey. The CBS entourage heads to the airport. There I am staying to have dinner with Rich and Jimmy. Once they left, I explained to Dalrymple that what I was really doing was heading to the airport, flying to L.A. for a meeting at Fox the next day.

How has your job changed over the years?
Goren: I had a luxury. I got to work with David Hill. I know he’s quirky. I know he’s hard to understand. But he is a producer. To have a boss who is a producer made my job so much easier. In my 18 or 19 years, I focused on one thing: My pride and joy, my focus every day, was Fox Sports. Yes, we spun off and had the regional sports networks and Speed. I had the luxury of just focusing on Fox Sports. For Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, now that there’s a consolidation of all the sports entities, [they] have a much bigger job and a much more difficult job. That has changed.

Where else have you seen changes?
Goren introduces Jimmy Johnson as a member of Fox Sports’ NFL pregame show in 1994.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
Goren:
We were rebels. With Hill, there was nothing that was too ridiculous or too outrageous. If we liked an idea, we were going to go with it. If it weren’t great and didn’t work, we’re not going to dwell on it. We’d just start looking for the next good idea. As companies mature, companies tend to get a little conservative. That is a danger and something we’ve talked about in recent years. You’ve got to keep your mojo. That’s a challenge. The team we have in place is handling that challenge.

On industry panels over the years, you frequently referred to yourself as a “Luddite” — that is, someone who wanted to focus on TV rather than the digital business. Is that still true?
Goren: I’m still a Luddite. But I have two organizations that are looking to create digital product that have asked me to join them. I’m not quite the Luddite that I was back then. But I haven’t grown that much, either. I still have to call my son to figure how to run a DVD at home.

What advice can you give to people starting out in the business?
Goren: Get started before you get started. While you’re still in college, go volunteer at the local station. At the nearest football or baseball game taking place that weekend, get hired as the runner. There are a lot of talented producers. But the best of them have great people skills. Here you are as a producer, and you’re in charge. You have to be able to convince your high-priced talent that this is the direction that we’re going on the show or in the opening. Or make it their idea. But people skills are critical in every business. In the heat of battle, in a television truck live, you better have great people skills.


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