Beadlemania! Michelle Beadle's Star Rising at ESPN
Which brings us to ESPN's "SportsNation."
"It's a family," says co-host Michelle Beadle, 34, "and so our goal is to never have an honest moment."
"Seinfeld" trumpeted the mantra "no hugging," while perhaps the best comedy to come along in its wake, "Arrested Development," devoted an episode to "No touching!" At "SportsNation," co-hosted by Colin Cowherd and the sincerity-averse Beadle, feelings are given the Heisman.
And they like it that way.
It's August and, as anyone who follows sports knows, that means two-a-days. So perhaps that explains Beadle's schedule today. By 6 a.m. she was inside Studio E in Bristol, Conn., on the first day of a two-day stint taking Mike Golic's reps on "Mike & Mike." Her co-host, Mike Greenberg, expressed displeasure at finally having a partner who was prettier than himself.
During the four-hour TV/radio simulcast, the blonde Beadle good-naturedly ripped LeBron James, adding herself to the list of detractors of whom he's been making "mental notes." Then she was off to Studio B for another daily taping of "SportsNation" with Cowherd, who tapes his own nationally syndicated radio show each weekday morning.
"Mama needs a nap," Beadle says as she primps for the show.
The bombardment of Beadle seems to be working for the Worldwide Leader. Later on this day, August 11, "Michelle Beadle" will become the most searched term on Google Trends. Beadlemania is approaching a new zenith.
"I just use that type of stuff to rip the guys on the crew," says Beadle. " 'You better start treating me like a star!'"
Don't look now, Michelle, but 14 months after SportsNation made its debut, you are. The brass in Bristol love you because you're high-demographic and low-maintenance. The audience loves you because you're funny and reasonably (as opposed to unreasonably) attractive. You may be eye-candy, but if so you're Sour Patch Kids.
"This show has both the youngest and most male audience of any regular-aired program on our network," an ESPN spokesperson tells you.
The name of the show is "SportsNation," but it might just as easily be called "Pardon the Insurrection." The phrase "Quiet on the set!" is anathema here and cacophony is encouraged during a taping. The inmates run the asylum here. Beadle and Cowherd appear to be the oldest people inside Studio B, if not the only two above legal drinking age.
A dialogue between Beadle and Cowherd about LeBron leads one producer to bleat, "Miami Mallet!" (a play on Beadle's neologism for James, "The Akron Hammer") as if he has Tourette's. During breaks, a crew member known as Finberg, whose appearance answers the question, "What if a garden gnome mated with Heat Miser?", breaks into a rendition of "What Up With That?" from the popular "Saturday Night Live" skit. Cowherd scans the Internet for sports news while Beadle, the show's self-appointed "mama," flashes a slightly bemused June Cleaver look.
"We are the loud obnoxious kids up in that pod," Beadle says of "SportsNation's" spot in the ESPNiverse. "Bob Ley's right next to us. I mean, Bob Ley."
She grew up around San Antonio. Her father, Bob Beadle, now retired, was an executive at Valero Energy. Her mother, Serenella Paladino, is from Italy. They met while Bob was in the Navy and stationed in Europe.
"My mother came here and didn't speak English," says Beadle. "We were really each other's best friends. We learned the language together. To this day, my mother hates Dr. Seuss."
To judge from her banter with Cowherd or any male who happens upon the "SportsNation" set (she gets on famously with Bill Simmons), you'd think that Beadle had a slew of brothers. In fact, she has just one brother and sister, both younger.
"I always hung around with boys as a kid," she says. "I remember the day it all changed. Seventh grade. My best friend, Pat McCormack, went to try and snap my bra but I didn't have one yet. They all started making fun of me. I was a late bloomer."
She graduated 12th in a class of 188 from Boerne High School (only the smart kids recall their class rank) and claims that, contrary to what you see on weekday afternoons, she is not an extrovert. "I was nerdy, everything had to be perfect," says Beadle, who never had a drink before her 21st birthday. "To the point of ulcers."
After six semesters as a pre-law student at the University of Texas, as her interest in the local music scene grew while her GPA plummeted, she dropped out. "I stopped going to class because I hated it," she says.
As for her parents? "Their attitude was, 'You're old enough, you can figure this out, ' " Beadle says.
But not promptly. At Texas Beadle had interned for the Austin Ice Bats, a minor-league hockey team that played in an oversized barn. She followed a friend on the team first to Pensacola, Fla., and then to Peterborough, Ontario, where his family raised Great Danes (yes, this is beginning to sound like a Dr. Evil soliloquy ... "Summers in Rangoon ...").
"I don't remember thinking anything through, it just kind of happened," she says. "I spent three years up there. What did I do? Mostly hung out, drank Molson and listened to Our Lady Peace."
Then one day the prodigal daughter decided to return home. Via Greyhound bus. And that, if this were a VH-1 "Behind the Music" special, is when she hit bottom. "I was at the bus station in Dallas," Beadle says. "I was by myself and the guy next to me looked sick, drug-addicted. Have you been in a bus station lately?"
"And so, after 40 hours on the bus, of being treated like dirt, I decided I couldn't take it anymore," she says. "I took a cab to the airport and flew home from Dallas."
This may not make her career day speech, either, but what followed were waitressing gigs at Rudy's BBQ and Carrabba's. Finally, and not exactly soon after she returned home, her father asked, "Well, pumpkin, what are you going to do?"
With her dad's assistance, she met with San Antonio Spurs senior vice president Lawrence Payne. Eventually that led to a gig with Spurs broadcasting ("I didn't do anything in front of a camera for a while," she says), and so began a long and curious trip up the rungs of the TV ladder: she was a "behind-the-chutes" reporter for the Professional Bull Riders' Bud Light Cup Tour, a host on Discovery Channel's "Get Packing" and the anchor for Animal Planet's "Animal Planet Report".
"It was me at a desk for thirty minutes, providing news for animal fans," says Beadle, who has a dog. "I tend to like animals more than I like people."
She also hosted a show about the New York Yankees for the YES Network, covered various red carpets for People.com ("You can be as cool as you want, but when you see Brad and Angelina, it's just kind of weird"), and eventually became a sideline reporter for the New Jersey Nets. All the while allowing her David Letterman-meets-Kelly Ripa personality shine through.
"The positive was the blissful ignorance I had," Beadle says. "I took every job as its own experience. Even now, what helps is having been a part of a lot of (shows) that only lasted a year.
"The negative was I started four or five years late."
Again, a late bloomer.
She's here now. When your show has the youngest and highest male concentration of any program on ESPN, the suits notice. "Michelle's very smart and she has a bright future," says ESPN executive vice president of content John Skipper. "The chemistry that she and Colin have, that's the kind of magic you're always searching for."
Even the smart kids are beginning to take notice. Not long ago the "SportsNation" gang were hanging out at their cubicles, amusing one another by simulating gunshot sounds. Bob Ley, the Professor Kingsfield of ESPN talent, shot them a look. Then he whipped out his iPhone and used an application that made its own gun sounds.
"Bob Ley," says Beadle. "That happened."
Mischief is acceptable. Affection? As this interview, taking place inside ESPN's cafeteria, concludes, "NFL Live" analyst Mark Schlereth approaches. The two exchange some good-natured insults. Schlereth moves in for a noogie-like buddy-style embrace.
Beadle instinctively recoils, a distaff Rainman to Schlereth's Charlie Babbitt.
This is "SportsNation," after all. No hugging.