Sports columnist plays to broader audience with lawyer co-host
Sun Jul 10 2011
I don’t know anyone at the Sun-Times who has more fun than Elliott Harris.
His Quick Hits column, which he’s been writing for the past 13 of his 32 years at the paper, is both a destination and a guilty pleasure for his fans. The sheer exuberance with which Harris celebrates the ultimate middle-aged man’s fantasy — spotlighting beautiful women who love sports (or at least have some connection to sports) — is what keeps readers coming back for more.
So it’s nice to see my old colleague expanding his brand these days. In addition to operating a sports lover’s cheesecake factory on his own website, Harris hosts a weekly interview show with David Spada, a Chicago area workers’ comp and personal injury lawyer who’s equally passionate about sports.
Since January, Harris and Spada’s Sports & Torts has been streaming at noon Thursdays on talkzone.com (where it can be downloaded any time). It’s an outgrowth of Bearly Legal, which aired until last year on WIND-AM (560). Their current one-hour program consists of three segments: two with Hall of Fame caliber athletes and coaches and one with an attractive female who’s somehow, some way, related to the sports world.
In the following conversation staged for my benefit, Harris and Spada revealed what they’re really up to:
Q. Why Sports & Torts and why talkzone.com?
DS: We chose talkzone because I had worked with them before on Bearly Legal and knew that they had professional studios and personnel who have worked in the business for major Chicago radio stations and national networks. Our producer, Dave Olson, not only runs the board but gives evaluations and advice on how to improve the show. Toward the end of last year, Chris Witting, the president of talkzone, brought to my attention that he was able to do video podcasts. That really intrigued me. I approached Elliott, who was part of Bearly Legal at the time, and said that would make for even better podcasts. We could add images and video of the former athletes and show them while they were being interviewed. Elliott and I agreed to take the show in a little different direction and add a little spice by adding interviews with beautiful women. Beautiful women and athletes make for a winning combination.
EH: Well, after we ruled out Sports and Tarts as the name of the show, this seemed the closest to that. Talkzone.com is great for all the reasons David stated, and for providing the great female voice for our show intro. Plus it’s a fairly short drive to the studio in Morton Grove. What more could you ask for?
Q. How do you enjoy branching out from football, which used to be the main focus of Bearly Legal?
DS: I love talking baseball because it’s my favorite sport. I am living a dream. How many times do you hear someone talk about meeting a sports star or celebrity? They glow when they tell the story. I get to do this every week several times with the beautiful women and athletes. I have interviewed over 85 Hall of Fame football, basketball and baseball players. We talk about their careers and hear about their great games, legendary teammates and get their insight about today's game.
EH: Having a broader spectrum hopefully brings a broader audience. We haven’t forsaken football. When it’s time, football will be an important part of the show. I do enjoy hearing the stories from players of generations past. Plus it’s nice to connect with someone I saw play decades ago. And I think it’s good for the guest to talk with someone who actually witnessed them during their playing career.
Q. What’s it like working together?
DS: Working with Elliott is great. He knows all sports and being a writer for decades knows how to conduct a great interview by asking relevant questions and listening to the guest answers and play off the answers for follow-up questions. His sense of humor is great and he makes the guests feel comfortable. What's scary is that Elliott a lot of times asks the questions I was going to ask.
EH: That’s definitely scary, but at least now our spouses have someone to commiserate with. I thought I was going to be the smart aleck on the show. Little did I know I’d have to share that role with David. His quick wit and vast knowledge — I don't know anyone who is more thorough in his preparation, must be the lawyer in him — are a mighty one-two punch. Not only that, David is the guy who lands the males guests. Bobby Doerr, Dolph Schayes, Paul Warfield, Bubba Smith, Cazzie Russell, Rick Barry, Lenny Wilkens, Jim Bunning, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda, Al Rosen, Sam McDowell, to name a few. I’m impressed.
Q. Who’s the No. 1 guest you'd like to have?
DS: My dream guests are Dan Marino, my favorite football player of all time, and Alyssa Milano from the entertainment world. What do they have in common? They are both Italian like me.
EH: Anna Kournikova -- but only if she’s in studio. Enough of this long-distance relationship. She long has been a fixture and a favorite in my column and always has been a good sport. Maybe being on NBC’s The Biggest Loser will provide a chance for her to be in Chicago. I know there’s a Cubs punch line in there somewhere, but I’ll let your readers fill in their own. Among males, my dream guest would be Hugh Hefner. I’ve long been a reader of Playboy. Mostly for the football and baseball previews, of course. His societal impact has been profound. I’d simply like to talk about the sports types who have intersected his life.
Q. Your goal for the show?
DS: My goal is to continue putting out a quality show and keep having fun. I want to get the show syndicated on satellite radio and get more sponsors.
EH: Who’s reading whose mind now? Great minds think alike. And so do David and I.