Sometimes, you have to go with your heart more than common sense.
At least that’s the way Dana Jacobson (@danajacobson) felt when she decided to walk away from a new contract proposal from ESPN last spring with no other job offers on the table. She said while she loved her 10-plus years at ESPN, the passion for the job wasn’t there anymore.
Also inspired by the desire to live where she actually wanted to live for once (no offense, Bristol), Jacobson, 41, sold her house and car and moved to New York. Opportunity then knocked when the new CBS Sports Radio network offered her a spot on the morning show.
On Jan. 2, she joined Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney to kick off CBS’ big sports talk radio initiative.
In a Q/A, Jacobson talks about why she left ESPN and how it feels to be one of the few women in sports talk radio.
Why did you decide to leave ESPN?
I knew how it felt to be passionate about doing something. I wasn’t feeling it as much there. I was trying to figure out my place there (after she left First Take). When I first started doing SportsCenter, it was such an amazing thing do. When I started doing it again (in 2012), it was like, ‘Wow, do I want to keep doing this?’
Last January or February, I didn’t feel like there was something drawing me to stay there other than it’s ESPN. It’s a great place, and there are great people. But I needed to do something else.
Were people surprised when you told them you leaving ESPN?
The people who knew me got it. Most people thought I was crazy. ‘Why are you leaving an ESPN offer on the table when you don’t have a job?’ I get it. There were days when I said, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’
But I knew it was right. I knew what I was looking for. I couldn’t describe it, but I’d know when I saw it. If I ever was going to take a chance–I’m not married and have no obligations–this is the time to do it. I didn’t know how it would end up, but I just knew it would work out.
Radio is more free form. You can’t fake it. When I first talked (to CBS), I said, ‘The thing that I love about radio is the thing that scared me to death when the program director at Sacramento first asked me to do it. What if I don’t know something? I don’t know everything.’ TV is much more structured. In radio, it goes wherever it’s going to go. You can’t hide.
It’s a chance to be myself. Yeah, I’ll say something silly sometimes. Hopefully, I’ll also say something intelligent.
There aren’t many women doing sports talk radio. How does a woman fit in on what is considered a guy-talk medium?
The story I tell is that when I first started at ESPN, my dad would say, ‘You’re really good at it, but I’d rather be watching sports with a guy doing it.’ Then at one point, he called, ‘I know you’re my daughter, and I know you’re a woman, but I stopped thinking about whether I was watching a man or a woman.’ I find that as my biggest compliment when someone said something like to me.
I don’t shy away from being a woman and talk about things the way a woman would. Women also listen (to sports talk radio). I hope to fit in by providing a different take on things, a different chemistry. I can say the things nobody else is saying.
It is amazing to me in 2013, that if you look on a national scale, there’s barely any women doing (sports talk radio). I don’t know why. I’m thrilled I have the chance to do it. I hope some young girls will listen and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’
Chemistry is to important on sports talk radio. How do you it is going to work with you, Barber and Tierney?
Sports talk radio is like sitting in the bar with your friends talking about sports. From the first show, I thought there was a good blend. We’re going to be similar on some things, and on some things we’re going to be forever different. When RGIII got hurt, Tiki talked about how he should have pulled himself, because he was hurting the team. I threw it back at him. I said, ‘No way. You never wanted to come out of the game when you were playing. Now you’re saying he should have pulled himself?’ I love those type of discussions.
Where do you hope this all goes?
The TV stuff, we’re playing by ear. I had the opportunity to fill in for Jim (on Jim Rome’s CBS Sports Network show), and that was great. I’ll do some college basketball as we get closer to the tournament.
(When she left ESPN), I never saw the radio thing coming. I hadn’t even thought about radio. It’s very exciting.
I’m not starting over, but it feels like when I first got to ESPN and looked at all the opportunities. It feels the same way here. It’s all very energizing.
Tuesday: The new CBS Sports Radio network has put together a formidable lineup, but will you be able to hear it in your town?