Speak for Yourself
By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
If you are you are a sports fan like me then you are likely having daily debates with your friends and colleagues about any variety of topics in the world of sports. The guys on the set of FS1’s “Speak for Yourself” are not much different. As part of FOX Sports’ 11 hours of live and uncut daily programming “Speak for Yourself” airs on FS1. A few years after FS1 launched in 2013, “Speak for Yourself” premiered in 2016 and is currently hosted by Jason Whitlock and Marcellus Wiley.
The production of “Speak for Yourself” includes four key segments, surrounded by multiple guest analyst, who’s participation varies depending on the topics. Having had a chance to sit down with Whitlock and Wiley earlier this month, I will share with you some insights, directly from the source, on what makes this lively sports talk show one that anyone can enjoy and feel a part of. Before we go deeper into their show, let’s take some time to learn about the men inside Whitlock and Wiley.
It’s been said, in various fashions, by multiple people, “’find something you love to do, and you won’t have to work a day in your life!’’’ Jason Whitlock, son of James and Joyce Whitlock, has been able to successfully do just that. As a childhood fan of the Indiana Pacers and an avid sports fan and reader of the newspaper in his youth, this Indianapolis, Indiana native felt articles written in his local paper was “written for the players and coaches, not thinking about the reader.” As Jason began his career in Journalism, initiated by a conversation with a friend in college, his main purpose has been to “write for the readers, ask the question, write the opinions, or get at the issues that fans want to be discussed, talked about, and probed.”
As a proud alumnus of Ball State University, Jason Whitlock award-winning journalistic career began with the Herald-Times in Bloomington, Indiana, He has used his voice to lead his development into a distinguished role model for a young journalist. His passion for sports and “holding teams accountable” has earned him recognition when he became the first sportswriter to win The Scripps Howard Award for his commentary on sports in 2008. Jason also acknowledges winning this award as being his “highest achievement as a journalist,” and his shining “validation on his approach to sports.”
Teaming up with Jason on “Speak for Yourself” is Columbia University alumnus Marcellus Wiley. Marcellus, a former NFL Defensive Lineman and a native of Compton, CA., has not only manage to overcome the stigma placed on those from the inner-city and humble beginnings, but he has also become a role model for many young men and his peers alike. Admittedly, Marcellus “was eager to learn” and “did not want to be perceived as a dumb jock.” Therefore, he consciously chose to couple education with his athletic ability, “playing the long game” as he called it. While acting on his responsibility to help his “family to make it out.”
Many former professional athletes have experienced depression and found it difficult to adjust to life once their playing days are done. Impressively, Marcellus has re-invented himself in his second career as a media mogul and has become yet another example that there is life for athletes off the field. His unique experiences in the locker rooms and on team planes as a player, affords Wiley a perspective not many have. His ability to eloquently convey his message makes him a staple in the sports media industry.
After several months of being retired at 32, and not much on his plate, Marcellus leaned on his desire to fulfill more in life. As somewhat of an afterthought, he conducted multiple random interviews with ESPN; “that was the first time he found the same level of passion and energy like running through the tunnel and hearing 80,000 fans screaming; when that light came on.” Wiley’s self-proclaimed, “huge passion for translating the game,” is proving to be a natural fit in this new role.
The key segments which make up “Speak for Yourself” are Jason’s “Whit-log”, which opens each episode and becomes the initial topic of discussed on each show. Marcellus’ “Dat Dude” segment recognizes the play of the less heralded players on the field and their game-changing plays. Their social media guru Darnell Smith brings a youthful exuberance to the show along with some curious questions from a millennial’s standpoint. Uncle Jimmy, well you’ve got to see the show to understand Uncle Jimmy, even then you still may not understand him. But per Whitlock, “Uncle Jimmy, his purpose is to add comic relief” and poke holes in the daily takes of Jason and/or Marcellus on any of their outlandish takes.
Jason Whitlock acknowledges that he has more fun on the set of “Speak for Yourself” by saying that, “TV is more fun. Television is a group/team effort.” He also made it clear that “Nothing compares to writing!” Whitlock continued on to say, “writing is a very lonely endeavor. Just you and a computer and your thoughts.” Fortunately, for Jason, because of the path he paved for himself, he has combined the fun of having sports banter with his passion for writing, every day when constructing and producing his Whit-logs.
Just as he did on the football field, Marcellus has shown he’s willing put in the necessary work to ensure success. In this new life, he has refined the Dat Dudes segment. In this segment, Wiley’s provides a “deeper focus on what’s really happening beyond the first layer” of what the normal viewer sees. This segment usually highlights plays happening in the trenches during football season.
In the words of Whitlock, Darnell Smith brings a “youthful, millennial, positive look at social media.” The Ball State alumnus and Social Media Manager Darnell includes a “ Question of the day,” segment which he is genuinely seeking advice about life on a personal level. He’s asking Whitlock and Wiley, including the guest analyst, questions as he would ask his older brother. These unique questions that Darnell typically come from his social media followers or his personal brainstorming.
Uncle Jimmy wraps up “Speak for Yourself”, and the addition of Jimmy Dodds is an example of a couple of deep-rooted values of Jason Whitlock. Jimmy is an example of Jason reaching back to his community to bring someone along on the path to success. Due to the belief and confidence, Jason has in Jimmy’s comedic talents, their 20 +year friendship has now become a professional working relationship on “Speak for Yourself.” Uncle has been afforded the autonomy to wear the most elaborate costumes seen on television. Now, that he has access to the Fox Costumes… his daily outfits will continue to have viewers gasping day after day. Uncle Jimmy also challenges Whitlock and Wiley on their individual commentary, from earlier in the show.
The inclusion of Uncle Jimmy’s role on this show is also an example of Whitlock being a life coach to some while being a role model for many others. Taking his responsibility seriously to make the people better around him better, Jimmy facetiously made this point about his relationship with Jason, “you can lead someone to water, but if you hold their head underwater to make the drink, that’s called waterboarding, that’s against the law. Even though you know they need to drink!” I took this to mean one could try to help someone as Jason did him, but until that person wants to improve, there’s nearly nothing another person could do to help someone.
Guided by the religious foundation of his Grandmother, Jason infused his mother’s outspokenness and work ethic with his father’s independence and entrepreneurship to excel in his career. Jason passionately stated both his parents had “big balls” which has also influenced his approach to life along with his perspectives and delivery throughout his career.
Growing up in Compton, CA., Marcellus’ describes his drive and motive came from “the elements in the community; the adversity I saw people facing; the low ambition.” “To see that there is talent unrealized in his family!” Speaking of his parents, who “had jobs and not careers.” Marcellus continued to say that, “I wanted to the use that love, use that support and confidence to give me energy.”
When I asked each of these men about what the best lesson, either one of them, have learned from sports would be, Marcellus quickly responded by saying “toughness and work ethic.” Whitlock emphatically stated that many of his values in life come from the church or sports. “Believing that all solutions come from within. Control what you can control, and we’ll be fine.”
As host of “Speak for Yourself”, Jason Whitlock and Marcellus Wiley present perspective in mainstream media that isn’t seen everywhere. Fox Sports has afforded these men to share their thoughts with positions for the world to see. Whitlock confidently and proudly feels this show is a success because this show highlights “Responsible men to have the responsibly masculine conversation.” Meanwhile, Wiley enjoys “being that bridge and will translate things from an athletes’ point of view,” with the purpose of mending to divide which is being experienced between the athlete and mainstream media.
It was certainly a pleasure to sit down with each of these men and hear about their individual growth and development in addition to understanding what propels them. If you are not able to watch their live uncut, airing of “Speak for Yourself”, which airs daily on FS1 at noon pacific standard time, their show is well worth adding on your DVR. Upon viewing of the show, it will be easy to see why each of these men has been successful in their multiple endeavors. Please let me know your thoughts on “Speak for Yourself”, Jason Whitlock or Marcellus Wiley by commenting in the comment section of this article on www.whatsgoodinsports.com or @whatsgoodnsport on Twitter.