You just don’t hear people in the sports radio business say negative things about Lincoln Kennedy. I’ve heard the opposite many times — person after person raving about him instead of being critical. Linc is one of the most highly respected individuals in the broadcasting business. It’s easy to tell why there is zero chance all of the praise is made up — he’s a genuine guy. Broadcasters also don’t dream up positive comments that are untrue about other broadcasters.
Lincoln has moved to the radio booth alongside Brent Musburger this year to serve as the color commentator for Oakland Raiders broadcasts. He talks about the transition as well as his approach to calling games. Lincoln also serves as an analyst and commentator for the Pac-12 Network and co-hosts The Fellas each Saturday morning from 6-10am ET on FOX Sports Radio with Anthony Gargano.
Striving to avoid being known as a homer is a big deal to Lincoln. He also reveals what gives him the most satisfaction about being a broadcaster. Lincoln describes some of his former radio partners and provides a hilarious summary of The Marine, in which he made a cameo appearance. Let’s just say Linc isn’t beaming about the movie the same way people beam about him.
Brian Noe: What do you enjoy the most about calling Raider games in the booth?
Lincoln Kennedy: I guess it’s a way for me to be around the game, be a part of the game, but not actually physically playing the game. I never thought I was going to be in broadcasting, so when I found my way to FOX Sports Radio, things kind of went from there. Given the opportunity to be a commentator — and I jumped at that opportunity — has been somewhat rewarding for what it’s worth.
Noe: Do you look back now and say, “I didn’t even know I was going to be in broadcasting at all and now I’m calling games in the booth”? Do you pinch yourself when it comes to that?
LK: For a number of reasons that’s true. I also pinch myself for the fact that I’m working next to a legend in Brent Musburger. Greg Papa was very good to me and he helped me out. I owe him a large debt of gratitude for getting me up to speed on how to do the things efficiently and effectively in the booth, especially for radio, because radio is a different calling aspect than it is for TV. There are differences between the two that you have to be able to switch back and forth like I do. That’s one of the other things that’s rewarding about it.
Noe: As a broadcaster how do you handle feedback from fans who are upset with the Raiders moving to Vegas pretty soon?
LK: You just be honest. You know, Brian, one of the things that I wanted to do when I got into broadcasting and started taking it as a profession, was I wanted to develop a voice. The way I look at it, my thoughts are I call it like I see it. I don’t pull any punches. I didn’t want to be described as a homer just because I was affiliated with the Raiders. That was a big deal to me.
Naturally when the news came down — and my affiliation with the organization as well as my affinity to the city of Oakland — I was disappointed. I was disappointed that they couldn’t get anything done. I also said within that time frame — I’ve been around this organization for 26 years — in that time they had many opportunities to get a stadium done. It just never happened. The team, to me, is one of the more iconic teams in professional sports. The fact that they have to share a stadium with a baseball team is embarrassing.
You point out those facts to people and then they kind of see it your way. Yeah, they’re losing their team. No doubt about it. It sucks. You also have to remember it’s a business and a lot of fans do agree, look they deserve their own stadium. They should have their own stadium. Why hasn’t anything gotten done? It’s sad that it had to come to this.
Noe: When it comes to developing your own voice and not being a homer — there are a lot of franchises that are very controlling in terms of the message that comes out. Has that ever been the situation with the Raiders where they say, “Hey, we want you to lean heavy in favor of the team”?
LK: No, that’s never been the case. The only time that’s ever happened to me — where somebody tries to steer your opinion or tell you which way that you should take the conversation — was when I was with the NFL Network. That was the only time. Other than that, you’ve got to be mindful. You can’t be too critical of the organization you work for. I think that there have been guys who have done that in the past and they haven’t lasted for very long because everything gets out. Everything’s heard. No one’s ever tried to censor me or tell me to steer clear or lean heavy one way or the other. Like I said I just call it like I see it.
Noe: Was it ever difficult that you couldn’t be completely honest when you worked for NFL Network?
LK: Yeah, it was difficult. The way I felt, especially living in this country you have freedom of speech. If somebody comes up and asks you a question, for example, “Why aren’t there more minority coaches in the National Football League?” When the question was posed to me, I thought because, “Hey, it’s a good ol’ boy network and they don’t want them.” That was my answer, but you couldn’t say that.
We stood clear of the conversation. We went back to, “So, when do you think Brett Favre is going to retire?” That type of thing. These were instances that I’ve had in my life, especially in broadcasting, that I’ve come into where people were trying to steer clear of a certain topic or subject, or try to steer you in a different direction.
Noe: It can be tricky to be mindful of who you are employed by, but still be honest at the same time. The Raiders are having a rough season. What are some of the positives that you look for and honestly articulate?
LK: I’m hoping to see improvement. I’m hoping to see consistency or better efficiency. When you are deficient and you know that you’re deficient in a certain area — for example the Raiders and pass protection. Well, then the following week when you come out, you want to see if they’ve made any adjustments. If they’ve done anything to get the led out to move in the right direction.
You want to see that type of progress rather than just hitting your head up against the wall and doing the same thing every single night. That’s what I’m looking for when I’m looking at this team, especially critiquing the team. I’m hoping that players play better or guys step up and play harder and just show effort. That’s what I’m trying to translate to the listeners.
Noe: Are there ever media members that didn’t play in the NFL that tend to get something consistently wrong while covering the NFL?
LK: I’m sure there are. I don’t know anything that stands out right off the top of my head.
Noe: I was just wondering as a former player if you ever look at a guy who covers the NFL and there is ever something they say where you’re like, “That’s not right at all.”
LK: You know what, I do know this — and I’ve experienced this — I feel for the beat writers or the writers that have to cover the sport, or have to go in the locker room because it is a different world. It’s a different world altogether and they have a job to do. They have a job that they want to translate whatever is going on with that team to the audience. So they have to ask you questions like, “How did it feel when you lost the game?” That type of stuff.
When I’ve interviewed players coming off the field, you try to get them relaxed. You try to get them to open up because there is a standard code of answers that players are going to give. Then you try to go a little offbeat if you will, “Hey man, I heard you like to play video games. What’s your favorite video game?” That type of thing — just to try to get them to relax a little bit, but that doesn’t always address what the listeners or the people who are reading the articles want to know. “I want to know what’s going on with my team. Why are they losing?”
You’ve got more players giving up more information than ever on their own – “I bumped up my ankle. Don’t start me on your fantasy team. I think I’m going to be out a couple of weeks,” on Twitter. These types of instances. These are the things that you are up against now so I kind of feel sorry for the beat writers, or journalists, or even us in radio. Our show doesn’t take call-ins. We don’t take a lot of guests. We generate the talk for four hours. I’ve been on shows that have and it’s hard to get something out of guys when they just don’t feel like talking about it.
Noe: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the booth and also the most rewarding part of doing sports talk radio?
LK: The most rewarding part about being in the booth is just being around the game. Being around the game, being able to watch the game. When I was on the sidelines I could sense the energy. I watched body language. I was right there in the thick of things. Same thing as now from a booth, it’s just a little different perspective.
For sports talk radio the reward is when people come up and say, “Hey man, that was a good show the other day. I listen to you on the way to work. I just love you guys.” Whatever it is, comments that are positive or negative because we have them all. It’s also the relationship that I’ve built with guys like Anthony Gargano who I’ve now known for, shoot, almost 10 years I think it is. The relationships and being on a medium that is worldwide. It’s not just in Arizona or California, it’s nationally. It really is a good, rewarding feeling.
Noe: What would you say is the toughest part of being in the booth covering the Raiders and also doing a sports radio show?
LK: It’s not tough for me to be in the booth at all. I know the game. I don’t want to sound arrogant in a sense, but it’s not hard at all. It’s really just like having a simple conversation because what I do is I call what I see. If it’s a good run, I’ll say it’s a good run. If a guy got ran over, I’ll say it needs to be blocked a little bit better. You know, that type of thing. That’s not difficult at all.
The challenge for sports talk radio is — be in the know about all of the sports you have to talk about. My strengths are basketball and football. Those are big sports in this country, but I strive with periodicals and articles and stuff that I read to be better at baseball. To be better at hockey. All the other sports — to be better at golf — to be able to hold a conversation so when something big happens, you can talk about it and you’re not just a football junkie.
Noe: You talk about painting a picture while being in the booth, so if you were to paint a picture about what Anthony Gargano is like as a sports radio host what would you say?
LK: What is he like as a sports radio host? Well, what’s interesting about our chemistry — our birthdays are a day apart and we’re so like-minded. Sometimes it’s like a couple — we can finish each other’s thoughts. The way we pattern our show is like a couple of guys just sitting at the sports bar just talking about sports. That’s why we call ourselves “The Fellas.”
We try to bring the rest of the crew in, so it’s just easy. It’s whatever subject you bring up, it’s just easy. “Hey, let’s talk about the Thursday night game. Did you see the Seahawks and the Packers? Yeah, man.” It’s just that simple. We’re doing four hours and the way we look at it, it’s just bullshit. We just bullshit with one another. (laughs)
We get some stats out there and we do some things that are important like we’ll pick games and stuff like that, but for the most part we’re not a hot topic per se show. We’re not an argumentative show. We’re not combative in the ways where we have to get our point across. It’s just really, really easy and really, really mellow if you know what I mean.
Noe: How would you paint a picture if someone was unaware of Brent Musburger and his extensive resume? What would you say about him?
LK: It’s absolutely surreal to work with him because he’s a legend. He’s been in sports and he’s got stories galore that you just sit back and waste days at a time if you can just talking about stuff. It’s really easy. Working with Brent has been really easy.
He’s helped me make the transition from the sideline to the booth because it is a different perspective. I miss the sidelines. I miss that energy and the booth is different. Because of my size, I’ve got to sit down so people behind me can see. I’m used to standing up when I’m doing a broadcast. I’m not used to sitting down. Things are different, but it’s absolutely surreal.
Noe: One of your first radio partners was Bruce Jacobs. How would you describe him?
LK: Oh, well that was (laughs), Bruce was a wild man. He really was. We had some good times together. All of my partners from Mike North, to Bruce Jacobs, to Dan Moriarty, all these guys were all different. I appreciate the fact that I think it helped me grow and not get penciled into one specific type of way.
Mike North was combative, so he wanted to argue with me about everything. Bruce was this, I don’t even know what his political affiliation is, but he’s hard-nosed like that. He wants to try to beat you down with a point. So you had to stand there with the punches. There were times where I was like, “Are you kidding me? Are you serious right now?” But it is what it is.
Noe: How would you describe yourself from the point of view of a listener? What do you think a listener would say if they were giving an accurate critique of your style?
LK: Well, especially when you talk about the partners that I’ve had, I’m sort of the sane one if you will. (laughs) I’m the one who’s a lot more mellow because I’m not yelling and screaming or getting off a point. I think many people have described me as sort of a view of logic if you will. Because I approach as much as I can logically. Given certain scenarios what would do — I was asked today about the Kevin Durant situation and Golden State with Draymond Green. How would I handle it? I use life experiences to sort of hone in and try to figure out the best possible way, but I try to think things through with the questions I’ve been asked.
Noe: What was the movie that you were in with John Cena?
LK: The Marine.
Noe: The Marine. Yeah, I saw it not too long ago and I was like, “It’s Linc!” Do you have any funny stories from that movie?
LK: What happened was, how I got into that movie, I used to play poker with a producer. He was like, “Look, I’ve got this perfect part for you in the movie.” When I saw it and I read the script, I was like, “This is some garbage.” I can’t believe anybody would make this. It was just corny, corny, corny. I went and did the shoot. It was fun and I got a chance to see John Cena and the actors. They were all there and it was just cool being on a movie set — not really saying much, just doing your part just trying to look mean.
Everyone who knows me said, “Dude, you’re trying to look hard. You’re tying to look mean. You don’t have that look about you.” I said there’s not a hard look about me. They put all this liquid sweat on me, or whatever the stuff was. They were trying to make me look hard like I’m working in the sweatshop and it didn’t work, but it was funny because of the response we’d get. Everybody loved the movie and I’m so surprised at that.
Noe: With all the cool things that you’ve been able to do after your playing career, is there anything else that you would like to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
LK: I guess it would probably be a dream come true for me to call a big game. Maybe like a playoff game or a bowl game or something like the Super Bowl or something like that. You know what I mean? That would be a great one because that would be a lifetime memory.
Noe: What would you say is your peak highlight — maybe not your best achievement — but your fondest memory of being a broadcaster?
LK: I guess what really tickles my fancy if you will is just the fact when people come up and say, “I heard you on the broadcast and I love your take,” or, “The way you do things.” Being appreciated, and you know this, for what we do and what we put out there because we do service the people, it’s always gratifying to be appreciated.
Noe: That’s a good way to look at it because you get to reach the top numerous times.
LK: Exactly. It’s like you just want to be appreciated. You just want to be respected for what you do. I get more people that come up to me — and it could be because of my size and they’re smarter than the average bear — or it could be they really appreciate the product. (laughs)