The Daily Californian talked to former Daily Cal sports editor Mike Silver who now works for NFL Network and previously worked for Sports Illustrated. We discussed the Super Bowl, his time at UC Berkeley and the Cal football team. Silver is hosting a Super Bowl Kick-Off party and football panel Tuesday night at Henry’s Restaurant with current and former NFL coaches and players.
The Daily Californian: What was your favorite memory from your time at Cal?
Mike Silver: My favorite time at Cal was every day — it’s the greatest campus on Earth. I met my wife there, our daughter goes there now. My daughter, when she was deciding where to go to school, we romanticized the 80s. She wasn’t sure it would still be as we described it as. She had visited some other schools, the energy wasn’t what I was expecting. We walked onto Sproul, people were tackling each other, throwing backpacks, debating and I just saw her face and I was like ‘Oh my god she’s totally going here.’ And I’ve been on campus with her, and I romanticized everything about that, but I think it might even be better now — just the vibe, the energy and the intensity. It’s so singular and awesome. I know kids are smarter now, people like me and my wife wouldn’t get in.
When we were at Cal, we always felt, because nothing was handed to us and defiance and courage are encouraged, this is the real world and when we enter the real world we will all be better prepared to kick ass than, I don’t know, Stanford. From the future, totally true in every way that I could have ever imagined. Sorry, don’t hate us because we kick ass. It doesn’t mean that everyone who goes to Cal kicks ass, but I 100 percent believe the environment there prepared us to attack the next stage of life and not feel entitled.
DC: Future for Cal football team?
MS: It’s really, really hard to go from 1-11 and a bad 1-11, losing by 50 to your rival. It’s fucking unacceptable. It’s really hard to get out of that hole in two years and do what they did last year. I give (Cal head coach Sonny Dykes), and the players especially, a lot of credit for doing that, and I’m really glad that they did that and got some validation. It is not easy, even in the NFL, which I cover. A sport where it’s based on parity and quick turnaround, and college football it’s super hard. That would be a positive side of it. We need to get the fucking axe back and beat our SoCal rivals, and hopefully we will keep working towards that, but what those kids did when they could have given up on the program, for them to keep fighting, keep fighting and get to 8-5 and win a bowl game and have that success, is really cool.
DC: Thoughts on Jared Goff and his success in NFL?
MS: One is the loneliest number. I said something about him going No. 1 overall and people were all over me. I’m not a talent evaluator, but I’ve seen a lot of quarterback play and I thought from his first game against Northwestern as a true freshman I was like, ‘Wow.’ And really after Aaron Rodgers, (former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford) had been the greatest QB whisperer probably leading into Aaron. His run of nine QBs, eight made the NFL, six were (first round) draft choices and it was maybe unprecedented now, all the success, and (then it) ended. And we had this eight-year void where if we had good QB play we could have done some amazing things. You know here is a Tedford recruit in his first game as a true freshman and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m in love.’ I will give Sonny a lot of credit because having the balls to start a true freshman, to let him win the competition, I don’t think a lot of coaches would have done that. An NFL head coach whose team has a very high pick texted me yesterday morning and said, ‘I’m watching your QB’s tape, oh my god.’ And I don’t think that’s a unique assessment. We don’t know how it’s going to shake out, he didn’t run a pro-style offense, which is harder to extrapolate, and yeah, he’s a little skinny and all that, but I would be shocked if he’s not one of the very top picks. And I don’t think going first is that far fetched, and I think he’s going to be great in the pros. He’s going to be awesome.
DC: What are you up to for the Super Bowl?
MS: The Super Bowl for me, you know how they say it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon? Well, the Super Bowl is a sprint and a marathon and I’ve done it a lot. And because it is a combination of an incredible amount of coverage, TV and print that I’ll be doing, but it’s also the convention of pro-football which also brings us back to this event. There is great value to me and others to being out late at parties, not just because it’s fun because I’m hanging out with so-and-so QB from so-and-so team and I’m having good bonding time. I think I’m on TV every single day except Tuesday. From Monday to pregame show, I’m co-hosting Super Bowl live coverage from our set in San Francisco in ‘Super Bowl City.’ I’m writing some things along the way and that in itself is a lot, but what’s really a lot is that it’s a blur — seeing one million people, seeing people I want to see, seeing people I don’t want to see, making my way through the crowd, going hard every single night like I’m back at Cal, drinking insane amounts of caffeine. Tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
DC: Do you have a favorite Super Bowl memory?
MS: One of my great memories was Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta. The Rams were playing the Titans. I literally don’t root for any NFL team. Once I started covering the NFL, that went away. I have 32 babies. Some give me more trouble than others — Raiders cough cough. It’s really all good, because of the Rams and Titans: You know, (I was) super close with Jeff Fisher, who was the Titans’ coach, got friends on both teams I was very down the middle. Except that I was talking to Kurt Warner, who was the Rams QB and now my NFL Network fellow employee. I was talking to him about doing a book, and he was into it, knew that if we pitched it as Super Bowl champion and MVP, it had considerable more appeal. So deep inside I was kind of hoping that would happen and it was one of the best Super Bowls, and it came down to a Ram tackling a guy at the half yard line of the last play with a seven-point lead. Not that I was happy the Titans lost, but selfishly I was pretty excited that they were a half a yard short.
DC: TV or writing?
MS: Writing is harder, in terms of stress level and crafting and time. The (Sports Illustrated) stories, I would write all night literally. I think I had more stamina back then, but after Super Bowl XXXIII, what turned out to be John Elway’s last game, I went back with him to his hotel room. He and I stood on the balcony, rain coming down in Fort Lauderdale. He’s smoking a cigar, drinking a beer and taking it all in. I ended up going up to my room and writing that scene, and that’s about as good a scene as I’m ever going to get in journalism. An all-time great just dropped the mic on his last game and now it’s just me and him and he’s taking it all in in the rain. I was pretty stoked. I think writing is more awesome. When I write the SI Super Bowl stories, it was always a little in my head. People save this shit and you are kind of writing for history and there’s a lot of pressure from the sports writing idols who wrote those stories before me; you know I can’t screw this up. I think now TV, it’s invigorating. It’s newer and it’s taking me out of my comfort zone a little bit and I’ll always be a writer. I still write, but it seems harder to me than it used to and maybe that’s just attention span, focus.
DC: What is it like to cover the Super Bowl in the Bay Area?
MS: Well, I would say this. It’s good and bad. It’s awesome because I’m going to drive to San Francisco on Sunday, eight days there. It’s amazing that we get to have it in the Bay Area. I love that it’s here; it’s amazing that the stadium got built. I think we’ll host again and be part of the rotation now. For the most part it’s great, that’s why I wanted to do this party. Super Bowl parties are a convention of pro football. It’s pretty early in the week, but there are still a lot of people who are up for going out. For me, it’s like I just kind of thought about when I was at Cal, what would I have wanted if the Super Bowl was right there. So I’m trying to bring the Super Bowl to Cal with any obviously unique Cal twist and I just hope that we aren’t charging admission, drink specials, I think there is going to be a sign outside that says to the effect (that) Cal students (enter) free, other students maybe like 2 bucks, USC students $500, and (for) Stanford students some messaging encouraging them not to attend. We are looking for classic Cal ballsy, real talk mentality.
DC: Super Bowl prediction?
MS: Great. Great question. I haven’t really thought about it much. The real question to me is the Broncos’ pass rush just destroyed Tom Brady, just swallowed him up, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and he was rendered powerless. They were just in his grill constantly. Can they do that against a different offensive line, a mobile quarterback and a big, big, big strong mobile quarterback in Cam Newton? So if they can harass Cam Newton anything close to the way they harass Tom Brady, then I kind of like the Broncos, but that’s a big if. Big, big if.