Friday, June 5th, 2020


“The only way to make real change is if we come together. Diversity does that… Sports forces us to get to know each other and you can see that there could be some great, positive things happening.” – Lovie Smith

 “We were loose, we were angry. You can’t help but listen to the media…you’re an 18-point underdog…you have virtually no chance to win the game.” – Joe Namath on his Super Bowl III guarantee

 “When you have 20-plus drivers committing and going all in on a mile and a half like that, that’s where the fireworks happen.” – NBC Sports INDYCAR analyst Townsend Bell on tomorrow night’s season opener at Texas Motor Speedway at 8 p.m. ET on NBC

STAMFORD, Conn. – June 5, 2020 – Mike Tirico hosted today’s episode of Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN and was joined remotely by:

    • Illinois football coach & former NFL head coach Lovie Smith
    • Pro Football Hall of Famer and former New York Jets QB Joe Namath
    • Former NBA player and NBC Sports Washington analyst Drew Gooden
    • NBC Sports INDYCAR analyst Townsend Bell
    • NBC Sports horse racing reporter Britney Eurton


The Rich Eisen Show followed Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN, as host Rich Eisen was joined by:

    • Film director David Anspaugh (Rudy, Hoosiers)
    • INDYCAR driver Graham Rahal
    • MLB Network analyst and The Athletic’s Jayson Stark


Following are highlights from Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN:

Lovie Smith on coaching life skills to his players: “A lot of life experiences I feel like have prepared me for this moment. When I say life experiences, I’m a 62-year-old black man from the south in a biracial marriage. So, (my wife) MaryAnne and I have seen an awful lot. I get a chance to lead men from all different places, all different nationalities, and…life skills do come up. As football players and coaches, we live in a cocoon a lot of times where the real world doesn’t actually touch us. We teach, we develop, we talk about developing the man first and then we develop the football player. As we look at what’s going on right now in our society, I’ve always encouraged our players to be involved with what’s happening in your normal world, your normal life.”

Smith on racism: “Systemic racism exists in our world. We have to acknowledge that first before we can go any further. I have seen it. It’s one thing to identify a problem, then it’s how we change that problem. That’s what we’ve been doing at the University of Illinois. We’re trying to make the world better, but it can’t be words.”

Smith on the importance of action: “I talked to our players about, ‘Hey, you have a right to protest.’ That’s great, that’s what college life is all about, too, in a peaceful manner. But then, what else do you do? That’s where we are right now. What else do you do to make football better and to make the world better?”

Smith on making sure his players are socially informed: “Be informed. This is a true way for people to hear your voice. Right now, I see a lot of protests. Protests are good. Then what do we do? It’s like there’s a death, there’s a funeral and everybody leaves, and after the funeral the next day, everybody goes home. What we’re doing, what I’m going to insist on — first off, all of our guys are registered to vote, but that’s just a part of it, registering to vote — be informed. If you don’t like what’s going on right now, and we in America have acknowledged that we don’t like what’s going on right now, we have to look at, first, our leader. Do you like the policies that he has in place? Congress, local governments? This is how you have true change and for us. We’re going to go back to make sure people are informed…I think we all know right from wrong…We’ve all been taught that, and I think most of us really do know right from wrong. That’s what we’ve been preaching, and we’re going to continue to do that with our program through diversity. The only way to make real change is if we come together. Diversity does that.”

Smith on diversity and racism: “Everybody’s talking about the NFL — there are only three black coaches, only two GMs, no black owners. That’s important, but you look at college football also when you talk about systemic racism a little bit, there are…college programs where you can have a one-time transfer rule in place where guys can transfer and be eligible. There are other sports like football and basketball where you can’t. I think if you keep looking at the details a little bit, why are there different rules for different people? … You haven’t mentioned George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor — that’s kind of seen right there. Everybody acknowledges that that is bad, but it goes so much deeper than that, and that’s what we’re trying to change. Sports definitely can. Sports forces us to get to know each other and you can see that there could be some great, positive things happening.”

Joe Namath on Super Bowl III, which will air Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and his guarantee: “We were loose, we were angry. You can’t help but listen to the media…That you’re an 18-point underdog, that you have virtually no chance to win the game…When I made that statement…that was to a wise guy in the back of the room that Thursday night before the championship game and he said, ‘Hey, Namath, we’re going to kick your you-know-what,’ and I said, ‘Wait a minute man, I got news for you. We’re going to win the game and I guarantee it.’”

Namath on discrimination: “I’ve realized most everything starts at home. It starts at home with the environment, with the family, with mom and dad, with brothers and sisters, and how you respect people. At home, in my house, our household, my parents taught us respect and you didn’t discriminate with one another …You treat people the way you wanted them to treat your family and friends.”

Namath on protests: “We need to look in the mirror. The adults need to look in the mirror at home and how they treat their children and raise their children because they’re going to reflect us and our attitudes. We have so much pain in our history. This is an awful way to try to correct our history. We’re not going to make it better overnight, but we have an opportunity now, now together. We see through these demonstrations not only in our country, but around the world. We need to do better.”

Namath on Jets QB Sam Darnold: “Sam can play. He’s growing, he’s going to improve, he’s going to get better, but like most things in life, it’s a team game. He’ll step up. I believe he’s going to get better, but he needs the teammates also, and they’re improving. (Jets GM Joe) Douglas has done a great job bringing in some new players.”

Drew Gooden on athletes using their voice and platform: “Well, when I first got in the NBA,  email was just becoming popular. Now with the social media platforms, you have your turn as an athlete to speak on any topic…Now, once that quote comes out in the paper or on a social media platform, you have the power to go back and say, ‘No, this is what I meant by that quote.’ Back in the day when I was playing, whenever you said something or whatever was written, that was set in stone and you couldn’t go back and kind of fix those things. Now, I think you have a voice as a player, whether it’s that situation or you’re touching upon social issues, like what you have going on right now, or trending topics — whatever your favorite foods are, or things that you like to do outside of basketball — the audience and the fans can kind of have that connection with you.”

Gooden on social media: “I feel like it’s a two-way street. A lot of guys have been notable for doing great things in the media — standing up for political views or certain views — but then you have backlash like with stuff that came back out with Drew Brees…Sticking up for something or saying a comment that you thought was the right thing to say at that time, that actually comes back to haunt you and all those millions of fans and followers that you were able to get, now are your enemy. So, you have to be very careful as an athlete when you’re using your platform and the social media.”

Gooden on the NBA season’s restart: “It’s no easy way to cut it. You want a season to continue, but you can’t be picky. It is what it is. I think the set-up is going to be great…There’s going to be a lot of protocols on the care of the players to protect them and the staff. I mean you have to remember, it’s not just the players, it’s the team personnel around the players that also have to be in a quarantined situation.”

Gooden on NBA greatest of all-time debate: “Now there’s one variable that we all we never talk about when this discussion comes up between Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, and there’s one guy that I think is the variable in this formula, and that’s Phil Jackson. I mean, if you take Phil Jackson out of this equation, how many championships does Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant have? So, LeBron James is in a unique situation outside of not having a Phil Jackson and having to have to go like a vagabond and go figure it out by himself — multiple coaches, multiple organizations, multiple systems.”

Townsend Bell on drivers returning to racing tomorrow night at the 2020 NTT INDYCAR Series season opener on NBC at 8 p.m. ET: “They have been sim racing. We’ve had six virtual iRacing (events) on NBC. This is totally different though. This is the real thing. Not only are they coming off such a long layoff, they are going into a race — not weekend — a race day where they’re going to have one single practice session, one short two-lap qualifying run, and then they’re going to grid up side-by-side. Not just at any racetrack, at Texas Motor Speedway, the…sketchiest track on the schedule on a Saturday night…For the drivers, it’s going to be like walking out into a blizzard in terms of the visceral experience that they’ll have on those opening few laps.”

Bell on racing at Texas Motor Speedway: “If you sort of just ride around and try to play it conservative, you’re going to get absolutely smoked at Texas. They’re going to chew you up…You have to commit. When you have 20-plus drivers committing and going all in on a mile and a half like that, that’s where the fireworks happen.”

Bell on the strongest racing teams: “I put Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti, those have been the big three, the strongest teams for the last decade. They’ll be up there again.”

Britney Eurton on the state of horse racing: “Racing in the afternoon is the economic engine that funds everything in the morning, so to have horses out there on the track even without spectators, I think it’s very uplifting to everyone on the backside. For those in New York, (it’s) fantastic that Belmont’s up and running.”

Eurton on the Santa Anita Derby: “(Bob Baffert) has another undefeated horse in Authentic, so he headlines the race. Just seven horses set to go a mile and an eighth…He is going to have to fend off a very talented and good-looking horse in Honor A.P.”

Eurton on the Belmont Stakes field: “It could be one of the most competitive Belmont Stakes that we’ve seen in some time.”

Following are highlights from The Rich Eisen Show on NBCSN:

Jayson Stark on the MLB season plans: “The vibe I’m getting right now is they’re determined to play. If that means there’s no deal, then (MLB Commissioner) Rob Manfred will just announce a schedule and players to report in June and will start playing July. That’s going to be the deal and all players must report. It’s not a good way to go about this, but if that’s what it takes, I’m more convinced than ever that’s what’s going to happen.”

Stark on the MLB negotiations: “We’ve seen this movie a million times. I’m tired of watching it. March 26 they came in agreement, two and a half months later and they can no longer agree on what they agreed on. That just sums up the state of the labor relationship in baseball.”

Stark on why the MLB owners and MLBPA can’t come to an agreement on terms:You’ve got this situation where owners are saying, ‘We are going to lose millions of dollars if there are no fans in the stands,’ and you have the union saying, ‘We don’t believe that.’ The basis of conversation would assume that they understand each other’s premise. That’s not even happening. There’s no basis for conversation and (it’s) very discouraging to watch, especially in this moment in America.”

Stark on if an MLB season is possible at this point: “How many games are you going to play? There’s only a 50- or 48-game schedule, then you don’t have to start that until August 1. If you wanted to play a fairly normal half season, starting on July 4 made a lot of sense. There was never a firm date, but it was a great date to aspire to because you would have the stage for yourself for three weeks.”

Stark on what would happen if MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the schedule: “First off, the players would not have much choice but to show up and play. If they don’t, they would be staging an illegal strike in a middle of a waiver deal. That’s not a good idea. It creates all sorts of legal issues. I don’t think players would do anything other than play the games.”

Graham Rahal on returning to racing in tomorrow’s 2020 NTT INDYCAR Series season opener on NBC at 8 p.m. ET: “It’s nice to be back. It’s been weird for everybody the last few months and for sports in general. When the (Utah Jazz forward) Rudy Gobert thing went down, it was literally the day before our season was supposed to start.”

Rahal on preparing for tomorrow’s race: “I’m in Indianapolis right now. It’s a one-day show, we literally show up tomorrow morning. No one has driven these cars in four months. You are going to practice for an hour, do two laps of qualifying, and then go race on primetime on NBC.”

Rahal on the NTT INDYCAR Series Genesys 300: “This isn’t just your normal race. Texas is the most intense race on our calendar, each and every year. To throw us out there, is like throwing us to the wolves. This one in particular, it’s going to be really intense and it’s also the first time INDYCAR will have a narrow screen. We are excited to get going and it’s a great opportunity for people to tune-in to live sports.”

Rahal on if drivers will be more cautious this weekend: “This will be interesting because the race has been shortened from the normal 248 laps to 200. That’s going to breathe a little more anxiety into the guys because if I start tense, I need to make my way up to the front sooner. I don’t know if we will race completely in darkness because when the sun goes down, the track has more grip and you can drive more aggressively.”

Rahal on the safety of the drivers on the track: “I hope everybody uses their head because Texas is probably the most dangerous track we go to the whole year. So, throwing everybody out there together (is) intense already. Adding in a bunch of rookies that haven’t done an oval race…there’s a lot of question marks already in play here.”

David Anspaugh, who directed the film Rudy, on whether Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger was actually carried off the field: “Of course he was carried off the field! There’s a picture out there. The crowd chanted ‘Rudy’ and it spread around the stadium. What happened on the day we shot, we didn’t have the money for CGI, so I had to shoot Sean (Astin) in front of the tunnel in front of a real crowd. It was like a ballet because we shot it in seven minutes.”