Mike Reiss has been covering the New England Patriots for a variety of outlets since 1997, so he’s had a front-row seat – make that a press-box seat – for one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports. Reiss joined ESPN in 2009 and has been a pivotal member of their NFL coverage ever since.
We caught up with Reiss for this week’s Friday Five…
1. Who is your biggest mentor?
My dad, Roy Reiss. He was a sportscaster in Boston when I was growing up, and I remember tagging along to work with him. One time we were at the old Boston Garden, and I’m in the locker room sitting on the lap of the Boston Bruins’ goaltender, Gilles Gilbert, who gave me one of his sticks to take with me. That’s a pretty good stick to have in neighborhood street-hockey game! I always loved sports, and having the privilege of experiences like that, my passion for it grew that much more.
2. How did you get started in the sports media business?
When I realized my dreams of being a professional athlete weren’t going to be realized – and that the benefits of having arguably the smallest strike zone in Framingham, Mass., baseball history would only take me so far – my dad suggested I reach out to the local newspaper. It was a way to still be around sports despite not playing in them. Working at the Middlesex News, which is now called the MetroWest Daily News, was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me at a fragile time. In a lot of ways, that became my team. I continued writing at UMass-Amherst – a historic stretch for the men’s basketball team under John Calipari – before thanking my lucky stars that Fred Kirsch hired me upon graduation as a staff writer for Patriots Football Weekly. If not for Fred, I wouldn’t have had a single job offer coming out of college in 1997.
3. What can you tell us about Bill Belichick that most people don’t know?
He apparently renovated a kitchen with Calcutta unique quartz countertops. The only reason I think this is accurate is that we were recently looking to upgrade our countertops at a local shop, liked that particular quartz, and just as they were putting a “sold” tag on it for us, the salesman said, “Good choice. This is the same one Coach Belichick went with.” I started laughing, figuring it must be solid in all three phases of the game, represent good value, and if it showed up on the injury report it would only be with a questionable designation.
On a serious note, I can’t say I know him very well, but one thing that once stood out to me one time was seeing him light up (emotionally) around little kids. It was like seeing a different person from the coach we’ve come to know behind the dais.
4. Who was your most memorable interview?
Randy Moss in Charleston, West Virginia! Randy had an amazing 2007 season with the Patriots and Boston Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan signed off on a trip to see him in his hometown, where he was hosting a charity golf tournament to raise funds for a learning center he wanted to build for children in the area. But there was one problem: Randy hadn’t personally invited me. Or any media, for that matter. Moss was very private about that side of his life, but some folks close him – advisor Tim DiPiero, and best pal Donnie “Blue” Jones, among them – thought there was a chance he might be okay with it. So after mistakenly booking my ticket to Charleston, South Carolina, and almost never making it to Charleston, West Virginia, I spent a couple days there with no assurances I’d be able to speak with the primary subject of the article. Randy, who was famous for limiting reporters to three questions in the locker room – “Y’all got three! Make them count!” – spared me that embarrassment and was gracious in opening up … a little bit.
5. If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would they be?
This question challenged me. Part of me wanted to say Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady – open tab at the bar – and get them talking about their two-decade Patriots history together in unfiltered fashion. I still have many questions! Such as, “Bill, can you finally explain why Malcolm Butler didn’t play in Super Bowl LII?” But that’s way too close to home, and while possibly revealing tightly kept secrets on a topic I’m passionate about, would be passing on others who have helped change our world and open my mind to important perspectives.
I love hearing about leadership in trying times, so one invite would go to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president who helped direct the country out of the Great Depression. His fireside chats, speaking directly to the American people, were innovative, and so my hope is that this dinner would be like an intimate fireside chat.
Christa McAuliffe was chasing a dream when she was killed on Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. She was 37, and her trip to space was a big deal in our hometown of Framingham, Mass., in part because she attended Framingham State College. We gathered in our cafeteria at Brophy Elementary School to watch our local hero that day. I was 10, and that hit us all hard – unexpectedly introducing many of us to tragedy for the first time.
I was having trouble deciding on a third seat, so I did what I often do and asked my wife Sigalle for advice. She said Harriet Tubman, so we could ask her about her courage in fighting slavery, and helping others. How were you so strong? To be in her presence, and learn from her life experience, would be an honor.
Check out all of our Friday Five features — including Troy Aikman, Adam Schefter, Andrea Kremer and more — in the Friday Five archive.