Reach, like an American Ninja Warrior!

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He’s made a bunch of television shows you are familiar with and now Arthur Smith tells Nestor about his life in sports and entertainment in tales from “Reach,” his new book of memoirs and life lessons from CBC in Canada to Dick Clark to Fox Sports.


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Nestor Aparicio, Arthur Smith

Nestor Aparicio  00:01

Welcome back wn S T Towson, Baltimore and Baltimore positive we are reminding all of you to set a spot Adalet and 1570 on your dial as the Orioles keyed up and the Ravens cool down and we get some are going we’re gonna be doing the Maryland crabcake tour courtesy my friends at the Maryland lottery beginning next Thursday the 23rd will be at spirits West and of course celebrating 25 years here at wn st they said we couldn’t all courtesy of our friends at window nation 866 90 nation you buy to you get to free. It’s summertime, it’s Father’s Day week we got the Orioles doing well. I love having authors on but I love more than that. When it’s something I can take on my beach vacation and maybe learn something the book is reached. The author is Arthur Smith and I know he’s he’s got to be angry that this football coach stole his name. After so many years and entertainment coming in and up creating television shows creating sports. We’ve all watched his work. We welcome Arthur Smith onto the program, the author of Rich and not the football coach in my world. How are you? It’s a pleasure to have you on.

Arthur Smith  00:59

It’s funny, every so often. We get we get confused. I actually you know I worked with the NFL because we do the Pro Bowl games and there was one time I was calling a senior executive at the NFL and he you know, he was in a meeting so I said just leave a message tell him or you know, Arthur Smith called and congratulated me on the victory and I was like, American Ninja Warrior Hell’s Kitchen. You know, some of the shows that we do. Oh, no, no, we met the other Arthur Smith. And I was like, Okay, I got it. So

Nestor Aparicio  01:26

well, you know, I see your background and I’m very familiar with your work. I’ve had Akbar on and my wife loves Ninja Warrior. We had a great champion here in KC Catan. Cerro from Towson, who’s a local person. So for you and your background in sports, and my background has been in sports. My last name is Aparicio. Right, I’m 31 years into doing this professionally in Baltimore, 25 years with the station. And the notion that sports 30 years ago would be 24 hour entertainment for everybody. And that I think people thought that sports is good on the six o’clock news. You watch the game, but you can’t do it all day. And I think maybe you were one of the early people that saw the vision that you don’t have to do why world of sports just on Saturday, you could do it all day, every day people will buy it.

Arthur Smith  02:09

Yeah, I mean, the power of sports is unquestionable. I mean, it’s it’s so interesting, you know, working at, you know, is that Fox Sports for four years, and I was at CBC Sports where I was president of the sports division when I was 28, which is complete insanity. The stories covered in the book, just a

Nestor Aparicio  02:24

lot of hockey back in that day, right. Oh, hockey. Yeah.

Arthur Smith  02:26

I mean, yes, I produced hockey in Canada, which for Canadians is like Monday Night Football times 10.

Nestor Aparicio  02:32

Did you discover Don Cherry?

Arthur Smith  02:35

I didn’t discover Don Cherry. He was already there. However, I had a lot of run ins with Don Cherry and I had to discipline Don Cherry actually has, I actually have to suspend them once. So every time every time he would do something, you know, I would say, Please, don’t. Don’t make me fire you. I’ll be the most hated man in Canada, please don’t do that. So the I have some crazy Don Cherry stories, most of which are not covered in the book. But But yeah, I mean, the power of sports. I was I was about to say that when I was at Fox and and I was working with, you know, Rupert Murdoch, who, who saw sports as a way to launch his network. I mean, you recall that when Fox got the rights to football, everybody thought he was insane. He bid three or $400 million more than then then CBS. And they thought it was crazy. But he was dealing with different kinds of money. He was dealing with trying to grow his asset and all the fox stations, and he’s trying to build a network. On the back of it. The money was cheap. In the end, the deal was unbelievable. It started this, you know, the Fox network. And I’m looking at look at where, you know, Fox Sports is today, Rupert said in the 90s in the 90s. Just to go back to your question in the 90s. He said, In a world where there’s 500 channels, and everything is fragmented. Football will still be doing the same ratings or higher. He’s right. Look at the Superbowl ratings. Look at the NFL every week, every network program, every network program, and I you know, we work for everybody. We’ve done 200 shows or 50 networks. We have a lot of shows on broadcast cable streaming work with everybody. But football is the one thing that hasn’t dropped, every other program has dropped. Every other thing has been you know, it only makes sense. But some of the power of sports and especially football, but some of the power of sports still brings people together. Yes, the World Series does it and the NBA Finals does it and the Olympics do it. It’s just the one thing that we love to watch together. And it’s and you have to watch it now. So yeah, so

Nestor Aparicio  04:49

coming from Canada on the hockey side where hockey is so dominant in the culture me I don’t ever go into. I was in Montreal a year ago seeing Pearl Jam and running around Toronto. I’m never there and don’t feel the cultural part of hockey to Canadian people in the way that maybe football has become that to some degree because a gambling in our country, whatever it is, but the power of sports to launch a television network to make a city whole in the case of Baltimore when we lost the Colts and went and and you’re from Montreal that the expos and what it does when it leaves a hole in a community, but more than that, the the level of engagement and the fact that you cheer for it, you bet on it, and there’s a winner and a loser and that’s sort of natural to people’s interest along everything you’ve ever created. Right winners and losers.

Arthur Smith  05:39

Yes, absolutely. Listen, I’m a I’m a massive sports fan. I mean, television might be my first love, but not by a lot. I love sports. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work in sports and entertainment. That’s why doing a show like American Ninja Warrior is such a dream for me. It’s that you know, it’s the combination of of both worlds but growing up in Canada, certainly hockey is everything I don’t even know how to explain from like, I love all my LA sports teams. I’ve been in LA for 30 years. But the Montreal Canadiens is beyond the sports team to family members. It’s Yes, it’s religion. It’s a family member. You know, it’s it’s everything so yeah, I mean, yes, no question that I’m in Canada hockey, hockey is everything so it’s yeah, no question. No question about

Nestor Aparicio  06:31

how do you take that the sports part I mean, you work for Dick Clark when TIG was alive and well and I’m sure sat in on that entertainment part of it. When I wrote my my my first book on the Ravens when they won the championship art modell was here. Art’s whole background was mad man, New York, television, television. And being a Giants fan and running off the Cleveland pirating off the browns, in that he saw the power of sports and television, were to stick Clark in the entertainment part of this plan a seat in the young guys mind when you’re doing well and doing television to say, alright, I’ll move out of sports and entertainment, and then come back later in life and become an entertainment mogul more than a sports mogul.

Arthur Smith  07:12

Listen, I love it all. So that’s that was the, the, you know, the great gift of this of this company, which I’ve had for 23 years. You know, when I’m in sports, I miss entertainment. I think I said that when I’m in entertainment, I miss sports and so, but you know, what, because I was so fortunate and got to be, you know, President of the sports division. When I was when I was young, I figured you know what, I want to try other things besides sports. And, and, and an opportunity came to it got me my green card, the story of how it happened is kind of kind of nuts. You know, I believe in the power of race. That’s what the books about, you know, I believe in the power of extending yourself, you only realize your full potential unless you reach beyond what you think you can do. Sometimes you find that you act you can actually do it. You know, I believe when you reach your you find the difference between a pipe dream and what you haven’t dared to try just yet. So the attic gave me an opportunity to grow my game. And he took a chance on me, you know, when you’re, you know, we all get typecast. Right? I was a very successful sports producer I had offers from CBS Sports and NBC Sports, but I really wanted to try something else. And you know, I took a risk, I took a reach. And Dick was a great mentor to me. And I had a great time with him. And, you know, I managed to actually even do a couple of sports programs. While while I was there, I did this thing called the Jim Thorpe pro sports Awards, which was on ABC, which was kind of a precursor to the ESPYs. Up there you can see that’s me, Muhammad Ali. That’s one of my greatest nice, yeah, but the greatest. So yeah, so anyhow. And then I did this crazy golf show called The Great 18, where we played one hole at 18 of the greatest courses in America had John Daly and Tom kite and Davis Love and fuzzy sailor daily. It’s just one kind of just one of US Open, and which is, which was a complete rage. And the story of how that happens, especially when I was at Duke Clark, there’s, there’s no you know, Dick knew nothing about sports. And when I told them the idea of we’re going to take for golfers I’m gonna play one hole at the greatest courses. And golf is the only sport where the playing field is different. And I went to this whole description of it, and Dixit that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. And I said, Well, you don’t you don’t play golf. And it wasn’t, he wasn’t a sports fan. And he didn’t get it. And you know, he just he just but he knew how passionate I was. And eventually we ended up doing it. But you know, it took two years of planning and, by the way, I, you know, TJ live to are very much in the news. I had, I had my issues with the PGA Tour. There’s a really, really interesting story in the book about my dealings with the PGA Tour at that time, and, and what evolved and how this thing how this thing ended up happening. You know, listen, the book is filled with stories of Magic Johnson, you know, Gretzky, you know, with Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Marlon Brando lost a $40 bet to Marlon Brando. That’s a whole thing on a crazy night with him, how it happened now is covered in the book. And but you know, Donald Trump’s in the book and Little Richard and Simon Cowell and Paul Allen, but you know what, I’d like to say that it’s a memoir with a purpose, you know, and it’s yes there’s some great stories and I hope it entertains but I’m really hoping it inspires people to reach every story that was selected was a story that had that that addressed or commented on reaching and in a way it’s not overly preachy, believe me it’s not it’s it tells stories and then it just shows the connection between you know, when is a good time to reach and when it doesn’t work and when you’re overreaching and, and and everything else

Nestor Aparicio  10:52

I will reiterate the book is reach television executives are familiar with Ninja war Hell’s Kitchen, any of the programming of Fox Sports for many many years and my former partner at Kenny Albert I think worked for you for a period of time and goose and all those guys work with you, but for for you with with making television that people want to see and sports was something that you know you went to Canadiens games I went to Orioles games the kid there was good guys bad guys you hate the Yankees you hate the Steelers if you’re from Baltimore, whatever it is, but then trying to to move out beyond sports and saying I’m gonna create a compelling television program and I guess that’s why I bring Dick Clark into this food right like food for thought that would be a Food Network or people would care beyond food beyond Julia Child and and the Cajun cook back in my day on cable access that came in until the young can cook I remember making noodles when I was a little boy. The fascination with food in the fact that we all do it at least three times a day some of us do it even more that that has become a modern thing that people want to watch whether it’s restaurant, fix them up shows celebrity chefs how I make a better barbecue today on my grill, but but we love food in this country and making programming around food has become something I think that’s ubiquitous in our culture. People love that as much as I love football

Arthur Smith  12:12

has become was the right, right, right couple of words. I mean, the thing is, is that in 2004, there had never been a successful network Food Show, and no one knew who Gordon Ramsay was. So the idea of doing Hell’s Kitchen was was kind of not at the time.

Nestor Aparicio  12:30

So like Emma was cooking, they were cooking shows, but there wasn’t like a reality show.

Arthur Smith  12:37

There wasn’t a big broad network show broadcast network show. Mark Burnett had tried to something called the restaurant with Rocco Dispirito. It had a couple of seasons, but it didn’t. didn’t do that. Well. It did. Okay. And that was it. And and so, when fox came to me, I had just done a number. My company was very early on in my company’s history. And I had done a show called Paradise Hotel. I had done a show called The swan. Don’t hate me for doing this one. There’s viewers hate me for doing this one. People love me for doing this one and hate me for doing this very controversial show. But then they said to me, Hey, Arthur, there’s there’s a tape we’d like you to see. And it’s got the chef Gordon Ramsay gonna go Who’s that? And me. He was very well known in the UK. But certainly, and he was a Michelin star chef, you know, he’s an amazing chef. And they sent me a tape of Gordon. And he was doing a show called Hell’s Kitchen, but a very different show. It was a show with celebrities. And I watched the tape and I love Gordon. What’s not to like? And then I love the title of the show. And I went to Fox and I said, Hey, you know, that’s showing it’s not going to work. We got to make something that’s broad, you know, and, and I’m not I am not a foodie, I certainly wasn’t a foodie at the time, I’ve evolved. Just like America has evolved. Food was at a much different place in 2004 than it is today. We’ve evolved and I anyhow. So I eventually went back to Fox and told them about that about the idea that I had now, biggest sports guy, I love competition. I love combat, a lot of what we do is competition. formance. And one of the strengths of the company, we do a show called floors, lava for Netflix, and we’ve got ninja, we’ve got hills, you know, and there’s been a number of other ones that we’ve done over the years. That’s one of the you know, areas of strength of our company. And I came back to Fox with the idea of building the restaurant, two kitchens, Gordon being this whole thing winning team losing team, launching your career, the whole thing. And they said, Okay, let’s go. And but here’s the funny thing. Nestor is like, there was a point where Fox got extremely nervous about the show. In 2000 reality all the reality shows we’re working, everything’s survivor launch and everything was doing well. And then 2004 2005 There was a string of failures and everybody got nervous. The reality genre was over. Everybody was saying it’s over. It’s not working. And Hell’s Kitchen, sat on the shelf for six months. sat on a shelf for six months and then they finally put it on and I’m And they gave, they put it on Memorial Day. So thank you very much, guys. I waited six months, and now I’m going on a holiday weekend. Thankfully, the show did great. And the rest is history. And we’ve just done our 22nd season, but to talk about a reach, and the story of the twists and turns of what happened, I’m giving you the headlines, obviously, but how it happened and all the lunacy that was going on behind the scene. And here we are, and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s great. I mean, it’s, as you said, it’s become a staple of television. And it’s been my pleasure. And then you know, then we did Kitchen Nightmares for seven seasons. So first, we had the only successful food show on network television, then we had the second and now it’s everywhere. Now. It’s not just us. It’s everybody’s everybody’s in the game. And it’s great to say, Arthur Smith is our guest.

Nestor Aparicio  15:43

He is not the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He is the executive producer television that you’re seeing the book is reach. It makes great Father’s Day gifts, certainly something to take off. And storytelling is what you do. It’s at the heart of everything you do. And I want you to tell him the story of American Ninja Warrior because my wife loves it. I’ve seen the parkour folks doing things. I have a radio tower, please do not tower climb my tower. It’s a bad idea. It’s a and you’ll get electrocuted. But I’ve seen you know people that have these different kinds of skill set than dribbling a basketball or chasing a soccer ball or hitting a hockey puck but but are strong people. And this notion where were you when this struck you? Or was it somebody else’s sort of idea that planted a seed for you?

Arthur Smith  16:28

Yeah, you know, one of my another. I mean, listen, Nestor, there’s no logical reason why an obstacle course show would ever be on in primetime. Who would ever think that we would be in our fifth doesn’t sound

Nestor Aparicio  16:38

like a good I mean, I like if I’m Mr. Bing, I have the money. I’m like, Arthur, you’re smart guy and all but like, tell me people are gonna watch this again, like, how is this gonna work?

Arthur Smith  16:47

Exactly, exactly. And by the way, we didn’t pitch the show to NBC. So how it made its way onto NBC is kind of nuts. We actually were on a network called G four. We started on G four, there was there was a show that g4 was doing that they were re airing called SOS gay, which was a show in Japan. And the executive who was running g4 network, which no longer exists the show us, the show surpassed the network. The executive was a colleague of mine of Fox Sports was a marketing guy from Fox Sports when I was head of programming and production. And he was Arthur, he has there’s nothing getting a rating on my network except this little show. And he goes, You gotta check it out. I’m dubbing it. You know, it’s, it’s in Japan, I’ve watched it. And I, I, I was like, so intrigued by it. Because there was like a plumber and a dental hygienist and a teacher running this course. And they were failing. They were succeeding. And there was something in the celebration of the attempt that got me very excited. And I started to think about, you know, if I can dive in and tell stories I pulled from my sport, I mean, I’ve done three Olympic Games, I’ve produced 500 Olympic profile. So it’s like,

Nestor Aparicio  17:51

everybody has a story. Everybody has a story to tell the story.

Arthur Smith  17:54

Everybody has a story. So you’ve got to get so how do you how do we get them invested in the story and make us care about these people. And then combine that with the showmanship that we bring to it, which is, you know, we’ve taken the show a long, long way from where we’ve added it

Nestor Aparicio  18:07

to Baltimore Inner Harbor, my wife and I walked over the lights. I mean, it’s really amazing. Yeah,

Arthur Smith  18:13

thank you for that. So, So anyhow, yeah, we started on g4. But it really was a stroke of luck, how it became a primetime series on NBC. And, you know, the only reason it became a primetime series I was on NBC was because Comcast, which owned g4, and ni, E, and so on some other networks bought NBC. And we went to NBC, Neil and I, the guy from g4. And he said, could you just put our finale on as an act of synergy? And, and they were like, No. And we said, Please, you know, just just throw a spotlight on this little network on this little show, never ever thinking, we would actually be a series on NBC. Listen, when you’re a producer, sometimes you have big homerun network hits. And sometimes you have little, you have singles on cable networks and smaller shows, you know, it’s all part of the portfolio. I was very happy doing ninja warrior on g4. Of course, I’m happy. I’m very happy that I’m in my 15th season on NBC. But it like I said, it was like sometimes when you reach I believe you make your good fortune. And sometimes when you reach good things can happen. If you don’t put yourself out there, you can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket.

Nestor Aparicio  19:20

Right? And you have to fail and you have to get back up right I mean, not everything is gonna work right. And I already mentioned the swan I didn’t have to

Arthur Smith  19:28

the swan works. It’s it’s controversial. But But by the way, the you know, the book talks about the talks, I you know, there’s not everything went my way. There’s a story that I tell when I was 25 years old, and I was really getting a little too ahead of myself. I was way ahead of myself and I got slapped in the head. I got slapped in the head, you know, and you have to see what happened to me and it’s it’s been a change, you know, I look to failure or, or disappointments as redirects. I believe everything’s meant to bid and I don’t believe We shouldn’t edit it ourselves too much. Listen, just because you reach doesn’t make it happen, right? It just doesn’t, you know, you can’t just say, oh, I want to do this, oh, I’m gonna reach. No, you have to be prepared. You have to do the work. You have to sacrifice you have to do all of that. But once you’re prepared, get out there. Like Don’t overanalyze because you may surprise yourself. And worse comes to worse, you’ll find out whether you should I live with I live with, without any regrets, because because I’m a lunatic. No.

Nestor Aparicio  20:29

Could you live in Los Angeles? That’s

Arthur Smith  20:30

good out there. Yeah, well, that’s a whole nother story.

Nestor Aparicio  20:33

Anything you want to say on the Saudi money and live and I mean, because I mean, you’ve worked for Rupert Murdoch. You know, I wouldn’t vote in that direction personally. But for me, this story is really about kings, wanting to usurp you and people like you in the spot with television and sports and saying we want to be a part of something. You saw that with Qatar stealing a World Cup and Qatari kings running around with Messi on stage. Everybody wants to be with the rockstars everybody wants to be with the band. This was a way for the sound that they couldn’t buy the NFL. They bought significance is what they bought.

Arthur Smith  21:07

Very scary. Very scary. I know. I know. Your your question. You know, I get how you get how you feel about this. And I kind of feel the same way. I’m very nervous about it and stuff like that. I don’t I don’t like to say it. You know, I love golf. I’m going to the I’m going to the US Open it’s in LA I was there yesterday buying my merchandise was so excited. I’m so I went there on Sunday just to walk around and and so I’m a big sports fan, and I’m gonna I’m gonna be there. But I Yeah, it’s kind of scary. It’s kind of a big, you know, big turnaround, obviously. I mean, I’m not saying anything, anybody hasn’t said in the wake of this thing. But, you know, it’s the guys who left who got all this money kind of got rewarded for being disloyal to the PGA and that doesn’t feel right.

Nestor Aparicio  21:54

A lot of it doesn’t feel right. It really does. And I’m a journalist, a killed journalist. I don’t like that sort of thing. So I’m not a big fan of that. I have friends who knew Khashoggi so yeah. Hey, dude. Appreciate your time. Love your work. Hope to run into you at some point now I almost came out to the great to see CEO last week. So you almost got me out there. Quincy Jones at the Hollywood Bowl Hollywood Bowl worth me going out. I mean, that’s that’s a bucket list place for me.

Arthur Smith  22:22

100% 100. Does it is it is very uniquely LA. And it’s very unique anywhere.

Nestor Aparicio  22:28


I mean, I drive by it up and down the hill. And I’m like, How can I never go to the Hollywood Bowl?

Arthur Smith  22:35

Night at the bowl is incredible. It’s incredible. It’s like, you go there early, you go with the picnic, you eat you drink. And then it’s under the stars. And the sound is incredible. The sound is unbelievable. It’s it’s it’s an experience. You know, I try to go to the bowl at least once a year and almost you know what, it doesn’t matter who’s there. It’s all good. I mean, I’ve seen everything from Electric Light Orchestra to a symphony with John Williams. And in between, it’s, it’s a special place. It’s like restaurants.

Nestor Aparicio  23:04

And he’s I’m a big music guy. So yeah, the Hollywood Bowl. I gotta get there. Quincy Jones putting together a little birthday party, Miss Willie Nelson. So I gotta make it for Quincy, thank you for coming on. Thanks for giving time. Good luck with the book. You don’t need luck for the book. You got great stories in your keep making some great television, entertaining my wife. All right. Thank you so much.

Arthur Smith  23:22

I just want to point out that all of my proceeds from the book are going to the rich foundation. It’s it’s you know, the rich foundation is something I set up. I didn’t do the book for money I did to get the message out there maybe raised some money the screen gives to it gives to six charities, all who lift people up in some way. And that’s you know, that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to do with the rest of my time on this planet is continue to mentor continue to help others to pay it forward. I’m very grateful for my career. And like I said, I hope the book entertains people but I really hope it inspires them as well. So thank you, Nestor. It’s been great talking to you.

Nestor Aparicio  23:57

Hey, look, and good luck this year with the I mean not not that the Falcons, the Canadians. That’s your team when it Canadians win. That’s when you’re gonna win, right?

Arthur Smith  24:04

Yeah, it’s listen, I had a great run. And they were winning every year when I was 16 and 17 years old, but it’s been a long time, so hopefully we’ll

Nestor Aparicio  24:11

make a comeback. I’m old school with Barry trots from the Kenny Albert days here in Baltimore. So I got a chance to five years ago this week, won the Stanley Cup once in life I can die a happy man it’s all good. Arthur Smith, a former Canadian always a Canadian now in LA making great television. The book is rich. You’ve seen his work in American Ninja Warrior as well as Hell’s Kitchen. Good luck to you have a good Father’s Day and go read some books. Everybody out there. People write great books. Make sure you read great books for Father’s Day weekend. We’re doing the Maryland crabcake tour beginning next week at spirits west on Thursday. The whole schedule is up at Baltimore brought to you by our friends at the Maryland lottery in conjunction with window nation I am Nestor we are wn st am 1570, Towson Baltimore. And we never stop talking Baltimore positive

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