If you’re a sports fan, you’re likely familiar with the work of ESPN’s Pablo Torre. Whether it’s providing insight on Around The Horn, guest hosting on Pardon The Interruption, or making appearances on a number of radio shows and podcasts, the Harvard graduate is one of the brightest stars in the sports world. While notable for his very active—and very funny—presence on Twitter, Torre is perhaps most adulated for his in-depth profiles on ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine on sports stars like James Harden and LeBron James. Last year, he even wrote and directed his own short 30 for 30 film. At 31, Torre is one of the brightest stars in the sports media world—and it’s easy to see why.
Your work extends across multiple platforms, from print, to the internet, to television. Do you have a preferred medium? I fully acknowledge that this is going to sound like a gross copout, but the answer is all of them. It is essential that I do all of them. Television, which I love, is how I pay the bulk of my rent. Podcasts and certain radio programs most enable spontaneity and curiosity. Writing and producing a short film was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. And except for right now, obviously, my thoughts are never more precise than when they’re written down, in print or online—a distinction that has all but eroded.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the CliffsNotes version of what your days have been like lately. I just filed the first draft of a long magazine feature I wrote about LeBron James, which caused me to do that thing where I don’t go outside for several days at a time, think about a single topic obsessively for weeks and race to meet a deadline that makes me feel like I’m back in college. Otherwise, though, I head into Times Square to tape Around the Horn a couple times a week. I grapple with the reality that Twitter is the dominant medium for political discourse. And I play Grand Theft Auto V in an attempt to live in a horrifying Westworld of my own devising.
What’s been the most fulfilling part about writing features for ESPN The Magazine and also appearing so frequently on TV? Getting to simultaneously exercise both muscles, I think. I got into the sports journalism business in order to become a serious magazine feature writer, like Gary Smith at Sports Illustrated. Being paid to travel, talk to a bunch of new people and then file thousands of words about what I’ve learned is an absurd and delightful professional existence. Television, on the other hand, is premised more on word economy and, if we’re being honest, an entirely separate skillset that is substantially centered on public performance, for better and for worse. But TV’s degree of difficulty is really, really high in its own way. In my opinion, writing is just as essential in TV as it is in print. It’s been fulfilling to try and get good at both.
What’s been your proudest achievement so far, and what’s been your greatest challenge? The right answer to both questions is substitute-hosting PTI with Tony Kornheiser, probably. This is a man who, a minute after first meeting me in the office years ago, told me to “sit down and shut up.” Of course, he’s been nothing but extraordinarily generous and bewilderingly supportive to me since. I feel like we have developed a kind of Doc Brown/Marty McFly cosplay thing, too, which I appreciate.
One of my personal favorite stories that you did was the profile last year on James Harden. Who’s someone else that that you’d want to spend a chunk of time with like that for a future story? Barack Obama. I have questions.
If you were to write or talk on TV about one subject other than sports, what would you pick? Culture—by which I mean politics, and entertainment, and sports, and everything else. I went all in on sports as a profession—read: my LSAT score expired after five years—once I realized that this industry is not only a window onto larger topics but also an enormous town hall where America passionately debates its most important issues, from race to religion to patriotism to technology. But at some point, basically, I’d like the other opinions and rants that I already force onto my friends to be professionally useful.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future? I hope that people with money invest even more of it in forward-thinking projects for creative people.
Are you feeling any bold March Madness calls yet for this year? I have predicted that a 16-seed will beat a 1-seed for the first time in history for each of the last four years. I can’t stop now.
Who else would you nominate for this list? I was born and raised in Manhattan and my parents are from the Philippines, where the congress voted to grant citizenship to a decidedly non-Filipino professional basketball player, Andray Blatche, simply so he could play in an international tournament. Which is all to say that I wish to nominate two people who don’t even live in Brooklyn but work and occasionally eat brunch here now. Yes, Viceland’s Desus and Mero should be on the lists of both Brooklyn and Bronx Magazine. Let the campaign begin now.