Ralph Wiley’s Light Touches the Son: The Interview With Cole Wiley Part II

For Part II of Cole’s interview the focus shifts back and forth between writing and film making. There is one issue I wanted to help clear up between Cole and Scoop Jackson. I hope you put both of their words in their proper perspective without prejudice. Cole also speaks about the difficulties of mastering the art of script, and wonders why so many are quick to call themselves writers. As Cole and Scoop ask, where’s the hard work to put yourself in such a category? Cole is very eloquent, talented and also ambitious enough to inspire everyone. There’s no question in my mind Cole Wiley will be a force in film making for years to come. We should all be proud.

Michael Tillery: There’s no question you are qualified to write sports somewhere. You ever get an itch, TSF has a spot waiting bruh.

Cole Wiley: I’ll keep that in mind. I started blogging. Sometimes sports stuff would come in. I did the Hof mag stuff but I think when I wrote for them, I didn’t do any articles about sports. I did the Golden Ticket article. I did an article on Jay-Z and I did an article on Spike. Even though it was a Hall of Fame site, it dealt with noteworthy and superior efforts in any endeavors.

Then on my blog there was this thing where Scoop wrote this article. In it he talked about the legacy of Ralph Wiley and I didn’t like the way he worded a couple of things. I didn’t know about the article until people began telling me about it.

People would ask me what I thought about it. I would say well…he didn’t word things the best way he could in this instance. Then it blew up and mad people were thinking that I didn’t like Scoop.

I was like nah…you know…Like I said before, this whole Wiley frat…I get real protective about that. I loved the fact that people admired his work and stuff like that. It was just the semantics of it.

I called Scoop to get a response. I must be clear that I did this not to start a fire, but in attempts to clear the air and leave no doubt that there is no animosity between Scoop Jackson and Cole Wiley. We aim here to be definitive in our reporting. We could care less about igniting controversy. You know we don’t do that here, so don’t get it twisted. If you do, stand on your own words and not any of ours.

Here’s the exchange between Scoop and I:

MT: Scoop I identify with Cole when he speaks of defending his family’s reputation. It’s natural for him to protect the way people view his Father. He understood what you mean, just not the way you worded it.

Scoop Jackson: There’s two things I need to say on this behalf. One, the one thing I have written about Ralph Wiley. It was in a column I wrote called The Learning Curve (linked above in Cole’s explanation) on March 1st, 2006. My exact words were as follows: “that although his son Cole is carrying the weight and the torch, I am carrying Ralph Wiley’s legacy with every word I write. And I just hope I’m doing him justice.”

That’s the only thing I’ve ever written about Ralph Wiley. If that’s the crest of what he has a problem with, then I can understand that.

MT: You can take what you said two ways Scoop. I know what you meant. I honestly would have written it similarly.

SJ: Hold on Mike…before you finish, I need to finish the second part of my explanation.

Unlike anybody else, inside ESPN, that burden was placed on me by the company. Every interview before I got there mentioned…and ever since I’ve been there that has been their thing. Whitlock was there before Ralph passed away. They worked together. His voice is different than mine. They looked at me as possibly filling that voice even though I’m my own person. I walked into that shadow. When I write that, I write that from coming specifically my involvement with ESPN because of the way it has been placed on me. I didn’t necessarily do that, so when I say his legacy, I’m not just talking as a Black writer. I’m talking about as a Black writer in the same situation he was in when he left. So that was just not some frivolous (statement) just trying to throw Ralph Wiley’s name out there. I’m talking very specifically.

MT: I gotta ask you Scoop, how did you feel about that?

SJ: From a certain standpoint you have to agree. That’s what I’m trying to get through, you don’t understand the responsibility that was placed on me the minute I walked in there. They expected me to be the “next” Ralph Wiley. If you look at the spiritual things in life you say well I’m here for a reason. I always say you have to maintain your dignity in this, but this isn’t just about you. That was established early on by everyone from John Papanek to John Skipper to John Kosner–you know…all the big time. (They would say) Ralph Wiley isn’t here anymore and we are looking to you and associating you to be that dude. I have an inherent responsibility placed on me whether the outside public knows it or not. They wanted me to carry that legacy. In their mind…I’m not saying in mine…I’m the dude that’s coming in. They made that very clear.

Of course you try to embrace the responsibility. It’s not something I went in there to do, but it’s not one I try to fuck up.

MT: We all challenge ourselves by attempting to pull from his style to become better at what we do. I do not want to belittle or disrespect Ralph Wiley in saying this because that is damn well obviously not my intention, but how do we as Black writers become the best we can be as if Ralph Wiley never wrote sports?

SJ: I’ll give you a general answer, but you can apply it to the question. A lot of us look at people and say we want to be them. No one wants to put in the necessary work to be able to do it. I’ll use basketball as a classic example. Everyone in the NBA wants to be like Mike. None of them are doing anything close to what Michael did to be Mike. When you see cats acting a fool on the court acting a fool and pounding their chests, you never saw Mike do that. Why are you doing it? Getting drunk in the club, acting a damn fool? You never saw Mike doing that.

I’m laughing to myself because Black Mustard is being put the the test here. -Mizzo

You see platinum this, ice that. You know? You know? Boys hanging on you 24/7…you all weeded up. You never saw Mike do that. The first thing comes out your mouth is I’m trying to be like Mike. Are you gonna cut that red meat and dairy to get your body fat down? Are you gonna have a Breakfast Club like Mike, Scotty Pippen and Ron Harper had? Getting up everyday at 6:30 before practice and after the game still working out. i don’t know anybody who does that with other players. Kobe does it alone, but now with anybody else.

In writing the same things apply. Cats saying they want to be Ralph Wiley? Let’s see if you are really diligent enough to put in the work Ralph Wiley put in. The only way we can get past it is to embrace it without being fake about it. He left greatness on the game.

I would never, ever ever put myself in the position to think I could be the cat that tried to follow Ralph’s relevance and skill in this game. I would never say that. I had to embrace it and understand my role in this. My final words were “I hope I’m doing him justice.”

Not just as a Black writer, but also as the cat on Page2 specifically.

MT: Sorry to be bombarding you with these questions in the relevance of Cole’s interview Scoop, but again this needs to be said. Since we are comparing Ralph to Mike…fair comparison?

SJ: Yeah of course.

MT: OK, well when Mike left, he left a blue print–never duplicated–of a certain type of player. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a handful of Black journalists who are writing from our perspective. That’s not to say Ralph was writing from our perspective all the time because he wasn’t. It has to be said though that you could tell–at least I could–from his words that he was Black. Damn right I’m beating this in the ground, but it’s almost as if Blacks have an anonymous voice now. We should be permitted to write from our perspective in adding to the objectivity of sports just like White writers. Where’s the fallacy in that statement? Is it all about corporate interests?

SJ: Yes, of course!

MT: So Ralph Wiley passing was good for corporate interests?

SJ: I think the same thing would have happened if Ralph was alive.

MT: I don’t know Scoop. I think he would have had the proverbial middle finger on the corporate pulse.

SJ: No disrespect to Ralph or any of us, but the game is very big. That’s like saying if things would have changed if King lived. Bottom line is that the game is huge and when you are a Black man on an island by yourself, folks are trying to do whatever they can to make your voice as silent and unimpactful as possible.

It has nothing to do with Ralph. As the game gets bigger, we see what goes along with it. We see what our parts are and that’s the part of us always looking for equality. To get there we almost have to assimilate because they have something we want to be a part of.

He’s obviously not at Sports Illustrated anymore. Roy S. Johnson made it in after that and Phil Taylor after that. I don’t think their voices would have been any different had Ralph lived.

Is Sports Illustrated going to give someone like Ralph a chance again? That’s the question we need to ask.

MT: Damn right.

SJ: It’s not like cats like Ralph don’t exist (talent withstanding). Are they going to get a mainstream audience? I think the answer is it ain’t gonna happen.

Ralph’s voice becomes a threat nowadays.

MT: Again, damn right. That voice needs to exist so that little kid in the ‘hood I always reference can become a writer through seeing and reading soul models. It’s not just about a Black voice people, it’s about what that voice does for those who follow. Why should our voices be stifled historically so that others remain successful?

SJ: Right! Exactly! Once again Mike it goes back to what we are talking about here about what my responsibility is. I can never ever ever ever be that mainstream corporate American cat. I wouldn’t do it anyway.

MT: See Scoop this is why you are the shit to me because you speak it real. When we initially became familiar with each other, you told me it was all about the hustle. I’m beginning to realize that but folks definitely ain’t hustlin’ blackwards to propagate that necessary understanding for future writers of nurtured soul. There needs to be certain things said and done.

SJ: Right Mike. Exactly.

Was this enough for you? Does this clear anything up?

MT: Honestly it does offer clarity and more definition. Cole really is deservedly tired of the subject and just wants to move on from it. I hope this offers you closure on the issue Cole.

Back to the interview where Cole is addressing folks (like me) giving him a friendly nudge to help out the journalism game because damn we need it…

CW: I guess from me blogging and the other aforementioned pieces, people thought I was interested in doing sports journalism somehow. SI.com listed 25 people under 25 regarding their dreams and apparently my dream was to be a sports journalist even though I was into Heygood Images Productions. I was like where did this come from?

There’s only one article I’ve ever done in sports journalism. I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to read it. It was an article I did on ESPN.com for Black History Month. It was about Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy after the Super Bowl. Lovie Smith was trying to get more money out of Chicago and they were like….no. That was a small part of the article. It was more about the work ethic of these two Black men and what they’ve accomplished. They are examples because of their work ethic.

I wrote that because someone was reading my blog and asked me if I wanted to try to write an article. I said cool and sent it over to them and they were like “Oh shit!” this is good. The first guy I talked to at ESPN told me I made him look good. I was like, I guess man.

It was never really something I was trying to do. When I was young, I looked up to and idolized my Father in different ways. I just never saw myself as a sports writer. Now, I know writing is going to be an integral part of my career as a film maker. I may do a book. I might have the inspiration or motivation to do something like that–freelance on the side. Magazine article here and there. It never struck me to be a sports writer, but I am a writer.

It’s hard for me to say that. I’m a young dude and I haven’t done much as far as published work. I don’t take writing lightly. People would come up to my Father all the time and say they are a writer. He would ask them what they do and they would say “Well, you know…I’m thinking about writing a book. I’ve been thinking of writing it for five or six years, but I’m a writer though.”

My Dad would be like…OK…

A lot of people say they are writers but not many of them actually take out the time to write every day–or at least a few times a week.

I’ve written three screenplays in the last year. People don’t see those though. You don’t see the screen play behind theatrical releases.

Screenwriting is a very difficult thing to do. You were right. Any film starts with a script. If the script isn’t good, your film isn’t going to be good. I’ve never seen a film that was good without a good script behind it. It’s a whole new range for me. I feel like I have a certain innate ability to write that I’ve been developing since I was a kid.

Screenplay writing is almost a different language. It’s like writing English all your life and then trying to learn Spanish. You could probably pull it off for a while, but it takes a few years and many tries, many many tries to really hone your craft.

That’s what I’m working on now. I’m also getting to the point–already even–where I got my peers and professors and certain people in the industry I’ve met and worked with so far looking at my scripts. The latest one I did in particular. They say I have talent. They say I can do this and that I can write. That’s good to hear that folks know you are intelligent.

The industry is so fickle. It’s not just about having the talent and ability. Even putting together the right script is being in the right place at the right time. The right people has a lot to do with it as well. It’s hard for me to see myself as a writer or even a screenwriter. When I think of a writer or screenwriter, I think of James McBride. He’s the guy who wrote the Miracle of St. Anna. When I think about a writer, I think of Baldwin, Hemmingway, Twain. Those are writers.

As a filmmaker, I’ve made a few shorts. I’ve done a documentary. I’m about to shoot my biggest production yet in December. I’m trying to get as much buzz off of this project because a lot of people have been reading the script and are impressed so far.

Keeping my fingers crossed because I’m sending some stuff to William Morris, so I may be doing some stuff with a major agency.

I gotta come to grips that the stuff I’m doing is substantial. It’s starting to be that.

I’m punching every time. I’m punching hard (Cole laughs)! I can’t sit back, wait and counter punch. When I can sit back and be able to do that after bobbin’ and weavin’ and then a counter punch?

That’s when I’m a writer. That’s when I’m a filmmaker.

Part III posted on Saturday.

5 Responses to “Ralph Wiley’s Light Touches the Son: The Interview With Cole Wiley Part II”

  1. michelle says:

    Great conversation. I’m looking forward to part III.

  2. thebrotherreport says:

    Michelle you must read as fast as I do LOL!

  3. Temple3 says:

    Great stuff. Keep it coming.

  4. CDM the XXXL Cre8tv says:

    That’s the biz. Keep that good ish comin.

  5. Michael thank you for clearing the air on this so-called issue. It is refreshing to see you bring these two sides together for the greater good!

    Its all about PEACE, as we should all give it a chance.