One week before she launches her new sports talk program coincidentally called The Anita Marks Show (funny how that happens), I sat down with Anita Marks to discuss her experiences playing football, growing up a fan of South Florida sports teams, why it is that she once graced the pages of Playboy and why she’s bringing her act north to The Land of Pleasant Living.
TL: Anita, you are a native of South Florida, you’ve played for a women’s professional football team for 5 years…you have lived in a tropical area with a beautiful landscape, beautiful people…you’ve hosted a sports talk show on ESPN radio in Miami….I have to ask, why Baltimore?
Anita Marks: Show me the money!
I’m kidding…I’m sure you saw the movie. But really the opportunity presented itself financially and also the station that I came from in Miami was the No. 3 sports talk radio station competing with Dan LeBatard and Hank Goldberg. I did afternoon drive on ESPN radio from 4-7PM but it was No. 3 in Florida.
Making the move here, yes it’s a much smaller market – I’m going from a No. 10 rated market to a 20 market, but I feel that ESPN Radio1300 in this area, in this market is the No. 1 sports talk radio station. Everyone that I’ve spoken to here in and around town, that’s the station that they listen to. They love the Mark Viviano Show – it’s where they get their sports talk.
It was sort of a trade off for me. Also coming to a city like Baltimore where the fans here in my opinion have so much passion, have so much love and so much hate (laughs). I’m finding that when it comes to the Orioles, regardless the passion here is bar none. When you do sports talk radio in Miami, the majority of the callers are from New York, Boston or Philly. Here I’ll be hosting sports talk with the local sports fan really wanting to hear a lot about their hometown team.
TL: I’m wondering, since the Ravens need a quarterback and you played quarterback for the Miami Fury and Florida Stingrays, is that really the reason you are here in Baltimore?
AM: (Laughs). It’s going to be very interesting to see what transpires this year at that position for the Ravens. I really do hope that they do go out and get Steve McNair. One thing about Kyle Boller is that I feel from day one he hasn’t been challenged. There’s a lot to say about that. In the five years that I played the position, I wasn’t always handed the job. I had to challenge someone, to beat someone out. I had to make the plays in practice that week to be appointed the starter for that week’s game.
Look what happened with Drew Brees when San Diego picked up Philip Rivers. I didn’t think we’d see the Drew Brees that we have seen in the past two years. I think it will be interesting to see what happens if McNair comes here but McNair is definitely a better quarterback than me. (laughs)
TL: Now on that note, I’ve done some scouting on you and word is that you have an incredibly strong arm and that you possess razor sharp accuracy? If you were on Madden, what would your ranking be?
AM: This is going to be really embarrassing but I have never played Madden. I am so busy with work that if it doesn’t say SportsCenter…that’s pretty much my life. My life is sports talk radio and falling asleep to SportsCenter. That’s pathetic, isn’t it?
TL: That depends…
TL: Anita, your bio mentions a photo spread in Playboy. How did that come about and were you displayed in your God-given birthday suit?
AM: My agent pursued Playboy after Val Akerman forbade a player from the WNBA to pose for the magazine. Long story short, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was an amazing experience. They are a very professional group and yes, I was in my birthday suit for 6 pages strong.
TL: They made an offer you no canna refuse? I didn’t know Hef was Italian. Hey I like him even better now. Did you visit the mansion and is it all that it’s cracked up to be and if so, can you get me… I mean this friend of mine an invite? You know, given that me and Hef are both Italian…
AM: Yes I was at the mansion and yes it is all that and a bag of chips. It is surreal to think someone lives that way but Hef is God in L.A. Sorry about that request for your “friend.” I am family for life and can stay at the mansion anytime I’m in L.A. but no men – only female friends are invited. It is “the rule”, sorry.
TL: That Hef dude has it made but what a selfish SOB. Ok, let’s talk about something really important. Can you throw a football through the goal posts from your knees 60 yards away?
AM: Oh wow! No I can’t do that. One thing that I will say is that women who play football play with a smaller ball. With my girl’s ball in a game with my adrenalin running, I have been measured to throw a women’s football 60 yards.
TL: I wonder if Mel Kiper knew that?
AM: (Laughs) I have thrown a men’s NFL football 35 yards. That’s the difference. [But] on my knees…60 yards? That’s impressive.
TL: The Ravens apparently thought so as well because that’s what Kyle Boller once did.
AM: But you know this is my take on playing quarterback. The position is 75% cerebral. Look at Peyton Manning. He doesn’t look like an athlete. He doesn’t run like an athlete. Even his good friend Dwight Freeney while on the Hot Seat with ESPN was asked, “What NFL QB gets you licking your chops? When you’re on the line, you really want to get at him?”
He kind of laugh and said, “I have to be honest – Peyton Manning. He’s as slow as molasses but he wears a red jersey and I can never tackle him.”
Now if you look at Kyle Boller, where he has had a lack of success isn’t due to a lack of athleticism, I think the game moves a little too fast for him. From what I’ve seen of game tape, his decision making is slow, he doesn’t look off, there’s things he isn’t doing that might make it easier for him. I just think the kid has an issue upstairs and once he tackles that (pause)…cause we’ve seen Kyle Boller have some vintage games.
TL: With Kyle, it just seems to me when there’s no pressure, either because the team is far behind or the game is meaningless in the standings, he plays with reckless abandon and allows his athleticism to carry him and he isn’t thinking so much.
AM: That makes sense. You know the quarterback position is very interesting. When people see me they say, “You’ve played quarterback?” But the point for me is to not get tackled. It’s probably the most difficult position but it is the most rewarding as well.
TL: Are you planning on avoiding any more tackles? As you probably know, there is a women’s professional football team here called the Baltimore Burn?
AM: I know, I know. I’ve only been in town 2 weeks and I’ve had a few people approach me and ask me if I’ll play for them next season. I don’t know. I’ve had 5 knee surgeries, I’ve torn my ACL two times, I’ve had my nose shattered by a cleat through the face mask, I’ve had AC joint separation, shoulder impingement, my L5 is out of whack…I can’t sit through a three hour movie without switching butt cheeks. And that’s in 5 years.
You know what? I’ll be honest with you. It will depend on the offensive line. I know that’s a whimpy response but if the Burn has an offensive line that can give me at least 5 seconds, then I’ll consider it.
TL: I hope Steve McNair isn’t reading this…But you know Anita, you must not be very fast or you haven’t been very good at avoiding tackles. What’s up with all those injuries?
AM: (Laughs) Well I have (avoided tackles) but I am double jointed and so I have issues with my knees. It’s one of those things passed down from my family and football is football. It’s part of the game. It’s a brutal, brutal sport.
TL: I’ve read where Johnny Unitas is one of your sports heroes. How did that come to be?
AM: You know growing up watching football and watching game tape, everything that I watched and saw, read and heard about him intrigued me. He wasn’t a Vince Young coming out of college. He had so many obstacles and so much to overcome. And what I love the most is the way that he played the game and the way that his teammates talk about him, you knew that when Johnny was in the huddle, he wasn’t giving 150%, he was giving you 300%. And his teammates knew that when they looked in his eyes that there was no doubt that they were going to win the game. As a kid I just really admired that and tried to emulate that.
But really my all around favorite football player ever was Barry Sanders. I loved that guy! I loved watching him play and seeing what he did without an offensive line and without a quarterback. God forbid if he had gone to Dallas and Emmitt went to Detroit. I think that Barry was better than Emmitt. I just think that Emmitt was in a sick situation with Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. And just the way that Barry carried himself. He’d score a touchdown and either put it down on the goal line or hand it to a ref. He was never obnoxious, had a lot of dignity and was very humble.
I know Emmitt. And if you talk to him or to Troy or to Michael, all three of them are very aware that their success is a direct result of them being part of a system that complimented them at the same time.
Not to take anything away from Emmitt, but Barry Sanders was the best period! Period! It’s unfortunate that he was with an organization which in my opinion didn’t have a true desire to win and bring the components there that he needed.
TL: Let’s talk about your new program, The Anita Marks Show. You begin your 4-7 PM gig on ESPN Radio here in Baltimore on May 22nd. What are you doing to prepare yourself and acquainting yourself with the local sports scene?
AM: That is going to be my biggest challenge. One thing we are going to do for the show, is whenever I talk about a Florida team I know that I’m going to say, “we”. But I’ve got to get out of that because now “we” means Ravens, Orioles and Terps. Not Dolphins or Marlins or Heat. So we are going to put a shock button in the studio and whenever I say “we” and it isn’t a Baltimore or Maryland based team they are going to shock me.
TL: So a little Pavlov’s dog conditioning?
AM: Yeah, something like that. But I’ll be honest, that will be my biggest challenge. I don’t know the history of the Ravens. I wasn’t around for Cal Ripken. That’s where my producer and board op are going to have to step up and carry that weight when fans who do call in and want to talk about history. There’s only so much that I’ll be able to bring to the table because of my experience.
I’m reading a book now called “Next Man Up” by John Feinstein. I went to the Legends at Camden Yards sports museum. And I’ll be going to my first Orioles game [today] against the Red Sox with Curt Schilling on the mound.
TL: What can listeners expect from your show?
AM: I’ve been listening to sports talk radio here in town and the one thing that will be different about my show is that I’ll bring more of a national feel to the show. I’ll be talking about Roger Clemens and where do you think he’s going in June. I’ll throw out a contest and ask, “Where do you think Clemens will go?” I’ll talk about Barry Bonds. I’m sick already…I’ll be watching ESPN and every time he’s playing (imitating announcer), “We interrupt your regularly schedule programming to go to Barry Bonds.” You know what? I’m over it! He cheated. I could care less what he does. I’m over it – what about you, let’s open up the phone lines.
I’m sure I’ll get callers that will say, “Who cares, they’ve all cheated!”
So that’s it. (It will be more national in scope.)
The biggest game in the NFL this season in my opinion is the day or night, I’m not sure, when T.O. goes back to Philly. Everybody and their grandmother’s grandmother is going to be watching that game. It doesn’t matter if you are a Dallas or Philly fan or neither, even more than Peyton v. Eli, T.O. in Philadelphia – everyone is hoping that he’s going to get decapitated. That’s going to be a helluva game. God forbid that Bledsoe throws him a pass across the middle. It’s over.
So what’s the biggest game in your opinion (callers)? Let us know what you think and let’s open up the phone lines. I’m going to attack topics like that v. Loyola Lacrosse. I don’t know lacrosse, I’ve never seen a lacrosse game. I’ve never played it. I am excited to learn more about it but on my show, I’d rather talk about Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and T.O. than lacrosse.
The backbone of the show, the crux of the show, 50% of the show will definitely be Ravens, Orioles and Terps. The other 50% will be a more national feel – your hot topics of the day. When people are at work and at the water cooler discussing those hot topics from 9-5, I want them to get in their cars after work, hear us talking about it, pick up the phone and share their thoughts on those hot topics from the lunch room or water cooler.
TL: Besides being damp and chilly the past few days, what are your initial impressions so far of Baltimore?
AM: You know it’s funny, I’ve been here now for almost two weeks. And everybody, from my DirecTV installer to my phone operator, to somebody at WalMart, everybody asks me “Why did you move here?” And it’s been a little frightening for me because not one person from Baltimore has said, “You’re gonna love it here! This is the best move for you. This is a great city.” Not one person has said that to me.
And I’m sure a big reason for that is because I’m coming from sunny South Beach, Miami, Florida. Everybody has this perception that it’s always sunny and there’s always topless women on the beach…
TL: You mean there’s not?
AM: (without skipping a beat)…and everybody’s beautiful so why would you come here? But I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve played golf twice and the courses here are gorgeous. I’m playing in the McAlister tournament on Friday at Bulle Rock…
TL: Watch out for CMac. He just picked up some new Nike sticks.
AM: The people here have been really, really nice and extremely accommodating. The restaurants I’ve gone to here are fabulous. I have yet to have a bad meal. The people have been great. The radio station is awesome. Mark Viviano and Damon have been godsends to me – they’ve helped me in so many ways. I love where I live. I don’t have a negative thing to say about Baltimore yet. I’m just so surprised with a city in which I’ve met a lot of people, not one person has said, “You’re gonna love it here!”
TL: You’re gonna love it here!
The problem I think Anita, is that most people from Baltimore are natives – born and raised and I’m one of them. And like you said earlier, when someone is coming from a place that is perceived to be exotic like South Florida, Miami Beach, South Beach and you are coming here to do the same thing that you did there, at least that’s the perception, it makes them wonder. But I wouldn’t let that worry you.
TL: I want to do a little word association.
TL: I’ll share a name, phrase or short question, tell me what immediately comes to mind…
TL: South Beach
TL: Marino or Elway?
AM: C’mon. Are you kidding me? How can you even ask me that question? Marino! C’mon!
TL: I’m testing your loyalties. I’m about to test them again. Ray Lewis or Zack Thomas?
AM: Oh, that’s tough. I’m going to have to go with Ray Lewis. We’re talking heyday not now right?
TL: Sure heyday. But how about now?
AM: (Hesitates) I’d have to say Zach Thomas now.
TL: Ricky Williams or Snoop Dog?
AM: Ricky Williams
TL: Nick Saban
TL: Pat Riley
TL: Shaquille O’Neil
AM: A comedian
TL: Steamed crabs or Stone crabs?
AM: You know that’s not fair. I haven’t had crabs here yet. I’d have to say stone crabs. Joe’s Stone Crabs. I haven’t had crabs here yet but I hear they’re awesome.
TL: I’m going to put something on your things to do list. You have to visit Mr. Bill’s Terrace Inn in Essex.
Crockett or Tubbs?
AM: (Laughing) I’ve gotta go with Tubbs.
TL: Beer or wine?
TL: Ravens record without McNair and then with McNair?
AM: That’s funny. I sat down with (former Ravens’ fullback) Chuck Evans and we went through the schedule. Right now I looked at the schedule and I have them at 5-11 without McNair and I’m being generous. With him maybe they win two more games and the reason being in my opinion, is that this has got to be one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL.
TL: Finally, why should folks tune in on Monday, May 22, 2006 at 4PM to Baltimore’s ESPN Radio?
AM: Because we are hitting the airwaves with a different style, a different flavor and fun sports talk radio. It’s going to be fast paced with fantastic guests from all over the country. It’s going to be something different, something fun, something controversial.
TL: Well people will be listening. People will definitely be listening.
AM: Will you be listening?
TL: Of course but don’t tell anyone.