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Friday, March 31, 2006

Roy Firestone entertains at UNCP

Award-winning sports talk show host Roy Firestone brought his flair for entertainment March 28 to the Givens Performing Arts Center.

Roy FirestoneFirestone sang, did comedy and impersonations, told funny and inspirational stories, showed his “greatest hits” sports video clips and sang some more. He promised “something different tonight,” and he delivered.

A seven-time Emmy Award winner and seven-time Cable Ace winner, with a reputation he earned at ESPN as one of the best interviewers in any medium, Firestone was the final speaker in UNC Pembroke’s 2005-06 Distinguished Speaker Series.

He lampooned many sports celebrities like Mike Tyson and Shaquille O’Neal.

After his team had just lost to Detroit in the NBA playoffs, Firestone interviewed the 7-foot, 350-pound O ’Neal, who has a flair for comedy.

Firestone: “Shaq, share your emotional state with us.”
Shaq (deadpan): “I’m a little pissed off.”
Firestone: “How pissed off are you?”
Shaq: “The highest level of pissivity.”

The audience loved it. Firestone impersonated Tommy Lasorda, Frank Sinatra, Smokey Robinson, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, the Bee Gees, Howard Cosell and the legendary Texas basketball coach Abe Lemons.

Roy FirestoneIn a game Firestone covered, Lemons already had one technical foul, so another one and he’s ejected. There’s another bad call, and Lemons is irate.

“Coach Lemons calls the referee over and says, ‘I’ve got one technical, and I don’t want another. Would you give me a second technical for just thinking something?’ The ref says no, and Lemons said, ‘I’m thinking you’re a son of a bitch,’” Firestone said.

Firestone offered tributes to some of the greatest sports heroes of all time, including cyclist Lance Armstrong, football player Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan, and the “greatest athlete of our time, Muhammad Ali.”

On Firestone’s very first television assignment at age 19, he was assigned to do a story on Ali. He followed the boxing great to a nursing home in Miami, Fla., where Ali did his patented “who’s the greatest” routine with residents.

Roy Firestone“He walks up to this old man, who was staring into space and not talking,” Firestone said. “Ali says to him: ‘Do you know who I am! I am the greatest of all time!’ The man doesn’t say anything. As Ali is leaving the room, the old man spoke. ‘I know who you are. I wanted to meet you all my life. You are the champ. The greatest of all time.’ Ali says, ‘Tell everyone who I am.’ The old man says, ‘Joe Louis.’”

Ali’s entourage started to correct the man when Ali interrupted them, Firestone said.

“‘Never take a man’s dignity. Never take his dream. His dream came true tonight. Tonight, my name is Joe Louis,’” Firestone said. “What makes a champion? That’s a moment I’ll never forget. Ali showed what a hero really is. It is somebody who can lift someone else up.”

The 2006-07 Distinguished Speaker Series is taking shape with Court TV’s Nancy Grace, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and author Nikki Giovanni. For more information about the series, please contact the Office of Student Activities at 910.521.6207.

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