In this edition of The Sporting Life, free agent NFL linebacker Kirk Morrison talks about attending Kings games at STAPLES Center, including Game 7 of the Kings-Sharks game in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Morrison (@kirkmorrison) is currently a Fox Sports Radio co-host with former MLB pitcher Rob Dibble. He is a native of Oakland and played college football at San Diego State, where he was a two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
He was drafted by his hometown Raiders in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft and he promptly led the team in tackles his rookie season (116). He was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010 and also played for the Buffalo Bills.
Check out LAKings.com/news now to read the first six series installments featuring: UFC/MMA legend Tito Ortiz, horse racing champion jockey Garrett Gomez, up-and-coming NHRA drag racer Courtney Force, international / LA Galaxy soccer star Robbie Keane, golf pro Danny Sahl and Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz. The final edition of this series will post on Monday, August 26, and feature the legendary Phil Jackson as the Basketball Hall of Famer provides his unique insights on our sport.
Here now is Morrison:
What was it like attending a Game 7?
“I’ve never been to a game 7. As professional sports players you love game 7s. It’s a “win or take all” mentality. Either you win or you lose. Lose, you go home. If you win, you keep playing. Watching a game 7 on television doesn’t do it justice. But to be there in person and to feel the energy of that game is something else. Every play, every shot, every penalty, every missed opportunity can be the difference in going home or keep playing. They are very rare. In all sports you barely get those. Very rarely do you get the chance to go to a game 7. Even though this was only the Western Conference Semifinals, it was still an experience I get to say ‘I’ve been to a Game 7.’”
How do you describe the environment at STAPLES Center?
“It’s funny. You go to STAPLES Center for a Lakers game and it’s a different crowd. You go for the Clippers and you get more fans dressing up in their Clipper gear. But I was surprised how different it is attending a Kings game. The fans are seriously into it. They are all dressed up, into the game and have fun. It’s really loud. It’s funny to see that same arena with three different teams and really three really different crowds at each event”
Would you consider yourself a hockey fan?
“I enjoy hockey, especially when it’s in the playoffs. During the season, like college football and college football, just make sure you get to playoffs, the stakes are higher and you get to see how much more into it the guys are. As long as you make the playoffs, as we have seen before, it doesn’t matter what seed you are, if you’re No.1 or No.8, each team has an equal level playing field which makes the playoffs that much better. This is especially true for hockey because there is no team you’re 100 percent certain will win.”
How did you get into football and how did you know you wanted to make a career out of it?
“It was something I did for fun. I played Pop Warner when I was younger. I played in high school with my friends. Some opportunities presented themselves as I got a scholarship to play at San Diego State. I was excited about that. It was great. I never really thought about playing professionally. I just played and had fun with my friends. Then I got the opportunity to go play in the NFL. I was just doing what I loved doing. I really embraced the opportunity and have done it ever since.”
What kind of obstacles have you faced during your football career?
“Well, there are always obstacles to face no matter what. The path you choose, you go left or you go right. There are some guys who slack off and some who don’t. My mentality in college wasn’t that I wanted to go to the NFL, but instead, I wanted to make sure I was going to graduate from college first and then the NFL will come second. When I came to college I set out to do one, but I ended up accomplishing two: graduated and drafted to the NFL. There are always obstacles but it’s the decisions you make along the way that count. It’s really hard to stay on the right path when there are friends who want to take you away from that. I always kept a level head.”
What’s your favorite memory playing professional football?
“It’s the experience. Every game is a new experience. You remember every part of every game you play in. There are certain times, plays, moments, memories you remember that if you sat down and put it all in a book you will think wow that’s crazy.”
Is there any memory that stands out?
“I’ll always remember my first game. Everyone remembers their first. It was a Thursday night game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It was a giant kick-off celebration for the 2005 NFL season. I thought every game was going to be like that but it wasn’t. I was so young I had no idea what was going on.”
Now you are a radio host. How’s that going?
“It’s going great. I work on Fox and I work with a lot of guys who work with the Kings as well. So we get a lot of Kings on. It’s pretty fun. I’ve been doing this for three years and every year I work on getting better and just have fun with it.”
What kinds of things you talk about on your radio show?
“We talk about anything. I try to bring in a lot of hip hop and Entertainment news. We also like to keep up with the latest trendy stuff. Sports radio can be so old school, so I try to bring in the younger flavor to get a bigger, wider audience. People don’t really listen to radio as often anymore with their own hip hop stations and what not so I have to find a way to get people to tune into sports radio by talking about what’s trendy in the world today.”
Football is obviously America’s passion. But it seems there is a lot of difference in preparation for NFL playoffs than NHL playoffs. What do you think is the biggest difference?
“I think the biggest difference is the NFL is king no matter what. It’s one of those things where everybody is literally watching football. It’s the hype, the preparation. With hockey, you have to be a big fan and watch day-to-day. But with the NFL, you only get one game a week. So the buildup and preparation makes it greater since the game is not until Sunday.”
As a member of the media, what kind of advice would you give the NHL to boost its popularity?
“They should promote their stars. Find a way to get their stars out there. NHL has to get on the major networks such as ESPN and FOX to really promote its sport and get the names out in public. There are few guys you know in hockey but nothing compared to the NFL. Jonathan Quick should be a name everyone knows but unless you’re an avid hockey fan you might not know who he is.”
NHL players seem to enjoy playing some form of soccer before a game as they kick around the ball to help get loose. How do football players prepare for a game?
“Just play music. Music calms you down. NHL guys are around each other so much whereas NFL guys only have one Sunday (or a Thursday). Everybody gets prepared differently. I’m the guy who runs out there with head phones on, a towel over my head, getting a zone, in a place of calm, peace but also a little bit of rage. You have to have that happy medium.”
Since you are defensive minded, do you have a favorite defender on the Kings’ roster?
“Not really. I like watching the whole thing not just one position. I’m more of watching the flow because the lines change so much. One minute you are watching one line then all of a sudden another line comes in. You see Justin Williams score two goals and the next thing you know Anze Kopitar is in. They move around too much. You think one line is in but really it’s another. It gets confusing. The main person you watch is really Jonathan Quick. He’s the goalie. Some of the acrobatic saves he makes are incredible.”
Do you ever go ice skating? Do you see yourself making so hard check against the boards?
“No. I can’t even roller skater never mind skating on the ice. I’ll pass on that one.”
As a hockey fan, is there a player you have grown to like?
“You watch the guys you really know. Guys like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin because they’re visible; they are the faces of the NHL. In LA, you get to watch Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar. Because I’m here I get to watch them a lot.”