The second installment of 110 Percent, a series in which I talk to musicians about sports, features Open Mike Eagle, whose newest album, Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes, is one of the year’s must-haves.
Born and raised in Chicago (and now based in L.A.), Open Mike Eagle took time to talk about his love of the Bears and Bulls and why he doesn’t follow athletes on Twitter.
I know you’re a Bears and Bulls fan. Do you follow baseball at all?
I’m White Sox more than the Cubs. I’m more bandwagon when it comes to Cubs. I grew up by old Comiskey Park.
When did you move to L.A.?
Have you adopted any of the L.A. teams or would you ever?
No. … [laughs] … I absolutely hate the Lakers but thatâ€™s because I donâ€™t like Kobe. Iâ€™m not into baseball enough to be rooting for the Dodgers or Angels. And L.A. doesn’t have much else going on. But my thought with them getting a football team: If they got somebody elseâ€™s franchise, I wouldnâ€™t care for it too much. If they were able to expand and start a new team, it might be interesting.
Let’s get to the NBA. What are your thoughts on the lockout? Are you pro-anybody in this?
I tend to be pro-player. But thatâ€™s only because I really especially in this case felt the owners were set to bully the players from the very beginning. They weren’t going to negotiate and werenâ€™t going to budge because they thought they could break the players. I tend to be pro-player anyway. I guess thatâ€™s my general thought. But I donâ€™t necessarily like what the players association is doing in that theyâ€™ve waited this long to talk about (union) decertification when they could have done this months ago.
Are you upset that the season could be canceled? Or are you just like, “Well, life goes on”?
You know what, being a Bulls fan, Iâ€™m a little upset. They did pretty well last year. And when you have momentum, you want to see what next year will bring. It’s just … the season was so dramatic and I got emotionally invested in the NBA again because of all the things that were going on. There was so much interest and it’s disappointing that there wonâ€™t be season.
You said you got emotionally invested again. Were you down on the NBA at some point?
Itâ€™s tough. The Bulls had a lot of tough years after the championship era. I watched what I could. Whatever games were on WGN, I tried to catch ’em. But it was tough.
So at this point, you’re just focusing on the Bears?
You know, I feel really bad for those markets where their football team is not going to do well, because then you’ve got nothing to focus on. Thatâ€™s a real tough situation if youâ€™re in Indianapolis or Miami â€¦ itâ€™s hard.
I want to go back to you saying you dislike Kobe. As a Bulls fan myself, I always felt like Kobe was a Michael Jordan copycat, just in his mannerisms and general on-court demeanor. For some reason I sort of resented that. Whatâ€™s your distaste for Kobe?
Thereâ€™s something I find off-putting about the way he deals with people. He seems like kind of prima donna/diva kind of character. I canâ€™t be sure about that. But whatâ€™s interesting, too, is my LeBron James hate has eclipsed my Kobe hate, because I have full-on hatred for LeBron.
Did it start with “The Decision”?
It started with him walking off the court and not shaking anyone’s hand in Orlando (after the Magic eliminated the Cavaliers in Game 6 of 2009 Eastern Conference finals). I was like, “OK, this guy is out of touch with something.” After awhile these things start to manifest. I just donâ€™t like the way he conducts himself.
Were you hoping the Bulls were going to sign him when he was a free agent?
You know, I would have liked them to have gotten Dwyane Wade. I donâ€™t think LeBron is going to win anything for a long time. I feel like heâ€™s way too self-aware, too involved in the Internet and his own public perception. I think if you are as into that as he is, it gives you way too much pressure. And itâ€™s difficult to win when putting pressure on yourself.
That Bulls loss to the Heat in the playoffs was a killer. Were you anti-Heat last season?
In the moment, I was definitely anti all of it. Even in the season, I wished failure on them. Iâ€™d always like Wade before. But something felt weird about them doing that. I feel anti-LeBron. Anything he touches, I want it to fail.
Last time we talked, you mentioned being a bit of an ESPN/sports-talk junkie.
Oh yeah. I’m holed up in a hotel room watching ESPN news all day. … I like the ESPN2 shows with the radio guys who have their own TV shows – PTI, Around the Horn, Jim Rome. I’m starting to get into Dan LeBatard.
Iâ€™m a bum, man … [laughs]. I get a lot done, but I do like to have ESPN2 on in the background. I try to soak up all the info, I can. The thing about me is once I start to get interested in something it very quickly goes into nerd status. It’s approaching nerd status in sports. I’m not getting into sabermetrics or anything, but in terms of getting to know whatâ€™s going on, Iâ€™m pretty in tune.
Does your wife put up with this or is she into sports, too?
Sheâ€™s a pretty big sports fan, too. We both do a lot of the ESPN and lot of sports radio. Sheâ€™s having a tough year because sheâ€™s a Colts fan. Sheâ€™s a little disconnected, but she still keeps up.
You have a 3-year-old son. Are you influencing him yet with regards to sports?
As soon as I feel like itâ€™ll take, Iâ€™ll definitely start. Iâ€™ll definitely try to groom him into a Bears and Bulls fan.
The Bears have won four in a row. Are you feeling pretty good about how they’re playing?
I am. Itâ€™s just so difficult to try to conceive what the future holds when the Packers are rolling everything. … But I do feel really good. They’re getting a little better than mediocre and headed toward good. But this Packers run is about to be legendary. I hate to say that, too. There’s nobody I would like to win less than the Packers.
Oooh, LeBron or the Packers? See, this is thing: LeBron’s not going to win anything. My hatred for him isnâ€™t tied to that. The only reason Iâ€™m even thinking about the Packers is because they’re winning.
Did you play any sports as a kid?
I played football in high school. But I play everything recreationally.
Were you any good?
I wasnâ€™t horrible, but my thing was always that I was late getting equipment. All the other guys would have more practice time on me while I was waiting for my mom to buy pads or a helmet. I wasnâ€™t ever really able to get into the groove of the games. I played wide receiver and cornerback, but I broke my leg at the end of my sophomore year. By time my leg healed, I was like full-time breakdancing. That was the end of my sports career.
Southern Illinois, right? Did you know him?
We had a couple classes together. I havenâ€™t talked to him since heâ€™s been filthy NFL rich. I think if I ever ran into him, heâ€™d remember me and weâ€™d chat for a bit. He was great.
No other athletes you follow, though?
Not really. I follow Chris Broussard, Stephen A. Smith, I like Jemele Hill. You know, sports news, not so much the players. I learned dealing with Twitter that athletes, celebs and some musicians â€“ I can really like someone’s work and have no interest in the things they think of all day. … [laughs] … I get very annoyed reading about what theyâ€™re doing. There’s no place for that in my life. These guys are typically not known for diction for the use of language. … I try not to hold it against them.