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Will Cain is Shaping His Legacy Through News and Sports

Now the co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Fox News and former a former host on ESPN Radio, Will Cain made the seamless transition from sports to news.

Jim Cryns

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The stars at night are big and bright…

He’s all Texan. From his zip code to his boots. Will Cain is confident and accomplished. But, like any good Texan, he has his priorities.

“I like my beer cold,” Will Cain explained. “As Matthew McConaughey said in True Detective, ‘I’ll take a sixer of Old Milwaukee or Lone Star, nothing snooty.”

Will Cain is the guy you see and think, ‘How the hell did he get so lucky?’ He’s got the looks, a good job. He probably has a fast car too.

He’s co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend on Fox News. Cain was also the host of The Will Cain Show on ESPN Radio, which ran from January 2018 to June 2020. So Cain made a relatively seamless transition from sports to news. 

“Everything I do is with intentionality,” Cain said. “That doesn’t mean I think I’m perfect. I make plenty of mistakes. I talk entirely too much about sports. Not just because I love them, but because they are the perfect metaphor for life. Winning, avoiding a loss. I’m constantly driving with my fingers and hands on the steering wheel.”

Cain said he’d like to think he’s down to earth. “I just love talking about news and sports. Politics is so polarizing. Sometimes because of that, it can get in the way of seeing things the way they are.”

Being at ESPN was a privileged situation for Cain, a dyed-in-the-wool sports fan. 

“There was always some turbulence on First Take,” he said. “That was more of a polarizing show. It becomes a debate, and you show up with your strong opinions. Listeners understand my biases, where I was when I said something. I’m interested and open to people that disagree with me. In the world of sports, politics, and news, you have to be. Let’s all be human beings if you’re willing to give that a shot.”

Cain grew up in a small country town on seven acres in Sherman, Texas. This town is about an hour north of Dallas. His father was an attorney, and the younger Cain also earned his Juris Doctorate and believed he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps. 

“I made the choice not to become an attorney when my father was still alive,” Cain said. Instead, he said he thought being a writer was his calling.

“I went to Montana because I wanted to write,” Cain said. “I thought if I was going to be somewhere to write, where would that be? I guess I’ve always romanticized Montana.”

He said the writing thing didn’t quite manifest in the way he’d hoped. 

“I always took radio very seriously,” Cain explained. “A lot of guys that turn on a microphone think charm or personality carries everything. I think it’s all about content. Delivery.” 

Reading was always encouraged in the Cain household.

“My parents read a lot,” Cain said. “I think I read more non-fiction than they do. They read for fun; I tend to read to keep informed. I think people overvalue being a lawyer. There are other things that pique my curiosity more.”

Something he’s read recently was by Pete Hegseth, Battle for the American Mind. 

“He talks about the roots of the educational system, compulsory schools,” Cain said. Battle for the American Mind is the untold story of the Progressive plan to neutralize the basis of our Republic – by removing the one ingredient that had sustained Western Civilization for thousands of years.

Cain and I talked a bit about some of the contentious issues of the day. 

“When you think about our founding fathers, they were incredible,” Cain said. “They were educated in classic Western Thought. They were not ‘shoot from the hip’ kind of guys. They looked into checks and balances, anticipating what might happen. Those ideals have been enshrined for thousands of years. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, bear arms. It’s all put into historical science.”

Cain said there are a lot of terms in our lexicon that have become catchphrases. I asked him about a theory that postulates Donald Trump and his ilk represent an ‘existential threat to Democracy.’ The result of which would be an ‘authoritarian leader.’

“I don’t think we’re on the edge of that,” Cain said. “There are threats on a deeper level. On a cultural level, we need to ask ourselves who we are. What is of value to us as it pertains to society? People also use the term ‘far right.’ What does that even mean? President Trump far right? From a policy perspective, his administration was interested in unfettered free trade. Tariffs were more Left, yet Trump embraced trade restrictions. That’s not traditionally a ‘far right’ position. It’s a Libertarian kind of thought.” 

Far-Right is a term Cain finds misused. He said it’s difficult for him to think of one particular issue where the right has become what is seen as far-right. “Maybe immigration,” Cain said. “We’re more hawkish on immigration than we were 20 years ago. We’re in a populist moment. In a lot of ways, it feels the game is rigged in power to retain power. Both on the left and right. Bernie Sanders has given voice to that.”

Cain is thorough when he approaches prep for his show. Pretty much like he approaches everything. “You think about what you’re going to say. Outline thoughts, sometimes come up with bullet points.

He said he’d always create an outline for everything he did in life. Still does. “I’ve never devoted myself to long-form artistically understanding. I need to know the sentence, paragraph, and chapter,” Cain said. 

You get the feeling with Cain, even with all his successes, his family still means everything to him. “With my sons, I’m blown away by them,” Cain said. “Despite this passion to help shape them into men. Who are we to think kids are blank slates? They’re not. A lot of who we are is innate to our genetic personality and makeup. In terms of my sons, one is more empathetic and kinder than anyone I’ve known in my life. I need to train him to be a little less sweet in a tough world. The younger son is so insightful. Comedic. I don’t understand the way he thinks. I guess the younger one tends to work things out on their own.”

He said every man wants to leave some kind of legacy. “We all have a Roman Empire Builder inside of us after we’re gone. What you were surrounded by. Maybe we can all do our best and speak to each other more. That would certainly build relationships.”

Cain has always been somebody interested in ideas rather than politics. Philosophy rather than horse races. “I’m still fascinated,” Cain said. “When it comes to something like the Supreme Court, I’m interested in the ideas that help shape an opinion. Want to read the rationale. How they read the constitution.” 

Conversely, when Congress gets involved in the machinations of putting together a stimulus bill or running for re-election, Cain’s interest starts to taper off.

“I’m more interested in philosophy than horse races. I think a lot of what we do rests on the importance of faith. Where we place things in our hierarchy, you’re only choosing what you put at the top. Sometimes I place too much emphasis on raising my boys and not enough on being a great husband.”

To appear on an ESPN show, it helps if you’re a fiery guy.

“I’m passionate and think it’s my personality for the most part,” he said. “That was the culture of First Take. You’re encouraged to lean in and be passionate about a subject. It’s the same with most guys on that set. It’s not a personal attack. I’d say 90 percent of the time; it’s not personal. When you get emotional, sparks can fly.”

He said he couldn’t recall how many times people have asked him if First Take is staged. “It’s not staged in the sense it’s theater,” Cain said. “There is a theatricality in terms of delivery and emotion.

“I covered a boxing match in Las Vegas and dressed in a boxing robe and a towel around my neck. I guess you’d say that was a bit of theater. I’ve mimicked shooting birds out of the sky to make a guy eat crow.”

“What we’re talking about is being overly tribal with politics,” Cain said. “I believe passionately about my ideas. That doesn’t mean I want to be tribalistic. I think we’re inherently tribalistic. It’s part of how we survived during evolution. You should have to root for the team where you were born,” Cain joked. 

“You’re geographically born into your teams, unless your parents brainwashed you. I think sports is a cathartic exercise. I’m a Mavericks fan; I hate the Spurs. I think it’s good to have an irrational attachment to something. I’m tribalistic and it’s okay to hate the Spurs,” he quipped.

When his family lived in New York, he said his boys were raised as Longhorn, Mavs and Rangers fans. Now that they’ve gone back to Texas, they’re all set. They didn’t have to change their loyalty. 

“I’m really big on this. You’ve got to hold on to the things that are provincial. I don’t like the fact that America has devolved into a mono-culture. We roughly listen to the same music. I like that Boston has a unique and weird accent. I’m proud of being from Texas.”

…(clap, clap, clap, clap,) deep in the heart of Texas.

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Is the NFL Really an Unchallengeable TV Product?

If most opportunities to watch the NFL in primetime are regarded as miserable, is there really no way to beat the league in the ratings or has no one actually tried?

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NFL

When the NFL placed Thursday Night Football on a streaming service, I wondered if anyone in sports television would really take the opportunity to challenge the league. So far, no one has, and likely will.

But that leaves me asking the question: is the NFL really that unchallengeable? Is it really this 1,000-pound gorilla that can’t be toppled?

In some aspects, yes, absolutely, 100%. But in others, no, I don’t think so.

For instance, any TV executive would be a fool to try to beat the league in the 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM ET timeslots on FOX and CBS. And really, you can’t hardly attack the league on Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football, either.

But Thursday Night Football? Earlier this month, our Ryan Brown argued that the NFL put a bad product on Thursday nights and usurped the evening away from the college ranks and ESPN. And he’s right to a certain degree. Once Thursday Night Football really got going, ESPN essentially abandoned the idea of putting marquee matchups against the package.

My pitch to ESPN, or even FOX (although both are unlikely to want to anger the strongest strategic partner in television), would be that Thursday Night Football is as vulnerable as its ever been. It makes nearly weekly headlines for its lackluster schedule, which in turn leads to headlines about the lack of enthusiasm legendary broadcaster Al Michaels has to broadcast the lackluster schedule.

Also, if you pull up X on a given Thursday evening, you’ll see your timeline flooded with complaints about the viewing experience being miserable, fans struggling through buffering and distorted pictures, and overall complaints about the product. Now, for the record, I don’t have those issues, I think everyone else just needs to get better internet, but that’s another column.

But if most opportunities to watch the NFL in primetime are regarded as miserable, is there really no way to beat the league in the ratings or has no one actually tried?

My contention is that if ESPN or FOX were to put up real, actual, truly marquee college football games on Thursdays in primetime, they would have a chance to do really well. And I think it’s something the Worldwide Leader should consider now that it holds the rights to the SEC. With the additions of Texas and Oklahoma, the league, and in turn ESPN, will have some of the biggest games in college football, and there are only so many Saturdays and only so many good timeslots to put those broadcasts.

Why not look through the schedule and say “Ok, LSU vs Texas A&M, we’re going to put you on Thursday night at 8:00 PM ET up against the 1-10 Carolina Panthers versus the 4-8 Chicago Bears“?

In true internet spitballing fashion, that question leads me to another one: who says no?

The NFL is the unquestioned king of live television. I’m not foolish enough to think otherwise. But the ratings from the league’s first-ever Black Friday game featuring the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets had to be, in my estimation, slightly underwhelming with 9.6 million viewers.

But, just because you’re dominant doesn’t mean you’re bulletproof, either. I think there’s a hole in the NFL’s armor. And I think the league knows it, too, but operates from such a position of strength it believes it can’t be toppled. All it takes is someone to have the gumption to attack it.

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Dagen McDowell Is Ready For A New Adventure With Fox Business

“Every decision in America is born of policy, On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

Jim Cryns

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To know Dagen McDowell, you must understand what she comes from, where she comes from. You won’t know her until you know the lessons, kindness, and determination set forth by her parents.

Her parents operated a small grocery store, LW Roark and Company. Charles and Joyce McDowell were high school sweethearts and both went to college but decided to go back home and open a business. “This is in the middle of nowhere,” McDowell said. “It was a wholesale grocery store. They sold it in the late 90s.”

She said her parents were smart, encouraging, and took every opportunity to teach McDowell and her brother.

“They’d constantly talk up people who came into the store. Both of them have and had an insatiable curiosity about everything. They felt they learned things through their customers. It was more fun to learn about things from other people.”

McDowell’s parents never took a week off work. Never. The family took no vacations as most families would. Once while McDowell was in college at Wake Forest University, the family visited the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in D.C.

“Both of my parents were very interested in architecture and landscapes. We’d go to Williamsburg and just look at the buildings.”

McDowell joined FOX News Channel in 2003 and helped launch FOX Business Network as a founding anchor in 2007.

Her mother passed away three years ago and her father is still very much a part of her life. Her father was a constant teacher.

“One time my father, who we called Dowell McDowell, was putting up an outbuilding and asked me how long one line should be if the other line was such and such. He taught me the Pythagorean theorem when I was about 4 years old.”

McDowell was nurtured by parents with endless curiosity.

“I was raised by parents who would always debate and converse around the dinner table. We shared breakfast and dinner together every day. They loved learning, were always inquisitive, never afraid to ask a question. My parents shared a fearlessness and passed that on to me. I’ve never been embarrassed to ask people questions. I love talking to people and finding out about things.”

For a long time, McDowell had no idea what she wanted to do for a living. She knew if she worked at different jobs she’d eventually figure out what she was good at.

“I knew I was a decent writer, but I always tried to get information out of people, what they were doing. Ask if they were fulfilled and happy.”

At Wake, Forest McDowell majored in art history and had every intention of working in a museum, possibly as a curator.

“I interned at the Center for Contemporary Arts. I lived in Venice, Italy for a while. Wake Forest owns a house in Venice.”

After that it was Colorado. She moved back to New York during the recession of 1991 with a duffel bag. She took the Amtrak to New York City and sublet an apartment for six months.

“I had no TV, just a radio. I knew I could find something good to do in New York, there were so many jobs. I always wanted to live in the city. Either the city or way out in the country. Nowhere in between.”

She said being in New York made her feel anything was possible. This was January in 1994 when job ads were still in the physical newspaper, like the New York Times. McDowell interviewed at Institutional Investor through a referral from a friend.

“It was a brilliant magazine with terrific writing,” McDowell explained. “Very prominent in the industry. They were looking for someone to work with the newsletter written for the financial community.”

She’d cover topics like the bond business, Wall Street, and money management. The magazine made her take a reporting test where you’d make up a story and write it. She was offered a job and worked there for three years.

“I learned to be a journalist there,” McDowell said. “I could write but I became a better journalist. We’d break news, create our sources, and learn more and more about finance. People love to talk about what they do if you show interest.”

The next big job was SmartMoney.com, a resource and web newspaper for private investors. There McDowell wrote a personal finance column. She started doing commentary on television shows, the way a lot of people in different professions tend to do. “Then I started making more appearances on weekend financial or business shows,” McDowell said.

She got a call from Neil Cavuto about 20 years ago and he told McDowell, ‘Kid, you want a job? I know you don’t have much professional TV experience. We’ll give you some training and you’ll figure it out. If you do, you stay. If not, you go.’

McDowell said she was glad she was a writer first before she arrived at Fox. She writes her own scripts and has a background in finance and business writing.

“Before the business network was launched, they had only one business reporter and two senior business correspondents,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do so many different jobs, use different muscles, so to speak. As the years have passed I’ve discovered other talents I may have and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

There’s a new show in town. McDowell and Sean Duffy will co-host The Bottom Line which will air on weeknights from 6-7:00 PM ET.

McDowell said she and Duffy come from extremely similar backgrounds. Duffy is from rural Wisconsin and McDowell is from Virginia.

“We know what small-town living is like, “McDowell said. “I might live in New York City but where I grew up affects the way I view the world. I’m still grounded in my hometown. On the show, we look south and west with everything we cover. You have to think of your audience. Rather than talking about them, we talk with them. That’s our shared background and vision. Sean is extremely down to earth and generous.”

McDowell said the show is not financially based, but steeped in business.

She said Duffy’s experience as a former U.S. Congressman, he understands policy as well as financial matters.

“Every decision in America is born of policy,” she said. “On the show, we bring that to our show. Talk about the news of the day.”

This is different from anything McDowell has done in the past.

“It’s a two-anchor show in the evening,” she explained. “This is not taking place during market hours. We tie all the business happenings together from the day. Again, it’s not about Washington or New York. It’s about the people we grew up with. We talk to them. Build a relationship with them on the air. For me, this is not just sitting in front of a camera. I can run off at the mouth as well as anyone, hang in there with the filibuster.”

McDowell says she is blunt, but hopes she isn’t rude. During a recent interview for the new show she used the terms ‘pig potatoes’ and ‘chapped backsides.’

“Those are terms I just made up,” she said. “I make up a lot of phrases and don’t always know what they mean. I have an entire repertoire of those kinds of phrases.”

Duffy assumed they were southern phrases he had to learn from McDowell, but she assured him she’d never heard them anywhere else.

“I’m just making stuff up,” McDowell said. “You can’t curse. Can’t say BS. At least you shouldn’t say BS on television. You don’t want to say manure. You never want to say something that makes people wince or evokes a smell.”

Dealing with people directly and bluntly seems to come from her mother.

“My mother had grit,” McDowell said. “She was also very kind, never syrupy. I used to say she had no magnolia-mouth.

That’s got to be a southern phrase.

McDowell said her mother was not a servile flatterer, but she was kind. Always there when somebody was in need.

“She had real grit. She’d stand and fight for her friends and family members.”

Her mother passed away after being diagnosed with stage-four cancer.

“She went through unimaginable pain,” McDowell said of her mother. “For nearly six years. You want to talk about somebody who was tough. There was nobody more pugnacious than my mother.”

She explained even with her illness, her mother was always on the go. Continuing to live her life. When questioned about being so active while she was ill, her mother continued to show grit.

“My mother would say she didn’t want to walk around looking like she had cancer. She asked, ‘What choice do I have? I could lay in bed and wait to die, or I can get up and do what I can .’”

McDowell said her mother’s illness taught her to be a caregiver in ways she never could have imagined. Her mother taught her to find moments of joy every single day, in the smallest of things.

“It can be as simple as telling a stranger to have a great day. Treat a perfect stranger with kindness. I do it all day long. I know it sounds corny, but I want to be known as a person who brings a casserole to a friend when they’re ill.”

A one-sheet from Fox tells you McDowell and the culmination of her background is perfect for The Bottom Line. The fact is, it’s true.

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Airing The Tyre Nichols Video Was A Necessity

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, hard sounds to hear. But they aired.

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Far be it for me not to address this outrageous and embarrassing instance in humanity. After the videos of Memphis police brutally beating Tyre Nichols were shown on television there really seemed to be more outrage emerging from society this time than from the media, for a change. One would think that’s how we wish things to be.

In instances like this, where the video and audio images are far from brief but are instead chaptered as they unfold, there are few options other than to let them run their course. Clocks — breaks hard and soft — are out the window, just as in live coverage.

Because that’s what this was, only the live this time was us, and as we all absorbed and reacted to actions disapprovingly familiar yet somehow foreign at the same time, the impact was still becoming apparent even though we already knew the outcome.

It’s happened before.

Not always like this but we’ve seen it before, police encounters shown on the news overtakes and become the news.

It takes effect as the sights and sounds are digested, dissected, and discussed, often before their potential impact could really be imagined.

In 1991, when the Handycam footage crossed screens for the first time and we learned Rodney King’s name, we didn’t know then but we had a feeling.

We were on the right track, though as newsrooms evolved and street reporting incorporated a different type of storytelling.

I was a cop in 1991. Changes came. Some.

It’s 2023, I’m no longer a cop. Changes will come again. Some.

Turning points — or the overused watershed moments — mean just as much to the news media as they do to law enforcement.

The “why’s” that make this a turning point are more society and community based this time around than they were in 1991.

At least I think so. And I don’t think it makes a bit of difference who’s involved this time.

There were hard moments to watch in those videos, and hard sounds to hear. But they aired. Where they couldn’t air, they were described in great detail; descriptions sometimes can be worse than the real thing. Sometimes, not this time.

And they should air, they shouldn’t stop airing. This is what happened and this is what people need to see and hear and this is exactly why we are here.

Warn them, provide them with a heads up that they’re not going to like what happens next. It’s life and we show life, and we show what some of us do with it when it’s someone else’s.

Overall, I would say the news platforms held their composure, even after the videos were released. I saw, read, and heard some refreshingly neutral coverage, even from outlets where I expected hard turns into the lanes on either side of the road.

Legitimate questions were asked by anchors and reporters and much of the time, the off-balance issues were raised more by those on the sidewalks and those on the other side of the cameras and microphones.

As much as I find myself in disagreement with what I often see on the cable networks — all the cable networks — I did find a sense of symmetry watching CNN’s Don Lemon speak with Memphis City Council Chair Martavius Jones in the hours after the videos were released.

Regular protocols be damned, Lemon and producers lingered patiently as Jones, visibly overcome by emotion, struggled to regain breath and composure enough to be able to speak. Rather than cut away or move to other elements, they stood fast and it became an example of what often requires no words.

There were fewer punches pulled on other platforms as well.

The sounds of the screams, the impacts, and the hate-filled commands were broadcast through car radios.

As were Tyre Nichol’s calls for his mom. They aired. They had to.

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