Better Know a Broadcaster: A Q&A with ESPN reporter Kris Budden
As we (hopefully) get closer to the 2020 college football season, we at Saturday Football are talking with some of the announcers, reporters and studio hosts who bring you college football coverage on Saturdays in the fall.
This week, ESPN’s Kris Budden spoke with newsletter editor Adam Spencer, discussing their Mizzou ties, Budden’s love of tennis, professional inspirations and an unfortunate live broadcast mishap.
Here’s what Budden had to say. (Note: Interview edited for clarity and length.)
Adam Spencer: You went to the University of Missouri, too.
Kris Budden: I did!
AS: Let’s start with that. Did you know you wanted to be a sports or broadcast journalist? Is that why you went to Mizzou?
KB: I did. Growing up, my godfather was a news anchor here in Dallas. I grew up going to the station and I knew that I wanted to be a reporter. Honestly, I went (to school) thinking that I wanted to become a news reporter. At Mizzou, you can go the news route, you can go the sports route, but you start in news.
Doing 12-hour shifts covering fires and crime and death, I just thought — I’m someone who takes my work home with me. I would have a hard time being around all that negativity. I really enjoyed telling human interest stories, so I ended up going the sports route because I felt it fit my personality more and I’d be happier doing it.
AS: You mentioned being drawn toward sports because of the human interest angle, but did you have a background in sports? Did you play growing up?
KB: My whole family is pretty sports-oriented. My mom was a junior Olympic swimmer, and so I started swimming and diving at a young age. I was a diver for 8 years traveling the country until I had to have back surgery when I was 12. Then I transitioned into tennis. I probably could have played at a DII school in college, but I decided to let my pitiful tennis career end there. (Laughs)
AS: You mentioned that your godfather was someone who you followed into the media industry. Who else did you — at Mizzou or elsewhere — who did you watch and who did you admire when you were getting into the business?
KB: Especially when I started getting into sports and I knew I wanted to eventually be a sideline reporter, I really liked the idea of not being tied to a desk. So I never really had dreams of being a SportsCenter anchor. I wanted to be the one in the field doing the interviews. So, when I knew that’s what I wanted to do, Michele Tafoya was someone I always watched and still watch to this day.
Pam Oliver was an early mentor of mine when I started working at FOX, just in terms of really cultivating the sideline reporter role, learning things people don’t think about, like how to sell things to your producer or how to find stories on the sidelines, how to use your eyes and ears. A lot of that came from Pam Oliver.
AS: How do you get over the criticism you receive or what are some of the strategies you use to deal with some of the hate you inevitably receive just based on your job and your gender?
KB: I think it bothered me more when I was getting started in the industry. … It doesn’t faze me at all anymore. In the long run, that is someone whose small-mindedness — if they can’t equate the fact that since I didn’t play football, I can’t talk about football — I’m never going to win them over. I’m not going to waste negative energy on those kinds of people.
AS: In your career, what’s the best game you’ve ever been a part of?
KB: I’m going to forget if it was 6 or 7 overtimes, but it was the LSU-A&M game 2 years ago.
AS: Oh yeah! Seven overtimes.
KB: They all run together, it was so long. That game, just because I was standing next to Coach O and his family. At one point, I was running back and forth between the sidelines. Then it just became too much.
I’m standing there with these family members who are also so emotionally exhausted. I’m seeing these athletes who can’t even get up off the field after a play. They finally get to the line and then it was just incredible play after incredible play. The amount that someone can survive on pure adrenaline was incredible to see.
AS: What was the mood like in that game after Coach O got the Gatorade bath and then the game kept going?
KB: That was so brutal! Honestly, all I was thinking of was — I was 6 months pregnant at the time. Our company made a big deal about if anyone should rush the field, that I would not be out there. We had gone and asked how often had fans rushed Kyle Field. It had only happened 1 other time in the history of the stadium. We were like ‘No chance today’s going to be the day.’
So I go out there to interview Jimbo. Then everyone starts storming. Then, when I got off the field, I realized about the Gatorade moment with Coach O. The turn of events in that game, you almost felt more sorry for him than happy for the Aggies. It was such a weird dynamic of celebration and then pity for those players who had played for like 5 hours.
AS: Speaking of rushing the field, what was your favorite Mizzou game to be at when you were in school? When I was there, we beat No. 1 Oklahoma and I got to storm the field then. You were there during the Chase Daniel era…
KB: Mine’s actually from the Brad Smith era. It was 2003 against Nebraska. I believe they snapped a 27-year streak of losing to Nebraska. I remember texting my dad. … This was before they made the goalposts collapsible. I texted my dad and was like, ‘Hey, if I storm the field, will you bail me out of jail?’ and he replied, ‘Absolutely not.’ So I didn’t do it.
That was the game where they stormed the field, knocked down the goalposts and carried them to Harpo’s. They cut it up into pieces for people to have. There was this great picture of fans tearing down the goalposts and they sold it at the bookstore. They made like 100 copies and then weren’t allowed to print it anymore because it was condoning an illegal act. The few people who have that picture, I’m sure it’s worth a lot.
But yeah, I distinctly remember texting my dad and him being like, ‘Uh, yeah, I’m not bailing you out.’
AS: What’s been the funniest moment you’ve been a part of on the sidelines? A broadcast error or something a coach or athlete said or anything like that?
KB: I saw (SEC Network reporter/host) Alyssa (Lang)’s and mine is like 10 times worse and like way inappropriate, so I don’t know if it can be printed. This year, I was with Dick Vitale for basketball. We’re doing something on him being honored by the NCAA. I had previously also worked with Dick Enberg. So when I’m doing the report, I said Dick Enberg.
My producer in my ear said, ‘You said Dick Enberg.’ So I was like, ‘Oh, I mean Vitale!’ I was trying to make a joke about it and I ended up saying, ‘Well, there are a lot of Dicks in the Hall of Fame.’ Then, it just derailed.
AS: That’s a good one! To end it here, I have a few rapid-fire questions. If you had to cover a sport other than football, what would it be and why?
KB: Tennis. Growing up playing tennis, my husband is a former player and former coach. I love the sport. To be able to go to Wimbledon would be my all-time bucket list item.
AS: If you could interview someone — doesn’t even have to be an athlete — alive or dead, who would it be and why?
KB: Roger Federer. I’ve never gotten a chance to meet him. He’s my all-time favorite athlete and the amount that he gives back to the sport is amazing. Everyone has always told me he is just as kind as he seems on television.
AS: Last one. With no live sports going on during quarantine, what’s something you’ve learned about yourself with no college football or college basketball to be reporting on?
KB: I’ve learned that I don’t have as much patience as I thought I did. Being quarantined with a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old has been a struggle day-to-day.
I will say that I have never been an organized person. You can ask any of my broadcast crew members — I lose keys and my cell phones at all the hotels. I have to get like 10 different hotel room keys. But for some reason, when I’m stuck in my house, I have become, like, everything has to be organized. All that anxiety, I have put into my pantry and my laundry room and my garage. Now everything has to be organized. That’s weird because that’s not my personality at all.