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Out of Bounds: An interview with Nick Bakay

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

By Seth Rorabaugh, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Normally, the Angry Young Man asks the silly question; not today. Angry has passed the proverbial tape recorder to WebMaster, who scored serious national creed for One of America's Inside Pages by persuading a certain comedic genius to go "Out Of Bounds." Enjoy ...

Part II ...

On a voice mail normally reserved for the likes of the East Monongahela Sportsmen or the Mars Rod and Gun Club, a different voice was heard. No, this voice didn't want information about turkey shoots or fishing with larvae seminars placed in One of America's Newspapers. This voice wanted something else.

(Click here to see Part I of this interview)

"Hi, this is Nick Bakay getting back to you much belatedly. I clearly need a hot young assistant to organize my life. If what you're interested in stands, give me a call."

We had e-mailed Bakay, a contributor to the many forms of ESPN and probably best known as the voice of Salem the Cat on the show, "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," some three months prior requesting an interview. After a week of no response, the assumption was that he was just another typical big-time cat-voice guy blowing us off.

Bakay, who showed some incredible coordination by talking to us on his cell phone while driving to work in the madness that is Los Angeles' traffic, has quite the resume. In addition to his regular role on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," he as appeared in sitcoms such as "Coach," "Ellen," "Grace Under Fire," "Murphy Brown," "That 70s Show" and "Seinfeld." A native of Buffalo, N.Y., his is a former writer for "In Living Color" the "Dennis Miller Show".

He was one of the first personalities with ESPN2 and he also contributes to ESPN Radio and ESPN.com's Page Two, primarily with his "Tales of Tape." Next month, he will add his talents to ESPN's coverage of the NFL Draft. As if all that weren't enough, he is also currently a writer for the CBS sitcom "King of Queens." Bakay, 43, resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Robin.

When we last left Bakay, he was rapping on his favorite hockey team, those Buffalo Sabres.


Q: Favorite Gilbert Perreault memory?

A: I went to a lot of Sabres games in the early days. They were a typical expansion club. But this was before the neutral-zone trap and the personal interference the league has grown into. It was the era of the rink-long rush. It didn't matter if the Sabres were getting beat, 7-2, two or three times a game, Perreault would take the puck from behind the net and run the pinball. Just an unbelievably electric player. I was a Bobby Orr fan first, and then Perreault was my hometown guy. You would go to the game just to watch him. It was like the puck was glued to his stick.

Q: That's better than us. Our team back then was bankrupt and the IRS padlocked the doors to the Civic Arena.

A: And that's back when the colors were baby blue and black.

Q: Thank god we weren't alive back then.

A: Well, there were other things you missed, kid.

Q: True, we missed four Super Bowls.

A: There you go.

Q: Caught on just in time for Bubby Brister.

A: Aw, my condolences.

Q: As a Bills fan, which Super Bowl was the toughest? Have to imagine it was Scott Norwood's miss [Super Bowl XXV]?

A: It wasn't. For me, the worse Super Bowl was when the Bills played the Cowboys in Pasadena, Calif. (Super Bowl XXVI), because not only did they get trounced, when the whole second half is like an arena football game for the other team, it's just so bad. And, I made a terrible mistake and I let ESPN2 film me watching the game. We had crew members in my living room wearing Cowboys shirts. And my wife looked at me that week when I said this will be great and they'll win, and she had this look you get of like, "Oh, you poor fool." And, I actually have never watched the segment, because the actual experience was so awful and I remember having a few too many drinks and getting a little ugly when the rooting section for the Cowboys started chiming in. But people have come up to me over the years and said, "I'll never forget that thing." I think it was like watching a particularly brutal episode of "Oz."

Q: Rob Johnson or Doug Flutie?

A: I'll always be grateful to Flutie because he had a lot to do with keeping the franchise in Buffalo. But, in the end, both experiments ... not so good. Look at last year. [The Bills and San Diego Chargers] are picking basically next to each other, four and five in the draft. I don't think either one has proven to be the answer.

Q: So now you're left with former Pitt quarterback Alex Van Pelt.

A: I like Dough Boy. I love anybody who can hang around the league as long as he has. And, no, he's not a stud QB, but he clearly gets respect from the huddle. And after all the crap with Flutie and Johnson, it's just so nice to see a guy who's not an attitude problem. And, the guys play with him. When you go through those weird years, it's actually great to see him go under center.

Q: He almost retired.

A: He literally had his house on the market, then Flutie got hurt. So there's a little destiny in there, too.

Q: Favorite O.J. Simpson memory. Football or otherwise.

A: I was in complete denial. You lose four consecutive Super Bowls, you've pretty much seen the bottom of things. Best player in franchise history ... Crime of the Century. I remember back in 1969 when the Bills were winning one game a year and he was the only guy worth watching. And there were those moments where he was in [open] space, doing his thing, and that was all you had to redeem the whole year. As a football player, he was just a warrior.

Q: We've kind of [cough, cough] borrowed the "Tale of the Tape" idea.

A: But you always call it "Nick Bakay's Tale of the Tape" right?

Q: No we've actually changed the name to "The Score" and have dodged all legal recourses ... we think.

A: Well, you'll be hearing from my agent, Mr. Tank Black.

Q: That will be on the weekend we imagine, right?

A: It's a 10-minute phone call, so, please be there. You know what, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Q: That will hold up in court right?

A: Sure.

Q: You work for the same organization that publishes Hunter S. Thompson. What's that like?

A: It's pretty cool. His sports stuff doesn't knock me on my butt, but I'm a huge fan of his classic stuff. He is the living embodiment of self-indulgence as a two-edged sword.

Q: You haven't had any urges to go to Vegas while just totally screwed up on some illegal narcotic?

A: Every day, my friend. It's not that far from here. That's the whole point of Vegas.

Q: What did you think of the movie "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"?

A: I didn't see it because frankly I couldn't imagine making a movie of the book. It's one of the things Hollywood makes a mistake over and over again. Novels are in a narrative and it's the voice of the writer that frequently makes it worth the ride. It doesn't necessarily translate into action and image. They've made more than one version of the "Great Gatsby" ... but it's not a story, it's observation.

Q: Favorite ESPN personality.

A: That's tough. I know a lot of these guys and I like so many of them, but I'm going to go with Mel Kiper Jr.

Q: Why's that?

A: Because I'm a draft freak. And Mel is synonymous with one of my obsessions. Mel is like a dealer to me. And, also, I love anybody who can spout out the kind of information he does, on a dime, even eight hours into Day 2 of the draft. He knows more about these people than they do. He's a machine. And Mel is also a classic American entrepreneur. He took an area that no one ever though about building into an empire and did it. I love him for that too.

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