Sal Masekela Talks Shaun White’s Lamborghini, U.S. Hockey, and Gretchen Bleiler’s Hotness
It’s coincidentally dumping buckets of sloppy, slushy Northeastern snow on the day I get Sal Masekela on the phone for an interview. From his Venice Beach, Calif., home, he tells me, “You guys need to be in a Western mountain town, bro.” I don’t disagree. Culture vultures and shrewd celebrity gossip hounds probably recognize Masekela as the host of the E Network’s “Daily Ten.” However, most ski, surf, and snowboarding bros probably know him as ESPN’s dreadlocked and bro-savvy host of both the Summer and Winter X Games. Despite his main gig broadcasting the daily dirt on the latest B-list celebrity sex tape scandal, Masekela keeps his priorities straight by getting on the hill 30 or 40 days in the winter to snowboard. When he’s not on the slopes, he’s out on the water. “Surfing is the base of my existence. Without surfing I don’t really exist.” The down-to-earth host says he’s able to shred up the waves two or three days a week when he’s not living the dream and hopscotching around the world to Figi, Indonesia, and Tahiti in pursuit of the perfect ride. Despite juggling TV gigs and entrepreneurial pursuits, Masekela tells me that a new skate park near his house is luring him out of a so-called “skateboarding retirement.” With the Winter Olympics in full swing, I caught up with Masekla to discuss his old buddy Shaun White, his plans to cover the World Cup this summer in South Africa, and his recent foray into the blogosphere on Tanqueray’s WeResistSimple.com.
BroBible: The other day you wrote in a blog post for “We Resist Simple” that Shaun White has “a broader mass appeal than that of Kobe and Lebron combined.” That’s a pretty bold statement.
Sal Masekela: First of all, let me say that this is coming from a basketball fan. The more inaccessible these guys become, the more inaccessible your life story becomes. The only thing we can really identify with is their exploits on the court and on-the-field of play. Outside of that, their lives are pretty insulated, pretty boring, and pretty elite. So you don’t really have that chance of saying, “You know, I’m going to meet Kobe in the street one day and we’re going to chat.” However, for Shaun, snowboarders, and action sports in general, you have a story that kids can identify with right away because he’s not the coolest guy on earth. He didn’t make the team. But he made his way in a sport that celebrates being an individual and, at the same time, celebrates the collectivity of being an individual and collective feeling of a bunch of people that are like, ‘Hey, we’re not afraid of being unique and being ourselves.’ I think when you see Shaun in his pipe run and with the swagger and the hair and his genius performance on Stephen Colbert the other night, you see a guy that a kid at home can easily and readily identify with because he’s basically that kid. Except he’s got a freakish talent. He doesn’t hold himself on high or come from a place that basically says, ‘I’m so the shit.’ It’s more like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I do and — God, I can’t believe I’m sitting on your couch right now. This is sick.’
I just think that makes him a uniquely marketable athlete. In turn, I think it makes him more marketable than other sports stars themselves.
In the blog post, you shared an interesting experience about hanging out with Shaun back in the day when he was getting paid in plasma TVs. What’s it like to hang out with him now?
I’ve known Shaun since he was seven years old, so the things I wrote, I really lived them. Before I was on TV, I was the guy who was at those events as a team athlete development guy and the live PA announcer. So I literally grew up riding with him. As he got older, he did more demos and went on the road with us for the Tony Hawk Tour. He actually lived with us for four weeks, two summers in a row. He was 13 and 14 at the time and on the road on a bus with a bunch of grown-ups and kids in their 20s. It’s funny because he’s really exactly the same kid now as he was then except now when he says, “Do you want to hang out?” he picks you up in his Lambo. Other than that, he’s really the same dude.
We were in Aspen this year staying at the Little Nell. I hear him yell, ‘Sal!’ Everyone instantly recognizes him. A real bourgeois, 50-year-old rich couple wanted to take a picture with him. It’s weird because those people, under normal circ*mstances if he wasn’t Shaun White, they wouldn’t want to talk to him. They would be like, ‘What is this guy doing in my hotel?’ It’s a different life for him now because he doesn’t have anonymity. I think the way he handles it is pretty amazing. I can send him a text message now and, unless he’s on a plane or riding a snowboard, I know I’ll get a text message right back in two minutes, the way it’s always been. He’s a good example of how you’re suppose to act when things go well for you.
What’s been the best Olympic performance so far?
USA Hockey, all day.
Has anything really stood out in the action sports realm?
No. Other than snowboarding and really the snowboarding Superpipe, I wasn’t really impressed with the courses they set up for the boarder cross and the ski cross.
I guess you’re spoiled after the X Games when it dumped snow the whole time.
It was kind of hard to watch. People were really excited about it, but I thought it was embarrassing. USA Hockey has been pretty amazing to watch. We always hear about the Miracle team, so if Canada and the U.S. can meet again, we’re going to have our own super game.
Also, you know what’s really crazy? Curling is like the tractor beam on the Death Star. Once you start watching it, it’s like the controls on the Millennium Falcon just don’t work anymore and you get sucked in.
Women’s curling has been particularly popular with the BroBible crew.
Hot! Hot, hot, hot!
Is there a particular X Games sport you would like to see in the Winter Olympics?
I don’t think they’re going to throw snow-cross in, but I’d be pretty sick if they did. Snowmobiles seem to make perfect sense. There’s no motorized events in Olympic sports.
What do you think having snowboarding in the Winter Olympics has done for the sport, rather then it just being an X Games phenomenon?
Besides getting Shaun White a Lamborghini? Snowboarding was the fastest growing sport and winter activity for a good solid eight years before the Olympics. The year it debuted in the Olympics, it kind of tapered off. I think what the Olympics has done is really legitimize the X Games. It legitimizes action sports as more than a bunch of thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkie, daredevil, and all the other stigmas that come with it. The world realized that, yo, these really are some of the best athletes on the planet. They are athletes at the same level or higher than anyone else that I consider to be a hall-of-fame athlete. It legitimizes them to an audience of critics and skeptics who thought it was a fad. Shaun has definitely led the charge much in the same way that Tony Hawk did in the late ’90s.
[inline:2]Which girl on the U.S. Winter Olympic Team is the hottest?
Gretchen Bleiler is a complete ten. Yeah, she’s the total package.
As the host of the “Daily 10,” you give the dirt on the daily celebrity news. Have any celebrities ever lashed out?
Nah, never. When I run into celebrities on the street that I’ve talked about on the show, they usually say “thank you” or “I liked the show.” Even Eric Dane and what he went through with that crazy-ass video [sex tape], he came up to me a few weeks ago with his wife and said, “You know what, dude? I really respect you.” I said, “Why?” He said, “You don’t feed into the hype. You tell it like it is and you’re not afraid to give your opinion. You don’t treat it like it’s actually news.” And I was like, “Dude, you hit it right on the head.” When I first got the “Daily 10,” I was like, ‘Look, I’m not Ryan Seacrest. No offense to Ryan Seacrest, but I’m just not that slick and polished. I can’t make it look like we’re actually discussing world events here. But I am going to have a good time with it.’ I’m not actually breaking news. I’m not the dude hiding out behind someone’s dumpster trying to see some shit. We just basically aggregate content and give it our spin in a way that tries not to insult the intelligence of the audience. I would like to say that the “Daily 10” is the type of show a guy could watch with his girlfriend and not feel as bad as watching some of the other entertainment news shows.
What are you planning with your “We Resist Simple” blog?
It is my first foray into the blogosphere. It’s been a lot of fun. Tanqueray offered me a really great opportunity with a unique lineup of individuals. When I see someone like Talib Kweli on the same lineup as myself, I’m like ‘Wow, were they slumming when they got to me? Because its an honor.’ I’m enjoying being able to take my thoughts past 140 characters and share with people the things that make me complete in my thoughts and experiences. It’s cool that people even want to read them. Also, I’m headed down to South Africa for the World Cup. I’m going to be the human interest reporter for South Africa.
Your dad is from South Africa, right?
Yes, my dad is from South Africa. He’s a trumpet and fugal-horn player for South Africa. He’s going to be the music director for the World Cup for ESPN. I’m going down there in March for two weeks and we’re going to shoot this doc*mentary about a father taking his son through South Africa. I’m looking forward to that and being able to blog about it this summer with We Resist. It’s pretty cool to just take everybody on board with this crazy-ass journey of my life. For a kid who didn’t go to college and just was a bum surfer and skateboarder, I turned out pretty decent.