Mina Kimes thinks. So she counts.
Two TV show appearances, one Madden special, two six-episode podcasts as host, three guest podcasts. It's all in a week's work for Kimes.
The ESPN analyst looks like the busiest woman in sports media as she films in her makeshift quarantine studio. Kimes records pandemic-era television segments with books behind her, a glowing ring of light in front of her and a Seahawks helmet perched on her shoulder. The blue plastic dome represents Kimes' greatest passion as she talks, laughs and yells about sports on national television several times a week.
“I [expletive] love football,” said Kimes, sitting on a sunny patio in Glendale this summer. “If I didn't work at ESPN, which I didn't until 2014, I would still be watching a psychotic amount of football for someone who doesn't make a living. I hope that never changes."
Kimes turned his love of soccer into an empire of sports commentary. In addition to regular appearances on ESPN's "Around the Horn" and "Highly Questionable," Kimes, 35, hosts a weekly football podcast, is a daily analyst on ESPN's newly launched "NFL Live," and is a commentator for Rams in the preseason. games.
A petite, half-Korean woman who unabashedly loves Seattle's sports teams and completes the New York Times' toughest crossword puzzle in less than nine minutes, Kimes seems an unconventional candidate to be the analytics face of the NFL. She knows this. Kimes earns her place in the booth, behind the microphone or in front of the camera with a passion that cuts across the screen and fuels a relentless work ethic.
“Mina is not only a very intelligent, creative and entrepreneurial person, she is also someone who wants to own things,” said Pablo Torre, a longtime friend and also an ESPN commentator. "What she has done in sports is truly amazing."
Before joining ESPN as a senior writer, Kimes was a business reporter at Fortune and Bloomberg News, where she handled investigations. Between winning awards and getting yelled at by CEOs, Kimes has retreated to Seahawks message boards to post about her favorite team. She also posted intricateEtch a Sketch portraits of prominent sports figureson her Tumblr page.
Her not-so-secret obsession surfaced in a 2014 essay about the Seahawks, the team that connected her to her father. He was a military man who moved his family across the country when Kimes was a child, but he was originally from Seattle. Kimes posted the piece on his Tumblr.and was reprinted in Slate.
He joined ESPN several months later, writing cover stories for ESPN the Magazine on Darrelle Revis andAaron Rogerssince he has participated in different podcasts and television programs.
Less than a year after the launch of the daily ESPN podcast, Kimes handed it over to Torre in August, when he began his full-time tenure at "NFL Live."
Torre was clear that his friend wanted to be the one answering soccer questions, rather than asking questions.
“Mina Kimes loves soccer more than anything else,” Torre said. "Her love of hers for soccer is really scary."
When Torre attended Kimes's wedding years ago, he donned a Seahawks helmet for the night. When his beloved team won the Super Bowl in 2014, Kimes had "XLVIII" tattooed on his right bicep. Yourvisible during showswhen you raise your arm.
Cheering is not allowed in the press box, but Kimes screamed in anguish on television when the Mariners lost Shohei Ohtani. Viewers love it when she's not happy with her outfits, she said.
“Fandom is passion,” Kimes said. "Homerism is saying things that are not true."
Kimes allows her fandom to appear more on Twitter. She always worries about having fun on TV and radio shows, but there are certain outlets that are reserved for the Internet, she said. Kimes seems to have mastered this.
With a combination of honest analysis, laugh-out-loud GIFs and masterful troll takedowns, Kimes brings his 461,000+ followers one of the best timelines in sports media without taking himself too seriously. He knows the social media platform he lives on: there's a lot of bad stuff, he admits, but there's a lot of good stuff, too.
After all, sports are supposed to be fun.
But mastering Twitter also means knowing when to be considerate. When sharing analysis or speaking about the intersection of sports and social issues, such as sexual harassment within teams or athletes advocating for racial justice, Kimes speaks candidly.
“Talking about these things doesn't take away the joy of talking about sports,” Kimes said. “It actually comes from that because I wouldn't talk about them if I didn't love sports so much. … I think the people best equipped to deliver those messages or have those conversations are usually the ones who love sports the most, and I hope that when people look at me, they feel that way.
Objectivity is normally considered the journalism ideal, but times are changing, Torre said, acknowledging that it will horrify journalism professors everywhere. People aren't objective, but they can be honest in their work, even if their loyalty to the team they're reviewing is tattooed in plain sight.
“It has to do with all sorts of broader things about where we are as a country, which I understand, but when it comes to a Seahawks fan, it's okay to express yourself as much, but also profile Aaron Rogers, I think. the proof is in the pudding,” Torre said.
The first time Dan Orlovsky saw Kimes speak on TV, the former NFL quarterback was the "ignorant" football player who believed that anyone who didn't play didn't have the authority to talk about it.
Three years after retiring, Orlovsky is now texting his new "NFL Live" analyst that he understands the game better than other former players who comment on the game.
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“She's not the former athlete who thinks she knows everything,” the 12-year-old pro said. "She is the person who has never played and who talks like her."
Kimes acknowledges her unique position as a woman with an authoritative voice in soccer, but doesn't focus on that.
“You have to prove yourself in other ways,” said Kimes, whose fluency in advanced statistical analysis made Orlovsky believe. "I always felt that if I came in too prepared, overemphasized, that would be the best case I could make for myself."
For his first radio appearance, Kimes' excessive preparation meant 70 pages of notes, of which he only needed three. Arriving as a successful feature writer, when the job usually meant weeks or months of reporting just one well-thought-out story, the rapid pace of shooting live TV or radio seemed daunting.
The thick stack of notes illustrated the pressure to be perfect.
“My fear of making mistakes or my anxiety of being considered less than serious or perfect kept me from being good at my job,” Kimes said. “People don't want to watch TV or listen to the radio or listen to podcasts perfectly. They want personality."
Kimes' unique blend of humor, self-deprecation, and insight makes her a fan favorite. Those fans include her co-workers: Torre said filming “Highly Questionable” with Kimes and Dan LeBatard is the most fun she's having on TV right now. During a pandemic that has lingered for five months, Torre feels it's the closest thing to coming out with her real-life friends.
Sitting in front of a digitized green screen in August without her custom background, Kimes brought the same laugh to "NFL Live." Kimes compared expectations that Ben Roethlisberger could return to his Super Bowl-winning form immediately this year after playing just two games due to an elbow injury to pining for a high school sweetheart. Anyone who's been to a high school reunion knows he's not a good choice.
“Mina,” said former NFL lineman Marcus Spears with a laugh, “you are a breath of fresh air.”