The Interview: Michael Strahan

Football pregame shows have a problem.

A slew of former players trying to cling to a few remaining available scraps of public attention have crowded the desks at CBS, Fox, ESPN and NFL Network, making Sunday mornings borderline intolerable. The majority of these publicity-starved ex-NFLers bring nothing but phony laughter to the set. Their problem: they aren’t funny, they don’t bring research or original ideas to the table and they usually spit the same clichés that they were trained to dish in locker rooms back when they were relevant.

But Michael Strahan is an exception. He truly is a funny guy, enough so that he can make a room laugh out loud without much effort, and it’s not one of those artificial “you’re a celebrity so I’m forcibly giggling at your lame joke” laughs. He actually has the ability to entertain crowds off the football field.

That’s why he’s become such a star since he retired from football in 2007. In addition to serving as an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday, the four-time All-Pro has also worked as a spokesman for myriad products (Right Guard, Snickers, Vaseline Men, Subway), has served as a co-host on Live with Regis and Kelly and even co-starred in the short-lived Fox sitcom, Brothers.

GLS met up with Strahan at Toronto’s Real Sports Bar and Grill, where he was hosting the launch a new line of products for Vaseline Men. He sat down with us to chat just moments after Canadian Dominic Lacasse (unofficially) broke the Guinness world record for most chin-ups in the human flag position.

Dominic Lacasse just blew my mind. I know you can’t do chin-ups in the human flag position — who can? — but what about straight-up chin-ups? What’s your personal best?

The most chin-ups I’ve ever done? Two weeks ago I did 27.

And you weigh…

I think 250 now. It was good, trust me. I’m proud of myself. And I was with my trainer, it was a test. He made me do it. I did 15 the first time and a month later I had to re-test and I did 27.

Why are you training? Just keeping it up?

I’m training now so I’m not that guy on TV who you go, ‘Boy, looks like he’s given up on life.’ I’m just trying to stay in shape so they don’t say, ‘He looks like the fat ex-athlete.’ I’m trying to go against the stereotype.

Makes sense. You’ve been doing quite a lot of television work, including Regis and Kelly. With Regis Philbin leaving the show soon, are you in the running to replace him?

I don’t know if I’m taking over for Regis. I have to go to do the show with Kelly again October 12. So I’m having fun with it — whatever happens happens. It’s a great show, I love working with Kelly. Who knows what’s gonna happen in the future with that.

You’ve sort of gone Hollywood, eh?

Ya know, I’m fortunate enough to have options and I enjoy doing what I’m doing. So as long as I enjoy doing stuff I do it. They keep calling me with it, and I’m not gonna turn that down.

Sadly, we’re seeing more and more former players dealing with debilitating health issues at young ages. Guys are dying young. I’m sure you had your share of concussions and took some beatings. Do you fear you’ll suffer from similar problems? Is that part of the reason you’re staying so active and busy?

I think I try my best not to think about it and I don’t think I have a lot of the symptoms that a lot of other guys have, or at least the severity of them. I hope not. But I do try to just keep myself busy. I think you have to stimulate yourself as much as possible. I used to think you retired in your thirties and just sit at home every day, and you can’t. I have kids and it’s great being at home with the kids, but even for them, you’ve gotta show them work ethic. You’ve gotta keep yourself going, give yourself some goals. Especially when that’s what you’re used to doing. So I love working, man. And that’s why I do it.

That blatant fake injury incident last week in New York was pretty comical. You’re a former Giant — did Tom Coughlin ever tell you guys to fake injuries to slow down opposing offenses?

You know what’s so amazing to me? I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, they practice that.’ I’ve never practiced it, ever. I don’t see why you’d waste time in practice practicing a guy being injured. Now, have I ever been in a game where we’re exhausted and a dude is kinda slow getting up but you just say, ‘Just lay there’? Yeah, of course. Who doesn’t do that? Just lay there. Let them come out and get you. And when the training staff comes out and the dude tries to get up right away you’re like, “Dude! Lay there for a little bit, we need a little more time!” That’s common. That’s been there since the day they started playing football. The problem is with my Giants — that’s just some bad acting.

Maybe they need acting lessons from Hollywood’s Michael Strahan…

They don’t need acting lessons from me but they’ve gotta go to some kind of school. But that’s something that every team does, and the problem is — how are you going to enforce it to say that the guy’s hurt or not hurt? You can’t do that.

Once again, DeMarcus Ware is off to a fast start. Is your single-season sack record in jeopardy of being broken?

I talked to DeMarcus yesterday after the game. He’s the one guy. He, Peppers, all of these guys are really amazing players, the kind of guys who definitely can do it. And records are meant to be broken so if that’s the case then good for them. And DeMarcus is a great guy, man. Wouldn’t be anybody better.

I hope you’ve been sharing your Vaseline Men freebies with Terry, Howie and Jimmy…

It’s funny because Vaseline Men sent some products and we have it in our dressing rooms. And Curt Menefee ran out of it in his dressing room so he comes in ours for it. Like, c’mon dude. Don’t go through yours and then go through ours. But yeah, the guys use it and the guys love it.