There are things that happen every once in a while that make me really take a step back and put into perspective how far I’ve come. What I mean is, you shouldn’t even be reading this right now. I went to school with a couple of guys who are spending the rest of their lives in prison for murder. I grew up with people who are no longer with us because that street life took their life. I was born to 16-year-old parents, I was supposed to be one of those people. I was supposed to be just another statistic, somehow, I managed to make it out.
Last Wednesday was one of those days where reality smacked me square in the face. A year ago I met New York Times best-selling author Shea Serrano in Austin as strictly a fan, he was in Austin giving a speech at the University of Texas, and met with anybody who was willing to eat tacos with him at a local hangout on campus. I wrote about that, read about it here.
Fast forward to March 1st of the next year and I get the opportunity to interview someone I admire and consider a major influence? Dude, I shed a few tears when Shea answered my hail mary of an email that came out of the blue. I legit pulled up from half court and shot my shot, I let that thing fly with no remorse for human life, and guess what? I nailed it like Steph Curry (unless his team is up 3-1 in a series, we saw what happened.) I was caught up in the nostalgia of the Facebook notification which reminded me that it had been exactly a year since I had written my piece about meeting Shea. I happened to Tweet him twice that morning, and he favorited both of my tweets. That alone gave me the courage to shoot it like Reggie Miller, who coincidentally wrote the foreword for Shea’s new book Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated.
I shot the email over, and to my surprise, Shea answered. And not only did he answer, he said yes to my request at an interview. I’ve interviewed NBA player Shelvin Mack, I publish videos three times a week on our website (www.realballinsiders.com) for retired NFL vet Adam Carriker, Adam was even courteous enough to contribute to my Super Bowl story this year. Those moments were huge for my young career, but those moments don’t even come close to topping the feeling I got when I knew I’d get this chance. It’s not everyday you get to interview someone who you’ve been reading for years. Shea is out here every single day engaging with fans on Twitter and pushing his brand to unprecedented heights.
I wanted to ask Shea questions he’s probably never been asked before, I’m sure he’s tired of being asked how he managed to convince his wife to let her name their son after Tony Parker. Btw, Leslie if you’re reading, I’ve always wanted to name my son Kobe. I’m sure he’s been asked everything cliché under the sun, so I did my best to come up with a few questions where Shea’s intellect and wisdom take over.
Here it is. My interview with former Grantland staff writer, current staff writer at The Ringer, Commander-in-chief of Twitter’s biggest gang The FOH Army, New Year Times best-selling author of The Rap Yearbook, Mr. Shea Serrano
P.A: Just like you, I grew up poor. You’re Mexican like me. I grew up an hour down the road from you in Austin. I think we have a similar understanding of how it was for each other growing up. What can you say to up and coming writers like myself? Do you see an importance for Latino voices in media and in the Hip-Hop culture that we both love?
Shea: For sure. The bigger we grow as force in America, the more necessary it is for us to have representation at the places responsible for reporting on the news and disseminating the news. I always get so happy when I get emails from new writers and they have last names like Rodriguez and Solorio and Gutierrez and so on. It’s really neat to watch happening, because it’s still very much a thing where you walk into a room full of writers and editors and so few of them are Latino.
P.A: A lot of people I know look at being brown in this country under this current Trump administration as something to fear. How do you think us writers should use our platform to combat his prejudice-hateful actions, and turn being a minority into a positive? I mean, I’ve seen you tweet, “Fuck that puto and everybody who stands with him.” Basically, what I’m asking is for you to help us save the world from destruction, bless us with some wisdom.
Shea: Ha. Yeah, that’s my current political stance: Fuck that puto and anyone who stands with him. It’s not very nuanced, I suppose. // As far as how to treat having a platform, for me I know I want to use it to advocate and cheer on things that are good and just and smart. I can’t step out there and say that I think that everyone should voice their political opinions. A lot of people are uncomfortable with that. And that’s fine for them. But I just always feel like I have at least a tiny bit of responsibility to say what I think needs to be said.
P.A: Do you think the United States is ready for a Mexican president? Do you think these Trump supporters are ready to see Jose Luis Hernandez-De La Maria take office? I think it’s about that time to throw some low riders on the front lawn, do you?
Shea: No. They’re not ready for that.
P.A: Your article The President, The King, And Me is one of my personal favorite things I’ve read from you. I think it highlights what makes you great as a writer, there’s a human emotion to you. I’m not going to lie, I shed a tear when you talk about taking in the moment on the White House lawn as you watched President Obama speak. What was that moment like?
Shea: It was overwhelming, honestly. I was just sitting there trying to figure out how I got from the south side of San Antonio to the White House. Like, I barely graduated from college, you know what I’m saying? I wasn’t supposed to make it out. I was supposed to get swallowed up. At least, that’s what it feels like sometimes, and what I was feeling at that moment. So to just be there, shaking hands with the president or whatever, watching my wife shake hands with the president, it was just a really profound moment for me.
P.A: You’ve been putting in work for 10 years as a writer, and in that time you’ve assembled quite the resume. You’ve written for GQ, ESPN, LA Weekly, XXL, Rolling Stone, MTV, Vice, Grantland, and The Ringer. You’ve written two books, The Rap Year Book is A New York Times best-seller, your new book Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated is scheduled to be released on October 10th of this year. How much more do you want to accomplish before you put the pen down?
Shea: I don’t know. There’s really no plan in place right now. I just want to keep trying all of the things that they’re allowing me to try. That’s why I like working at The Ringer so much. Sean and Bill and the other people in charge who you all don’t see, they’re all very encouraging of their writers trying things and experimenting with things and doing new things. It’s very nice to have not only that support system there, but also to just be in a place where smart and creative people are constantly asking, “What’s next?”
P.A: Alright man, one last question, when I met you last year in Austin you signed my copy of your book to “The Brown Table” because my boys Victor, Maury, you and myself where the only Mexicans in the restaurant. If I send you my copy of the new book, will you sign it the same way, and send it back so I can add it to the collection?
Shea: Ha. Sure. Shout-out the brown table forever.
Go out and pre-order Shea Serrano’s new book Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated on Amazon, which hits stores on October 10th, 2017. Follow him on Twitter @SheaSerrano.