FM: What did you learn about yourself at Harvard and how has it prepared you for the outside world?
James Brown: Number one, I think I learned that while there are some more innately gifted people than myself, I could compete effectively by applying myself and recognizing what my strengths and weaknesses are and by playing to those strengths. In that regard, I am fairly diligent about preparing for an assignment. I try and be well-prepared before any event, presentation or assignment. Terry Bradshaw, one of my colleagues, is a very naturally gifted guy—as much as people maybe have a wrongful perception that he is a rube, he is a wonderfully gifted individual, an excellent speaker. He can get up and ad-lib. While I might be able to do that, I wouldn’t rely on it as a steady diet. That’s not my strength, and Harvard helped me understand that because of the wealth of talent that was there. I never go into an assignment unprepared.
FM: Who was your favorite professor and why?
JB: I enjoyed all of my professors very much, but in particular, Professor Samuelson, the economics professor, took a topic that was not extremely sexy or exciting and made it fun. [Baker Professor of Economics] Martin Feldstein [’61] was another. I still smile when I think about him because he was so funny and dramatic.
FM: Every Harvard student today is supposed to do three things before he graduates: Pee on the John Harvard statue, have sex in Widener and run Primal Scream. Did you complete all three tasks?
JB: No, thankfully back in the day our requirements were a little different. We had to swim the length of the pool in the MAC. We didn’t have those prerequisites to satisfy, thank goodness. Once you get a little older, you become a bit more of a conformist and become a little more mainstream: When you listed those, I was blushing, but swimming was the only one that frightened me at the time.
FM: What about sex in Lamont?
FM: You’ve covered a huge variety of sporting events. Which sport is your favorite assignment?
JB: Well, basketball is my love. Baseball was my first love, but basketball is my passion—that’s what I played and enjoyed the most. I enjoy that very much and it’s second nature to me. However, once you get to the championship level of any sport, there’s so much enthusiasm and energy associated with it that it makes each one pretty special. Heavyweight championship fight—there’s nothing like it. It is amazing, that kind of crowd. Same with the NBA championship. I’ve done games in the old Boston Garden where [the Celtics] played the Lakers. It’s just rabid there. The NCAA championships, because of the beauty associated with college sports and the fact that you’re dealing with amateurs in a real rah-rah kind of environment—there’s an awful lot to enjoy there. Each one of those sports brings a uniqueness that I thoroughly enjoy and I’m very humbled that I get to work them.