We Got Some Dating Advice From Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s New “Love Doctor”
A candid conversation about the new segment and his various mantras on the pursuit of happy coupling
“She’s a Cowboys fan. Get rid of her fast. It goes nowhere. It’s not going to work with a Cowboys fan,” Stephen A. Smith, who was born in New York City, continued. “They’re not rational. They’re not realistic. They’re not sensible. They don’t exercise common sense. You’re not going anywhere with that — though you’re a Falcons fan, so I don’t know how much better you are.”
Smith’s suggestion to the conflicted Falcons fan came during a regular segment on Stephen A’s World called “The Love Doctor” where he disperses relationship advice to singles and couples with his inimitable flair for theatrics.
Smith started doing the bit, which the 51-year-old openly admits he lifted from an episode of Martin Lawrence’s ’90s show Martin, during his days on the radio and received enough positive feedback about it that he decided to bring it back on ESPN. He brought Lawrence’s tagline for the segment — “Now get on out of here, I’m the Love Doctor” — with him as well.
“Listen, sports is what I do. I love it. It’s done a lot for my life. It’s fascinated me. I’m always interested in the world of sports and live competition. But you definitely want to diversify to step out and show that there are other things that pique your interest,” Smith tells InsideHook. “I love talking about relationships. I wish I hosted a game show like The Newlywed Game or Love Connection. Not Family Feud, because my brother Steve Harvey, that’s my guy. Anything that involves couples, I love that kind of stuff. It fascinates me. With a sports show, you’d be surprised how many relationship issues happen because dudes prioritize other things over their women. In some cases, women are prioritizing things over men. You just never know.”
Even though Smith has always been single, he’s found people who are in relationships are generally pretty willing to accept his advice.
“It’s all about who people are receptive to listening to and you never know who that person is,” he says. “Some people think they need to go to therapy. Others just talk to their best friends or family member. Or some people, if they know you’re true and authentic and you’ll shoot straight with them, might want to hear it from you. You just never know who’s listening to you. I’m certainly not advertising myself as being an expert. I’m no Dr. Phil or somebody like that. But, hey, people get advice from all different kinds of people. So why not me?”
Smith has also found some common themes among the relationship questions he receives.
“You have a lot of guys still trying to figure out how to make their women happy instead of actually knowing it. It’s a never-ending battle,” he says. “With ladies, they usually know what works and what doesn’t. The question is their willingness to do it or not. I tell women all the time, ‘Do you want to be right? Or do you want to get what you want?’ Because you’ll be right 99% of the time. It’s not that a dude doesn’t know you’re right, it’s that he doesn’t care because he wants what he wants. Once you recognize that, you have to make it in his best interest to give you what you want. And how are you going to do that? You got to make those decisions.”
The questions he receives from men, he says, typically have less complex origins.
“With guys, we’re clueless most of the time. We have no damn clue. At all. Guys will have dated a woman for three years and still be asking the question, ‘What am I going to do with that? I can’t figure this out, man. What advice do you have?’ That’s the stuff that blows me away. It’s absolutely hilarious. Men are truly every bit as clueless as we appear a lot of times. Women know. It’s just a matter of their willingness to do it or not.”
The youngest of six, Smith once received some advice from one of his four older sisters, Linda, that he still falls back on to this day when dispensing tips of his own.
“I was talking to my sister and saying ‘I’m not doing this. I’m not doing this. I’m not doing that,’” Smith recalls. “And my sister said, ‘Hello? If you don’t, she’ll find someone who will. So you have to make up your mind how far you’re willing to go to please the person that you want. She has a right to want whatever she wants and if she doesn’t get it from you, she’s going to get it from someplace else.’ The reason that’s so important is that a lot of times in life you find yourself in precarious positions, particularly in relationships, because of the demands and expectations you are placing on somebody else’s shoulders. When in fact, all you have a right to do is articulate what you’re about and what you want in your life. And then they should have the freedom to make whatever decision they think is in their best interest and keep it moving. When you do that, no matter what happens, you don’t walk around harboring a significant level of animosity or venom. You respect the fact there’s just a difference of opinion that you two couldn’t work out. No harm, no foul and everybody can move on with their life.”
Being The Love Doctor has also taught Smith a little bit about the art of self-diagnosis.
“Look at what your life entails and what it requires in order for you to have the level of peace and tranquility you need,” he says. “Know the things on a professional and personal level that make you happy and unhappy based on the obligations you have in your life every single day. [Then] you’re able to deduce what will work for you and what won’t. But it doesn’t mean you allow that to dictate who you’re going to be with. You just know when you find somebody that you want to be with, you have an idea of what you need in order to be happy. You convey that message to them and see how they respond to it. And you move on from there.”
It sounds like Smith knows what he’s looking for, but it doesn’t sound like the larger-than-life broadcaster is quite ready to settle down.
“Sports are the biggest reason I’ve been single all of these years. I’ve been married to my work. Growing up poor and wondering where my next meal was going to come from, my mission became to make sure that I never had to go back to those desolate kind of circumstances,” he says. “I’m sure one day I will get married, but at a certain point in my life it was like, ‘No, I’m going to do this first.’ I knew I didn’t have that level of commitment to give to another human being. I knew I couldn’t do it. People will still ask me, ‘Stephen, why are you not married?’ Because I don’t want to be. When I want to get married, I’ll get married. That’s my answer. I leave it at that. Just like Bernie Mac once said, ‘I’m not talking about myself.’ Because obviously, I give out great advice. If I applied it to myself a hell of a lot better, my life might be a lot better. Who knows?”
So all-knowing Love Doctor, even if you aren’t into taking your own advice, what’s the prescription for a perfect Valentine’s Day in the weirdness of 2021?
“It should be the easiest Valentine’s Day any man in America has ever had,” Smith says. “All you have to do is be there and let her know there’s no place else in the world you’d rather be. That’s it. You can’t really go out anywhere. So guess what? You get some flowers and you plan a nice dinner at home. Just dedicate the day to letting her know you are happy you are there and there is no place else in the world you would rather be than with her. You do that, your Valentine’s Day is good.”
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