Although he’s about as humble and self-deprecating as it gets for someone who has become the face of an industry, the reality is fantasy football has made Matthew Berry, aka “The Talented Mr. Roto,” one of ESPN’s biggest stars.
Berry, who has an interesting backstory that involves working under George Carlin in Hollywood and being one of the writers of the 2002 Razzie-nominated film Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, joined ESPN to write about fantasy in 2007 after stints working for smaller publications and is now The Worldwide Leader’s Senior Fantasy Sports Analyst. A contributor and familiar presence across all of ESPN’s various platforms during football season as well as the offseason, the 51-year-old is one of only five people to be named to the Hall of Fame for both the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author.
Partnering up with Buffalo Wild Wings to spread the word that commissioners who book their draft at Buffalo Wild Wings will receive a free appetizer every Sunday this football season, Berry answered a slew of questions from InsideHook prior to the NFL kicking off next week on September 9. For once in his life, fantasy football advice was not on the menu.
InsideHook: So, what’s your go-to order at B-Dubs?
Matthew Berry: I don’t do particularly well with spices. My kids love the chili wings and blue cheese. I’m just a plain wing guy. Give me a dozen wings and I need the bone. I know they have boneless, which are great, but I like plain wings. That’s me. I am boring down the middle. I have three college-aged kids and they’ll try every single flavor they have there.
If you don’t order wings, is there another Sunday snack you’ll get frequently?
Does beer count as a snack? I definitely enjoy having a couple of drinks there at the bar. I love burgers and I love chicken tenders, but I always feel like if you’re going to Buffalo Wild Wings, you probably should get wings, right?
Is there a particular colleague at ESPN you like to have along with you if you’re going for drinks?
Well, it depends. I’d certainly pick Stephania Bell because if my wife is with me then Stephania and my wife will chit-chat the whole time. Then I can just watch the games and drink beer. Although the truth is Stephania is a huge football fan, too. So she’d be watching the games. Doug Kezirian is a good friend and I think it’d be fun to have a beer with Mina Kimes. I’ve never had a beer with her. I think that would be fun. She’s a very cool hang.
Does the number of different people you work with across ESPN ever amaze you?
It’s all amazing to me. I get asked sometimes if this was my dream job. No. When I was dreaming of jobs, who thought you could make a living talking about fake football on the internet? So all of it is pinch-me sort-of stuff. I’ve had incredible experiences that I never thought possible. I’ve gotten to do things and meet people I never thought possible. It’s entirely due to the popularity of both ESPN and fantasy football. I feel truly blessed. Like, I’m going to Jay-Z’s fantasy football draft. In what universe should I be at Jay-Z’s fantasy football draft? But, believe it or not, it’s going to be my ninth time doing that. Last week we did a fantasy football marathon, our sixth. That anyone, let alone ESPN, would put me on TV for 28 straight hours … I mean, come on.
Are you ever shocked by the people that hit you up for fantasy advice?
I’m always surprised when I get a text from somebody like, “Hey, it’s (insanely famous person). I got your number from so-and-so.” I’m usually just like, “Wait, what?” So yeah. The Jay-Z story is crazy. A guy called and invited me to a draft. I’m like, “I don’t really go to random people’s drafts. I’m so busy in August.” And he’s like, “Well, it’s for Jay-Z’s draft.” I’m like, “Well, what time do you need me?” It’s just so stupid and I am always surprised when moments like that happen. I literally was emailing with John Legend yesterday. I’m going to be in a fantasy football league with him this year. That stuff is always surprising to me, but the fact that celebrities are into fantasy football is not surprising to me, because celebrities are like everyone else. We enjoy doing fun things and fantasy football is fun. We like picking out players. We like drafting up players. We like going to a restaurant like B-Dubs and drinking beer and watching the games and talking trash with each other. We like fun things as a people.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard you refer to yourself as a celebrity before.
No, I’m not saying me.
You said “We,” dude!
I’m saying we as people. I mean, we, people, like fun things. So it’s not surprising to me that celebrities, a different version of people, enjoy the same things that we, normal people, do. I would say is it depends on your level of celebrity. I always refer to myself as a basic cable personality. I think I am very well known to a specific group of people. If you play fantasy football, you’ve likely heard of me, but I always think of a celebrity as somebody that you don’t need to explain. To me, that should be the rule. Taylor Swift. Everyone knows who Taylor Swift is. Everyone knows who Michael Jordan is. You don’t have to say, “Well, he’s a fantasy football guy at ESPN.” When you have to give a qualifier, that’s not famous famous. Famous famous is like Tom Cruise. Famous famous is when you don’t need to explain.
That makes sense. So not famous famous like Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles.
I watched it with my kids about five years ago and it holds up better than you would think. It wasn’t particularly good to begin with, so it didn’t have far to drop. It’s not a good movie, but it’s an inoffensive movie. It moves quickly. It’s something you can watch with the entire family. It’s a good, down-the-middle family film. It’s not a trainwreck. No one’s going to mistake it for Citizen Kane, but it’s a pleasant way to pass an hour and a half. It’s not what we set out to write: something that was sort of edgy and fun and self-reflective. But he [Paul Hogan] didn’t want to do that. But there’s nothing wrong with a solid family film and that’s what it is. It’s actually fine. He’s very charming in it if you like that character, and everyone does. You’ll enjoy the film, especially if you have kids.