Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Bill Rasmussen, the co-founder of ESPN. Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!
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Tim Ferriss: You sexy, little minx. Oh, stop it. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show. And parents, you’re going to have to define minx for your children listening in the car during the drive to school, but so it goes. That’s how the cards have fallen. It is my job to deconstruct world class performers on this show. And we do that in many different areas. Whether they come from the military, from entertainment, from research, from sports, you can spot common patterns. And my job is to tease out the details, the philosophies, the habits that you can use.
This episode features Bill Rasmussen, @bill_espn on Twitter. I’ll keep this short because we want to jump right into it. Bill is the founder of ESPN and the creator of the 24 hour programming cycle that all networks use today. I was really excited to be able to sit down with him. We really recorded a lot. We recorded three hours of material, and only one hour was used for my new TV show, which I’m going to get to in a second. And this podcast episode is almost entirely new, exclusive content that did not appear on the TV show.
The TV show, if you want to check it out is Fear(less) because the goal is not to be fearless but to learn to fear less where I interview people like this, world class performers, about how they’ve overcome doubt, fear, and made their toughest decisions. You can watch the entire first episode with illusionist and endurance artist David Blaine for free at att.net/fearless.
I highly recommend you check it out. It’s awesome, and he does a lot on stage. And to watch all of the episodes, there are 10 of them you can go to tim.blog/fearless, just type it all out, no parentheses, tim.blog/fearless, and you can select your option. If you’re a cord cutter, if you use computers instead of TV’s, you can just click on Direct TV now, and all of the packages have it, so, you can choose the cheapest one or the free trial to take a look. And that is it. So, without further ado, please enjoy my wide ranging conversation with Bill Rasmussen. Welcome to Fear(less).
I’m your host, Tim Ferriss, and on this stage, we will be deconstructing world class performers of all types to uncover the specific tactics and strategies they’ve used to overcome doubt, tackle hard decisions, and, ultimately, succeed. By show of hands, how many people wait for say the morning paper to get their sports scores?
It’s a big, fat zero. How many of you can remember when television wasn’t available 24 hours a day? Anyone? All right. Of my generation or a little bit older, got a few hands. And when I say Bristol, Connecticut, what do you think of? After meeting my guest tonight, you’ll associate it with one thing and that is sports. Against all odds, he set out to change the course of television and the status quo as we know it. And, in the process, he created one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in the world. Please welcome the founder of ESPN, Bill Rasmussen.
Bill Rasmussen: Thank you very much.
Tim Ferriss: What was your grandfather like? Describe for us your relationship with your grandfather.
Bill Rasmussen: He was, literally, a [inaudible]White Sox fan. He took me to Comiskey Park when I was very, very young.
And I can remember he lived, if you’re familiar with Chicago, 35th Street, it was 35th and Shields is where Comiskey Park was. And he lived at 33rd and Bell. I can remember these details like I can’t believe. They’re there. And he would walk me to the street car and say, when all of the people start getting off, you’re at the ballpark like I wouldn’t know where the ballpark was. There it is, right in front of me. And I can remember finding out early, and this was in the early 1940’s, the ballpark would open, if there was a 1:00 game, they opened the gates at 11:00. And my goal was always to be there to be, one day, be the first one in the ballpark.
And one day, I did do it. And my grandmother would give me a sandwich and a little coke bottle, one of those little green bottles. I would take that onto the street car, a nickel or whatever it was to go on the street car, get off at Comiskey Park, and be in there. One day, they were worried. The Red Sox and White Sox played a double header. The first game went 13 innings.
And the second one went to the bottom of the 9th. Both games were 7 to 6. And it took half a day to play all of that. I didn’t leave – I was there from two hours before the first pitch to the end of the second game. And my grandfather allowed us. At that point, I became an official White Sox fan.
Tim Ferriss: So, anything allowed as long as it’s White Sox related.
Bill Rasmussen: As long as it was White Sox, well, and really, it was only a few blocks on the street car.
Tim Ferriss: I hear you reciting these statistics. One of the first thoughts to jump to mind is you’d make a really good intelligence officer. And then, I thought of something that I had heard, which was you played war games as a kid. Am I making this up?
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah, we used to – well, everybody did. When 1941 occurred, I was in the fourth grade. And I think before Christmas, we were all talking about – everybody, everybody in America was talking about we all have to be together.
There were no right, left, up, down. We were all on the same team. And, at the early part of the war, before they started saying you couldn’t do this, I can remember my father’s shirts come back from the cleaners with a piece of cardboard in them, pretty much like they do today, I suppose, in some places. And we used to draw whatever we wanted to do. If I was going to be a master sergeant for the games the next day, we would draw it on a board and color it with crayons, red and green and blue, whatever it was, cut them out. And with rubber bands, we’d put them on our arms.
And off we’d go the next day to do whatever battle we had decided we were doing. And we did that, basically, all through the war. It was kind of crazy, but we had to start using other things because hangers and cardboard were all confiscated.
Tim Ferriss: Confiscated?
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. Everything went to the war effect. We picked up newspapers. Everything went. And they didn’t use the word recycle then, but that’s what it was. They were recycling everything and producing other things. It was pretty cool.
Tim Ferriss: Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?
Bill Rasmussen: Absolutely.
Tim Ferriss: What –
Bill Rasmussen: I was at 9555 South Melvina Avenue in Columbus Manor just south of 95th – back then, 95th Street was Highway 12 and 20 on the south side of Chicago, two lanes, one in each direction. Today, it’s 12 lanes, 6 in each direction. But it happened, and my father got us all around the radio, and we sat, literally, on the living room floor watching the radio listening to news reports. And we were not unique. It happened all across America.
Tim Ferriss: So, if we flash forward just a little bit to say high school and look at your experience in high school, you played baseball. Did you try any other sports?
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. I tried football once because my father encouraged me to do that because I was really fast.
Tim Ferriss: How did football go for you?
Bill Rasmussen: I was so fast, one afternoon, I intercepted a pass, maybe you would understand some of the football technology today.
We had defensive halfbacks, and we didn’t have all of these white outs and slots and save – different things. I was a defensive halfback. I intercepted a pass. And because I was so fast, I went around very quickly. I didn’t see anybody in front of me. And I thought this is going to be great. Touchdown was in sight, and I woke up under the bench.
Tim Ferriss: What happened?
Bill Rasmussen: Somebody was faster than I was. And when they were faster than I was, when it’s not expected and you get tackled from behind, I was literally lights out, game over, football career over. That was it. Done.
Tim Ferriss: Was it your choice to end the football? Did you decide?
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. I said that doesn’t happen with baseball. But then, I did find out playing baseball, in a practice, we were just doing an inner squad game, you know what the cardinal rule is in baseball, never, ever take your eye off the ball, right?
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Bill Rasmussen: And if you’re playing, you never, ever take your eye off the ball. I went like this one time and turned back, and that’s all it was. And as I turned back, I got hit right in the face with a ball. And maybe that’s why – well, no, we’re not going to go that’s why I look this way today.
Tim Ferriss: I think you look fine. I don’t know. I think my nose is more crooked than yours. Maybe I got hit by a baseball and don’t remember it. Actually, no, I did. This is true. So, I remember my first day, Little League tryouts, deep in left field, fly ball, right in the middle of the face. That was the end of my baseball career.
Bill Rasmussen: That would be embarrassing for an outfielder.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, it was embarrassing for an anything fielder, especially as whatever I was, a third or fourth grader. I was the runt of the litter as it was. And now, I have lack of hand/eye coordination to go with it. It was terrible. Tell me a little bit about high school. In doing research, I read about an essay contest that ended up sending you, ultimately, to meet I suppose the president or soon to be president. Can you describe that for us?
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. And I was a junior in high school in 1948. I started my junior year that September. And there was a Chicago Sun Times had an essay contest for all students. And six from the city were going to be chosen to go to President Harry Truman’s inauguration. That was the famous election where the Chicago Tribune put out the headline Dewey Wins, and then, Truman held up the paper the next day, and his picture was in there holding up the picture of the newspaper. And, of course, Dewey didn’t win. But the deal was we’d write an essay, and so on. And my father had decided that I could write an essay on becoming a lawyer.
I was going to become a lawyer. And I must have done a really persuasive job on why I wanted to be a lawyer because I was one of the six winners. And we got to go to Washington. We got to sit on the capitol whatever, I’m not sure what they call it, but up there with all of the dignitaries, the senate –
Tim Ferriss: The dias or whatever it might be.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah, well, it’s where the senators and the representatives were. We were included in that. And there were six of us. And we watched Harry Truman take is oath of office in 1949.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, I didn’t know you got to watch him take the actual oath.
Bill Rasmussen: We were right there in 1949. And then, that night, of course, they have all of these different parties. And one of the things that stands out, we were all 16-year-old kids, so, we were chaperoned everywhere we went. And we were standing at the Showroom Hotel, and I turned to my left, and General Omar Bradley was standing right there. And he put out his hand, and he said, “Hi, how are you? What are you doing here?” And General Omar Bradley was an icon to the people of that era. It was unknown, and I’ve never forgotten that.
Tim Ferriss: So, were you able to maintain your composure through all of that? You get flown to the president or soon to be president being sworn in. Then, you turn, you see an icon on the other side. Were you able to maintain your composure through all of that?
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah, I think I was just numb through it all. It didn’t even register. No, I mean, obviously, I knew who he was. And I was very – we were all very honored to be selected.
Tim Ferriss: So, you get to college. Were there any particular teachers, there are two I’ve read about, history and econ, but were there any particular teachers that had a large impact on you?
Bill Rasmussen: The one professor in economics, financial organization and investment, he was the head of the Economics Department, Dr. Jomey. And he was an interesting gentleman, to say the least. And if you weren’t paying attention, he had a great arm. He should have been a short stop. I don’t think these schools exist this way today, but we used to have blackboard all the way across the front of the room and all the way down the side of the room. And he would start at the class over here at the left hand side putting things up and talking and on and on, lecturing. And his suit would get all covered with chalk dust and so on.
And then, he’d turn around out of nowhere, and he’d say, “Tim, what about,” whatever the question was. If you didn’t get it, he’d take that eraser, and he’d hit you in the forehead, or he’d hit you in the shoulder. And your mark was if you came out of the class with no chalk marks on you, it was a successful afternoon. And I could also, just to put in a little perspective, I remember the day the Dow Jones average hit 3,000. And you know how we used to get – there was no online follow minute by minute. He would bring in, after the market closed, the Wall Street Journal would publish everything in printed form.
He would bring that in the next day, and that’s how we learned about the stock market. Crazy stuff.
Tim Ferriss: And was there another professor who did re-enactments?
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. Andrew Crandall, Dr. Crandall. Actually, he was a noted Civil War expert in the country. And every year, he would – the only place big enough to hold his lectures, if you will, was Mitchell Hall, the chemistry laboratory with all of the theater type seats down in front.
And he would set up huge tables and re-enact the Battle of Gettysburg or whatever it was. And he had little like kids’ toys really. He was so engrossed in it. He, too, he would start off with a shirt and tie and coat, and before long, as the battle progressed –
Tim Ferriss: Raging bull, it all comes off.
Bill Rasmussen: And they were standing room only lectures. It was just amazing. People wanted to see because he was entertaining, but so knowledgeable about the Civil War. And he created an awareness in so many students about that period in our history that I can remember it very, very vividly. He was an enthusiastic and a very, very knowledgeable person about it all. And we talked about Pickett’s charge or Robert E. Lee doing this, and Grant doing – I mean, it was incredible. I never missed one in four years.
Tim Ferriss: I seem to recall, and you can shoot this down as a figment of my imagination, a stint – you had a lot of different gigs and part time gigs that seem as a collection to have really informed what you did later at ESPN. Did you not have some experience as a weather man?
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. Oh, was that fun.
Tim Ferriss: And you started inserting things into the weather.
Bill Rasmussen: Well, what happened –
Tim Ferriss: It’s coming, bear with us. So, let’s talk about being a weather man.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. Well, first of all, you have to understand why I even ended up in the station talking about being a weather man. I lived in Amherst, Massachusetts. And you have to remember now, this was in 1964/1965. We had two stations. One NBC station, one ABC station.
That’s all of the television there was in the entire western part of Massachusetts. The NBC station had news, weather, and sports from 7:00 to 7:30 and 11:00 to 11:30. The ABC station, at 11:00, just did 15 minutes of news and signed off. So, I said I’m not going to get the guy’s job at the one that does half hour at 11:00. Why don’t I go talk to the station manager at the ABC station and tell him he needs a sports show? It’s part of that confidence, I guess. I went and met him. I called for an appointment. He said, sure, come on down. He said, “What is it you want to do?” And I said, “Well, the other guys are doing sports. You should be doing sports.”
“No, we don’t want to do sports.” So, we talked a while, and he said, “All right, all right. I’ll pay you $10.00 a show.” I had to drive 40 miles to get there, 40 miles round trip.
Tim Ferriss: So, it’s like net loss.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah, so, it’s a net loss.
And you can start Monday. Okay. Well, I knew I could do sports. So, I get down there, and I’m walking in the door on Monday, whatever it was, January 3, January 5, and he said, “I changed my mind.” “What do you mean you’ve changed your mind?” I thought I was fired. And I wasn’t fired. He said, “You’re going to do the weather. We’re not going to do sports. You’re going to do the weather.” I said, “I don’t know anything about weather.” Shoveling snot doesn’t qualify you to – and he said, “Here’s the way we’re going to do the weather. You call Bradley Field, talk to the NOAH, the national weather people at Bradley Field, call them around 10:30, find out what the weather looks like around this general area, scratch a few things.”
We didn’t have Klystron 9’s and all of these kinds of things back then. We had a grease pencil and a white board. “And write something down, and draw a picture of Springville, if you like, or Massachusetts. And just say it’s going to be 68 degrees and rain tomorrow. That’s all people are going to get.”
And I can remember, just to digress for a second, this is some 9,000 or 10,000 live shows ago, but this was the very first one. I can remember when they said one minute. I turned around and put my back to the camera, and the sweat running down the center of my back, and I remember saying why am I subjecting myself to this. And they said 10 seconds, 5, 4 – I turned around, and I decided I really like this. This is pretty good stuff. I’m going to be telling people about the weather. And I decided – I had followed the Springfield Indians hockey team and the American Hockey League and the Boston Bruins and the Rangers, everybody in the area.
So, I said what we’re going to do is we’re going to find the weather from different cities, especially where the Springfield team was playing, and say tonight, it’s 32 degrees in Pittsburgh and light snow falling, and the Indians won 3 to 2. And I would just write 3 to 2.
Tim Ferriss: Can’t do sports? I’ll show you I can do sports.
Bill Rasmussen: So, I thought this will get me fired for sure.
Tim Ferriss: So, you didn’t ask. This was a forgiveness not permission thing.
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. It’s much easier to ask forgiveness. So, that’s what we did. And the next day, I didn’t see – the general manager didn’t say anything. So, the next night, I did a couple more scores. And the next day, I found out some people called the station and said this new sports idea and weather – they thought it was a planned gig, but it wasn’t. It just happened.
Tim Ferriss: A great collaborative innovation.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. And then, the gentleman at the NBC station was promoted, went down to Charlotte, North Carolina. And before he left because he had – obviously, we had met along the way because competitors do that, and he recommended me for that job. And then, things happen for a good reason kind of thing. I went up to that station, and I was only doing the weather and the sports for about four months, and then, I went to the other station, the NBC station and started doing sports.
And it happened to be in the year that Mohammad Ali and Sonny Listen fought in Lewiston, Maine.
Tim Ferriss: Big fight.
Bill Rasmussen: And his headquarters were in Chicopee, Massachusetts. And I was the guy able to go down, and I met him back then, and we met each other several times after that. But you never know. Here was a station that wasn’t doing something. I talked them into something, I guess, or they decided they were going to do it. And then, the other guy leaves, and I get his job. And, all of a sudden, Listen and, back then, it was Cassius Clay were going to have this big fight. And people who know Cassius Clay, pretty bombastic person. And he was. We had a luncheon one day, and he was his usual self.
And then, he said he was going upstairs. It was a long way from where his training camp was to the station. So, I decided to just stay there. I just sat in the lobby an hour or so after lunch.
I was kind of dozing off waiting for the 4:00 press conference. And I sensed somebody sitting down over here, and it’s Cassius Clay. How you doing? We talked for probably an hour, normal tones, just a great guy. He was a young guy, obviously. And he said I guess we better go up. We’re going to do this at 4:00. And, they didn’t call it that, but I was “the question asker”, the pool announcer. I was going to ask all of the questions, and he was going to answer for everybody. So, I said, “See you in a little while.” “Yeah, good. Looking forward to it.” A few minutes later, white suit, white shoes, white shirt, white tie, big – and everybody going wow, here he comes.
He came down. He looked right through me like he had never even seen me before, did his press conference with all of the usual bombast that he did. And I’ve never forgotten that. And I saw him many years later. And he remembered.
Tim Ferriss: He put on a stage persona.
Bill Rasmussen: He put on a show. But he was quite a guy. I was privileged to meet him.
Tim Ferriss: What were the most memorable aspects of that encounter to you, the fact that he could turn it on and turn it off that way?
Bill Rasmussen: Turn it on and turn it off, and his personality, and he was really – he talked just like you and I are talking. It wasn’t I’m the champ, and you’re just a guy here in Massachusetts. It wasn’t that at all. And I never forgot that. I saw him many, many years later, and it was the same thing. And he was the same way.
Tim Ferriss: You mentioned something just a minute ago, things happen for a reason. Is that a core belief of yours?
Bill Rasmussen: Mm-hmm.
Tim Ferriss: Has it always been that way?
Bill Rasmussen: Sometimes, maybe we make it happen. And, sometimes, it just happens.
Tim Ferriss: If you had to say teach let’s just call it – you can pick the grade, ninth grade class, college class, doesn’t really matter to help students develop confidence, how would you approach that, or how would you even think about it? Are there any –
Bill Rasmussen: A lot of people asked me that question, and this is going to sound odd, but I’m not sure I’m qualified to do that in the form of a college curriculum. But if I can, somehow, transmit the belief or the feeling of success and positive approach to things that you have to have and be able to take the negatives and get past them, and I don’t know how you do that in a college curriculum, but I just – whether it’s stealing bases or selling products or whatever. As I said earlier, I think that when somebody says, no, they’ve made the mistake. And I don’t know how I would do that.
Tim Ferriss: The other leg of the table, it seems, is advertising. So, you shortly – well, I don’t know if it was shortly after, but after getting the NCAA to commit –
Bill Rasmussen: We were a little ahead of that. We –
Tim Ferriss: A little ahead?
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah, we were floating them. We told them who we were talking to. We didn’t tell them we had them.
Tim Ferriss: This is a well known beer company, I suppose.
Bill Rasmussen: It is.
Tim Ferriss: So, could you tell us a little bit about – was that happening concurrently? Was that another ball in the air?
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. That was happening in early January. We had hired as an advertiser –
Tim Ferriss: Anheuser Busch.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. We had hired a gentleman from Connecticut General Insurance to be our general sales manager. He was the general sales manager there and liked the sports idea. And I said the obvious choice is Anheuser Busch, the largest sports advertiser in the world then and maybe today. I don’t know. But we had a very specific plan to take them. It sounds odd when I say all of these other vagueries that we were just juggling. But we had a very specific plan. We decided that, if we could get eight sponsors at $2,760,000.00 a year that would finance us.
Tim Ferriss: The sum total of the eight sponsors?
Bill Rasmussen: No, no, eight times. So, it would be $20 million.
Tim Ferriss: Got it.
Bill Rasmussen: So, we went down to New York, got invited down to Darcy McManus and the vice president, Gene Petrillo was his name.
He listened, and he was intrigued. He has to be intrigued, it’s his business, sports business, Budweiser. He said, “I’ll take you to the brewery, and I’ll get back to you.” A couple of days later, we went back down to New York. And he said, “I’ve been to the brewery. We’ll give you $500,000.00.” And that’s the first sign we ever had of anybody coming our way. Our 9,000 had gone out the door. My family and friends had gone out the door. KS Sweet had put some money in. And we were running out –
Tim Ferriss: This was the first black ink, real influx.
Bill Rasmussen: And Bob and I looked at each other, and we shook our head and said, and I was sitting right the way I’m sitting with you, Tim, and, as you know, in New York, our windows are advertising and things on the sides of buildings, on the front of buildings and marquees and everywhere. And it just so happened, over Gene’s left shoulder was a big ad for Miller High Life. And I looked at Bob, and he looked at me.
And I took my eyes from Gene, and I said, “We can’t accept that. We’re going to have to pursue other avenues.” And I just looked over that way. And he said, “Before you do that, he knew what ad was out that window, let me have another go at the brewery.” He called a couple of days later, and he said, “I’ll tell you what. Nobody has ever done this in cable television. We’ll give you $1,380,000.00 and let’s go.” And that’s the way it was. So, we had $1,380,000.00 committed before we had the programming committee and then, before we had the financing committee.
When all of the eggs are running, it doesn’t make any difference which order they come in. Just get them all in.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure. What were some of the more costly decisions or missteps that you guys had early on? There had to have been some, I would imagine.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. Well, we did Canadian football. We tried to do a lot of different things with different – we always tried to overreach, and even to this day. Just a couple of years ago, I was in Dallas talking to ESPN Radio, which, by the way, is now the biggest radio network. It’s just crazy. And I asked that very same question about what happens and what are the mistakes. And this fellow had worked for ABC. And so I said, “What’s the difference between the two?” Same market, he worked for ABC, now, he’s working for ESPN because, obviously, they were all bought by Disney, and they’re all on the same house, so to speak.
He said, “ABC always sent out directives to us saying don’t rock the boat. We’re doing well in this market. We’re doing well here. We’re doing all of these things. Don’t rock the boat. ESPN, on the other hand, says try everything that pops into your mind. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, forget it and move on.” Two totally different approaches.
Tim Ferriss: It sounds like the Bill Rasmussen guide to life. That’s like the mantra right there.
Bill Rasmussen: But think about that. How discouraging it would be to your employees to say I don’t want you coming and telling me anything.
You might have a – I don’t want to hear your great idea. After you’ve given them an opportunity to work for you, now, you don’t want to hear from them. So, encourage everybody. And let’s do it all. And so what if you mess up. Nobody is going to shoot you. There’s no debtors’ jail. There’s no guillotine. This isn’t whatever. And I thought that was interesting from them. They’ve tried a number of things. We did a thing with, not when I was there, but with cell phones when they first came in. There was some gigantic program when they were testing it with kids of all of the employees and everything else. It didn’t work. So, they just moved on.
Of course, they changed that around a little bit now with streaming and everything else. And cell phones today are, of course, a little different than they were 10 years ago. Did we even have cell phones 10 years ago? I don’t even remember.
Tim Ferriss: We did. They just were closer to the Gordon Gekko brick.
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, I’m with you.
Tim Ferriss: But yes, we did have those. What I’d love to do because we’re talking about, of course, ESPN, arguably you’re best known for that, but to sort of bring it full circle for a second, we’re going to bring out a prop. It’s not really a prop. This is a real thing. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. So, we’re going to get that. That’s going to come out. But I think we might do, if the team in the back can bring up the then and now, some of the stats because you mentioned radio. And I just thought, just to put this in perspective for people, starting with Irish hurling and juggling five different balls, telling everyone each person that everyone else is in until, ultimately, you get them all in.
I think it’s pretty staggering when you look at the before and after. And so, I’m not going to read all of these stats for you guys, but you can see subscribers, 1.3 million to more than 90 million, 80 employees, more than 8,000 than 1 acre just in Bristol alone to 123.
Radio, none to 20 million. And that’s not even counting the publishing arm. Huge magazine and everything else.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. It’s amazing. There are subscriber fees, this is a staggering number to me, we started off asking for $0.01 a day. If I came to you, and I said, Tim, give me $0.01 a day, $0.30 a month, and you can watch sports 24 hours a day.
Tim Ferriss: I’d give you a penny a day, sure.
Bill Rasmussen: Does that sound good?
Tim Ferriss: That sounds good.
Bill Rasmussen: I got turned down, got laughed out. As a matter of fact, to digress for a moment, one of those people that I said you can make money doing this, I said, “Not only that, we’re going to give you the local availabilities.” I got this funny look like what’s a local availability.
Tim Ferriss: I was going to ask you.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. Well, what we’re going to do is, on ESPN, we’ll pause, and you can put in a local sponsor, Joe’s Pizza, Sam’s Toyota, or whatever, in your market and your telecast, and you can sell them advertising. Know what the answer was?
Why would I want to do that? I kind of did just what you did. Like what? They’d say I’d have to hire somebody to go sell. I said – that was probably rude. I shouldn’t have done this, but I did it because it’s a knee jerk reaction to me. I said, “Here’s an idea. He sells 100, he keeps 10, and you get 90.” Oh. Well, maybe we can talk again. Well, now, today, back then, the cable systems didn’t make much money advertising. Today, it’s a multibillion dollar business, as you know. They just make all kinds of money.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s bring in what I mentioned before. So, if we could bring in what we have here. I’ll do my best to hold this.
Bill Rasmussen: The pieces may fall apart.
Tim Ferriss: The pieces may fall apart. Can you tell us what this is please?
Bill Rasmussen: This is the latest and greats glove of, at the time, a third baseman in 1947. This is my original baseball glove in high school when I was a high school sophomore. And if you can see it, I don’t – try and put your hand in there, Tim, as if you were playing third base.
Tim Ferriss: I’ll be the guy who destroys it on national television.
Bill Rasmussen: Can you imagine catching balls with that? That was not the easiest thing in the world.
Tim Ferriss: I can’t. This looks like Cookie Monster.
Bill Rasmussen: Now, here’s another baseball fans of the day, this was what you had to do when the inning was over. You turned around, and you threw your glove back under the outfield grass. Major leagues did it. We did it.
Tim Ferriss: Say that again. I didn’t know this ritual.
Bill Rasmussen: All through the first half century, when the infielders came off the field or the outfielders, they never brought their glove in with them into the dugout. They left them. The third baseman dropped his along the foul line. Short stop would throw is in the short left field. Second baseman to short right field. Why? Today, they’re so – if there’s a Kleenex blows across the field, time out, and you have to get out and clean the – here they were just littering the field with their own gloves.
But what amazes me, I found this in some storage, obviously, this was absolutely the most expensive thing I had ever had in my life to do with baseball at that point in it would be the spring of 1947. And I look at the gloves today, softball gloves are so much better than this. And I don’t know how we ever – I don’t know how everybody didn’t have about a 500 fielding average because how we caught things, I don’t know. It’s pretty amazing though. And I’m really pleased with that because it does bring back lots of memories.
Tim Ferriss: Did you collect anything as a kid?
Bill Rasmussen: Did I what?
Tim Ferriss: Did you collect anything as a kid? Did you collect –
Bill Rasmussen: No.
Tim Ferriss: Statistics.
Bill Rasmussen: Statistics. I was into – we had a little board game where you spun an arrow, and they sent out – I think maybe it was one of the bubble gum companies that made this little game.
And whoever they had on their cards, they’d make the all star team for the National League and the American League. And you’d spin and make up games and do all that. I was forever drawing little things. I remember my father worked at the Ford Aircraft Engine Division during the war, and he brought me home, what do they call them, mimeographed score cards. And I would use those score cards and play a game in eight or nine or ten minutes and fill out a score card. I’d throw that away and start all over again. I was just – I guess, now that I think about it, I had a pretty long obsession with statistics.
Tim Ferriss: If you were to give advice to yourself on the day before ESPN launched, not necessarily about the next day, but just any advice whatsoever, would you give yourself any advice?
Bill Rasmussen: I probably would have hoped that we were a little farther along going on the air. I always want to be the next step. And it didn’t turn out that the next step would have been a whole lot better because everything turned out pretty well.
Tim Ferriss: Are there any pitches that come to mind that were complete disasters, complete failures? I have my fair share. I’m just wondering –
Bill Rasmussen: With regard to ESPN or anything?
Tim Ferriss: Anything.
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. Entrepreneurs start lots of businesses. You’re convinced that everything is going to work fine. I did the radio networks for Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts, and then, expanded to doing basketball networks and hockey networks. Every time I thought they were really good, somebody would say we’re not going to do that anymore. And I said, okay, and that’s the way it is. Obviously, you’re disappointed. But you can’t stop living. It’s not the end of the world. You keep eating. That’s all there is to it. I don’t know if it’s luck, if it’s coincidence, if it’s I don’t know what.
Whenever I’ve had a moment to come – we had a home automation company that we bought into long before all of the technology could make it really happen, not a good idea. It sounded like a great idea, at the time. But you know what? We tried it, didn’t work, push it aside and keep on going.
Tim Ferriss: So, you’ve been thought of as, for instance, with the NCAA, as a sort of Nostradamus of college sports because you got the programming, and then, low and behold, we have Larry Byrd, Magic Johnson. All of a sudden, it’s the rage. And it seems like, certainly, I’ve seen this a lot where I live in Silicon Valley, that you’ve had a lot of great bets. But some of them, like the home automation, have been early. You’ve [inaudible].
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: How do you think about evaluating opportunities like that? I mean, you’ve made plenty of investments.
Bill Rasmussen: Well, what I think about is, obviously, we all think about the success side. But I might think about success a little bit differently. You put together a business plan. What’s your mission statement? Have you ever seen mission statements?
Tim Ferriss: Sure.
Bill Rasmussen: Page long, I know you have, but some of them are a page long, some of them are three paragraphs. They get beyond 10 or 12 words, I think we’ve lost focus. ESPN, to this day, you know what their mission statement is? Six words. Six words drive ESPN, to serve sports fans anytime, anywhere. That’s it. Does that say it for ESPN or does that say it for ESPN? So, if I can’t reduce it to some simple that I can see it, let’s make it work this way. We’re involved in a new business now.
It sounds funny at my age, right. I’m an old – but I’m not that old. I’m not too old to want to do things.
Tim Ferriss: Your brain works 10 times faster than mine, so, yeah. I have no sympathy.
Bill Rasmussen: But this has to do with streaming. What do I know about streaming? I didn’t know anything about satellites. But I’ll find out. But I don’t have to know about streaming. You dream it, we stream it. How is that? Six words. Six words, good mission statement. But really, isn’t everything that we all undertake, if you decide you’re going to go to the movie, you have to pick a good movie that you want to go see. If you pick the wrong one, what do you do? Well, we’ll try again. Or do you go home and say I’m never going to the movies again because that didn’t work?
Tim Ferriss: When you make an investment, how do you decide how big it is, and do you cap the downside? Is there a point where you say this isn’t where we want it to be, I’m going to cut my losses? How do you think through that?
Bill Rasmussen: I think you have to set a threshold, if you will. There’s both upper and lower. I always think the sky is the limit, but you have to think at the bottom. And if it’s not going to work, take your medicine and check out. That’s all. I can’t tell you how many things and how many times – how many cars do you buy in the course of a life – when you go in the day you buy the car, this is perfect and so on. And two years later, you’re slapping things around the car. You throw things in the trunk. There’s something on the front seat. You don’t pay much attention to it. And then, pretty soon, you don’t want that car anymore, and you have to get another new car.
So, that one is gone, so, you cut your losses, and you get rid of that one, and you get a new one. Isn’t that what life is all about really? What are we going to do in the next hour? What are we going to do in the next day or week or month that follows? I’m a positive – I approach life from a positive side. And when you say it’s a loss and how do you cut your losses, sure, you would rather not do that. It’s not the end of the world.
Tim Ferriss: Part of the education.
Bill Rasmussen: Part of the education.
Tim Ferriss: So, when you look at – and you’ve used your time very well. Clearly, putting together ESPN just to make that series of miracles happen can’t depend on a miracle. You had some good timing, but you made a lot of good decisions. When you were at your peak, when you were just a machine, what did your days or weeks look like? How did you manage your time? And maybe the better question is how did you do things differently?
Bill Rasmussen: What I would do is, every day, if I had to meet you someplace, you were on the schedule tomorrow, you were the next thing that I was going to do. But seven other things might come up in between, and I’d have to figure out how to do them. And some of them I put back after you. And I really – it sounds funny. It sounds like maybe I’m a pinball machine, I’m going from here to here. But each one of those stops had meaning of some sort. Back in the soliciting cable operators’ time, there was a book back then called Standard Rate and Data Service.
Tim Ferriss: I remember that.
Bill Rasmussen: You remember that?
Tim Ferriss: I do.
Bill Rasmussen: Big book. We would look up sports directors or radio or presidents of cable systems. We decided we were just going to go pitch the top 20 cable systems. Two of us split. I took the top first 10, Ed Egan was his name took the next 10. And we had a young lady sitting in our hallway in our office that was her office was in a hallway outside two offices. We only had two. And we had her call each of those cable operators and say, here in Los Angeles, if there was one, we’d say Bill is going to be in Los Angeles on Thursday and would like to meet with Tim at 2:00. I don’t know who Tim is. I don’t even know where your office is.
I’m going to have to get out there and find a map and find you. We did that. She called 10 cable systems, the 10 biggest cable systems at the time, all 10 of them took a meeting. All 10 of them.
So, five of them were in Denver, and I just went right down the street and met with them all. Those kinds of things, don’t be afraid to try crazy things. Who would have thought something like that would work? I’d probably be saying what? What happens today if your cell phone rings, and the phone number says unknown?
Tim Ferriss: I don’t answer.
Bill Rasmussen: You don’t answer. Does anybody answer? Not me. I had two of those today. Hang up. So, now, here we are calling – she used to have to do it this way for the dial. That’s a long way back. And I just think, if your intentions are not honorable, and you’re not trying to do a good thing for yourself and the customer, you shouldn’t make the call. But if you’re trying to do it, make the call.
Tim Ferriss: So, two things I want to point out just to underscore. First is that so, you had two offices, three people, but you very adeptly gave the impression of having a larger company.
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah. We were big. We had this big thing running around –
Tim Ferriss: A huge hallway. And then, No. 2 is this gamut of so and so is going to be in town for two days, can you take the meeting. If you had said I’m based in LA, and I’d love to take the meeting in the next two days, it never would have happened, right?
Bill Rasmussen: Mm-hmm.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t know why, for whatever reason, this psychological judo move just works so well. It works for just about everything.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: To this day.
Bill Rasmussen: I’m calling from Hartford, Connecticut, Plainville, Connecticut at the time. Denver, Colorado is a long way off, Houston, Texas. By the way, on that swing of 10, we got 2 customers.
Tim Ferriss: Okay. So, I have a question. So, you’re like it just so happens that Bill is going to be in Denver, Colorado next week for two days. When you show up, did they ever ask you why you’re in Denver, Colorado?
Bill Rasmussen: No. They knew it because, apparently, at that point, they would have figured out who we were.
Tim Ferriss: The business.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. I do remember though visiting TCI. And I’m not sure TCI is still around.
Tim Ferriss: I do remember them. I don’t know if they’re still in business.
Bill Rasmussen: I don’t know. I think maybe AT&T bought them, at one point. Anyway, I went in to meet with this fellow, and I hit my eleven – literally, when you asked earlier, I had one piece of paper, type written, 11 lines. That was my whole pitch.
Tim Ferriss: Do you remember any of these 11 lines? This is like the Holy Grail, it seems.
Bill Rasmussen: Not really, but it was we’re going to do 24 hour sports. We’re going to do college, etc., and we’re going to be financed, we didn’t say by Getty. We expect to be the largest cable provider. Ted Turner only had 3 million subscribers, at that point. It took us a year to blow past him. That was fun. But I went in to meet at TCI, and this older gentleman that I was meeting with, he was my age, but he was not a rookie and vice president or something. And he had been a broadcaster in Minneapolis. And he looked across at me, and he kind of smiled, and he said, “You know, this isn’t going to work.”
He said, “We’ve both been on the broadcast side. You know nothing like this is going to work.” I said, “You’re working for TCI.” “Well, yeah,” he admitted that.
So, we went back and forth a little bit. And he said, and he did just this, he said, “I’m telling you, it’s not going to work. But if it does, I want to be your first customer.” I thought trip to Denver has been a success. And he was, in fact, the third customer. He didn’t make it fast enough to be the first customer. So, a lot of those things just happened on the spot. You have to kind of know all of the general areas you want to go and stay with it. And it worked. And it still works, to this day.
Tim Ferriss: This is the first, this is from Facebook, from Sid Jacobson. Why don’t they show Australian rules football, the World’s Strongest Man, and snooker tournaments anymore? My favorite part is the second part of this. And what happened to those cool jackets the reporters had to wear? So, now, the first part, I don’t know if it applies perfectly because I have seen, you have so many channels now, World Strongest Man, for instance. But is there anything that you got rid of? So, you didn’t take the rooftop tennis league.
Bill Rasmussen: No, no, that one never happened. Australian rules football is, actually, on ESPN Australia.
Tim Ferriss: Got it, all right. So, it just found its way home.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. It just found its way back there. And on occasion, it will show. There are layers of ESPN. ESPN the mother ship, that’s what they call it. It’s like Star Wars only it’s ESPN Sport, the mother ship. But then, it’s 2 and News and U and XYZ and around the world. But then, they have Australia and so on. And, as a matter of fact, it’s intriguing. They show in Australia the cricket championship. They sent a crew to Australia to do a lot of pre-production tape, brought it back, and, actually, produced the cricket championship from Bristol, Connecticut while they were playing in Australia.
And how that works with satellites, I don’t have any idea. But Australian rules football, I’ll never forget those guys in the white hats. That was pretty cool. Never understood it, but it was pretty good looking.
Tim Ferriss: t’s a cool sport, too, for those of you who haven’t seen it. These athletes, a lot of them have accuracy with kicking that quarterbacks in the US have with their hands.
Bill Rasmussen: Those cool jackets that we used to have –
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, what happened to the cool jackets?
Bill Rasmussen: You’re talking about the Getty red, the orange –
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Bill Rasmussen: As soon as possible and practicable, we got rid of those, shortly after the check arrived.
Tim Ferriss: Got rid of the Dead Poets’ Society/sponsor jacket.
Bill Rasmussen: We used to have to pin little ESPN’s on those jackets. We didn’t have them embroidered because we didn’t have the budget, I guess. I don’t know why.
Tim Ferriss: All right. Well, I may have to go hunt down one of those jackets for myself. Next question is from Twitter @neilo’martin. I may be saying that incorrectly. What sports do you wish were more popular on ESPN?
Bill Rasmussen: There’s so many. I like college football, and I like college basketball and major league baseball. I don’t know how much more they can put on. They just put together a new 190,000 square foot, new, digital center.
And in there, they have one study devoted to the NFL only. It’s a half a football field. And they have rising whatever, and they have things that flow down and balconies and stair steps that you can walk up and all over. And that’s pretty impressive. And I don’t know what else they can do for the NFL besides that. They’re doing everything, except having Roger Gadella for breakfast, I guess, on Sunday morning.
Tim Ferriss: What was your favorite odd sport or esoteric sport that you guys had on in the early days? Did you have a particular favorite?
Bill Rasmussen: We had an amateur boxing series, and I’ve forgotten what the name of it was. But what I remember about it, as I was in the Dallas Airport when they had the trains underground, not the way that they are now elevated, and I was getting on a train. And I heard somebody. I was just stepping through the door. You step through the door, and it closes right behind you. I heard somebody calling me. And we were Bob Aram and Don King.
And somebody was calling my name. And I looked back, and here he is. He’s pounding on the windows, and he wanted to talk to me. But the train pulled out. And before he ever got back in the discussion, we signed an agreement with Bob Aram. Some of those crazy things. And that happened on a train. The randomness of walking down stairs to get on a tram to go to another flight, a guy comes down, the door closes, he lost his program chance.
Tim Ferriss: Wow.
Bill Rasmussen: Crazy stuff. That’s just the way it was.
Tim Ferriss: That’s like terrifying/meets When Harry Met Sally. It’s kind of like a misconnection.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: With Don King.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. But that boxing series, to answer the question, that was a really interesting – a lot of no name boxers, at that time, and a couple of them, I guess, did rise through the ranks. That was kind of fun, and I’m not a boxing fan.
Tim Ferriss: I’m so glad you did. Oh, I am. I am a huge boxing fan, but, also, a huge hurling fan. So, for those of you who haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend you checking out the senior nationals of Irish hurling. It will blow your mind. It’s like football meets lacrosse, but they’re playing with ax handles and can hit each other and hit it like a baseball. It’s terrifying.
Bill Rasmussen: I was invited to do an interview in Dublin. We did it by Skype. And I agreed to do it only if the host would explain to me Irish hurling, which he did. And I used to describe it as two guys with baseball bats in the right hand and left hand, batter’s boxes, the ball on a T in the middle, and somebody reached in and throws it in the air, and they both take mighty swipes at it and hope they miss each other. I’m not sure, sometimes, they hope they miss each other. It’s a tough –
Tim Ferriss: Oh, no, they go right after each other. It’s terrifying. If you want to see what the Irish do when they’re not drinking Guinness, and, by the way, the senior nationals are sponsored by Guinness, generally, so, internet, don’t go crazy, then, you should check it out. It is fantastic.
Bill Rasmussen: We did have those, by the way, at one time. Did you ever see those early red jackets that had ESPN in the circle around it?
Tim Ferriss: No, I can imagine though knowing what the logo looks like. But I haven’t seen the jacket.
Bill Rasmussen: Well, it’s one of the greatest marketing stories that ESPN had in the early days.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s get into it.
Bill Rasmussen: We had these red jackets, little logo on the front. It wasn’t ESP Network, it was the ESPN with the ellipse around it. And we had the – and bright red jackets and then, white on the back. It had ESPN in the logo. And Scotty Connell said we were credentialed. We could go to college football games. He hired kids and gave them a notebook and a red jacket, sent them to any game CBS was doing, and said I want one of you on the 25 yard line, one of you on the 50 yard line, and one of you on the other 25 yard line, and two more stay with the line of scrimmage, back field and offense.
Now, if you’re familiar with the way a football game is covered, cameras are on the 25 or 30 yard line. They shoot down the field, and there’s one high in the middle. And then, there’s usually some down in the field near the back field or the line of scrimmage and so on. So, every shot that CBS did that first week had an ESPN logo.
Tim Ferriss: Free product placement nationwide.
Bill Rasmussen: Right in the middle. Monday morning, the phone rang. “We’re going to sue you guys. You can’t do that. Cannot do that.” Scotty said, okay, fine. Where is CBS playing next week? Did the same thing. And after the second week, they called and said, “All right, we surrender.” And so, he didn’t change very much, but he cut it down I guess from five to three on their side. That’s about all he did. But advertising that case was the necessity was the mother of invention in that one.
Tim Ferriss: That’s genius.
Bill Rasmussen: But those red jackets counted a lot. I was in the fourth grade that morning that we had Pearl Harbor, the Day of Infamy, and I’ve read the Midway and Pearl Harbor and all other books around that. And I have a library of about it’s probably 100 to 150 books from the early ‘30s all the way through up to the Vietnam War, Korean War. The Coldest Winter is one that I would recommend, David Halberstam wrote that one.
Tim Ferriss: The Coldest Winter.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah. And there are just – I don’t know what it is. I really just enjoy reading it. It’s not that I’m lucky. Obviously, I’m lucky that I’m here and able to do this. But the things that people have done for us in this country are amazing.
Tim Ferriss: This point, I think, is really important. So, only in the last, I would say, six months have I started reading more books related to war, specifically, in this country. And one of the main reasons is that I’ve spoken with a number of folks, including former navy seal commander named Jocko Willink, and he’s very well known. And the point that he makes is that, if you want to study human nature, you can learn, and I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you can learn so much by looking at it when it’s forced to the extremes.
When you see the most unbelievable levels of kindness, the unbelievable levels of brutality, and everything in stark relief when you study war and warfare. So, if you are a student of human nature, which, of course, transcends this conversation and applies to just about anything that was one of the points that he made. And just to pull it into say new media for a second, if people are wondering, if anybody here knows who Casey Neistat is, might have a few hands, he is an extremely well known You Tuber. And he has hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of views.
Very, very well known film maker. And he says that everything he learned about business and life he learned from studying World War II, effectively. It’s that powerful.
Bill Rasmussen: Well, when you say that, people think we’re just here. We won the war. All of the planes were built in the interior of the country because they were worried about Japan coming to the Pacific and Germany and the other.
Submarines were made in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. You think of a submarine, why would you do a submarine in Manitowoc? For safety because they had German U boats on the east coast and Japanese, maybe, they don’t know on the west coast. Lake Michigan, the naval air station in Glenview had an aircraft carrier in Lake Michigan. And that was where they learned to fly. And that’s where they got their wings.
Tim Ferriss: That’s got to be hard to transport.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah, but just think about that. Lake Michigan is right outside Chicago, Glenview Naval Air Station is right outside Chicago. The navy is training in the middle of the country for two oceans. Why aren’t they in the San Diego area or Los Angeles or Philadelphia Naval Yard? But you learn. You can really learn a lot about the operation of life. One thing that, every time I’ve mentioned this, somebody is surprised, we always hear about women at work.
During World War II, and especially in the aircraft industry and making those submarines in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the majority of the labor force were women because they were more able to do the delicate detail work and the wiring for – wiring then for radio and all of those things was a lot different than today. Today, they wouldn’t wire it. They’d all be on a chip someplace. But we never hear about that. And it was an all out effort, believe me.
Tim Ferriss: So, this is going to be a bit of a left turn, but I wanted to ask you about –
Bill Rasmussen: You’re signaling left turn.
Tim Ferriss: Strike. I would be a terrible umpire, I tell you. Even worst baseball player, but that’s a different story. Your best or one of your best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made. And I want to explain what I mean by that. It could be money. It could be time. It could be energy. It could be anything. And an example that comes from someone I’ve chatted with separate is Amelia Boone.
So, Amelia Boone is a three time world’s toughest mudder champion. She’s the most decorated obstacle course racer in the world. Also, a full time attorney at Apple. She’s one of the most impressive humans I’ve ever met. And her answer to that was the entrance fee for her first major competition, which was I think $450.00, a huge stretch at the time for her, but she did it. And it produced this incredible open door and trajectory to something she never would have anticipated. What are one of your best investments?
Bill Rasmussen: That $9,000.00 credit cash advance. Not bad. I have to tell you a brief story about that. I spoke to a group of Merrill Lynch and I think it was Bank of America, all senior executives in Greenwich, Connecticut a couple of years ago. And one of the topics that came up in the discussion because these banks liked to lend money.
And you should have bank loans to start your business. And we will work with you. I’m not 100 percent subscriber to that. So, when it was my turn to speak, I got up, and I said, “First of all, you’ll all be happy to know that I started ESPN with bank financing.” And every single one of them at the time were in pin striped suits and so on. And I said, “Well, it depends on how you define financing. It was a $9,000.00 credit card cash advance.” Talk about an ice breaker. That got me through to them. But the real thing that got me through to that group were there were a couple of Hartford – New England Whaler fans in the audience that solved it.
Tim Ferriss: That sealed the deal.
Bill Rasmussen: But to me, to speak to a group like that, they all – and I hope I’m not insulting anyone in the audience watching or sitting here today, there is a certain confidence and a certain bearing and feeling that bank people have because they help others down below them.
And as I walked into the room, I was the oldest guy in the room, they were all like some of my kids’ ages, so, they weren’t intimidating to me at all. I was just there talking. Before the meeting was over, they were loosening their ties, and we had just a great, great session with them, which I think reaching people is part of what you have to do, too, when you’re making business.
Tim Ferriss: I want to talk about reaching people in a very particular instance. And when you got that cash advance, $9,000.00 cash advance on a credit card, were you married? Were you single?
Bill Rasmussen: Oh, yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Okay. So, now –
Bill Rasmussen: Three kids, a couple of them in college, as a matter of fact.
Tim Ferriss: So, in today’s dollars, I don’t know what that would be, it’s maybe $40,000.00. I’m just pulling a number out.
Bill Rasmussen: I have no idea.
Tim Ferriss: But was that a lot of money for you guys, at the time? Was that a conversation that you had to have?
Bill Rasmussen: Well, let me put it in context. We had a drawer in the kitchen, a little counter and so on, and the check book was in there because then, we wrote checks. We didn’t have all of this internet stuff, and we couldn’t pay – no bill pay or anything. And I was writing a check. And my youngest son walked by me, and he said, “Is everything all right?” And he was kind of concerned because I had the check book laying there. And we opened the check book. It was just before pay day. And he said, “That can’t be right.” And there were $0.17 in the bank account. Not in the bank but in the check book, $0.17. And he said, “Are you worried?”
And I said, “Why?” He said, “We’re not going far on that.” He was maybe a junior in college, at that point. But I never had any doubt because pay day came, and I knew something else would happen. And then, it, obviously, did.
Tim Ferriss: Was your wife worried at all?
Bill Rasmussen: No. She was –
Tim Ferriss: She knew the 11 bullet points.
Bill Rasmussen: She knew all of it right down the line, yeah. She was there. For 56 years, she was there. So, it was okay.
Tim Ferriss: That’s incredible. If we had a golf ball, I would ask you about golf with one of this country’s presidents. And I was hoping you could maybe tell us a little bit about golf. I think it was with George W.
Bill Rasmussen: It was George 41.
Tim Ferriss: So, tell us about I think there was one putt in particular.
Bill Rasmussen: Well, yeah. Maybe I was a little irreverent. But I was invited to play with President Bush in Naples, Florida, just a great guy. We went out and met all of the appropriate people. We went to the driving range, did all that, had 1,000 pictures taken and so on. And then, we started playing. And we all hit on the first green. And he was maybe, I don’t know, 3 or 4 feet from the hole.
And he was a golfer. He used the long putter where he put it up under his chin and gave the – put it like this. And he kept swinging back and forth. And okay, who is going to give me the putt because I guess you’re supposed to. So, after about the fourth time, he stepped back again, and he looked over at us, and I don’t know why I said it, it’s just one of those things. And I said presidential privilege only goes so far. Putt. So, he looked up, and he smiled, and he said, “Game on.” And so, we had a $2.00 bet for the game.
And I had a putt this long on the 18th, and, obviously, because he didn’t get their first, he was about to get – and I missed it. And he made his putt and won the hole and won the $2.00 and took the ball out and said, “I want you to have this in honor to losing $2.00 to me.” But I don’t know why I said that to him. It was probably inappropriate, but he cracked up.
Tim Ferriss: It seems to have turned out pretty well when you fly by the cuff.
Bill Rasmussen: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: ABC, NBC, Bill Rasmussen, everybody. He’s not done. Thank you so much.
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