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March 23, 2017

Q&A with New York Times best-selling author Shea Serrano of The Rap Year Book

Don’t underestimate the Chavez Reach. Out of the blue this week, he pulled some strings (thanks to the friendship he cemented this summer in Rio de Janeiro with his Sports Illustrated colleague Andrew Sharp) and managed to get me in contact with Shea Serrano to schedule a short interview, mostly about his publicly contentious relationship with the activity of running.

For those of you unfamiliar with who Serrano is, he’s the New York Times best-selling author of The Rap Yearbook (and probable two-time New York Times best-selling author for his upcoming release, Basketball (and Other Things). He wrote for Grantland (RIP) and is a current staff writer at The Ringer, and routinely mobilizes his Twitter followers to raise money for charity and stuff like thatTo top it off, we’re both San Antonians who have likely encountered David Robinson at a Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant, so suffice to say, I was excited to hear what he had to say.

Within minutes of firing off my email to Shea — enough time to pit out a t-shirt because like all good millennial bloggers I have a crippling fear of human interaction and perform poorly when tasked with something other than administering a room-temperature take — he responded: “Let’s do it. Gimme a call.”

I tossed a few questions into a Google Doc, tried fruitlessly to quell my sweating and picked up the phone for what I’ll assume is the first running-focused interview of Shea’s literary career.

Shea answered on the third ring, from his Houston home. We exchanged introductions and I sputtered my way through a game plan and then we got started. Here’s how the brief conversation went:

Paul Snyder: So Shea, thanks for taking the time to chat today.

Shea Serrano: Yeah no problem… [muffled talking & what sounded like a kid’s voice]… Sorry had to clear the room out a little, one of the boys was making some noise.

PS: No worries, it’s like that BBC pundit guy only it wasn’t on video.

SS: To be fair he [one of Shea’s sons] was here before me.

PS: So, you run. It seems like it’s not exactly an enjoyable pursuit for you. So why do it?

SS: I’ve run like, twice in like the last month. I’m not a “runner,” I guess. But I’ll run every once in awhile. I do it because — I think in the way my family is set up, they’re all naturally thin people. The men are anyway. So if I run, even if it’s just for like a week, I can lose a few pounds. It has a big effect, as long as I eat a normal amount of food. That’s the main reason. But as a family, growing up we ran a whole bunch. Some of my uncles were big in the running scene. They were established track runners in school.

PS: What do you listen to while running?

SS: I’ve tried to listen to a podcast a couple of times but I’m just not a podcast guy. Usually I’ll just play whatever new album’s out that I need to listen to. I probably listen to five or six new albums a week, you know, whichever’s coming up. If I were running tomorrow, I’d say I’d listen to the new Drake album that’s about to come out. I don’t have one album that I run to.

PS: Going back to what you said a second ago about your uncles being runners, what about you? Did you get duped into running track? Or did you play more conventionally fun sports growing up?

SS: Yeah I did basketball, that was my main thing growing up. It wasn’t until I got out of college and was teaching that I started running a bit. I was coaching the soccer team and we’d start practice most days with a two-mile run. Then after that I started coaching the track team too, so I had to learn all about the events.

PS: You watched the Olympics quite a bit it seems like, including track stuff; what highlights — if any — stand out to you?

SS: Yeah I watched a ton. Track’s the second best thing going on during the Olympics behind women’s gymnastics. Then track, then swimming. Obviously the Usain Bolt stuff was great. The hard stuff to watch is the men’s relay team. They alway screw up somehow. My one favorite thing was that guy Centrowitz — out of the whole Olympics, when he won that, that was my favorite. I was so pumped for that,and I don’t really know why. I had never heard of the guy before and I don’t know anything about him. But they were showing his family in the stands in split-screen during the finish of the race and they were just going nuts.

PS: Okay, I have one last question to wrap things up. You get to pick one historical [San Antonio] Spur and one current player to line up and race a 100m. Which two guys do you choose? Who wins?

SS: I’m going to pick…you know who I bet was fast was Willie Anderson. He was probably really fast. He was a layup master. And you said I get one guy from the current era? Then I’m going with 2000-2001 Tony Parker, back when he was a rookie and all he was was fast. Back then he was the fastest dude with the league with the ball, so I’d assume he’d have been even quicker without a ball. If they raced? I’m going Tony, just cuz I like him more.

Basketball (and Other Things) is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The Rap Yearbook is available now wherever books are sold.

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