Jeremy Schaap: The Cheese Rolls Alone

Jun 20, 2012
Originally published on September 4, 2014 12:29 pm

As legend has it, Jeremy Schaap caused his father, legendary sports journalist Dick Schaap, to miss two of the three home runs hit by Reggie Jackson during Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Why? Apparently, Jeremy had sent his dad on successive trips to get him a hot dog and a soda. Luckily, his dad refused to get him a beer.

We assume it's all water under the bridge now that Jeremy Schaap has become a bonafide sports journalist himself. When ESPN needed a play-by-play announcer for a nail-biting, pulse-pumping chess tournament, they turned to him. As host of ESPN Radio's The Sporting Life, he is now known for his hard-hitting reports that run the gamut from college basketball scandals to the centuries-old practice of cheese chasing. Schaap joins Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg to explain exactly what England's annual Cooper Hill cheese roll is all about, before diving into fierce competition with another contestant in an Ask Me Another Challenge that'll have you cheering from the stands. Only one contestant can emerge victorious, and that person will win — what else? Cheese.

Watch a video of England's annual cheese rolling event below.

About Jeremy Schaap

Jeremy Schaap has been an ESPN reporter since 1996. He functions in a variety of roles at the network: as correspondent for E:60, host of ESPN Radio's The Sporting Life, and frequent contributor to SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, NFL Countdown and College Gameday. He is also a commentator for

A native of New York City, and graduate of Cornell University, Schaap has won six national Sports Emmy Awards and many other honors for his work. He's the author of Cinderella Man, a New York Times bestseller, and Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics. In addition to his contributions for ESPN The Magazine and, Schaap's work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Time, Parade and The Wall Street Journal.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is THE SPORTING LIFE on ESPN Radio and Now here's Jeremy Schaap.


JEREMY SCHAAP: Yeah, very funny, very funny.



This is not THE SPORTING LIFE, this is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of trivia, tongue twisters and mayhem. I'm your host Ophira Eisenberg and joining me is this week's mystery guest, ESPN's Jeremy Schaap.


SCHAAP: Thank you. Thank you.

EISENBERG: Jeremy Schaap is a journalist and correspondent for the TV news magazine E:60 and host of the weekly radio show THE SPORTING LIFE. Jeremy, you are known for your hard-hitting reports. His stories run the gambit from college basketball scandals to the centuries old practice of cheese chasing. So when ESPN needed a play by play announcer for a nail-biting, pulse-pounding, chess tournament, they turned to the one and only Jeremy Schaap.

Jeremy, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

SCHAAP: Thank you.

EISENBERG: You're welcome.


EISENBERG: So you've covered some sports that are very odd, I would even say downright questionable. Knife throwing, as I mentioned, cheese chasing, competitive eating, that is the sign of the apocalypse right there. What is the difference between an activity or stunt and a sport? Like when does it turn? 'Cause I want to know when I can start referring to Art and John as athletes.

ART CHUNG: Are we a sport yet? Is it a sport?

SCHAAP: It's a fine line. Cheese rolling qualifies as a sport because if your audience is unfamiliar with cheese rolling it is, as you suggest, an ancient art form. And there's a hill in England, in Gloucestershire, specifically where they've been rolling a huge wheel of cheese for hundreds of years. And over time the hill has become progressively steeper and so more...

EISENBERG: From the rolling.

MATT CHRISMAN: From the rolling. The cheese is very heavy. And it's quite treacherous. So anything that involves true danger, I consider a sport. Like being on this show, this is good.

EISENBERG: Good, the pulse is pumping. OK, so actually now that we're just mentioning the cheese, so it is dangerous, right? People get injured running down chasing this piece of cheese?

SCHAAP: Severely. Yes.

EISENBERG: Why? Why would anyone do that?

SCHAAP: That is a good question.


SCHAAP: No one will tell us why.


SCHAAP: You know, there's a peculiar breed of human, particularly in the United Kingdom, who revels in this kind of pointlessness. I mean it's like the old George Mallory line, you know, "because it's there." This is, I think, the best modern example of it.

EISENBERG: I love that you're like basically the British have nothing going on.


EISENBERG: But someone wins the cheese, is that part of it? Is the ch...

SCHAAP: Someone wins a beautiful Double Gloucester, made by...


SCHAAP: octogenarian. She's a lovely woman. She showed me her cheese shop, and her cheese farm.


CHUNG: Well.

SCHAAP: Come on, come on.

EISENBERG: That did sound a little racy. You're a good looking man, Jeremy, I get it.

SCHAAP: And she's actually more proud of her Single Gloucester, but the Double Gloucester is more popular.

EISENBERG: You grew up in a sport-centric household, obviously. Your father was a renowned sports journalist, Dick Schaap. Many kids go through a phase, when they're kids, that they want to be a professional athlete. Did you want to be?

SCHAAP: I have a distinct memory when I was about eight years old of wanting to be Reggie Jackson. Yeah, and I would try to affect Reggie's batting stance, his afro, somewhat less successfully, sunglasses. I even - you know I did things like Reggie would do them; I wouldn't talk to the media after games.


SCHAAP: I was generally rude and inconsiderate to my fellow human beings.

EISENBERG: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] here from the middle school bugle.

SCHAAP: But, yes, but I blamed Reggie. Yes, Reggie was my hero.

EISENBERG: And so - and then you just got fascinated with sports journalism and now...

SCHAAP: No, it wasn't really that.


SCHAAP: It - there was just nothing else.


SCHAAP: I figured if my father could do it, I could do it.


So it's good to know that your amazing career, that I'm in awe of, is Plan B. I hear that you are well known among your colleagues for not only your command of sports but politics, military history, culture. Yeah. You're the kind of person in my circle of friends we go, hey, guess what? You're paying for dinner.


EISENBERG: But today - Here's what we're going to do today. We are going to drag you through the mire of pop culture with a sporting flavor. Yes, what do you say, Jeremy, you got game?

SCHAAP: Great.

EISENBERG: Yes. I'm going to take that as a yes.


EISENBERG: So Jeremy, since you cover so many competitions, we figured we'd pit you against a member of our studio audience in a no holds barred trivia death match.



EISENBERG: Let's welcome our contestant, Scott Castle.


EISENBERG: Now Scott, I have a little note here from my producer that you're originally from Seattle, is that correct?

SCOTT CASTLE: That's correct,

EISENBERG: All right, so that's one point against you. No.


EISENBERG: Seattle's a lovely place. But you and your wife have an online t-shirt company, where you put pop culture phrases on t-shirts?

CASTLE: Not exactly. We actually design our own original art based on pop culture. My wife is a very talented artist who went to school and I am not.


CASTLE: But I have a head full of pop culture, so I come with ideas and then she actually does the actual talent part of the...

EISENBERG: Fantastic. Nice. This quiz is about athletes who have lit up our television and movie screens often with less than brilliant results. Yeah, very dimly lit. So let's get started. Are you guys ready?


EISENBERG: Yes. That's the competitive spirit right there. All right.


EISENBERG: This former heavyweight champion of the world has a lifetime record of 50 wins, 44 by knockout, including Trevor Berbick, Larry Holmes and Zach Galifianakis in the 2009 comedy "The Hangover." (bell ringing)

Oh, oh.

CHUNG: Scott.


CASTLE: Mike Tyson?



EISENBERG: There is something about this retired quarterback that corporate America loves. He's been in commercials for Sears, Prilosec, Wrangler jeans, Rayovac batteries and Edge shaving gel. (bell ringing)

I have to finish with the clue, Jeremy.

SCHAAP: My fault. My fault.

EISENBERG: But in the end, he couldn't win the love of Cameron Diaz in the comedy "There's Something About Mary." Jeremy Schaap. (bell ringing)

SCHAAP: That would be Brett Favre.

EISENBERG: Brett Favre is correct.


EISENBERG: At 7 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 225 pounds, this legendary center definitely held his own against Bruce Lee in "Game of Death." (bell ringing) Scott.

CASTLE: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

EISENBERG: You are correct.


EISENBERG: Wow! This is good. It's tight. This Mets first baseman appeared as himself in a two part episode of "Seinfeld," in which Kramer and Newman claimed that he had spit on them for heckling him after a Mets/Phillies game. (bell ringing) Who was this player? (bell ringing)


CHUNG: It's Jeremy.


SCHAAP: That would be Keith Hernandez.

EISENBERG: Keith Hernandez.


EISENBERG: A defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions who was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1960s, but more importantly, he punched a horse in Mel Brooks film "Blazing Saddles." (bell ringing) Jeremy Schaap.

SCHAAP: Alex Karras.



EISENBERG: All right, we're getting down there. In the 2010 comedy "The Other Guys," Mark Wahlberg lives out every Red Sox fan's dream when his character accidentally shoots what Yankee star in the leg? (bell ringing) Scott Castle.

CASTLE: Derek Jeter.



EISENBERG: Derek Jeter. Olympic gymnast, Kurt Thomas, appeared in a 1985 film named one of the worst movies of all time by Maxim magazine. That is bad, but does not get worse.

CHUNG: They don't like it, chances are it's not really very good at all.

EISENBERG: It's not a movie. I'm not even sure it's a movie. Thomas plays a secret agent sent to the fictional country of Parmistan to win a deadly contest using his special fighting skills, which is a combination of gymnastics and karate. Name that film. (bell ringing) Scott Castle.

CASTLE: "Gymkata."


CHUNG: "Gymkata," yes. All right.


CHUNG: Scott sticks the landing.

EISENBERG: And there is a bonus question for that, Scott. Why do you know that?


CASTLE: Video stores.

EISENBERG: Video stores, good cover. The final score is we have Scott with five points and Jeremy with three points.


CHUNG: Close game.

EISENBERG: Scott, you are our winner and you get a very special prize given to us by the one and only Jeremy Schaap. This is a copy of his book, and by that I mean his copy of his book.


SCHAAP: It's a little torn there, yes.

EISENBERG: This is his book, "Triumph: The Untold Story Of Jesse Owens" because Jeremy Schaap, in addition to all of these things, is also a best-selling author.


EISENBERG: Yes. His non-fiction books are set against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazis, the Great Depression and America's struggle for civil rights. And this one is the "Untold Story Of Jesse Owens And Hitler's Olympics."



SCHAAP: Pristine.

EISENBERG: Pristine. It's got pages torn out, I think, some highlighted pages. And Jeremy Schaap, we have something fabulous for you too. Well, look at this.


EISENBERG: Look, there's something you can put all over those books you write in.

SCHAAP: Thank you.


SCHAAP: I'll trade you, Scott.


EISENBERG: Thank you so much. What a pleasure. Thank you.

SCHAAP: Thank you very much. Thank you so much.


EISENBERG: Thank you, Scott.


JONATHAN COULTON: (Singing) Start the story when mum met dad and they danced all night and he took her home. It might have been all the wine they had, but they rolled the dice and won your genome. And you grew and you grew, and one day you were you, and you looked like your father and mother. If you're looking for someone convenient to blame, you can take your pick it's one or the other.

(Singing) DNA, you're in my heart. DNA, in fact you're in every part of my body. Each cell has a nucleus, each nucleus has chromosomes and DNA, baby, that spells DNA.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.