Bill Simmons has been looking to expand his podcast empire at The Ringer, the sports and pop culture website he launched in 2016. The site already has dozens of shows, but Simmons wants to create some that are hyperlocal.
He began in April with “New York, New York,” and he has been trying to set up shop in Philadelphia and his beloved Boston. Eventually, Simmons turned his attention to Chicago. In conversations with colleagues about potential hosts, one name kept coming up: Jason Goff.
A mutual contact told Goff that Simmons might reach out. Similar experiences led Goff to take the information with a grain of salt. But the next day, Simmons’ name appeared on Goff’s phone.
“We started with some basketball conversation, and I realized this isn’t just initial conversation,” said Goff, the Bulls pre- and postgame show host on NBC Sports Chicago. “This is something that he and others have talked about, and this is him seeing if I was interested. It kinda dropped in my lap because I didn’t know they were searching.”
The first episode of “The Full Go with Jason Goff” dropped Monday, just in time for Goff to tear into the Bears after their season-opening loss. Shows will come out Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Goff will host emergency episodes when big news breaks. He also will host “The Ringer NFL Show” on Tuesdays with former players Ryan Shazier and James Jones.
What appealed most to Goff was Simmons’ insistence that Goff be himself.
“He’s like, ‘I just want you,’ ” Goff said. “Anytime anybody said that to me, I’ve jumped at it because you don’t get that too often in this business.”
In more than 20 years in the business, mostly at The Score, Goff has been as real as it gets. How he sounds on a show is how he sounds on the street, only a little cleaner. He’s a powder keg of passion, but he doesn’t shout at you to make his point. He’s sharp, smart and witty, but he doesn’t come off as a know-it-all. That said, he knows exactly what he’s doing in front of a microphone.
“The Full Go” name, which Goff and Simmons discussed, is a perfect fit for Goff’s personality.
“He threw out a couple of things, and I was like, we should make it so that people here in the city have said it before and it doesn’t feel touristy,” Goff said. “Nothing ‘Windy City.’ I just told him ‘The Full Go’ should be the name, the double entendre kind of vibe to it, if you’re a full-go as a player or as a fan.
“I’m gonna have a lot of guys and girls on this show who probably don’t get a chance to get on ESPN or The Score. I’ve had content conversations with the producers. They’ve entrusted me with as much creative control as you could allow for me to have without everybody getting fired.”
One of those producers is Chris Tannehill, the wizard of sound at The Score who created Goff’s first open when he began hosting part-time back in the day. Goff said Tannehill is helping him on an interim basis to start.
The last time they worked together was in March 2018, before Goff was dismissed unceremoniously at The Score by former boss Jimmy deCastro as part of a lineup revamp. At the time, deCastro said he sought to “play the hits” – in other words, stick to sports. That left Goff in a bad place.
“When all that went down, I was upset at everybody because of how I was portrayed,” Goff said. “I just got the worst [stuff] put on me that you could possibly get put on you. ‘This guy only wants to talk about race in a world where nobody wants to hear about it.’ ”
Goff said he only recently was able to let go of the anger that stewed inside him with the help of therapy. He also was trying to move on professionally. After The Score, Goff worked for ESPN Radio nationally and SiriusXM satellite radio, in addition to landing the NBCSCH job. People kept telling him to jump into podcasting, but that required some soul-searching first.
“For three years I’ve been sitting here thinking that if I did it, I wouldn’t be considered a radio guy anymore. Or I wouldn’t feel like I accomplished the mission,” said Goff, who remembers telling his mother at age 11 that he wanted to be a sports-radio host. “And it took a lot of therapy and my lady [Dr. Pia Holec], who is a psychologist, to realize that maybe that isn’t the final destination.”
The Score certainly wasn’t a stepping-stone for the next phase of Goff’s career. It was an enormous part of his life since the days he’d call in to shows as “Jason from Evanston.” Radio was all he knew. It was the only job he ever wanted. So podcasting was going to be a challenge.
“Anything outside of a radio booth, that confidence that I move with isn’t always consistent and prevalent,” Goff said. “So for years I’m like, what if I do this and it sucks or no one listens? The self-doubt of placing too much value in other people’s opinions about me, which is what I was born into in radio.”
And then Simmons called.
Whatever you think of Simmons, it’s hard to argue with his success rate in sports media. He listened to people he trusts and sought out Goff for his next endeavor. That eased Goff’s insecurities about his next career.
“I’ve been looking for validation for a long time instead of confirmation,” Goff said, “and I think this is kinda confirmation and this is how I’m just gonna go about the rest of my career, understanding that I’m better than good.”