Neighbor: Michael Strahan, Talk Show Host

Forget the traffic, inopportune timing of road construction, irritatingly narrow one-lane highways and the pathological inclination of that idiot driver to cut someone off. Because Hamptons regular Michael Strahan’s grueling commute just may trump that of any other Hamptonite.

The former New York Giants defensive end was recently tapped as Kelly Ripa’s new cohost on what was previously dubbed “Live! With Kelly and (fill in the blank),” and he now must jetset weekly from his Monday-through-Friday New York morning show job to fulfill his Los Angeles–based duties on “Fox NFL Sunday.”

The cross-country commute also begs the transition from the spontaneous life of a daytime talk show host to serious sports speech. But Strahan has successfully navigated the divide between National Football League celebrity and television personality for a long time now.

Strahan played his entire NFL career, which spanned from the 1993 to the 2007 season, with the New York Giants defense, and his 22.5 sacks in 2001 is an NFL single-season record. He was named the 2001 NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year and was a two-time National Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

A darling of the NFL for his explosive style of play on the field (he notched 141.5 sacks over his career), Strahan debuted as the official cohost of Hamptons darling Kelly Ripa’s show on the September 4 season premiere.

Strahan had cohosted “Live!” 20 times over the past two years, and his previous tenure in television, in addition to “NFL Sunday,” includes commercials for Cadillac, Right Guard—in which fans passed out at his apparent body odor—Pizza Hut, Snickers and Subway, as well as a stint on the Fox sitcom “Brothers.”

The first week of the newly named “Live! with Kelly and Michael” garnered the show’s highest fall season premiere week ratings in six years. He capped off that week—or started his next week—with the opener of “Fox NFL Sunday,” which scored the highest rating for any pregame NFL show in nine years. Strahan joined the show in 2008, and it has consistently been ranked the No. 1 NFL pregame show on the air.

As he begins his first full season on “Live,” Strahan also has another rookie season on his mind. Judging by his Twitter feed (@michaelstrahan), he is a rookie fantasy football player, and his newest foray into today’s media is a Web video series called “Stray’s Takes,” wherein Strahan offers his insights on a Twitter hashtag each week. “Stray’s Takes” season opener comes at the expense of #fantasyrookie.

Though it may seem wrong to apply the term to someone like Strahan and to someone like Holly Housewife (the one who creates fantasy teams based on matching uniform colors), Strahan reminds viewers that he’s a fantasy rookie because he did “it” (played football, talked football, commentated on football) “in REALITY.”

And no, Strahan does not pick all Giants for his team—and he’s probably happy that he doesn’t have to add “awkward locker room dynamics” to his already hectic schedule. He does reveal that his quarterback is the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees, and Strahan chose Brees because Brees 1. Walks his dog at night. 2. Kisses his kids before they go to bed and, oh yeah, 3. Strahan didn’t sack Brees in his 15-year career, which means that Brees gets rid of the ball, is not afraid to pass and Gets. Strahan. (Fantasy). Points.

But Strahan is not about to put “When the Saints Go Marching In” on repeat. He is playing with the Giants’ defense, but is none-too-pleased with the fantasy football practice of handpicking your offense and then lumping whole team defenses together as one selection. With his trademark delivery that is more standup comedian than jaded newscaster, Strahan reveals: “I’ve realized one thing playing fantasy as a rookie. Defenses get no love. Why? Why don’t defensive players get love? We’re not quarterbacks? We don’t have supermodel wives? Defense wins championships…The best defense for offense is a great defense. And if you didn’t understand that, that’s okay, because I didn’t either.”
The supermodel reference is likely a jab at New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, who is married to former Victoria’s Secret Angel Giselle Bundchen.

But the greater insult to Brady is that Strahan was a part of the 2008 Super Bowl–winning Giants team, and Strahan contributed two tackles and one sack for Big Blue in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. The Patriots, who were 18-0 entering the game, quickly saw their dreams for a perfect season dashed in the 17–14 fourth quarter loss.

Back in real football world: Incredibly, Strahan’s first organized American football game didn’t come until his senior year of high school. Born in Houston, Strahan moved to Germany for his father’s military job when he was 9 years old. Though he played abroad, Strahan returned to the U.S. to live with his uncle in Houston during his final year of high school, where he secured a scholarship to Texas Southern University.

Strahan was drafted by the G-Men in the second round (40th overall) of the 1993 NFL draft, but he played in only nine games during his rookie season due to injury. Then 1997 was a breakout year for Strahan, as he recorded 14 sacks, and his seven subsequent Pro Bowl selections proved that the slower early years had longed been trumped by his high-octane style of defensive play.

So if you’re in Strahan’s fantasy league, do him a favor and grab a defense with a top pick. Or, avoid the situation altogether and challenge Strahan to a completely different sport. Prior to beginning his fall television obligations, Strahan played a little three–on–three—that’s basketball—in the Hamptons with Water Mill resident and New York Knicks point guard Jason Kidd and Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams. Kidd’s wife Porschla tweeted a photo on September 2.

No doubt Strahan’s impending commute had him wishing he could go back to his casual Fourth of July weekend, when he had time to stop and pose with the Daily Dan team as they distributed copies of the magazine throughout the Hamptons.

Or maybe, after experiencing the finest traffic the East End has to offer, he was anxiously anticipating that weekly plane ride.

This week’s “Neighbor: Michael Strahan” is brought to you by Twin Fork Bicycles, 121 East Main Street, Riverhead. Call 631-591-3082 or visit them online at twinforksbicycles.com.

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