"Jeanie's definitely cheating," Phil Jackson says of his girlfriend, Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss, who's turning their romance into access for Jeanie's Journal, her video blog at Lakers.com. Throughout these playoffs, Buss has been shooting interviews with the press-shy Lakers coach at their home and even in their car en route to Staples Center -- and all Blitz knows is if Jackson hits us, we're suing everybody.
For Lakers fans, it's a chance to hear directly from the Zen Master himself. For the rest of us, Jeanie's Journal is a tasty, though agonizingly fleeting glimpse of a relationship that has been shrouded in mystery: JeanJack, the sports world's preeminent power couple.
Network TV executives, for their part, merely taste what they're missing out on. Starting back in 2003, Ms. Buss, the daughter of team owner Jerry Buss, endeavored to parlay her success -- a lady exec atop a boys-only hierarchy -- into a scripted drama series. With writer Audrey Wells (Runaway Bride) and producer Gavin Palone (Curb Your Enthusiasm) on board, NBC liked it enough to commission a script. They'd ultimately pass, as would the other major networks.
But they're stupid. We think that, at the very least, JeanJack would make for some quality reality TV.
To test the theory, and to prep her for what we're guessing (or hoping) will be a string of reality TV pitch meetings, we recently sat down with Ms. Buss for a mock meeting. Blitz played the role of an excitable reality TV exec, posing some borderline sleazy questions to boot. And Buss did her part by dishing about JeanJack and, in the process, providing us with some insight into Phil Jackson the man, not the Zen Master. The latter is mythical figure. The former apparently cheats at Scrabble, whispers sweetly to animals and scares little kids. (Though Buss did leave out one thing. "I'm not going to give you my nickname for Phil," she said. "He'd kill me.")
Blitz: Is Jeanie's Journal your sly way of showing us TV execs what we're missing out on?
Buss: (Laughs) Why I got interested in having a show is to show what goes on behind the scenes in sports. So, when that didn't get picked up (to series), and now with technology the way it is, I have a flip camera, and I can do these little video journals, which is a lot more fun than writing a blog. Much more fun. I think even if reporters had the same access I have, if you sat with Phil in his bedroom and asked him these questions, I still don't think he'd answer you the way he answers me. I think it has more to do with his trust in me than the access.
"The Phil and Jeanie Show." I like it. But here's my concern: Phil can be pretty funny when he wants to be, but he pretty much never wants to be. What would we have to do to warm him up for the cameras?
A nice dinner. Actually, Phil's the cook. I never cook dinner. But that does put him in a good mood, when we stay home and cook dinner. But Phil's got a great sense of humor. We have a lot of fun. We watch a lot of movies. You know, when he's in the playoffs, he's going to be grumpy. He's going to be short-tempered. And a lot of people saw that last Sunday (when Jackson cursed) at the post-game press conference--
You mean when he dropped the F-bomb?
(Laughs.) Yes, unfortunately he did drop one. But that's the nature of the beast.
Ok, what other types of stuff will my viewers see on our show?
Oh, you'd see Phil compete. He's very competitive. Especially with me. He competes with me in everything.
Like board games?
Definitely board games, but anything. He always has to beat me. He's just very competitive. That's who he is, and I'm not, but that's why we get along so well. Scrabble is a big one. We love to play Scrabble. But he always cheats. He just makes up words, and then he tries to convince me that it's really a word, and I have to call B.S. on it. Also, what's absolutely charming is him with his grandchildren. He's so sweet and gentle. His littlest one, she's about 10 months old, she gets afraid of him sometimes because he's so big. But maybe that stuff would be boring to people.
Yeah, sorta. Hey, you know what us reality TV execs really like? Steamy romance! Is there any of that?
Oh, yeah. (Laughs) He's really thoughtful. He helps me with my work. He's nice to my girlfriends. He buys me beautiful flowers. He had this necklace made for me, with purple and gold stones. [She displays the necklace.] Isn't it pretty?
It sure is. [Note: It really is.]
I think so. He always surprises me with little gifts.
What's the holy grail of access to Phil Jackson? What's the one thing he won't let us shoot, or even let you shoot?
Him playing with my dog. Because he gets down and plays with her, and it's so cute, with baby voices --
The Zen Master talks in baby voice?!
Well, not really baby voices. (Laughs) But he's really sweet to her, and whispers in her ear. He doesn't really want me to shoot that part.
I'd imagine not. Do you think Phil has reality TV star looks?
Well, what's great about him is he's always changing his look. Look back to even to last year's Finals, see how different he looks now. That's a good thing for TV. You always have to be evolving. For the paparazzi to like you, you have to change your look all the time.
Final question: What would our reality show be called?
Um, well, let me think. I don't know. (Long pause, then she laughs.) If it wasn't already taken, it'd be "Grumpy Old Men."
Sam Alipour is based in Los Angeles. His Media Blitz column appears in ESPN The Magazine and regularly on Page 2. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.