Exclusive Interview: Producer of Big Ten Network’s “The Journey” Talks Wisconsin Badgers


Most people that follow Big Ten sports have watched The Journey on The Big Ten Network at some point in the last few years. The Journey is BTN’s highest rated original program and has collected two National Sports Emmy Nominations. It has also won Cablefax’s prestigious “Best Sports Show” award twice in recent years (both for its basketball and football editions).

The show is incredibly entertaining and routinely offers behind the scenes footage of the Big Ten’s brightest athletes. It tells stories that often go unheard and would — if not for this show.

We caught up with the producer of the show, Bill Friedman, for a little exclusive interview. He had some interesting things to say about the show and Wisconsin sports. We think Badger of Honor readers will get a kick out of it. I, Daniel D. Zillmer, asked Bill a few questions and we are presenting them to you for your enjoyment.

Interview With Bill Friedman, The Producer of the Big Ten Network’s Compelling Original Program The Journey

Q. (Zillmer) First let me ask, what is your favorite part of being involved with The Journey?

"A. (Friedman) I think I speak for our entire production team when I say we enjoy and relish the opportunity to be storytellers. Over three seasons of the football Journey, and entering our sixth season of the Basketball Journey, we have had the honor and privilege of telling some compelling stories."

I cannot argue with you there Bill. Year after year I find the show nothing but fascinating.

Q. (Zillmer) Is this the most exciting show you have ever worked on? If so, why?

"A. (Friedman) Hard to compare shows, but I will say I am very proud to have been a part of this show from its inception. The entire production team loves the challenge of continuing to make the show better. We want the show to evolve and grow each year, and I feel that we have been able to do that."

Judging by the multiple Emmy nominations and awards… yeah, I’d say so.

Q. (Zillmer) What is your favorite Big Ten City to travel to?

"A. (Friedman) I love the variety of the Big Ten cities. As an Evanston native, born and raised, it’s always fun to go home. Nothing beats a burger and a dog at Mustard’s Last Stand on a football Saturday. As far as others, I am big fans of both Minneapolis and Madison – great Midwestern cities that are always fun to visit – as is Columbus. I’ve been to just about all the Big Ten cities, and always enjoy being on campus, attending games and enjoying a good meal or two."

“A good meal or two.” I think we’d get along quite well, Bill. Alright, shifting our focus to the current football season.

Q. (Zillmer) Is it common for players such as [Melvin] Gordon and [Ameer] Abdullah to become such good friends at the collegiate level? Have you seen two All-American caliber players (on rival squads) become this friendly before while both competing for the same awards and championships?

"A. (Friedman) I think this is becoming more common, especially with the growth and proliferation of football all-star games, 7 on 7 camps, and on the basketball side – the continued growth of AAU programs. We have profiled a couple similar situations on our show in the past. Trey Burke and Jared Sullinger were high school teammates and best friends growing up in Columbus, and then were rivals on the hardwood at Michigan and Ohio State, respectively. Same with Gary Harris and Zak Irvin, as well as Kain Colter and Kenny Bell."

You’re going to want to check out his answer to the next question Badgers fans.

Q. (Zillmer) Will we be seeing a lot of time spent on Gordon’s record-breaking day in a future The Journey episode? If so, how will you handle it? It was quite the amazing performance wasn’t it?

"A. (Friedman) We were lucky to have our cameras at Melvin’s 408-yard game and you can see our highlights from that game on this week’s show – which debuts on Wednesday, November 19th at 11 PM Eastern immediately after the Green Bay/Wisconsin men’s basketball game on BTN. We handle each game treatment a little differently – depends on the storyline(s) we are following and of course what happened in the game. But I think you will see plenty of Melvin Gordon long runs on this upcoming show. You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @BTNJourney to get more updates and sneak peeks."

I simply cannot wait to relive that game.

Q. (Zillmer) What is your favorite tradition in Madison to take in? (Football, basketball or around the campus/city).

"On the field, has to be Jump Around. Have had the privilege of seeing it in person twice – very fun to see in person as well as on TV. Off the field, breakfast at Mickie’s Dairy Bar or lunch/dinner at State Street Brats."

Good answers there.

Q. (Zillmer) Do you believe that Gordon is now the Heisman Front Runner? Marcus Mariota certainly hasn’t had a Heisman moment quite like that.

"A. (Friedman) I think Melvin is certainly one of the top candidates for the Heisman. Statistically, he has been terrific and his best performances have come against the stiffest competition. Not sure anyone will top 408-yards rushing in a game, but the award isn’t for best game, it honors the entire season and we’ll have to see how Melvin stacks up come December."

I think he’s going to stack up fairly well…

Q. (Zillmer) What is your favorite memory since The Journey Began?

"A. (Friedman) We’ve had lots of great memories – I think my favorite was in 2011 at the Big Ten Tournament when Penn State made an amazing run to reach the final, and being in the room with them watching Selection Sunday and to see the raw happiness from a bunch of seniors who made the tournament for the first time was a great memory."

I’m not exactly in love with this answer. I was actually at this tournament in Indianapolis and watched Penn State defeat Wisconsin 36-33 in the worst basketball game I’ve ever witnessed. I see where he’s coming from though.

Q. (Zillmer) What is your favorite Wisconsin-specific The Journey moment or game?

"A. (Friedman) I think back to the 2013 men’s basketball tournament, when Wisconsin upset Michigan and we captured the Badgers tremendous a cappella singing celebration. Ben Brust, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker led the way – again – those raw moments where the joy and happiness is unrestrained are the most memorable moments for me."

Indeed, Bill, indeed.

Thanks so much for your time for this interview and thank you for helping put together one of the best sports shows on the planet. On Wisconsin.

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