Monday, August 06, 2007
The View From Bristol, Part 2
The cosmos chose me to work here during a fascinating summer in sports.
Baseball will reflect on this as the year of the milestone: I worked during Trevor's 500th save, Craig's 3,000th hit, and Tom's 300th win. I was here when Griffey passed Frank Robinson, The Big Hurt hit his 500th, Sammy slugged 600, and Barry went by the Hammer. My in-person interview came the morning after one no-hitter (Buehrle), and I built pushback graphics for another (Verlander).
I was on the set of Outside the Lines, minutes before the show started, when news broke that Bill Walsh had died, thus altering the entire show and giving me a real-world experience in live TV. I was at the ESPN News desk when news passed that Rod Beck had died, sending me scrambling to put his career in perspective for viewers, instantly.
I saw Houston Oiler Bruce Matthews and Missouri Tiger Roger Wehrli join the hall of fame with a Mo City native (Thurman Thomas) and a Texas football icon (Michael Irvin). As people ranted and raved about the sanctity of sport collapsing, I watched two members of a dying breed, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, classily take their place among baseball's immortals.
I remember the news wire crossing that described the Tim Donaghy scandal - something that we know neither the depth nor horrific effect of yet on the integrity of sport. Tim Donaghy's name will take it's place with that of Pete Rose, the Black Sox, and Boston College basketball.
I saw the unraveling of the Mike Vick case - something that is quickly and unfortunately deteriorating into a divisive racial battle reminiscent of the OJ Simpson trial. Whatever rational, adult thought is shared by knowledgable people is soon to be smothered by the screaming of the moronic as this case exponentially expands. Few things incite Americans more than racial discussions. Few things impassion Americans like their pets. Fuse elemental pieces of the two, and watch the mad sociological experiment begin.
I already lament my defense of due process that I will have to make in the face of a racist comment that has nothing to do with the case.
I was present when the network was bashed, and rightfully so, for the escapade that was the 'Who's Now' tournament. The concept of this wasn't what I totally dispised, but the sickening presentation of it. The occasional pandering to idiots is tolerable to an extent, but this fiasco took the cake. Want to know how fake it really was? A certain actress during one of the tapings didn't know who Dwyane Wade was. She was then fed what to say by co-workers of mine. Many people inside the company liked the whole thing as little as I did.
I was here as a living broadcasting legend left his post at the company. When people have asked me about my career aspirations, I sometimes said, "I want to be Dan Patrick." It seems fitting to me that he would walk away while I was employed at his company. I don't pretend to think I'll ever be some titan of media, but it would be cool if I look back in 30 years and remember I got my foot in this business the same time a personality I admire pulled his away.
I have walked the hallways and parking lot and studio sets where the famed 'This is Sportscenter' ads were filmed. I have eaten at the Caf far too many times, standing in line to pay for my salad alongside Trey Wingo and Buster Olney. (I have learned to always go with the omelet bar when presented the chance.) I have had friendly conversations with The Schwab, Steve Bunin and Dari Nowkwah. I have been humbled by the depth of sports knowledge people in the research room have. I have had Neil Everett, John Anderson and Scott Van Pelt express their admiration for a horse-related, hand-drawn sign at a basketball game that may or may not have been key to getting me this job.
I have eaten at what is likely the Outback Steakhouse where events transpired that led to the termination of sport blog martyr Harold Reynolds. Sometimes I wonder if Harold realizes that he may be one day remembered more for being a subculture's cult hero than an All-Star second baseman. Speaking of blogs, I admired the step Goliath took when it invited David (Will Leitch from Deadspin) to discuss criticism of ESPN in open dialogue on air. I think sites like Deadspin serve as an unfiltered ombudsman that when used correctly, can greatly benefit the company. Scott Van Pelt told me he thought the fall out from his conversation with Leitch was pretty fascinating.
I met and worked with basically every on-air personality you can imagine, and 99.99% of my experiences were overwhelmingly positive. There's a reason why this place is so successful: the building is filled with obscenely talented individuals. It's also filled with hilarious, sharp people, too. That being said, everyone respects hard work and professionalism, which I guess I tried to pull off. I'll just say this - If you can't enjoy yourself at work doing what I did this summer, you just ain't like me.
I'll wrap it up by saying this: I got to work for the biggest sports media organization in the world, immersed in their day-to-day studio production, during a fascinating, tumultuous period.
What did you do this summer?