ESPN’s Chris Fowler, quick-change artist, on making transition from College GameDay to Australian Open
Editor’s note: On Monday, Jan. 7 in Miami, Chris Fowler culminated his season on College GameDay at the Discover BCS National Championship. This Sunday night, tennis fans can start their season with the Australian Open on ESPN2 and ESPN3 (6:30 p.m. ET). And they’ll be watching the same Chris Fowler on the screen — he has a brother, but not a twin — live from the other side of the world.
In his own words, Fowler describes what’s it’s like to make such a quick transition from sport to sport, role to role, winter to summer and North America to Down Under. Here’s Fowler’s take as told to ESPN Communications’ Dave Nagle:
It is a jarring transition on many levels. The two sports are very different. There’s absolutely no overlap. It will be my 11th Australian Open, so while jarring, at least it’s familiar.
I remember my first trip, in 2003. I’d never been to Australia and was fairly new to tennis. I clearly remember trying to sprinkle in some tennis prep during the college football bowl season. I still do a little. When Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Australian Open at the end of December, I was printing out stories and talking to people on the phone.
During my time in Miami for the BCS title game I caught up on what’s been happening since the US Open. Plus, it’s a 14-hour trip to Australia. You can use that time with focused preparation. The phone doesn’t ring and emails can’t come in.
Plus, my role is different. I go from hosting a pre-game table setter to calling matches. The focus and concentration are different. GameDay is multi-task juggling. During the BCS bowls, our shows are often loosely formatted with plenty of ad-libbing. You focus in five-to-seven minute bursts between commercials.
In tennis, it’s intense focus on two players. The matches often last more than four hours and the changeovers are only one minute. For last year’s men’s final — the longest in Grand Slam history at nearly six hours — I was in the booth close to seven hours. It’s all you can do to get a bathroom break in.
And you instinctively change your delivery. I’ll go from the biggest game in college football to the first round in Melbourne where it could be [Roger] Federer or Serena [Williams] in a one-sided match. You have to dial back for a different presentation. We’ll discuss the storylines of the tournament, the draw and what is going to happen in 2013.
Also, it’s not just two very different sports, but it’s getting ready in two days for a two-and-a-half week international trip. After the BCS Championship on a Monday, I leave for Australia [today]. . .There’s finding time for the laundry, the packing, getting a hair cut, all the boring stuff.
But there’s no other assignment I’d consider coming so soon after football. It’s a great event. It’s the beginning of a new year, the players are energized and in a good mood. It’s a world party and we have first ball to last ball. It’s just a fun event to do.
When a coach says they can’t enjoy a victory because they are looking forward to the next game or next year, I can relate. Walking off the field in Miami, my mind was already on tennis.
ESPN’s 29th consecutive year of Australian Open coverage begins Sunday, Jan. 13, and includes more than 100 hours on ESPN2 and 600 on ESPN3 through the women’s and men’s finals live January 26 and 27.