(L-R) Charissa Thompson, Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson and Marcellus Wiley during “The Madden Cover Reveal” SportsNation episode in Times Square. (Rich Arden/ESPN Images)
NEW YORK — The anticipation leading up to the announcement of this year’s Madden NFL 25 Cover Vote winner came to a close Wednesday as fans voted for Detroit Lions Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders to grace the cover of the 25th anniversary edition of Madden NFL.
The announcement came during a special primetime showing of SportsNation on ESPN2, live from the Hard Rock Café. The “old school” favorite Sanders beat out “new school” contender and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson with 58 percent of the record-breaking final tally of 40 million votes. continue reading…
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, known for his power and control when placing a baseball over the plate, shows those skills can be dangerous in the workplace in ESPN’s latest This is SportsCenter spot, debuting today.
As Kershaw nonchalantly tosses pencils toward the ceiling of his cube at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris “fears” potential injury in the cube above. Front Row asked Harris for his take on the latest of his many This is SportsCenter appearances. continue reading…
Editor’s note:ESPN celebrates Black History Month throughout February with related programming and content.
With a smile on his face and a copy of Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. in hand, SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris prepared for his annual Black History Month reading (one of several Black History Month readings Team ESPN organized across the country) at the Imagine Nation Children’s Museum in Bristol, Conn., near the ESPN campus.
More than 25 children, mostly 4-to-6 year olds, clung to his every word as he brought the book to life.
Following the Wednesday reading, Harris also moderated a Black History Month themed ESPN employee luncheon with Super Bowl hero Doug Williams. In the midst of his busy schedule, Harris spoke with Front Row about the importance of this month.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month means a lot to me, my mom and my dad. Those who came before me, that made it possible for me to entertain and inform sports fans. It’s my — and our — time to shine. But it’s also kind of bittersweet for me. I love every February when it comes around, because I know it is the month that this part of American history is showcased. But it’s frustrating because I think many are kind of lazy with Black History Month. I love talking about Martin Luther King Jr. But we barely scratch the surface of Black history and its full impact on American history in the 28 days.
Editor’s Note: As SportsCenter approaches its 50,000th episode (Thursday, Sept. 13, 6 p.m. ET), Front Row will present content related to the show and the milestone. Today, meet some of the faces behind the scenes.
From Show No. 1 in 1979, all the way through tomorrow’s landmark 50,000th episode, SportsCenter’s one constant has been this: It takes a village to put together the most-televised show in the medium’s history.
That village is populated by hundreds of men and women like those in the gallery above who contribute in every way possible to ensuring SportsCenter is presented in the style and manner fans have come to expect.
Click through the gallery to learn who these people are, what they do and to hear from them what it means to work on SportsCenter.
NEW ORLEANS — ESPN deployed 55 employees to represent the company and to identify potential new hires during the the 37th annual National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention and Career Fair last week.
More than 2,000 people attended the five-day event at the Riverside Hilton Hotel, ranging from aspiring teens to recent college grads to seasoned veterans. At the 2011 NABJ Convention in Philadelphia, ESPN identified several people who became new hires.
The NABJ Convention is just one of many ESPN attends and supports in its quest to provide a diverse workforce. ESPN also attends conventions and supports groups such as the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Women In Sports and Events (WISE), Women in Cable and Telecommunications (WICT) and the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC).
The company also works with many other professional societies promoting gender and sexual equality.
“First of all, it’s a very practical purpose. We’re here networking,” said John Skipper, ESPN President.
“And the other purpose is we’re wanting to set a tone that this matters. We want to support groups like the NABJ and many others like it. Ultimately, our time at the conference will help us identify talented journalists so that we can continue to diversify our workforce.”
ESPN President John Skipper (white suit) met with the NABJ's Board of Directors in New Orleans. ESPN's Jackson Davis (second from left), ESPN The Magazine's Carmen Camacho (fifth from left), and ESPN The Magazine's Keith Reed (in glasses, behind Skipper's right), a board member, are also pictured.
For SportsCenter anchor and New Orleans native Stan Verrett, the NABJ’s return to the city for the first time since 1983 was particularly satisfying.
“It’s like Christmas and Mardi Gras rolled into one,” he told hundreds of attendees at the ESPN sponsored Sports Task Force Mentor Breakfast last week. His regular attendance at the NABJ and consultation with ESPN decision makers helped lead to his eventual hiring in 2000. continue reading…
With the culmination of ESPN’s three-month, multi-platform ,The Power of IX initiative coming this Saturday, activities and events have been coming fast and furious, especially on our Bristol, Conn. campus.
This past Friday, a “Legends” panel was hosted on the main green and the following day, the company invited employees and their families to a sports clinic.
“Today, and this week has been incredible,” said International Programming’s Cathy Lawrence, who brought her daughter and her friends to the clinic. “I’ve worked here for 30 years and I can see once you involve the company with a particular passion, it brings the community and international community in so they can see what the company supports — giving us a base for success.”
Here are re-caps of those two events and a look ahead to a special day of programming coming up this Saturday.
The Power of Title IX
Employees gathered Friday afternoon to hear from sports legends and Title IX activists including Ann Meyers Drysdale, Bernice Sandler, Billie Jean King, Teresa Edwards and Lyn St. James.
Moderated by SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry, the panel took a deep-dive into issues including the importance of women supporting women — both on and off the field.
“I love it when every generation does better,” said Billie Jean King, tennis legend and a key player in the birth of Title IX.
Sandler, often referred to as the “Godmother of Title IX,” and the other panelists agreed it was time to “pass the baton” to the next generation of women athletes and activists. Batons were given to children in attendance – including several girls from Power Play. continue reading…
Almost a year ago, action sports star and 17-time X Games medalist Travis Pastrana was scheduled to make his debut as a driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series when an injury in the Summer X Games derailed his plans.
After time for his badly broken ankle to heal, Pastrana will race tonight in a 250-lap event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET).
NASCAR racing is a complete departure from the type of competition that has made Pastrana’s name. He’s very aware of the steep learning curve he faces.
“We have a great sponsor base and great fan base, but really I have not established myself as a NASCAR driver,” Pastrana said on a media conference call.
“So I’m really trying to learn as much as I can about the sport. I know it’s going to be a long road, and I’m not going to just jump in and take off where I left off in Rally or motocross. I understand that.”
Travis Pastrana competing in Moto X Freestyle during the X Games.
Wildly popular with the younger generation, Pastrana hopes that his fan base follows him to NASCAR.
“I’ve been criticized a lot by the fans who honestly don’t understand how you can come from doing back flips and Nitro Circus to racing in a circle,” said Pastrana, who is featured in a new This Is SportsCenter spot that debuted this week.
“What they don’t understand is this is the most competitive, most intense form of racing that I’ve ever experienced. And as a fan, anyone that’s gone to a NASCAR race, understands it.”
What’s the story behind his This Is SportsCenter ad, which co-stars anchors Jay Harris and John Buccigross? continue reading…
On Feb. 23, Hampton (Va.) University played host to SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris and several ESPN hiring managers for a “career day.” The event was sponsored by Hampton’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.
Students from Hampton U., Norfolk State and Old Dominion participated in exercises such as a newscast with Harris and a panel discussion with ESPN representatives. Harris, an ODU alum, helped students with mock newscasts and was part of a panel discussion featuring other ESPN employees.
Acie Wyatt, senior production manager, ESPN Regional Television and Hampton alum (Class of 2000), coordinated the video documenting ESPN Day above.
Stacy Williamson, an ESPN corporate recruiter who combs many college campuses, said: “With numerous Hampton University, Norfolk State and ODU alumni participating in our campus visit, the students and faculty were able to witness the career opportunities available for current and future graduates.
“Hearing our stories through such a diverse group of ESPN panel members yielded a realistic outlook of the possible achievements that can be made with hard work and dedication to your craft.”
SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris (right) helped journalism students during Hampton University's ESPN Day.
What in the world would office etiquette, a sportscaster’s fashion sense, Ndamukong Suh’s temper tantrums and actor Donald Faison’s IMDB resume have to do with each other?
On the surface, they’re unrelated.
The trick to Both Sides Of The Ball, the ESPN.com series featuring SportsCenter anchors Jay Harris and Mike Hill, is linking such diverse topics in the course of an entertaining 3 minutes.
Both Sides emerged from an idea the duo had of turning their off-camera sports conversations – the kind sports fans have at barbershops, locker rooms and water coolers – into fodder for on-camera comedy.
“It’s behind the scenes. People wonder what we do when we’re not on television,” Harris said.
“We talk about sports, we talk about life.”
“We take a headline that happens during the week and come up with a different twist on it,” Hill said.
“It’s kind of like [being in] the barbershop, without all the hair on your neck,” Harris said.
In the episodes produced since August, Harris and Hill have talked about anything from Tom Brady’s fashion choices to boxing low blows to Tiger Woods being assaulted by a hot dog — and everything in between.
According to Ronnie Forchheimer, ESPN.com’s Senior Director of Digital Media and Video, Both Sides is “a great opportunity to extend the identity and brand of two popular SportsCenter anchors through the digital video platforms, and a chance to project Jay’s and Mike’s rapport and humor.”
The skits are mostly improvised on the spot, completed in 2 to 3 takes and taped at various venues across ESPN’s Bristol campus. Sometimes, the episodes incorporate special guests.
Harris, Hill, and producers/cameramen Jade Hoye and Steve Guyot allowed Front Row to sit in on a recent episode taped with actor Donald Faison.
He was visiting Bristol last month to promote his new sitcom The Exes, which airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET on TVLand.
In the video at the top of the post, you’ll see how the Both Sides team worked with Faison to come up the highly-charged three minutes that addressed everything from borrowing something from a colleague without asking to Suh’s tirades to Faison’s movie oeuvre.
In the video below that, the cast and crew talk about the making of the episode.
Faison, who also starred in the long-running sitcom Scrubs, marveled at Harris and Hill’s ability to improvise. continue reading…