Reporter's Notebook Sports The Tattoo

A firsthand look inside ESPN

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — After years of watching ESPN every day from the confines of my living room, I got the chance recently to go behind the scenes and see what really goes on in there.
From the outside, the ESPN complex looked like a high security government building.
Not just anyone can enter the premises. Security guards check your ID at the gate. As a reporter, I was allowed inside and had access to areas normally closed to the public.
All of the buildings are locked up and there are guards behind every door. It’s pretty extreme for a sports broadcasting organization.

T.J. O’Connor behind the desk at ESPN’s SportsCenter. (YJI)

Inside the buildings are rooms and rooms of old footage that aired on ESPN, from the first SportsCenter show ever aired in 1979 to last week’s college football games.
I walked through hallways that served as branches to little rooms that looked like cockpits, with tons of monitors, hundreds of buttons and controller sticks.
As I headed towards the office rooms where most of the ESPN talent write their columns and prepare to go on air I passed Bob Ley, the host of “Outside The Lines.”
(He’s actually a lot taller than he appears to be on television.)
In the office room NFL2Night’s Mark Malone was preparing for that night’s show. I also saw SportsCenter anchors Chris McKendry talking on the phone and Trey Wingo working on his computer. It was neat to see so many people at the same time up close that I see almost every day on TV.
On the “21st century” Sports Center set, I spoke one-on-one with SportsCenter stars Rich Eisen and Stuart Scott. Eisen was funnier in person than on television and Scott was as passionate in his opinions as he is when he is doing the show. I was talking to Scott about how overblown the incident in the Little League World Series was, when the player from the Bronx waved goodbye to a home run he hit as he rounded the bases. Eisen gave me his opinions on the Pacific 10 conference and told me how he started his career as a sports reporter.
When I walked into the SportsCenter set I was amazed at how large it was because on TV you only see a small portion of it. I got a chance to try out the anchor’s chair behind the desk, too.
I went into the production rooms where they prepare for the shows hours before they air. The producers want to get everything perfect for SportsCenter. When I was in there they were working on the entrance of the SportsCenter logo at the beginning of the show.
That wasn’t the end of my time spent at this humungous sports world.
I was lucky enough to have dinner with College Gameday’s Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler.
This was the best part of my time at ESPN because for me, Gameday and Corso are my favorites.
Corso told me stories of how his car was struck by lightning while he was doing commentary for a Virginia Tech game.
As I sat at dinner talking college football with the man who had all the answers to my questions regarding the sport, I thought about my experience at ESPN and realized how far-reaching this place is.
Not just company’s sprawling Bristol campus, but the sheer number of people who watch the network and the sports fans who depend on ESPN to provide them with the information they crave.
My two days inside ESPN gave me a much greater appreciation for the work that goes on inside “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

T.J. O’Connor is a Reporter at Youth Journalism International.

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