BRISTOL, CT – Being a MeetTheMatts.com staffer can have its benefits, despite the fact that there wasn’t an MTM Christmas Party or year-end bonus, but in these tough economic times who can complain about that? Instead, my mid-December assignment had me traveling up to Bristol to see how the folks up at ESPN run things. As a matter of professional courtesy ESPN allowed me unrestricted access to their offices and studios yesterday. What an experience it was, indeed! The following is an account of that wondrous day taken from my mental notebook:
Upon my 9 a.m. arrival, I’m meet by an intern and given a quick tour of the studios. Next I’m invited into the SportsCenter meeting rooms. This is where the ESPN brain-trust come up with the stories that will appear on the show that evening. Sitting in the room are 7 or 8 executives along with anchor Jay Harris. Also in attendance are a pair of eager youngsters named Peter Tweeter and Faceboy. Peter provides constant insight into the happenings on the twitter pages of athletes and Faceboy peruses Facebook and MySpace accounts for some good information.
The meeting begins with Matt Milan bursting into the room to inform everyone that Chris Henry had fallen out of bed and was in grave condition in a North Carolina hospital. Peter Tweeter chimes in: “Not so fast fat boy, according to Chris Henry’s fiancee’s Twitter account he was playin’ da fool in da back of her ride. He tried to get up in her cab while she was rolling down the Lane and she dumped his ass on the blacktop”. ‘Who is this fiancee?’ asked one of the execs. Quickly, Faceboy Googles: Chris Henry’s baby mama, and finds out her name is Loleini Tonga. He swiftly pulls up her Facebook account and reads her latest entry:
At 8:00 PM on December 15, she posted: “Jus put deposIt down 4 weDDing piCs… Paid 4 ouR riNgs… Bout 2 eaT wiT my maN n bay bayz…. Startin 2 geT a headache thinKing bouT dis weddin.. I need A cuP.”
The execs all agree; “We got to get her on SportsCenter!” Just then, over the corporate loudspeaker, the following announcement is broadcast: “ESPN.com’s Todd McShay reports that John Kruk has rendered the second floor men’s room “unusable”. “Again?” blurts out Jay Harris. After the chorus of groans die down, it is back to business.
“What cross-promotional material is on the agenda for SportsCenter this week?” asks an exec. “Well ABC is starting a series called The Real Housewives of the NBA, so I was thinking of getting Khloe Kardashian for Sportscenter at 11 tonight,” says program director Neil Johnston. Faceboy informs everyone that Khloe will be signing autographs at a Hartford Red Lobster this afternoon so it shouldn’t be hard to get her on. Boo-yah’s fill the room and backslapping follows for the next 5 minutes.
Peter then informs us of some breaking news. Apparently Lance Armstrong has hired someone to tweet about his daily activities so he doesn’t have to take the time to type the posts himself. “That guy is so cutting edge” says an exec, who for the record has six or seven yellow Live Strong bands around each wrist. “He deserves an ESPY for this move” agrees a coworker.
Next an exec brings up the point of graphics running over the highlights during SportsCenter. “Bodenheimer [ESPN CEO George W.] wants more on screen graphics during highlights” to which Jay Harris responds “I can hardly comment on the highlights now because they are obscured. I can’t see if a putt ever falls in the cup because of all the graphics, most of the time I guess that it goes in or else why would we be showing it but I have no visual proof”. “Pipe down Harris” shouts the exec back at Jay, “next year we are officially going to be called ‘SportsCenter presented by Black and Decker‘ with a constant banner ad running across your desk”. “Sorry sir.” responds Jay sheepishly, as he slinks down in his chair.
Just then Peter Tweeter exclaims that Robbie Knievel has just posted that he will be jumping over Karl Ravech’s toupee. “We got to get a banner running across that thing” says an exec. Faceboy informs all that in an online pool Ravech’s hair piece was voted the most noticeable ESPN accessory just ahead of Stuart Scott’s glass eye.
John Clayton comes into the room holding his breath, loudly exhaling as he closes the door. “Kruk must be on this floor because there is an incredibly foul odor. I’m telling you it is ugly out there, Steve Phillips-intern-ugly. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you guys that Chris Henry fell out of a flatbed truck last night and died this morning.” “That’s just too bad” exclaimed an exec, “I thought he had a real future in broadcasting after his playing days were up, He could’ve been as good as Emmitt Smith.”
With that, the room breaks for lunch and I decide I’ve seen enough of the workings of ESPN for one day and decide to drive back home, riding on the inside of my car just to be safe.