We’ll try and keep this brief because there’s plenty of actual news in the sports world and nobody cares about us invading the Bristol compound. Featured below: Bob Ley, Chris Berman, Colin Cowherd, Michelle Beadle, Brad Edwards, Lou Holtz and Todd McShay. Alexi Lalas and Kirk Herbstreit interviews to come later today. All of this is in chronological order:
* Patrick Steigman was pumping up ESPN.com’s dominance in the “time spent” category (ESPN may not beat Yahoo in unique readers, but readers spend much more time on ESPN.com than Yahoo, Fox, CBS, SI, etc.) We asked if he was concerned that ESPN had fallen behind Yahoo in unique readers over the past year. His response: “We have the hardcore sports fan … Yahoo is much broader and it is able to drive traffic from its Yahoo homepage, but our readers are hardcore fans … at Yahoo, they might just be looking for news or a score.”
* The twitter memo thing has been beaten to death, so very briefly: ESPN, more than anything, didn’t like the fact that its ‘talent’ (“they are who they are, essentially, because of ESPN” is how one executive – Steigman? – put it) was drawing an audience and opining somewhere other than ESPN. It is sort of (but not totally) like ESPN writers/talking heads not being permitted to go on non-ESPN radio shows. Also, the phrase “live mic” (as in: Ric Bucher, this mic is on!) kept popping up. Plus, ESPN wants to incorporate twitter-like features to live sporting events at ESPN.com.
* This hologram/transporter Bob Ley thing was pretty cool. Even though ESPN would never do it, Ley should be the guy known as the ‘face’ of ESPN – an intelligent, quick-witted, actual journalist (as opposed to guys like Stuart Scott and Chris Berman). He’s a tremendous storyteller. He went on for about 15 minutes in great detail of what it was like covering the earthquake at the World Series in 1989. Ley is absolutely geeked – “I’m in hog heaven” – about the World Cup, which is great news for soccer fans. Ley was a bit defensive (jumping at the question before Berman could embarrass himself?) when it came to ESPN criticism: “Whoever is on top is going to get the most scrutiny … we’re so big that if you want to sit in mom’s basement and find something to pick at or criticize, you have a list [this] long.”
* Chris Berman doesn’t just talk with his finger on TV, but in person, too. That’s annoying. His quote of the day, when asked about the “E” in ESPN and questions about being a journalist vs. entertainer: “Nothing annoys more more than being called ‘ESPN personality’ Chris Berman. What’s that? A morning disc jockey? (Then, he riffed on how he was once a disc jockey.) The minute our personality gets in the way of what’s going on, then we become entertainers and we’re failing ourselves and failing you.”
* The executive who looks like he gives the top brass the most problems is John Skipper. He’s got a thick southern accent and he showed up at the largest meeting of the day in an untucked button-down shirt (the other executives had on sport jackets or suits). He appears to be a guy who speaks his mind and doesn’t posses the ability to bite his tongue when necessary. We imagine newspaper reporters love to call him because he seems like the type of guy who could mouth off at a moment’s notice. We asked him point-blank about the Kornheiser-Tirico issues (he was on hand for some or all of the MNF games) and he gave us one of those (from about 20 feet away): “why you little …” looks, and then danced around the topic.
* Talked to Colin Cowherd for awhile. Interesting guy. He’s chatty, able to sell a point, animated at times, and a good storyteller. He introduced us to his co-host, Michelle Beadle (who is taller than she appears on TV, and as we said when the show debuted, resembles Cameron Diaz), one of Simmons’ friends Kevin Wildes, and another guy who works on Sportsnation. Ohio State came up. We let Cowherd know that some of our most vocal commenters were from Ohio. He concurred that a large portion of his radio callers were from Ohio and Indiana. Strange.
* Norby looks like an actor from Law & Order whose name I cannot recall. He cannot stop smiling.
* The funniest moment of the day came prior to interviewing Kirk Herbstreit. Mike Humes, the PR guy for Gameday, takes me into a glass office to wait for Herbstreit. There, we briefly chatted with BCS guy Brad Edwards, who gave us a quizzical look when we told him about this blog. He seemed fascinated how a blog like ours would work. We lamented how our wives just don’t understand that in September and October, weekends are off limits due to football. His problem is compounded by the fact that he has two kids and for the first time, won’t be able to take them trick-or-treating.
In walks Lou Holtz, and everyone gets on his case about the Florida-ND pick. He jokes that he’s moving to Costa Rica to avoid the media crush. Then in walks jovial John Saunders. He shares a laugh with Holtz. And then Todd McShay walked in. At this point, we asked Humes if this was some kind of VIP hangout, and if it was indeed OK to be here. A very tanned Chris Fowler walks by the room, looks in and waves to the guys he knows (everyone).
As McShay is leaving, Humes says, ‘this is Jason McIntyre’ and McShay looks at my name tag, then me, and it was probably the first, ‘oh geez’ moment of the day. After some college football talk, we asked him, “do you ever read blogs or google yourself? You’re talked about quite often,” and he gets this semi-frown and says, “I quit doing that.” And we felt sorry for the guy.
* Our last image of Bristol, while walking to our car – Mark Schlereth. He was walking slowly, with his head up, looking cocky as ever, about to enter a building. We could smell his smugness 30 feet away. ESPN PR guy: “You want to go talk to him?” Nah, not a fan.