July 8, 2013

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ESPN Shows Why It's Still Sports TV Leader

By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press

 

It all started in a construction trailer. It is now the largest employer in the city of Bristol and is also known as the "Worldwide leader in sports." Naturally, we are talking about ESPN.

For many of us who lived in the central Connecticut area, we grew up with ESPN. Or rather, ESPN grew up with us. We watched it grow, expand, buy and demolish houses to add even more buildings. The growth has been incredible to say the least, and the end isn't in sight.

I was lucky enough to get a first hand look at the headquarters of ESPN when I was there to do a story on the show NASCAR Now.

Andy Hall, a longtime friend from his days at NASCAR as the public relations director, is now in the same capacity at ESPN handling both their Motorsports and their PGA golf.

Hall gave me a tour of the entire complex. To say that it is incredible is an understatement.

Walking throughout ESPN, what amazed me the most is that every cubical, of which there are hundreds, has their own television as well as computer. And we are not talking about a 15' television. That doesn't include the hundreds of other big screen televisions on the walls and in the cafeteria. ESPN, being a sports company, has built a regular size basketball court that is overlooked by the cafeteria complete with stands and an operating scoreboard. Have a break, play a little hoops. During the football season, they have a football field complete with hash marks. I got a first-hand view of the taping of NASCAR Now, the ESPN program that highlights NASCAR racing on a daily basis. The studio is much smaller than I figured. When you walk into the room, the NASCAR Now set is on the right and on the left is the set for the NBA studio host with a set of cameras in the middle of the room. Marty Reid, host of NASCAR Now for that dayメs taping, was rehearsing his lines, reading them off the teleprompter. The producers and directors, who are in another part of the building, are watching it all and giving instructions as too what will follow.

Later, Andy takes me where Jim Bowdon, coordinating producer of the show. is overseeing the taping of NASCAR Now, where the video has been cut to be shown over what Marty Reid is talking about. There are maybe 13 people working in the darkened room. As the show is winding down, Reid makes a mistake in reading his lines and apologizes to everyone as they get it set up for him to do a retake.

As we leave, we weave our way through where the SportsCenter hosts are writing their scripts for that nightメs show. Soon, they will get out of their casual clothes and into their suits which are stored in their own lockers. After that, they head off to the make up room and then onto your television screen.

Many of the desks in the newsroom at the time I am there are empty. Being a 24-hour network, many people work different hours so that regardless of what time you are at ESPN, it is always abuzz with workers. You can watch some of the ESPN radio shows if you like or just look at the many different televisions of either live or taped sports.

Under construction currently on the main ESPN campus are the Digital Center 2 (which will house SportsCenter and other studios as well as control rooms and production facilities), new generator plant and an entrance facility, which will be the first building in Southington along with 275 parking spots. Now, just down the road, heading north on Middle St, is the former Superior Electric building that now has been taken over by ESPN. The 'North Campus' has hundreds of offices there as well as a huge tape library. ESPN is no longer the shot in the dark risk that was taken so many years ago, it is now, unquestionably, the leader in sports television.

LOCAL RACING SCENE

As the racing season is just about to hit the midway point, we'll take a look at who has done what.

The name of the month and pretty much the year has been that of 21-year old Ryan Preece of Berlin. Preece leads not only the NASCAR Whelen modified tour, having won three in a row, but also leads the points standing at the Stafford Motor Speedway and is fourth in points at the Thompson Speedway.

Nationally, as of last week Ryan was sixth in the country in points.

At Stafford, Preece leads by just two points over Woody Pitkat with Ted Christopher third just six points out with Doug Coby fourth and Keith Rocco fifth.

In the SK lights, young Tony Membrino, Jr is just two points behind leader Chase Dowling.

At the Thompson Speedway, Kerry Malone leads the modified division by six over Pitkat and eight over Keith Rocco with Preece just 10 points off the lead.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, Rocco is the points leader. Rocco is also third in the country in last week's NASCAR top 500 drivers with Preece, Todd Ceravolo 11th overall and Ted Christopher 14th.

In the modified tour, Preece leads by 32 points over Rowan Pennick with 7-time modified tour champion, Mike Stefanik third just 35 points out. Last yearメs champion, Doug Coby is fourth 53 points out with Plainville's Ted Christopher eighth overall.

The next race for the Whelen modified tour is next Saturday and will be shown live on Speed Channel.

 

Brian Danko has been covering Auto Racing for over 30 years for various magazines & and racing papers including Area Auto Racing News. His weekly column can be seen "In The Print Editions" of  The New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.

 

Copyright 2012-2013  Brian Danko & SpeedwayLineReport.com, New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.