Earlier today, ESPN producer Scott Turken did something he usually doesn’t do at 2:30 a.m. ET — he e-mailed his bosses.
He ended the note by writing: “Hopefully the story has legs and he can be a guest on SportsCenter.”
The “he” being referred to is Owen Groessner, who before last night was just a Rochester, Mich. middle-school basketball player who had not seen any playing time this season as his team’s final home game entered the closing minutes.
At 12:45 p.m. ET today Owen and his father, Chris, will be on SportsCenter — as co-anchor Kevin Negandhi tweeted this morning — just hours after Owen made his national debut on the 11 p.m. ET Wednesday SportsCenter.
Here’s what happened in the course of a few hours.
“Pretty cool story on Wednesday night,” Turken explained. “Shortly after 11 p.m. [ET], I started noticing a lot of mentions for the hashtag, #GetOwenOnSportsCenter. We discovered a middle schooler with Down syndrome hit some threes in a game and many fans were tweeting to try to get it on the show with the hashtag #GetOwenOnSportsCenter.”
With more than 90,00 tweets including that hashtag, the story was “viral” in mere minutes.
Turken included a link to the original Tweet that got the news room buzzing: It described how eighth-grader Groessner made his season debut and hit two 3-pointers in the closing minutes of Van Hoosen Junior High School’s game.
Turken said: “We worked with [news editor] Sarah Hart to make sure it could air. She did a great job of getting it cleared and sending out multiple newswires. The play aired in ‘Top Plays’ on the 11 p.m. [SportsCenter].”
Co-anchor Scott Van Pelt introduced the play with as much enthusiasm as those participating in the grass-roots Twitter campaign.
“Sometimes Twitter is awesome, like tonight,” Van Pelt said as Owen’s video began to play.
“Rochester, Michigan. Owen Groessner. Got Down syndrome. Seventh grader. Hadn’t played all year. Last game. On Twitter they said, ‘Get Owen on SportsCenter.’ He is. Six points in the game. Owen, you’re on SportsCenter.”
Now, with today’s appearance he will REALLY be on SportsCenter.
The deed was not done as Turken’s e-mail explained:
“Right after it aired, we sent a tweet out for the fans. For nearly 30 minutes, it trended in the US. We worked with Digital Media, who then turned around an ESPN.com clip and YouTube clip [see above].”
Two hours after scrambling to make the Top 10 deadline as play No. 10 on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter, it was No. 1 when the Top 10 ran on the 1 a.m. show. It then ran as the lead “Morning Buzz” item beginning with the 9 a.m. SC.
“This was a great example of us listening to fans and rewarding them with compelling and emotional content,” Turken said. “It is this type of organic material that can originate in social and make shows special. It was fun to be a part of.”