“Now anchoring for SportsCenter, Sara Walsh, Walsh.”
That was the “reveal” in a clever and risky open concocted by Tuesday’s 3 p.m. ET SportsCenter team to lead into the ESPNEWS report on St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa’s bullpen phone issues in Game 5 of the World Series.
Viewers were unexpectedly taken inside a control room, where a harried producer was getting no relief trying to locate his anchor before going live.
“Get Sara Walsh ready,” SportsCenter producer Rick Angelo repeatedly spoke into his headset, becoming louder and shaking his head as he became more perturbed.
“I tried to stay somewhat serious,” he said of his “acting.” In the skit, he inadvertently reaches and then dismisses 6 p.m. SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris, NFL analyst Darren Woodson, and NHL analyst Barry Melrose.
Each claims to be ready to go on air, but none of them is the anchor he is seeking.
“Antoine Lewis, the show’s coordinating producer, walked over to the 6 p.m. show pod and said, “I have a part for you in this lead-in/skit, can you tape it at 1:30?’” Harris explains.
“I said, ‘Sure can.’ I love creative ideas, and love trying things. They gave me some general lines, I ad-libbed a few, and it was done. I chuckled at the final product, it was cool.”
Lewis explains: “At our 10 a.m. meeting I said, ‘We have the opportunity to have fun off the LaRussa incident last night, let’s do something different on the intro to the news.
“Everyone eventually bought into it after there was a little difficulty visualizing it, and it really got better when [director] Kurt [Ackerman] told us there was a camera in the control room so we’d be able to get the producer on air.”
After SportsCenter’s faux phone follies, Angelo finally reached Walsh on the set, who led into the LaRussa news.
“We try to create different ways to grab people,” Angelo says. “Some work, and some don’t — we think this worked.”
Note: Senior Director Seth Ader’s Sports Marketing team is familiar with bullpen phone issues, as seen in this classic This is SportsCenter ad. You should recognize Ozzie Guillen, then with the White Sox, now with Baseball Tonight and soon to be with the Marlins, as Neil Everett’s antagonist.