Call it a case of art imitating life and then life imitating art.
This memorable “This is SportsCenter” ad told the “tale” of a young man who thought he was ready for the big time but soon found out, as anchor Bob Ley says in the spot, “. . . bottom line is he just came out too soon.”
Last Saturday, another youngster attempted to make the leap from (grade) school to SportsCenter and this time, the results were markedly better.
“After the segment first ran Saturday on ESPN, [Senior Coordinating Producer] Don [Skwar] emailed me and said ESPN was offering [my daughter] Chesney a 25-year deal,” ESPN College Football Insider Reporter Brett McMurphy said. “Once it re-ran a second time on ESPN2, Don emailed me again and wrote: ‘After watching it again, forget what I said about the 25-year contract. Let’s make it lifetime.'”
Nine-year-old Chesney McMurphy made her national TV debut with her dad on Saturday morning during his regular “10 At 10 Of” college football notes segment on SportsCenter (it runs at 10 minutes before the hour). The idea was hatched when McMurphy discovered Northwestern was going to become the first college football venue not to serve peanuts and host the first ever peanut-free game.
“Since Chesney has a severe peanut allergy, I thought that would be a cool note to mention,” said McMurphy, who joined ESPN in 2012. “A week before the game, I told Don about my daughter’s allergy and asked him if she could join me for that one note. He didn’t hesitate and said yes.[box color=yellow size=small align=right]
Brett McMurphy on what drew him to the Northwestern note:
I thought it was cool they were doing this to raise awareness of individuals with peanut allergies. Before we had Chesney, I had no clue about peanut allergies. We found out she had one when she was an infant. I had just eaten peanut butter and kissed her on the cheek. It left a huge red spot, so we took her to the doctor and found out about her allergy. I don’t think the majority of people realize how serious it can be and that it can be fatal. My wife and I have become experts at poring over labels to read the ingredients and won’t let her eat anything unless we’re 1,000 percent certain there are no nuts in it.[/box]
“The next day I touched base with my producer, Mike Epstein and explained it to him,” he said. “The last thing I told Mike was ‘I know I sound like a dad, but she really is much better than I am on TV.’ And Mike said, ‘OK, then she can do three notes.’ I was blown away that Don and Mike would allow her to contribute to the segment sight unseen. They had no idea how good she was or wasn’t, but trusted my judgement.”
But, as any good agent/dad, it turns out McMurphy was underselling his client’s/daughter’s level of experience. A fourth-grader, Chesney is part of her school’s morning show on in-house TV – “a mini Good Morning America,” her dad called it. She also takes drama classes and played orphan Tessie in a school production of “Annie, Jr.”
“When I told my friends I would be on ESPN, they said ‘Oh, how awesome! You’re so lucky to be on TV’,” Chesney said. “When I came back to school on Monday, they said ‘Oh you did a great job! You did a better job than your dad.’ They were so excited. I had a lot of fun doing it.”
She also had some fun after the taping.
“For each segment, we stop after it’s completed and Mike tells me whether it’s a keeper or needs to be redone,” McMurphy said. “After the first segment – about the peanut allergy game – he said ‘that’s perfect.’ Chesney nailed every one of her lines. Seriously. I botched the last one twice, so we had to re-do it three times. She made sure to remind me about that the next day.”
Another promising sign for Chesney? The youngster who played the teen anchor in the “TISC” ad is now a real life associate producer at ESPN.