More than 18 months before next Friday’s 50th anniversary of president John F. Kennedy’s assassination, reporter Steve Delsohn proposed a “textured” sports-related piece for Outside the Lines to commemorate the notorious occasion.
“I rarely think that far ahead when pitching story ideas, but I do keep my eyes on upcoming anniversaries, and Kennedy’s death is a monumental one,” Delsohn said. “For many Americans of a certain age, his assassination and ‘9/11’ are the two most painful events during their lifetimes.”
As a sports reporter with an affinity for political history, the story was the perfect storm for Delsohn.
“I grew up in Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago during the 1960’s when the Democratic machine was at its most powerful, and where I was essentially ‘born’ into the Democratic party. So it isn’t real surprising that I admired President Kennedy,” Delsohn said. “I knew there would be a multitude of stories about his assassination, and I wanted to find a way to look at it through the prism of the sports world, so this seemed like a natural for ESPN.”
Delsohn and producer Mike Sciallo traversed the country interviewing what Delsohn called “a brand-name NFL group” featuring Jerry Kramer, Mike Ditka, Dan Rooney, Tex Schramm, Rosey Grier, Lee Roy Jordan and Wayne Walker.
“We wanted solid-gold NFL people – this topic is too iconic to settle for lesser sources,” Delsohn said. “For me, personally, I felt Jerry Kramer was a key ‘get’. When it comes to an NFL pedigree, it is real hard to top Lombardi’s Packers.”
When it was time to turn the reporting into the finished TV piece, Delsohn said, “Normally, I would do the voiceovers, too, but I got bumped by a pretty good name — Dan Rather,” referring to CBS’ lead reporter that fateful weekend in Dallas. “I read The Camera Never Blinks [Rather’s 1977 book] twice when I was younger, and Dan Rather has always been one of the TV reporters I have looked up to.”
By Dan Quinn
ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row
• ESPN extends thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of former colleague, Todd Christensen.
• Monday Night Football’s Veterans Day telecast was filled with tributes to the military.
• ESPN college basketball analysts Jimmy Dykes and Fran Fraschilla teamed up to cover South Carolina at Baylor during the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.
• Sideline reporter Holly Rowe tells compelling college football stories in her ‘Front Rowe’ espnW series.
Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week
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• From Rick Reilly: Walk-on college football player shares brotherhood in military and on the field
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• Enjoy an array of photos from the ESPN Images’ Images of the Week