Behind The Scenes

SportsCenter – and raucous crowds – returns to 4th Street in Cleveland

CLEVELAND – In addition to the somewhat publicized return of a certain NBA player to his home region, Cleveland is witnessing another return of significant interest and, shall we say, controlled bedlam.

In a scene straight out of the GameDay playbook, SportsCenter on the Road is back on 4th Street in Cleveland for select shows during the NBA Finals. Fans swarmed the surrounding set area throughout yesterday’s pre- and post-game shows, creating an electric atmosphere that didn’t die down until well after 1 a.m. ET.

“I commonly refer to the quote ‘Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail,'” said senior coordinating producer Michael Shiffman, “and this is a great example.”

SportsCenter began the NBA season from the same location in November for LeBron James’ return game at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena. The weather was quite different (chilly); the atmosphere quite similar (zany).

“Had we not had the November experience of 4th Street we wouldn’t have been as prepared as we are for this week,” he said. “It allowed us to prepare everything from the big picture decision of doing most of the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter and the postgame SportsCenter outside, to the details such as how many cameras to have outside, where to place them (including rooftop locations and utilizing the blimp), to having the awareness of the sheer energy and excitement that would exist and we would want to take advantage of.”

Situated on a street filled with restaurants and bars and a brief walk from “The Q,” the outdoor SportsCenter set has quickly become a gathering place for fans wanting to catch a glimpse of their favorite SportsCenter anchors and analysts. On Tuesday, that included dozens of requests for “selfies” and pictures with Lindsay Czarniak, John Buccigross, Tim Legler and Stephen A. Smith.

Just before 1 a.m. show, Smith seemed to feed off the crowd’s energy as he made his final TV appearance of a long day as he encouraged the already-hyped fans to give him just a bit more.

“It’s incredible, it really is,” Buccigross said. “To be in the middle of all this and have the fans’ energy come across throughout the show is something you can’t replicate.”

SportsCenter on the Road spent Games 1 and 2 in Oakland and will return there for Game 5 on Sunday. But before that, there is still Game 4 coverage from 4th Street – a spot fans and anchors alike have grown quite fond of.

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