The significance of temporarily occupying the chair of ESPN stalwart Bob Ley is not lost on ABC News correspondent Ryan Smith.
“When I first heard that I’d be subbing in [while Ley is on vacation] I told my wife, ‘This is the greatest show in the world. I can’t believe I’m getting to do something I’ve been watching since I was a kid’,” Smith said.
“Outside the Lines has, for me, represented the finest brand of investigative sports journalism there is,” he said. “It has this unique space in the sports world, it’s revered for being able to tell not only stories and discuss issues about sports figures that you typically hear about, but to really dig so much further beneath that to get to the crux of the issue.”
This week’s guest-hosting assignment on OTL is a further extension of the crossover work Smith began with ESPN in 2013. Most of Smith’s work with the network to this point has been reporting and analysis. A Columbia Law graduate, Smith was, in fact, thrust into Deflategate legal analysis role across ESPN on Wednesday, even while preparing for that day’s 1 p.m. ET OTL. (A former practicing attorney, Smith graduated from Syracuse University undergraduate and Columbia Law School.)
“What does it feel like to anchor OTL? Well, you just get this feeling of needing to carry the torch of something that’s great,” he said. “What this show represents is a forum for athletics where people can talk honestly and have deeper discussions behind the stats and the glitz and glamour of sports. It’s the finest brand of investigative sports journalism there is.”
Smith finishes his three-day stint with today’s 1 p.m. ET OTL, featuring the story of former Florida A&M football player Jonathan Ferrell. Smith returns to regular ABC duties with an even deeper understanding of his sister-network’s commitment to journalism.
“At ESPN you get to experience the passion of people on stories,” he said. “So not only do you have the obligation to get everything right and really know what you’re talking about, but on the flip side you get to talk to people that really live and breathe what you’re doing in the same way that I do when I’m doing it.”