Ley on Schaap; Schaap on Ley – Journalism alive and well at ESPN

Bob Ley (L) and Jeremy Schaap (R) headline ESPN's plans for its flagship journalism programs. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
Bob Ley (L) and Jeremy Schaap (R) headline ESPN’s plans for two of its premiere journalism programs. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s announcement centering on ESPN’s continued commitment to news reporting and storytelling reinforces why some of the best journalists in the nation choose to ply their craft at ESPN. Two of those giants of Journalism, Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap, will, in May, expand their duties with Outside the Lines and E:60, so we asked each to explain what makes the other such a tremendous journalist.

Bob Ley on what makes Jeremy Schaap a great journalist

Jeremy Schaap (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Jeremy Schaap
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

All you need to know about Jeremy Schaap is to witness him in Reykjavík, Iceland in March 2005, in pursuit of his story on Bobby Fischer.  The onetime chess genius was now an international fugitive, and at a press conference, Fischer attacked Jeremy, recognizing him as [noted sports journalist] Dick Schaap’s son. Fischer was angry over a long-ago magazine article. Fischer’s diatribe veered to the personal, and then to the vilest language and insults – aimed directly at my colleague.

Jeremy balanced his professional responsibility and his personal emotions as he responded to several of Fischer’s questions. Jeremy stood quietly, and then with a final statement to Fischer conveying sadness as much as anger, turned and walked out. He departed with his professional and personal dignity intact.

That, in one moment, is my friend and colleague. Watching him walk through a migrant workers’ camp in Qatar, or through small Swiss villages in search of the man who ran FIFA, is to witness a journalist at his peak. Jeremy’s searing intellect, his ability to say the most with an economy of words, and his respect for our viewers’ intelligence all stand alone. I often watch his work often with awe.

Last June, upon the passing of Muhammad Ali, Jeremy and I spent four hours together on the air – midnight to 4 a.m., in fact – trying to place Ali’s most consequential life in perspective. The moment was surreal, we were each days away from departing for five weeks at the European Football Championships. But the opportunity for us to talk, at length, in depth, about the athlete who – more than any other – melded sport and society was a career highlight.

Ours is a friendship forged around the globe over the eternal search for the best meal and accompanying wine. To now enjoy it with a weekly professional partnership will be a delight.

Jeremy Schaap on what makes Bob Ley a great journalist

Bob Ley (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
Bob Ley
(Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

I was extremely fortunate to grow up around some of our finest journalists and broadcasters. When I was a kid, my father [Dick Schaap] worked at NBC News with John Chancellor and Tom Brokaw, and then at ABC News with Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings, and his lifelong best friend was Jimmy Breslin.

In my career, I’ve worked with terrific talents at ESPN, ABC News, NBC Sports and CBS Sports. No one, absolutely no one, surpasses Bob Ley. It’s been my unique privilege to work closely with Bob for the last 24 years. His intelligence, his knowledge, his talent, his generosity, his passion, his integrity and his work ethic are all legendary — and that is not hyperbole.

From the first day I walked into the building back in 1993, Bob has been a role model, mentor and friend. His ability to juggle all the demands of his position as the face of journalism at the network is extraordinary. He can handle any situation, and has, for decades, with grace, intelligence and wit.

We have spent probably hundreds of hours on the air together, on five different continents, covering everything from the mundane to the harrowing to the historic, from the World Cup to the FIFA presidential election, from the Boston Marathon bombings to the death of Muhammad Ali. In all that time, I have never seen him nonplussed, or at a loss for the right word, or, just as important, the right tone.

If there is a single trait I most admire about Bob, however — and I think the feeling is mutual — it is his appreciation of good restaurants and fine wine, which we put to excellent use last summer in France. Like an old married couple, we spent our month in Paris [for EURO 2016] seeing the sights by day and sampling the cuisine by night. I can report that he is as good a traveling companion as he is a journalist.

It is a thrill and an honor to be working together now on a regular basis, and not just when there is breaking news. Plus, being in the same place so often, there will be more opportunities to break bread.

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