Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s Journalism Showcase – August 4, 2017

Played at more than 250 high schools in Texas, six-man football is often the lifeblood of tiny communities around the state. In a multiplatform presentation launching today, SC Featured explores the games, towns, and people of the unique sport.

“6-Man” will be a one-hour SC Featured special airing Sunday, Aug. 6, at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2. A shorter version will debut on Sunday’s 10 a.m. ET SportsCenter and re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.

How I ultimately came to the decision was finding some unique stories just within the landscape of six-man football, and I started researching the different teams and towns that it was played in and looking for stories. And it wasn’t hard to find good stories.
– Scott Harves
ESPN Features Unit

Scott Harves, a producer in the ESPN Features Unit, became fascinated with the sport a few years ago. The interest, he says, was mainly because he’d never heard of it. So he began researching.

“The more I read about it, the more it fascinated me, just from the sports perspective,” Harves said. “Not to mention just how small some of the towns are where it’s played.

“So I knew about it for a few years, but it took me a while to develop how we might want to tell that story,” he said. “How I ultimately came to the decision was finding some unique stories just within the landscape of six-man football, and I started researching the different teams and towns that it was played in and looking for stories. And it wasn’t hard to find good stories.”

Concentrating on five public schools that play in the state’s smallest classification, Harves and his crew made eight trips to Texas between August and December of 2016. Getting to the towns (Calvert, Mt. Calm, Richland Springs, Harrold, Balmorhea) required many hours of driving as none were close to major airports.

Along the way, Harves met many Texans not familiar with the sport.

“Everyone knows about Friday Night Lights, everyone knows about these multimillion-dollar high school football stadiums in Texas, but nobody knows about six-man football,” he said. “I interviewed a coach who said he coached in Texas for 16 years before he knew six-man football even existed. Even people in Texas in the big cities don’t know about six-man football.

“For a long time, people have not wanted to acknowledge it as real football, and there are still some that don’t,” he said. “It takes going to the games to watch it to get an understanding of how it works. Yes, it’s fewer players and a little bit different rules, but the athletes are just as fast, and they play just as hard.”

The “6-Man” presentation also includes an ESPN.com piece by senior writer Liz Merrill and the SC Featured podcast being published Saturday.

“I love telling stories, but I also like giving people a chance to see places in America that they otherwise wouldn’t see,” Harves said. “Small town America is hard; it’s a hard life. A lot of the families of the players live below the poverty line. But it’s Texas, and they love football. That is one thing that people will see when they see this.”

Sam Borden travels to Serbia to profile Darko Milicic

This Sunday on E:60 at 9 a.m. ET, reporter Sam Borden travels to Serbia to share the unlikely story of Darko Milicic. Milicic, a once-promising No. 2 overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 2003 NBA Draft, now spends his time as a farmer. Borden also told his story on ESPN.com.

It was just a few months ago when something about Milicic caught the attention of Borden.

“I read a small interview he did with a Serbian media outlet earlier this year. In it, he mentioned being a farmer, and I was immediately intrigued,” Borden said. “I’ve always been fascinated by stories that involve success or failure, and I think sports really crystallize those distinctions because people succeed and fail so publicly.”

Once he saw the potential for a great story, Borden brought the idea to digital editor Kevin Jackson and E:60 executive producer Andy Tennant.

“This was intended to be a collaboration from the beginning. We actually had this in the works even before the Chapecoense story was finished, and when I suggested the piece to Jackson, his reaction was the same as Tennant’s on the E:60 side: ‘Go,’” Borden said.

Borden traveled to speak to the 7-foot-farmer who Borden says surprised him most with his self-awareness.

“I’ve interviewed plenty of athletes who have struggled, and it’s rare to find one that doesn’t have an excuse of some kind: ‘the coach didn’t give me the opportunity, the refs were out to get me, my teammates let me down,’” said Borden. “With Darko, though, it was the opposite – he owned his failure and took all the responsibility for what happened to him. It was remarkable.”

– By Molly Mita

Journalism on Display
  • espnW intern Emily Caron interviewed former Penn State kicker Joey Julius about an eating disorder in an extremely honest and eye opening piece for espnW. The piece landed Caron on Outside the Lines for her first television appearance with Kate Fagan who was filling in for Bob Ley.
  • With a new college football season approaching, ESPN senior writer Heather Dinich discusses the college football playoffs and how it impacts college coaches’ and athletic departments’ decisions. Dinich interviews multiple coaches to hear their opinions on the structure.
  • Kate Fagan’s book “What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen,” hit book shelves on Tuesday. The book came from a story Fagan wrote for espnW after University of Pennsylvania track star Madison Holleran took her life. An excerpt from the book was released this week on espnW.com.
  • Tom Brady celebrated his 40th birthday on Thursday and sports fans around the world celebrated with him. NFL reporter Mike Reiss gathered a collection of some of the greatest untold stories from those closest to Brady for espn.com.
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