Behind The ScenesESPN HistorySportsCenter

The Inside Story of SportsCenter’s “Big Show” Reunion From Two Of The Episode’s Producers

Time was precious - before and during - the "Big Show" reunion; here's how it all came together and what it was like in Bristol Friday night

It was the rare evening where even the cuddly, curmudgeons of the keyboards could barely find fault with a 90-minute block of ESPN programming. Friday, three of the best to ever be associated with the franchise borrowed Digital Center 2’s shiny, SportsCenter studio in Bristol, Conn., in an apt, 90-minute launch to the company’s 40th birthday.

The result was a show that frequently called out ESPN’s proud, pioneering past while utilizing all the talents, tricks and tech of its current, best-in-class production and news operation.

Rightfully, Scott Van Pelt, Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick were the faces of the reunion, but the show was an all-hands-on-deck moment for a SportsCenter production team very used to such projects – often, like this one, deftly pulled off in impromptu fashion.

Front Row asked two of the producers involved in the show for some insight: coordinating producer Pete McConville and SVP show producer Marco Alfandary

“Everyone was so accommodating to us and it was incredible to work with Scott’s show team of Marco, [segment producer] ‘Stanford Steve’ Coughlin, [senior researcher] Jason McCallum, [director] Joe Iuliano and the whole group,” said McConville, who began at the company in 1995 as a researcher and has since gone on to produce some of the network’s biggest events and shows. “It was ESPN at its best – everyone pulling together for a special night of TV.”

There wasn’t much prep time.

McConville: I found out it might be happening at 11:30 Thursday morning. [Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production & Executive Editor] Norby [Williamson] asked me and [Vice President, Production] Mike McQuade to help out because of our familiarity with Keith and Dan. My instructions were to “see Keith and Dan often.” Everyone knew what they needed to do and probably also realized it was something pretty cool to be part of.

Alfandary: Just seeing the respect and camaraderie between some of the greatest to ever do it was the highlight of the night for me.

Letting it breathe.

McConville: I put too much in the rundown at the start but when we taped a segment (pre-show) we went with the “less is more” philosophy and we kept them on camera more.

Joe was terrific directing and dressing up the studio; using boxes on screen to see Keith and Dan react [to old clips].

Alfandary: Dan and Keith were adamant about staying true to the essence of SportsCenter and their professionalism shined through all night.

Smelling the roses, for a moment.
Inside the Digital Center 2 conference room in Bristol, Conn. – the view from coordinating producer Pete McConville’s seat. . .
. . . And the reverse angle from producer Marco Alfandary’s seat in the glass-walled workspace, usually utilized by SVP’s show group.

McConville: My thought [in taking the picture, above] was about the fun I had working with them, Mike McQuade, (former ESPN producer) Gus Ramsey and all the people who worked on the show [originally]. It was a family mentality led by Mike and Gus and it still is. And then my thought, was, we’re on-air soon!

A fitting homage to The Sopranos and a fitting way to start ESPN’s birthday.

Alfandary: About 90 minutes before air [“Dan Patrick Show” Executive Producer and former ESPNer] Paul Pabst approached us with the idea of cutting to black to end the show. Everyone bought in immediately and needless to say it was a very memorable way to close out an unforgettable night.

McConville: On the week – and the day – we are celebrating 40, having Keith and Dan together was a reminder of how important they, and SportsCenter, was and is. McQuade said it last night, “Working with them, made everyone better.” Truer words never spoken.

Clips from the Friday night, 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter can be found here and by searching “Olbermann Patrick” at ESPN.com.

Close