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.
I always enjoyed the anarchist fishmonger vibe of @KeithOlbermann
— Mike Pesca (@pescami) September 7, 2019
Ideas never have guarantees attached to them. Bringing @KeithOlbermann & @dpshow together again could have turned out to be a grand shitshow. But tonight was beautifully played — in myriad ways. Congrats to all involved. #SportsCenter #espn40
— jamesmiller (@JimMiller) September 7, 2019
I don’t recall the last time I watched a full episode of SportsCenter, but I do know it’s been 22 years since Dan and Keith last hosted it (I may still have their final episode recorded on VHS somewhere). Last night’s show was so much fun.
— Jon Hamm (@JonMHamm) September 7, 2019
Olbermann, Patrick reflect on signature career moments. #espn40 https://t.co/8pk6Jj0Pdz
— Andrew Hazard (@AndrewOHazard) September 7, 2019
Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann hosting SportsCenter tonight. Cool of Van Pelt to cede his space for the one-off. https://t.co/jn1Yya1LpG
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) September 7, 2019
Esto es poesía pura. @KeithOlbermann resumiendo el Phillies Mets de ayer para la reunión del Big Show con @dpshow en @sportscenter #espn40 @Leyder__ https://t.co/wq3t4cT3qS
— Rafael Rojas C (@rafaelrojasc) September 7, 2019
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.”
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.
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.
In the final hour before ESPN's 40th anniversary, @KeithOlbermann & Dan Patrick are having a one-off reunion on tonight's 11 p.m. ET edition of @SportsCenter w/@notthefakeSVP now on ESPN
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) September 7, 2019
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!
I truly don't think about it often, but watching this SC, 52-year old me can't believe that 30-year old me got to produce the Big Show. What an honor. What an experience.
— Gus Ramsey (@GusRamsey) September 7, 2019
The Sopranos ending was brilliant. Well done, @notthefakeSVP RT @SportsCenter: @KeithOlbermann What a reunion 👏
This Is SportsCenter. pic.twitter.com/eap0hIId1X
— Jason Gorman (@JasonGormanATL) September 7, 2019
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.
What a cool thing to get to do. Those two are legends. Hope you all enjoyed.
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) September 7, 2019
Clips from the Friday night, 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter can be found here and by searching “Olbermann Patrick” at ESPN.com.