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“I can’t imagine any people better equipped to answer the questions all fans have right now . . . “

Mike Greenberg hosts SportsCenter Special: The Return of Sports (tonight, 9 ET, ESPN); he interviews commissioners from six of the top American professional team sports leagues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic

Mike Greenberg leads daily conversations about sports as the host of Get Up, and tonight he will have the opportunity to speak with some of the most influential figures in the industry when he hosts SportsCenter Special: The Return of Sports (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The two-hour primetime show will include commissioners from six of the top American professional team sports leagues – Gary Bettman (NHL), Cathy Engelbert (WNBA), Don Garber (MLS), Roger Goodell (NFL), Rob Manfred (MLB) and Adam Silver (NBA), nearly all of whom Greenberg has interviewed previously.

He and the commissioners – along with athletes and other special guests – will examine how sports will return to competition in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, while also exploring the intersection of sports and the calls for social justice reform following the death of George Floyd.

Greenberg, who previously hosted a “Kids and Sports” town hall in 2014 for ESPN, previews tonight’s special and explains why he wanted to be part of it

What intrigued you most about the opportunity to host this special?
This is a time unlike any I can recall in this country, and these “games people play” are sure to take on a different meaning than they might have three months ago, or three weeks ago. I can’t imagine any people better equipped to answer the questions all fans have right now, on the precipice of the return of sports, than the ones we have lined up for Monday night.

From the numerous past conversations you’ve had with league commissioners, is there a particular one that stands out?
Gary Bettman was on a panel that I hosted at the 9/11 Museum along with other commissioners who were in place in September of 2001. Among the panelists was [former NBA commissioner] David Stern, Bettman’s mentor, and someone for whom I had the ultimate respect. It proved to be the last time I saw Commissioner Stern. Thus, since his passing, I have thought of that night often and replayed the tape several times. It was a passionate and uplifting discussion about the power of sports to lift people up in the most difficult of times.

What do you hope fans will take away from the Return of Sports special?
Mostly, I hope that it will be highly informative. What we do is a combination of entertainment and information. This is a night that will lean into the latter. There are so many questions about the restart of sports with the Coronavirus still so much a reality of our lives. I know I wonder how they plan to pull this off; hopefully, by the end of Monday night we will have those answers.

As a fan, what are you most looking forward to when sports eventually return to normal?
There is that great line Joni Mitchell wrote: ‘Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone’. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much I depend upon the rhythm of sports to mark the passage of time in my life. I’m not a binge-watcher. I didn’t see “Tiger King” or anything like that. I have just waited patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, for the games to come back.

DRULEY ON THE MAKING OF THIS SPORTSCENTER SPECIAL

Stephanie Druley
(Travis Bell/ESPN Images)

ESPN’s Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production, Stephanie Druley, shares her thoughts on why ESPN decided to host tonight’s SportsCenter Special: “Since sports came to a halt three months ago, we’ve all been eagerly awaiting their return. In this SportsCenter Special, fans will hear directly from commissioners, managers and athletes about the decisions they’ve made and the challenges they’ve faced throughout this unprecedented time, and what the resumption of sports will look like over the coming weeks and months.”

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