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Boo-yah! This is Sports Center!

If they didn't work there, many of the SportsCenter anchors and production assistants would be as glued to their sets
Marc Wortman
From the Print Edition:
Gen. Tommy Franks, Nov/Dec 03

(continued from page 3)

"I have carpal tunnel from typing so many changes," says Bernstein. In adjoining cubicles, the anchors edit their copy furiously. The noise level in the cavernous newsroom from shouts, public announcements over a loudspeaker, and telephone conversations approaches that in the Staples Center during playoffs. "Chaos has broken loose," says Van Pelt, who was the co-anchor of the 6 p.m. broadcast at the time this story was written. "It's the nature of the beast. You have to adjust."

With 10 minutes until show time, Van Pelt, Winer and Cara Capuano, who will be recapping the day's news twice during the broadcast, exchange jeans and sneakers for business suits and head to the SportsCenter set in a neighboring building.

Van Pelt and Winer take their places at one desk, Capuano at another. Bernstein is in the control room from where he and his staff cue up tapes and tell the anchors what's next. Vitale's interview with Herrick takes the lead spot. SportsCenter will run nine straight minutes of interview. "That's a lifetime on TV," says Bernstein. "It's not compelling visuals, but it's the right thing to do with a big story like this."

For the rest of the hour, the other stories, none running longer than about a minute, follow rapidly, connected by the anchors' introductions and commentary. When the commercials come on, the anchors joke with the crew. The program is running long and one segment will have to be dropped. Nobody breaks a sweat. "Josh [Bernstein] is really good about telling us what's going to happen so you don't end up with that awful deer-in-the-headlights look," says Winer. Adds Van Pelt: "I'm comfortable enough that when something's gone haywire, I can just laugh."

Throughout the broadcast, the two interject quips. When Van Pelt reports the signing of running back Richie Anderson by the Dallas Cowboys, he adds what he terms "critical information" that Anderson went to Sherwood High School. What he doesn't mention is that he attended the same Maryland high school. Who knew? Who cared? Somebody in the audience did and surely appreciated the gesture.

Another hour of SportsCenter over, the broadcast has passed across the land and off at the speed of light to the far reaches of the solar system. The crew coming off the 6 p.m. show is pumped and look drained from the day's effort. "That was big stuff," Bernstein says. "They'll be talking about that for a long time."

Other than reviewing the show and slotting the leftover segments that are still usable into the next day's lineup, the day's work is done for the 6 p.m. SportsCenter crew. Cohn, Scott and the other anchors, producers and PAs for the later shows have now taken over the workstations in the SportsCenter newsroom. The noise level is starting to build again. The 30,000th broadcast is not too far down the road. "SportsCenter goes until infinity," says Walsh. "There's always another day in sports out there to enjoy." And because of that, at the end of the day, millions of fans will tune into SportsCenter to find out what happened on the field and off.


Marc Wortman, a freelance writer living in New Haven, Connecticut, writes often for Cigar Aficionado.

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