Up close, Myers comes through as man at home

Media Watch

August 11, 1998|By Milton Kent

No matter how hard he may try to shake it, Chris Myers will always carry a little bit of "SportsCenter" with him.

Myers, the host of ESPN's "Up Close" interview show that airs at 6 p.m., can't help but allow some of the catch phrases that marked his seven years on "SportsCenter" into "Up Close," because, well, that's his job. That's what he does.

"I miss the catch phrases, but they were there in the first place because that's how I usually talk," Myers said during a recent visit to Baltimore in conjunction with the opening of the new ESPN Zone restaurant. "A few of them will still surface, like 'That deserves a wow' or 'I did not know that.' "

Myers, 40, a Miami native, took over "Up Close" 3 1/2 years ago from Roy Firestone, and though he misses the hurly-burly of live television, Myers says he has settled into what he was born to do.

"It feels natural to me," he said of "Up Close." "It's more what I wanted to do and the direction that I wanted to go. It's tougher than I thought."

The tough part, Myers said, comes in dealing with another person, who may either be talkative or noncommunicative, rather than a scripted highlight.

"You have to deal with a real person, and you have to treat them with respect, even if you have a job to do. You can't script things out," said Myers. "I feel like a trial attorney who's spent a lot of time preparing just in case, but you know in court you'll only use a certain amount, so it has to be your best stuff."

Myers' best stuff was on display in January, when he conducted a searing, 50-minute interview with O.J. Simpson a few months after a California jury in a civil case found Simpson responsible for the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend.

Without directly asking if Simpson had killed the two, Myers poked and pushed the former Heisman Trophy winner about the case in an interview that put Myers on the map.

Myers said Simpson, who mumbled, "Glad to talk football with you," at the end of the interview, knew the ground rules coming in -- that all subjects were up for grabs and that he could expect to be grilled on the infamous case.

Myers, an Emmy Award winner, said he was "amazed" at what he perceived as Simpson's insincerity. Simpson, he said, would joke with cameramen during commercials, then come back from the breaks with a look of intensity when the camera's red lights came on.

"[Simpson] said: 'I have no problem with the interview. The people who hate me are still going to hate me and the people who like me still will,' " said Myers. "There was a sense that he was in denial, that he was putting on an act. I don't know if that came through or not, but that was one of the things I thought would come through in a live interview."

Puck stops where?

Disney's bid to grab NHL broadcast rights from Fox for its ABC subsidiary is not only impressive, but also rather puzzling on a couple of fronts.

First, in offering as much as $600 million for hockey rights for ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 over five years -- about four times more than what Fox paid -- Disney is dramatically overpaying for a sport that has produced underwhelmingly for Fox, although hockey does have appeal to the young male demographic.

Though the deal is weighted toward the cable end of things, where hockey provides a solid programming base during the winter, ABC will have a pretty tough time selling its affiliates, especially in non-hockey areas, on the merits of carrying the NHL.

Second, as owner of the Anaheim affiliate, Disney is, in effect, propping up the league, a concept that seems rather socialistic on its face.

According to reports in the Los Angeles Times, Fox is considering either matching the Disney offer or countering in such a way as to try to snatch the cable rights away. From this perspective, it seems like two guys fighting over who owns a jalopy that won't run well.

Note to Mark

Dear Mark McGwire: On behalf of every person who writes what you say in a notebook or sticks a microphone or a camera in front of your face, I'm sorry.

Who knew that asking you questions about, well, your job, would make you so upset? I mean, there are millions of men, women and children who would gladly trade places with you, living the life of a major-league baseball player chasing the greatest record in all of American sports, Roger Maris' single-season home run mark.

But there's the tremendous price you're apparently paying, where people are actually coming to see you play and reporters actually want to talk to you, as opposed to players in, say, Florida or Montreal, where interest died in mid-April.

Perhaps it would be better if all of us -- fans and the media -- just went away and left you alone to hit your home runs in seclusion.

Or maybe it would be better if you, Mark, recognized that you've been blessed with an extraordinary gift and enjoyed and savored the moment. In other words, maybe you, Mark, should grow up.

Pub Date: 8/11/98

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