For consistency's sake, ESPN puts `SportsCenter' crew on set schedule

ON MEDIA

September 02, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

A FOOLISH consistency, the saying goes, is the hobgoblin of little minds.

How much you care about seeing the same anchors doing SportsCenter at set times will probably determine whether you believe that hobgoblin has taken up residence in ESPN's offices.

The network announced this week it is setting up consistent anchor teams, starting Monday. During the week, Dan Patrick and Fred Hickman will be at 6 p.m., John Anderson and Steve Levy at 11 p.m. and Scott Van Pelt and Neil Everett at 1 a.m. The latter two teams will switch spots each month.

Saturday and Sunday mornings will be handled by Bob Ley and Chris McKendry.

"They are going to be the faces of SportsCenter," Norby Williamson, ESPN senior vice president and managing editor, said in a conference call Tuesday. ESPN, he said, wants "to make more of a connection to the viewer."

"The viewer will have a more personal connection [to the anchors]."

Which sounds fine, I suppose, but I know what you're all thinking: "What about Linda Cohn?"

OK, some of you actually may be thinking: "What about Stuart Scott?"

However, if any of you are thinking "What about John Buccigross?" please don't try to contact me.

Williamson said we'll still see plenty of Scott - who, for all of his contrived hipness, ranks as one of ESPN's signature personalities - during SportsCenter, anchoring on Sunday nights, often joining Everett at 11 weeknights and hosting coverage on site at big events.

Cohn will be around, too, anchoring Saturdays at 6 p.m. and being sent out and about, such as reporting from the X Games.

Also keep in mind that when the regulars are on assignment, on vacation or otherwise absent, others will be stepping in. (That may not be enough Linda Cohn for me, but somehow I'll deal with it.)

Williamson said SportsCenter's ratings have never been healthier, which prompts the question as to why institute this move when following the bouncing anchors was working fine.

"When you're in a position of strength, that's the time to tweak," Williamson said. "You never wait until you're in trouble to reinvent."

This doesn't exactly sound like a reinvention. With a few exceptions, the SportsCenter cult of personality has long faded from the days of Keith Olbermann, Chris Berman, Kenny Mayne and Craig Kilborn. If this move means it's easier to tell Anderson and Van Pelt apart, so be it. (Hint: Van Pelt is the Maryland grad.)

The fact is, even for those who get annoyed at the catch phrases and self-referential content, SportsCenter remains strong as a comprehensive one-stop sports shop and for the work of reporters such as Andrea Kremer and Chris Mortensen.

But still ... Linda, I'm going to miss you.

In case you'd forgotten that the University of Maryland has changed its flagship radio stations to WJFK (1300 AM) and WHFS (105.7 FM) and tomorrow at 6 p.m. you reflexively turn to WBAL (1090 AM) to hear the Terps open their football season against Navy, you'll still hear the game. That's because WBAL is now home to Navy, so the Mids' broadcast team (Bob Socci, Omar Nelson, John Feinstein) will be announcing the game, at least until Orioles-Boston Red Sox coverage begins at 7:05, when the football moves over to WIYY (97.9 FM). Having to step aside for the Orioles apparently is one of the things that never did sit well with some folks in College Park. ...

Displaying an incredible lack of good judgment, WBAL has decided to make Sun columnist Peter Schmuck a fixture with his own Saturday afternoon talk show. Of course, a faucet is a fixture, too, and a good thing about them both is you can turn them off. ...

For those of you concerned about Nick Lachey's career, calm your fears. Mr. Jessica Simpson has been named a College GameDay "special contributor" by ESPN. "Nick is a huge sports fan and will add a unique perspective to the show," Williamson said. And if all else fails, he can ask his wife to show up in that outfit she wore to the Video Music Awards.

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