Episode 7 - October 26/27
Once again, the Boston Red Sox push the search for the next "SportsCenter" anchor back a half-hour. Five men STILL have to deal with it, though, all for one year behind the desk and a Mazda 6 5-door.
But there's no rest for the weary. Everyone has to deal immediately with the first challenge of the night: "Curve Ball" Yes, we just saw the BoSox kill the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the World Series to go up three-games-to-nada. Now Grant Thompson, David Holmes, Jason Horowitz, Anish Shroff and Jason Ashworth will have to debate about it in freestyle. They can cut in whenever they want after each person gets first crack at a topic, as long as they have a POINT to make.
First topic: "Who was responsible for the baserunning mishap tonight: Jeff Suppan or Jose Oqendo?" Grant says Suppan since, as an NL pitcher, he actually HITS and RUNS BASES and should know HOW to do it. Jason H. agrees, saying that coach Oqendo was telling him to run home and he didn't. Anish and Jason A. argue who should go first... and Anish win, saying that it was standard strategy that Suppan went against. Jason A. then says it's Oqendo's fault for giving UP on Suppan. David finishes off that Suppan had home base wide open and didn't go for it.
Next up: "Did manager Tony LaRussa stick with Suppan too long?" David says yes, since no Cards pitch has lasted very long, Anish agrees since the bullpen is getting tired due to the BoSox "small ball", Grant says the Cards need better starters, Jason A. says the pitch count that the BoSox see from opponents is HUGE and Jason H. finishes saying that Suppan was just pitching poorly.
"Who wins the MVP if the series were a best-of-5 and the BoSox had won tonight?" Jason H. says Keith Folk, who pitched tremendously for Boston and got saves in Games 1 and 2. Jason A., however, says David Ortiz with 17 hits and 4 HRs. Anish argues Mark Belhorne has been "carrying" the team with his bat, Grant says why not vote for Curt Schilling for "emotional impact" and David says Ortiz as well because of how key he was to the victory tonight.
Fourth topic: "After starting 0-3 vs. the Yanks in the ALCS, the Sox have won seven straight. What's been the difference?" Anish says it's that the starting pitching has been going deeper into the games, Jason A. says it's HITTING instead of pitching, David thinks it's just smart baseball by the BoSox, Grant says it's a new-found belief in themselves and Jason H. it's just an
emotional lift after they won their first game.
Lastly: "How can the Cardinals get back in it?" Jason A. says the middle of the lineup needs to hit better, Anish says the starting pitcher needs 6 or 7 good innings, Grant says they need a "stopper", Jason H. and David try to agrue THEIR points...but time is up.
Now to the judges. "Around the Horn" and "Cold Pizza"'s Woody Paige
says Anish rallied strong at the end and was the best and Jason H. finished worst. "Cold Pizza"'s Kit Hoover thought David and Grant were entertaining and the best and Jason H., being late on his arguments, was worst. The Philly Equirer's and "NBA Shootaround" analyst Stephen A. Smith said Jason A. and Anish knew the stats and were the best and Jason H. was a "non-factor". And Veep of Talent for ESPN "Big" Al Jaffe says the two Jasons were the weakest links and Grant and Anish were the best (David was OK...)
OK, onward to the "My SportsCenter" task this week, and it's "Field Reporting". Each contestant picked a different sports story to go out and cover and conduct interviews for their story package. Tonight, they'll be judged on (as always) writing, story telling, delivery and interviewing. They had a chance to type out their story with their wireless computers and to edit their footage.
Anish is first up with his tale about Baltimore Ravens' starting safety Will Demps, a man who came out of nowhere to rise to stardom. He talked to Demps himself, as well as special teams coordinator Gary Zauner. Demps knows he has to fight for his job every week. Anish adds a small stat at the end.
Do the judges think ANISH is fighting well enough for the job? Well, Woody thought the story was cliched and that he NEEDS to improve. Kit thought it was solid but it wasn't long enough. Stephen A. doesn't pull punches; he says Anish was "boring". Solid, but boring. Big Al thought it was "OK", but not compelling. He and Woody also didn't like that Anish signed-off on video and then it went straight to him live. (Wonder how many of the OTHERS did that?)
Next up is Grant Thompson who chose a rather obscure topic: power forward Taylor Coppenrath leading the men's University of Vermont Catamounts to two American East Conference titles. (OK, those who even KNOW where Burlington, VT is, raise your hand.) More importantly, it's about how he could be the FIRST NBA draftee from Vermont EVER. Coach Tom Brennan told Grant that Taylor was "like a duck coming out of an egg" at first but learned fast and his teammate T.J. Sorrentine applauds his work ethic. (Grant signs off on-camera as well, as I thought.)
Kit loved the writing and the story was compelling...but the info was a little weak. Stephen A. STILL doesn't know enough about Coppenrath and thought the timing was a little off...but it was solid. Big Al, again, says it was "OK". He would've found an NBA scout (which Grant says he tried), but the questions and sound bytes were great. And Woody...though it was exceptional and that HE'LL look into the guy now, though a hometown person would help.
Next victim is Jason A., whose piece is about high school football in Valdosta, GA. He talks about the storied history of the franchise, complete with titles, two near-legendary head coaches and half-a-million bucks in ticket sales! He talks to the "ticket master" Terry Daniel and current coach Rick Darlington, and shows off the renovated stadium in "Winnersville, USA". (And, yes, Jason A. signs off on the piece as well; I sense a theme here.)
OK, we know he's going to be wasted concerning the sign-off, but what about the story itself? Stephen A. thought the ending was lame but what BUGGED him is...he LIKED Jason A. AND the piece with all the information! Big Al DIDN'T like it because "it was all about Jason". Woody agrees about that, wondering where the rest of the money went. And Kit agrees that it was too much Jason but she DID liked the info. (Stuart likewise agrees, though his opinion doesn't really count.)
Tonight's U.S. Air Force Wingman is Jeremy Shapp, who talks about how to interview. He says to ask tough questions, keep listening and ask follow-ups.
Now it's time for the most feared moment in an ESPN anchor's career: "The Al Jaffe Sports Quiz"! Each anchor will be asked five MAJOR tough question from the Veep himself, just like Al asks EVERYONE at ESPN. The questions will increase their difficulty and they WILL be scored this time so we'll know who the best is WITHOUT opinions.
Jason A. starts off. He knew Barry Bonds won the NL batting title in 2004, he got only 2 out of the 3 players traded to the Lakers for Shaq, he knew the top four in the BCS that week but couldn't come up with #5, he didn't know Anthony Munoz was the only Cincinnati Bengal in the Hall of Fame and didn't know the Cardinals last won the World Series in 1982 against the Milwaukee Brewers. So a total of 1 for him. Jason H. got the 2004 Final Four teams right, missed the time on the clock when Derek Fisher scored his miracle shot in last NBA Playoffs, knew Italy would host the 2006 Winter Games but not the city, knew the Arizona Diamondbacks has the worst record in the MLB this year and that Sparky Anderson managed World Series winners in both AL and NL, making for a score of 3. Third is David knew the New England Patriots and Philly Eagles were the only undefeated NFL teams at that time, he knew three of the five teams in the new NBA Southwest Division (they realigned after the Charlotte Bobcats made it 30 teams), he knew that swimmer Michael Phelps won 8 total medals in Athens, did NOT know Martin Brodeur won the NHL Vezina Trophy
more all the teams Vinny Testaverde has passed for (he missed the Ravens). Still, 3 is respectable.
Next victim is Grant, who knows that pine trees are on the trim of Minnesota Timberwolves jerseys, that Jason White won the Heisman last season, missed who won the four men's Major golf tourney winners, knew Dan Marino has the NFL record for TD passes in a season but didn't know how many but knew Kevin Garnett and Moses Malone won the NBA MVP without having been to college. That makes a three-way tie with 3. Finally, it's Anish up to bat. He knows the Orange Bowl will host the BCS title game this season, that Tampa Bay defeated Calgary in last year's (and maybe the last-ever) Stanley Cup Finals, that Jim O'Brien was head coach of the Philly 76ers, that Birdstone won the Belmont Stakes...
but DIDN'T know that Archie Griffin was the only one to win TWO Heismans. Ah, well, he got 4 right, making him the Ken Jennings of the Sports Quiz!
Our next victim in "Field Reporting" is Jason H. who went to Charlotte Bobcats' training camp and did a story about first-round draftee Emeka Okafor. He hypes all the hype around Okafor in Charlotte and how he's taking it in stride. He also talks to head coach Bernie Bickerstaff and veterans Jason Kapano and Steve Smith about him. And Jason H. does NOT sign-off in the piece, so that's plus kudos for him...and he NEEDS them.
Big Al gives out the third "OK" of the evening, but he should've asked him if Okafor "was ready to lose". Woody wishes he used his all-access pass to talk to other people. He also says, "Take a risk!" Kit says it was a good story to tell and the piece was good...but she worries about him doing an NBA story with Stephen A. judging him. Speaking of Mr. Smith, he says it's good info but the lack of risk-taking and talking to others about Okafor.
Our last contestant is David (whom I refuse to call a Wild Card of ANY kind by now), who did a tale on U. of Washington's women's basketball team rallying around teammate Kayla Burt when she had a cardiac arrest on New Year's Eve, 2002. It was the only truly emotional piece, with the parents not wanting her to come back but, due to a waiver, she WILL be back this year. It was kind of short, though, but at least he didn't sign-off on film.
Woody says it was a good choice of story, but didn't like the opening and that David paused. Kit liked him "going outside the box" and humanizing the story with the parents, but he should un-flatten the voice-over. Stephen A. says the on-camera presence stunk, but his opening and details were all right. Big Al thought it was "excellent", the best by far. Well, looks like HE'S staying on.
It's cut time yet again. As usual, each judge has a vote while those still awake enough to vote on their Verizon(TM) phones on online get one vote for the majority. Three votes and you're outta here.
Woody Paige says Anish's vignette was bad, but the debate and quiz made up for it. David had a great story, but it could've been better, And Jason H has fell and fell tonight. So Woddy cuts...Jason H.
Kit Hoover says all of them was solid. Anish and Jason A. had the worst SportsCenter. But the quiz was the tie-breaker for her so she cuts...Jason A. That's one each for the Jasons.
Stephen A. Smith FINALLY gets to vote where his vote COUNTS. Jason H. was disappointing and lathargic...but one WAS worse. Jason A., guilty of too much airtime, gets a breather. Anish, who rocked the quiz and debate but bombed the task...that's who he cuts...
Al Jaffe says Jason A. improved every week...until tonight. Anish was disappointing in comparison. It was difficult choosing between the two but the Veep cuts...Jason A. That gives him TWO. If America chooses him, David or Grant, he's gone. If they choose Jason H. or Anish, one of THEM is gone (because, THIS year, America's vote is the tie-breaker).
With three votes, Jason A. will have to go back to DJing for hoopsters. His only excuse: "It just didn't happen." He also seemed to KNOW he would be next...but he's glad for the "great group of four" left.
The "Final Four" are left...who will be cut NEXT?