Sports

Dan Patrick Has a Dire Warning for ESPN SportsCenter Anchors

Young baseball players dream of suiting up for the New York Yankees one day, and aspiring pro quarterbacks perhaps want to be the heir to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. If the goal is to work in television sports, then anchoring SportsCenter on ESPN is still about as good as it gets. However, Dan Patrick has been there and done that, and he has a warning.

Dan Patrick is one of the most recognizable faces on TV

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Dan Patrick can tout having one of the longest and most successful careers as an ESPN SportsCenter anchor. His stint in that role lasted from 1989 to 2006, and the long-running late-night team of Patrick and Keith Olbermann was must-see TV for sports fans before the internet made sports highlights readily available on-demand.

Patrick and Olbermann brought smart, funny writing to their nightly show, charming and engaging their audience. Sports fans watched eagerly to see what obscure cultural references and catchy phrases the hosts would work into SportsCenter.

Patrick also hosted a radio show in his latter years at ESPN before branching out on his own with a syndicated radio program. That show was later picked up as simulcasted TV content as well. Parallel to that, Patrick signed with NBC in 2008 to co-host Football Night in America on Sundays in the fall and also take a studio role in Olympic coverage. He left in 2018 to concentrate on his radio show.

Dan Patrick says ‘SportsCenter’ has shortened his life

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There’s an expression that people who like sausage and respect laws probably shouldn’t watch either being made. The same is true for late-night sports highlight shows. Viewers at home see an ESPN SportsCenter that flows seamlessly from sport to sport and game to game. Behind the scenes, however, the work is chaotic and sometimes confusing as producers rush to assemble minute-long highlight packages of games that can end while SportsCenter is on the air.

Appearing on Fubo Sports Network’s Drinks With Binks show Sept. 11, Dan Patrick told host Julie Stewart-Binks that working at ESPN was rewarding but draining. In an interview transcribed by Awful Announcing, he said that two-thirds of the job consisted of him reading the highlights over video that he’d not even seen beforehand.

“I loved it, but it took years of my life. … I’m too old to be doing that, it’s a young man’s game. SportsCenter, that is a high-wire act every night, and I did that for 15 years.”

Dan Patrick

Patrick was confident in his ability to adjust on the fly. But anchors constantly put their own credibility with viewers in the hands of others.

“I’d get the shot sheet, and I’d say, ‘Here are the highlights,’ and look down, knowing that that would be the first time that I would know what those highlights were. And you would have to trust a 23-year-old, just graduated, to get the right name and spelling. And it was fun, but…”

Dan Patrick

The former ‘SportsCenter’ host is on the move again

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Like many other radio and TV hosts, Dan Patrick went from mid-March to early summer with nearly no live sports to discuss on the air. He’s happy that sports schedules have resumed, but he’s reluctant to say the business has made it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It feels like Charlie Brown,” Patrick told WTOP-FM last month. “I just worry baseball has given this, then all of a sudden do they take it away from us because of COVID with what the Cardinals have done, the Marlins have done, some of the Cincinnati Reds have done. That’s where you can bring down an entire sport by a couple of guys being foolish.”

Patrick is most comfortable when he controls his own destiny. It’s part of the reason he left ESPN and NBC television gigs for his own radio career. Patrick recently moved his weekday show again. He took the SiriusXM simulcast from a YouTube Channel to the Peacock network. Peacock is a subscription streaming service owned by NBCUniversal.

“This is the future,” Patrick said. “I was on the front lines of CNN, I started there when CNN started, I was there in the early, embryonic stages of ESPN (and) the early stages of doing a simulcast radio show on TV. I think that’s where we are with Peacock. I haven’t been wrong on the other ones and I don’t think I’m wrong on this.”