ESPN’s Steve Levy on SportsCenter, Fox Sports 1, & more

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Ed Note: The following interview appears courtesy Keith Thibault of Sports Media Journal.

ESPN 11:00pm ET SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy is celebrating his 20th Anniversary at the WorldWide Leader. I spoke with Steve after a presentation of ESPN’s new Digital Center which will be the new home for SportsCenter in 2014. Here are some of his thoughts about his time at the network and the direct competition he now faces from Fox Sports LIVE:

Q: Steve it’s been 20 years for you here at ESPN, what’s the ride been like?

Steve Levy (SL): It’s been amazing. I’ve seen the place grow, man. We didn’t have a cafeteria in the beginning. Berman and those guys will tell you stories that we had mud floors. I wasn’t around for that. When I got here in ‘93 our cafeteria was coin operated machines and now we a Starbuck’s on campus..now we have ESPN’s own day care. The place has grown and now we’re so excited about our new studio. I don’t know how many square feet…I don’t know how many millions of dollars, but 2014 will be really special.

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Q: How have you grown here during your time at ESPN?

SL: I think I’ve seen a lot. I think I’ve become much more polished. We always hear athletes talking about from their rookie years to their sophomore years how the game slows down for you a little bit. That’s the thing about SportsCenter. The show is so fast-paced, I mean it flies. And yet the more you do it, and in the many year’s I’ve done it, it has slowed down for me, and that’s allowed me to be a better sports anchor I think. (1:17)

Q: You’re one of the anchors on the 11:00pm SportsCenter. Of course last weekend Fox Sports LIVE debuted. How did you look at that and has it impacted your job at all in doing your job better?

SL: It’s definitely changed me, there’s no question. I’d be lying if I said “Have they started? Are they on the air?” I’m very well aware what’s going on. You have to have your eyes wide open… and know the landscape and know the competition, just like in real sports. I commend them for taking us on. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t someone else? It makes total sense. If you’re gonna shoot for somebody, why not shoot for the top? And ESPN SportsCenter, thankfully, has been on top for 30 years or whatever it’s been. So I understand they’re coming for us. I welcome the challenge. I think it’s made me better in the last three nights they’ve been on the air. And if it’s given an extra boost or jump start to our entire building, our entire operation, that’s great. Just like with athletes and training camp, competition will bring out the best in people. And I’m confident in our people.

Q: You’ve worked with a number of co-anchors throughout the years, who have been some you’ve cherished time with over the years?

SL: I’ve been privileged to work with some many great anchors over the years. My former colleague, and now current colleague Keith Olbermann, for example. And the whole “bulging disc” episode. Feel free to Google it and look it up. Two of my favorites are not with us any more…Gary Miller, spent a long time in Los Angeles, always loved working with Gary…and Bill Pidto. Look, I loved to work with all the people on the air, but the reason I single out Gary and Bill is I had the best time with those guys in the (This is SportsCenter) commercials. On the air you’re doing a job, having a good time, it’s only sports, it’s not that serious. I’ve been very lucky to work with I think are the best and brightest in the business. And I think I’ve taken a piece from everybody. Hey, this guy does that really well, maybe I can try to do more of that what he does. And you try to couple it with a little bit of your own personality, your own skill and that’s the after product of 20 years.

Q: What are you looking forward to moving into the new ESPN digital center? There are bells and whistles here that you never would have imagined 20 years ago.

SL: I’m looking forward to rehearsals. I think we’re going to need a lot of rehearsals. I think it’s going to be wild. I think it’s gonna look unbelievable on television. There’s the colors and, as you mentioned, the bells and whistles and all the toys that Chuck (Pagano, Exec. VP of Technology) has provided for us. I think it’s going to be awesome. I think it;s going to take some time. I think some of the stuff is not going to work at the beginning. I’d like to see us come on the air when everything is working and everybody’s comfortable. From what I understand obviously a lot’s on the anchors because we’re out in front. But behind the scenes people who are changing the scores, the lighting, the graphics, the fixtures, there are a lot of pressure on those people too, But we have the right people in place. I never doubt this place when it comes to that.

Q: What’s in store for Steve Levy in the next 20 years?

SL: As far as I’m concerned, I’m on the most important show, the most important time slot, the 11:00pm SportsCenter, and I’d sign-up of 20 more years of this. I mean it. I still love coming to work, that’s what I always wish for other people too. I don’t know if it puts me in the 1% or 2% of the population. I’m the happiest anchor in the building. I love coming to work. I love doing the show. We have a good time doing it. Any problems I have are laughable. And I find that anytime I mention even the slightest complaint or problem to someone in public, you know, and they say, “wait a second, you have a dream job” I say “Never mind. Scratch that from the record.” I’m very happy here. I really could do the same thing for 20 years. The games change. The sports change. The personalities change. Only the name of the show won’t change. And that’s SportsCenter.  

Follow Keith on Twitter @SMJournal and visit Sports Media Journal for more coverage from ESPN Media Day.

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