Mike Tirico’s on-air goodbye for ESPN came approximately an hour later than scheduled, but it was no less classy and touching a farewell to a personality that’s been a integral piece of the network for 25 years.
Thanks to Portugal and Poland going to extra time and a 1-1 tie in their Euro 2016 quarterfinal match on Thursday, Tirico’s signoff and the tribute from his colleagues was delayed a bit from 5:30 p.m. ET to 6:30. But somehow, that seems appropriate since the network and viewers probably weren’t quite ready to let go and fully accept that Tirico is going to NBC Sports.
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 30, 2016
“Tonight, we mark the end of a marvelous 25-year chapter at ESPN,” said Bob Ley, introducing a wonderful farewell video package assembled for Tirico. “Tonight, we recognize our colleague and our very good friend, Mike Tirico.”
The video, which is hopefully soon made available online, showed footage of a young Tirico anchoring SportsCenter and ESPNEWS, testimonials from colleagues including Chris Fowler, Tom Rinaldi, Jon Gruden and producer Mark Gross.
Above all, the feature was a reminder of how diverse Tirico was as a broadcaster during his 25 years at the network, calling and hosting NFL, NBA, college football and basketball, golf, and tennis broadcasts. He reported from the Daytona 500, called a game at Virginia Tech after the tragic mass shootings on campus, the first New Orleans Saints after the Superdome was re-opened following Hurricane Katrina, and did the play-by-play for Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game.
An emotional Ley, who anchored one of Tirico’s first SportsCenters with him, continued the tribute which came 25 years to the day when his career began at ESPN, telling him “You leave a considerable legacy.”
“You’ve got your basketball family, you’ve got your American football family, you’ve got your international football family,” Ley said as his voice broke noticeably. “There is no one anywhere who has worked with you who is not thrilled for this next step for your career, your family and your life.”
The rest of ESPN’s Euro 2016 studio crew — including Taylor Twellman, Julie Foudy, Steve McManaman, Michael Ballack and Vincent Kompany — came on stage to join in the celebration and congratulate Tirico.
“I’ve worked with everyone, from Downtown Julie Brown to Hubie Brown, on camera at ESPN,” Tirico said. “I just want to say thank you to a lot of you for letting us in your house, and thank you to the people behind the scenes as well. This has been a pleasure, and I will leave here and just be like you. I’ll be a fan of ESPN and enjoy everybody’s great work.”
Tirico then turned to Ley and said, “General, you’re the best.”
We often love to criticize ESPN for what they do wrong or when their coverage falls short. But this was a nice, touching moment for one of their stalwarts, handled with class.
Thank you to all who have made these 25 years so incredibly enjoyable. It's been an honor to be part of the special @espn family.
— MikeTirico (@miketirico) June 30, 2016
UPDATE: ESPN has indeed posted its tribute video to Tirico online. Take a look.