Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mizzou Exchange with John Anderson (Part One)

(Yes....THAT John Anderson...from ESPN. I would cut and paste, or link his bio, but ESPN has it on some fancy flash-page. If you want to look at it, go here and find his name :-)


So let’s start with an easy one…ESPN related and see where the conversation takes us.

The ESPN advertising campaign has long been recognized and lauded as one of the best around. You seem to be in your fair share of commercials, along with perhaps other people’s shares. Are you always drawing the short straw? Volunteering? How is the selection process for them, and how much do you enjoy them? And did the blue shirt you won that day from the Spirit Girls really fit?

The spots for the "This is SportsCenter" campaign are a blast and, really, for most of us a sign you've really made it into the SC club. Even after I did my first few SportsCenters I still had friends who were like, "Yea, great, saw the show. When are you going to be in a commercial?"

Participation is sort of random. Our ad crew starts by rounding up people who are going to be in the building the day the athletes are available and goes from there. Rarely do you look at a script with your name on it. It will say Scott Van Pelt -- be he just worked over night and can't make the 9am shoot time so Levy or Anderson takes the part.

The spots take forever to shoot but are worth it because it gives you more time to get to know the athlete involved. And it never ceases to amaze me how much the guys/gals love doing them. The Manning brothers were terrific, Maria Sharapova unbelievable, Koybayashi a hoot eating hot dogs. We went to Vegas to film two with Tiger Woods and he could not have been better. There's a great behind the scenes feature I did with him on a DVD that came with the history of the highlight book we did for ESPN's 25th anniversary.

The blue button down oxford shirt was perfect fit. 16/36.

16/36? Wow….I don’t mean this the wrong way, but you have some pretty long arms. I mean I am 18 ½ on the shirts, and 36….maybe I have short arms….oh well.

And after some checking, the commercial with you and Ms. Sharapova is the most viewed of all the ESPN commercials placed by the World-Wide Leader on , that is something to be proud of and likely only so because of your far-reaching stardom J (considering her commercial with Stuart Scott has been viewed 15,000 fewer times.)

Let’s talk about your road to Bristol. You came to Mizzou from Wisconsin, what was more important to you as an 18 year old making the trek to Columbia? Running track or your career path? I think I can safely assume that “Sports Center Anchor” was not your chosen career path, at least not at that point.

Long arms, unless I'm reaching for my wallet.

Sharapova and I nearly the same height. I have her by about an inch. She brought her dog with her to the shoot. If she had kept it in her handbag she could have passed for a Hilton sister.

Shocking as it may seem I did not have a grand career plan at the age of 18. I had pretty much narrowed my post HS phase of life down to college at Mizzou for J-School or the University Wisconsin for anything else. After a decent senior year on the track I decided it would be nice to try and keep running (or in my case jumping) so I called the coach in Madison and he politely told me there was no room for me on the team because he already had a high jumper. I then called Coach Bob Teel at Mizzou and he said he'd be glad to have me. I surrendered on the spot. Hello Journalism major. Hardly a great recruiting battle. Of course, once I arrived in Columbia and got to know Coach Teel I realized he would have let anybody run for him. He gave everybody a chance and if they're weren't good enough or not dedicated enough they just sort of ran themselves off the team. He never managed to shake me even though I wasn't very good. The kid at Wisconsin, Jon Baer, a kid I knew from Tomahawk, WI ended up winning Big Ten titles. Worked out well for everybody.

And, absolutely, in 1983 nobody was thinking of a career at SC or ESPN. In fact as late as my senior year my dream job was wanting to take over for Todd Donahoe (MU great) as host on "Time Out for Trivia." Still the single greatest sports trivia show ever. Stump the Schwab cannot even compare.

Interesting, I would not have seen Sharapova as a toy dog kind of person. And to think you know someone and they surprise you like that….

To be honest, I don’t think you could have gone wrong with college. State St. in Madison was enough to win me over the one time I went there (fortunately it was AFTER I had graduated). Maybe it was the ability to eat a brat and drink a beer on campus on the Lake that did it too, but what a great atmosphere up there.

Back to your time at Mizzou, I know you were back to campus a couple of years ago as Grand Marshall of the Mizzou Homecoming Parade. What kind of experience was that for you? What was your first thought as you drove around a campus that had changed quite a bit since you had roamed there?

I actually get back to campus pretty frequently. Does once, twice a year count as frequently?

Not as much when I lived in Phoenix, obviously, but when I was in Tulsa I tried to get back for ballgames and now that I have a little bit larger paycheck I can get back for a game during the fall or the basketball game against kU.

Funny how the construction never ever ends on a campus. They're always pouring concrete for something else.

Are those columns new or have they always been there?

I miss the Shack. Shame all the T.A. slums behind the library are gone. I'm glad the law school is finished because it was a hole in the ground when I graduated.

So going back for Homecoming wasn't overwhelming in terms of physical campus change. However, it was really a neat and humbling experience to be a part of given the history of the event and the weekend at Mizzou. We were the first. It's our idea everybody else copied MU. The history and the investment the students put it to it is terrific and I was honored to be a part of it.

I also noticed that the age of the students never changes. Nobody gets older going to college apparently.

Wow….and at the end I thought you were going to pull the classic line from Dazed and Confused….about you getting older and older and them staying the same age.

As for the columns, according to former Chancellor Wallace on the day Norm Stewart resigned, there were only 5…so they must have just added the last one in the past few years.

And yes, from the distance you are traveling/have traveled, once to twice a year certainly counts. Glad to hear you have been able to be around campus as much as you have.

(More to come in Part TWO!! Stay tuned!!)