Sports fans of all ages got a look behind the scenes of ESPN on Tuesday night when four network personalities discussed sports, the television industry and the network's early days before a rapt crowd at the Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University.
Bob Ley, Chris McKendry, Josh Elliott and Justin Kutcher talked for nearly 90 minutes and greeted guests before that at a fundraiser for FSW, a Bridgeport-based nonprofit agency. Ley is a member of the board of directors at FSW, which provides access to services in Fairfield County to individuals seeking to improve their quality of life.
The sports personalities discussed a variety of sports topics, including the NFL labor dispute, the network's documentary on Michigan's "Fab 5," baseball, World Cup soccer and tennis as well as their most memorable and most awkward moments.
Ley was riveting when he recalled ESPN's early years. The New Jersey native joined the network in 1979 and hosted the first NCAA Selection Show in 1980. "We were sitting there waiting for the fax machine to spit out the brackets,'' Ley said. "Nowadays, of course, the brackets are treated like the nuclear launch code."
He had a similar tale about covering the NFL Draft for the first time, also in 1980. "The day before the draft I was given a binder,'' Ley said. "I was told I have to study up on this before the telecast. The night before I was sitting at the kitchen table looking at this binder about NFL prospects."
Ley is now the host of the nation's "Outside the Lines" program. McKendry serves as co-anchor on the weekday "SportsCenter" shows from noon to 3 p.m. The Philadelphia native has been with the network since 1996. Elliott joined ESPN in 2004 and is also a weekday co-anchor. Kutcher, a Fairfield native, is a broadcaster for the network.
The evening also featured a silent auction before the discussion. Some guests also attended a meet-and-greet. During the discussion, Ley auctioned a football that included the signatures of several ESPN commentators who played in the Super Bowl. In addition, two trips to the network studio were auctioned off for $2,000 apiece. All proceeds went to FSW.