Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick made hosting SportsCenter an art. Craig Kilborn used the gig as a stepping stone to late-night fame. And a multitude of other slick and quippy hosts have contributed to the sports vernacular over the years while describing home runs and slam dunks. But none of them were formally handed their very ownSportsCenter and instructed to have fun. Until now.
On Labor Day, the day before Stephen Colbert steps behind the Late Show desk, Scott Van Pelt gets the keys to a new midnight edition of SportsCenter as the network tries to make the special showcase a destination for sports-crazed viewers who’ve just finished watching the night’s big games. The 49-year-old Van Pelt has been with the network since 2001, anchoring SportsCenter and providing expertise in a wide array of sports coverage, especially golf. But while some of his ESPN peers have aggressively pursued the fame — or notoriety — that comes with clever catchphrases, hyperbole, and convenient contrarianism (read: trolling), Van Pelt has been a reliably thoughtful and reasonable figure on television and the radio, where he filled three hours of airtime every day with Ryen Russillo until recently. In that regard, Van Pelt might be the perfect guy for ESPN to entrust with bending the format of the show without breaking it.
The midnight show will have a slightly different look and feel, with Timbaland producing a special version of the SportsCenter theme to announce to viewers that Van Pelt’s isn’t the 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. edition of the sports-highlight show. Van Pelt spoke with EW about his new job and his mixed feelings about leaving radio. But before long, the conversation veered off topic and just became two guys talking about their favorite teams and their shared loathing of Jeffrey Maier, the New York fan who helped the Yankees beat the Orioles in 1996 when he interfered with a Derek Jeter fly ball that was subsequently ruled a home run.
“That’s as mad as I’ve ever been in my life at the outcome of a sporting event,” Van Pelt says. “I think I set a record for the most times the f-bomb was used in a newsroom setting. He later worked at ESPN! I think he had some internship. I remember saying after, and I wasn’t even kidding, I’m like, ‘It’s a good thing I didn’t run into that kid because I would’ve assaulted him.’ Good god. Sports in a nutshell. Here we are yelling at each other over this thing that happened 100 years ago. We’re all older than we used to be, but there’s just something about it. Things linger with you… the games are still interesting and they’re endlessly worth discussing and remembering. That’s the reason why we get to do a show at midnight.”
Van Pelt’s midnight SportsCenter just might be a conversation worth having.
To read the rest of the article, including the Q&A with VP, visit Entertainment Weekly where it was originally published