Sports fans were rejoicing this weekend as the eighth annual ESPN the Weekend began at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This mega sports-filled weekend gave fans a one-of-a-kind chance to see and hear their favorite sports heroes and ESPN personalities in person. The event featured live broadcasts, interactive games, and stage shows. At the stage that was set up in front of Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat, everyone witnessed live telecasts of Baseball Tonight, NFL Live, and First Take.
From the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, guests attended many popular ESPN radio shows on March 3rd and 4th like The Herd, hosted by Colin Cowherd and Mike and Mike in the Morning. Fans were also able to see what goes on behind the scenes of favorites such as Stump the Schwab, First Take, and NFL Live via live stage shows. There the fans were given direct access to the athletes and were permitted to ask them questions. The ESPN sports zone interactive area gave fans a chance to interact with their favorite stars as well as test their skills in a variety of sports.
With baseball’s spring training starting, the Atlanta Braves hosted three contests this past weekend. At the Sorcerer’s Hat on Sunday, fans also saw a special Baseball Tonight with host Karl Ravech and analysts Nomar Garciaparra, John Kruk, and Bobby Valentine. And, as if that weren’t enough, there were motorcades with all the stars and the characters.
For the first time ever, Friday Night Fights was held at the Jostens Center. Also, the 5K road race and fun run started on Saturday the 5th at 7am. Some of the stars that appeared this year were Julius Ervin (Dr. J), Cal Ripken Jr., and Alonzo Mourning. ESPN favorites Mike Golic, Mike Greenburg and Colin Cowherd also participated. Also, sports teams mascots–the Phillie Phanatic, the Oregon Duck, and Homer the Brave–attended. It’s was fun for all fans and here is what happened the next three days:
Nothing major was scheduled Thursday, but I did catch a lively discussion about the differences between NFL team owners and players from commentator Skip Bayless, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals), and former pro-linebacker Derek Brooks (Buccaneers). This interview took place on stage at the Sorcerer’s Hat where you could catch many live interviews and discussions. ESPN the Weekend had many events going on simultaneously, but there were also repeat performances, so guests were be able to catch an event later if they missed it the first time.
Friday morning I arrived early at ESPN Wide World of Sports. In the Jostens Center, I watched the live telecast of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. This show was packed; the hosts, Mike Golic and Mike Greenburg, kept all entertained with numerous sports topics. After this three hour telecast, the next show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd began. This ESPN fan favorite spoke of everything from whose side should you be on (the players or the fans) to the controversial recruitment story about Oregon State University’s payments. They even covered the topic of scouting services that brought several players to the team. From the Wide World of Sports, I headed back to the Studios for another fan favorite, the Stump the Schwab all-star game. Held in the Sounds Dangerous theater, this interactive trivia show teams up athletes with fans picked at random to answer sports trivia questions and to see if they can stump sports trivia expert Howie Schwab. Playing for the fans were wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (Bengals), linebacker Bart Scott (Jets), and wide receiver Brian White.
From this event, we hoofed it over to the Premiere Theater for another ESPN radio show, Baseball Tonight. Here, baseball fans got the scoop on all the day’s events as well as a look at what’s to come in the world of Major League Baseball. The hosts for the show were Karl Ravech, Bobby Valentine, and Nomar Garciaparra. Their guests were baseball great, Frank Thomas, and Hall of Famer, Bert Blyleven. Topics ranged from “getting into the Hall of Fame,” steroid use, and players then and now. As you can see, there was something here for almost every sports fan, and a wonderful chance to see, hear, and speak to these legends of sports.
At 1:30, there was a short motorcade down Hollywood Boulevard carrying Frank Thomas, Bernie Williams, and Bert Blyleven. At 4:00, another NFL they held a live telecast at the Sorcerer’s Hat with hosts Trey Wingo, Tedy Bruschi, and Merril Hoge including guests Donald Driver, Tim Tebow, and Greg Jennings.
Saturday’s lineup of events was just as impressive. At 8:45 football analyst, Herm Edwards, and former running back, Tony Dorsett, were on the stage with the Miami Dolphin Cheerleaders to kick off the morning. At 9:15, Karl Ravech, Herm Edwards, and Nomar Garciaparra hosted the Soccer Showcase. I simply had to catch another round of Stump the Schwab. This time the stars were Mike Singletary, Tony Dorsett, and Darrell Green. Another motorcade was hosted by Trey Wingo (ESPN host of NFL Live) carrying Merril Hoge, Tedy Bruschi, Mark Schlereth and Darrell Green. From 2:00 on, there were three more motorcades carrying stars Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Greg Jennings, and Roddy White. As you can imagine, there was just so much sports stuff going on, it became a toss-up as to what you would like to see next. The last show I attended was Inside SportsCenter on the stage at the Sorcerer’s Hat. This highly popular sports information show was hosted by anchor Linda Cohn with Orlando Magic players Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Chris Duhon as her guests. This slate made many in the crowd happy.
Sunday, the last day, I concentrated on the remaining motorcades down Hollywood Boulevard. It was amazing to see these sports figures just inches away. As you can see, Disney’s ESPN the Weekend was a huge success. Sports fans from all over converged to see and hear their favorite stars, to listen to the live telecasts, and to see firsthand what goes on backstage when covering professional sports. The programs the fans listen to and watch are presented live, and the fans can become a part of them. Even though football and baseball are the main focus here, all sports aficionados found something exciting.
Whether participating in a live show, asking questions of their favorite stars, or just soaking up the excitement, Disney’s ESPN the Weekend will always be a home run with the fans! Hope to see you there next year.
Contributed by: Bill I. (NDH #35). Bill is our resident historian.