Publish date:

John Walsh As ESPN's SportsCenter, which debuted in 1979, gets ready to celebrate its 25,000th show, we quiz the executive editor who's been its creative force since '88.

SI: When did you know SportsCenter had arrived?

Walsh: On Aug. 24, 1989, the day Pete Rose was banished from
baseball, we had a half-hour show, and I asked programming to
give us an hour. We did 42 straight minutes on Rose, and when it
ended, the phone rang and it was [the famed NBC and ABC
executive] Don Ohlmeyer. He said, "I just want to tell you,
That's what SportsCenter can be." I knew then we were on our way.

SI: Who is the typical SportsCenter viewer?

Walsh: Someone who has sports as part of their DNA and with some
on-air experience could work on the show.

SI: What would be your ideal Sunday Conversation?

Walsh: Jack Nicholson being interviewed by Hunter S. Thompson.
And I could see that happening one day.

SI: Aside from Bill Murray and Kinky Friedman, what's the most
impressive name in your Rolodex?

Walsh: My brother's favorite was Catherine Deneuve, who was in my
Rolodex until we had a Rolodex-cleansing party.

SI: One could argue that the show's constant airing of dunks and
in-your-face attitude has hurt sportsmanship. Is SportsCenter at
all responsible for the behavior on the field?

Walsh: I don't think television networks dictate or influence
behavior. There are images that people have, and they take those
images whether they come from the movies, the playground or
television.

SI: Once, in '89, Chris Berman made nearly 30 Bob Dylan
references on SportsCenter because he'd missed a Dylan show that
evening--

Walsh: That was a highlight for me.

SI: Do you have a favorite anchor tandem?

Walsh: Don't make me answer that, because I'd just get in trouble
with a lot of people. It would be like saying who your favorite
child is.

SI: How often do you watch SportsCenter?

Walsh: I try to watch two to three a day until the dah-dah-dah is
a little too much in my head. --R.D.

COLOR PHOTO: ESPN "Deneuve was in my Rolodex."