Behind The Walls at ESPN

The Worldwide Leader gives us a peek behind the curtain.

The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network has been churning out around-the-clock sports coverage for almost 32 years, all the while broadcasting from the unlikely town of Bristol, CT (they may not be a media capital, but I’ll be damned if they don’t know how to throw a Mum Festival). Recently, the kind folks at ESPN let me into their sprawling and diligently policed campus for a tour. Don’t worry, I wiped my feet (somewhat).

The 14-building complex sits a solid two-hour drive outside of New York City, just far enough to not be commutable. That means most of the employees and talent live in Bristol, served by only a handful of local watering holes. Want to unwind at a bar after a tough day at work? Sorry, your entire office is already there.

I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the main newsroom, but suffice it to say, it’s not how you imagine it. Unless you imagine John Anderson sitting in a TV screen-adorned cubicle across from an intern, and then it’s exactly how you imagine it. This is the alternate newsroom, which includes a set in front of it that was created when studio space ran low.

It’s actually pretty astonishing how small some of the studios are. Numbers Never Lie shoots in a studio that holds a cameraman, a producer, and an assistant, as well as another desk on the opposite side, so the camera can swing around to film news segments in the same space. The cameras are giant, terrifying remote-controlled beasts that are probably on the verge of gaining sentience. How Hugh Jackson fits through the door frame here, or anywhere, is unknowable.

The control rooms are remote, too. This is what the backend of Sportscenter looks like. Can you find Tom Brady’s smug face?

On the other hand, Sportscenter’s studio is huge. Who is this gentleman coming out of the studio? An anchor? An analyst? Nope, just some guy.

Baseball Tonight also has an enormous studio. You can see the middle of the faux pitching mound here. It was such a thrill to see the mound that a legend like Curt Schilling stood on. And then drunkenly fell off of.

Finally, I was taken by the satellite farm. This is where the network is beamed out via some sort of magic to each and every one of your homes. Also, they don’t work both ways, so Chris Berman can’t hear you screaming at him. I asked.

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