The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


When Bob Ley called me back…

A long-awaited interview with one of ESPN’s original broadcasters
 When Bob Ley called me back...
When Bob Ley called me back…

When Bob Ley called me back…

There are four letters every warm blooded American man considers sacred: ESPN. For over 20 years the king of all sports networks has broadcasted the most unforgettable games, introduced us to our favorite broadcasters and given us a reason to wake up every morning at 7 a.m. That reason is SportsCenter. The women have their soap operas and we our have SportsCenter. Soap opera devotees have Susan Lucci and we have Bob Ley.

We have grown up on ESPN and will die watching ESPN. We have read the books and subscribe to the magazine and some of us have even made the trip to the holy land in Bristol, Conn.

Over the past years hopefully you have read my articles. Thanks to SMU I have been blessed with the opportunities to interview some of sports biggest names, from Bill Russell to John Elway and most recently, Cal Ripken, Jr. But there was always one person that I have always admired, one that I just had to interview. That’s right, Bob Ley.

So, how did I get in touch with Mr. Ley you ask? Well, about a month ago, my buddies and I were driving back from the Texas Rangers opening day. Caught in traffic, we did whatever we could to get our minds off the embarrassing loss. Nothing seemed to work until Preston Phillips, junior advertising major and now my saint, pulls out his wallet.

“Hey Rogers, I have the number to ESPN,” he confesses. “Maybe you should call it and see what happens.”

Big mistake Preston.

So here I was with what seemed to be the Holy Grail in my hand. I picked up my phone and dialed away. The operator picks up and I ask for Bob Ley. Thank God I got his voicemail and I left a message.

Two weeks went by and the now infamous phone call had seemed to be a thing of the past. I was with my realtor looking for a place to live when the sounds of heaven sang from my pocket.

I answered the phone, not recognizing the area code.

“Rogers, hi this is Bob Ley. I am so sorry it has taken me this long to get back to you. How can I help?”

What? He is apologizing to me? Wow, something must be wrong here. So I gathered my senses and did my best to put together a couple of sensible sentences. We got to talking and within minutes, I felt like I was talking to my favorite uncle.

We tried for a week or so to get the interview until last Thursday morning, when we were able to connect.

Healy: During your college years at Seton Hall, you were very involved with sports media and production. After graduation, you moved to East Orange and did sports for a cable station, winning numerous awards in your short span. Along the way, did you ever dream of being part of such a prestigious station as ESPN?

Ley: In 1979, [ESPN] was just an idea. If you wanted to work in sports, you would work for a broadcast network. The day that I came to ESPN, I had two job offers and I had to make my decision very quickly. In retrospect, looking back it is a no brainer, but back then it was a hard decision.

Healy: Since you joined ESPN in the first month of the station’s existence in September of 1979, it’s an easy assumption to say you have seen your fair share of sports highlights. Is there one moment that stands out most in your mind?

Ley: The San Francisco earthquake of 1989 was something as memorable and as tragic as anything I have ever been involved in. This occurred during the World Series.

Healy: Being an SMU student, I think I speak for the entire student body and alumni when I ask why SMU is never covered on ESPN. In all honesty, did the death penalty SMU received about 20 years ago really kill our athletic program?

Ley: I think SMU is an unfortunate example of the power of the NCAA. The NCAA couldn’t do to Nebraska or Alabama what they did to SMU. They never found the fine print to do it to another school. But we all know that schools are still out there running red lights and breaking the speed limit.

Healy: Other than anchoring Sportscenter you have left your imprint on the sports world by hosting your groundbreaking weekly television show, Outside the Lines. You have gone the extra mile to investigate the other side of sports, the side that is not so glamorous to everyday fans. Since the shows inception, what changes have you seen and what is the most rewarding part of the show?

Ley: The most rewarding part is that now the show is going to run on a nightly basis. That is quite a commitment to the company to make a nightly show. My favorite episode was in 1993. We went to Final Four in New Orleans and showed what happened behind the scenes. We showed a lot of stuff that wasn ‘t basketball. In ’96 we did a show about sports in Russia. In ’98 we went to sneaker factories in Vietnam. We have done a lot of influential shows.

Healy: Do you prefer doing play-by-play broadcasting or having a more relaxed, scripted type approach?

Ley: I would not say that doing a show like “Outside the Lines” is relaxed. I enjoy doing soccer; I have been able to announce the World Cup. It is a great experience to hear 80,000 fans. Your skin crawls and you get goose bumps at the some of the things you see. I don ‘t know if I am going to have the chance to get back to doing it though.

Healy: Growing up, who was your sports idol?

Ley: Tom Seaver. Mickey Mantle at first. When I was four years old, I tried to hit left handed. But no one approached his job more professionally than Tom Seaver. One of my great moments was being able to write Tom Seaver’s piece for his induction into the Hall of Fame. That is one of the perks of working here.

Healy: Is there anyone left for you to talk to? A sort of dream interview?

Ley: I would love to talk soccer with the Pope. When he was growing up in Krakow, he was a goal keeper. Besides being someone who has changed the face of history, I would love to talk sports with him.

Healy: What is the best part of your job?

Ley: It’s not a job. I don ‘t work for a living. Are you kidding? Just speaking with you in the past couple weeks, I know there are thousands of people that would pay to do this. It pays a hell of a lot more than minimum wage and you get to do what you want to do. You can’t ask for anything better than that.

Healy: What advice would you give someone who is hoping to follow the same career path as yourself?

Ley: Get a broad based education. Do not major in broadcasting. If you do, get a strong co-major or minor. Come into this industry with an understanding of the world, not just sports. Know something about history, know something about economics. Know something about the future. Learn how to write and how to express yourself. We have thousands of resumes here, so learn how to distinguish yourself.

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