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End of the Big Show

Dan Patrick on his decision to leave ESPN

Posted: Thursday August 2, 2007 4:21PM; Updated: Thursday August 2, 2007 7:32PM
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Dan Patrick
Dan Patrick
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Last week SI writer Richard Deitsch interviewed Dan Patrick for the magazine's Q&A. The 51-year-old broadcaster is leaving ESPN on Aug. 17 after 18 years. Here are additional excerpts from their conversation

SI: Why was now the right time to leave?

Patrick: I sort of viewed ESPN as going to grade school and high school. It was 18 years and I felt I needed to graduate to something. I'd use the analogy of picking a college and trying to figure out what I was going to do once I got there. They raised me, prepared me and I just thought it was time for me to take a chance and pull the rip cord.

SI: Was it an agonizing decision?

Patrick: I went back and forth with it. I probably harbored the feeling for the last two years. I had voices inside saying, 'Nobody leaves ESPN. You are crazy if you leave ESPN.' But I wanted to challenge myself with something else. It's a protective cocoon I've been in for a long time and I had started to take it for granted. I don't think I challenged myself and I don't think I was doing great work. I will not settle for quantity. I still want quality. That was always in the back of my mind the last two years. I just kept getting the feeling that I was not getting better.

SI: How hard did they try to keep you to stay?

Patrick: I think, even now, they still think I'll have this epiphany and say, 'Wait a minute. What I was possibly thinking?' But I told them once I make up my mind, I've made up my mind. That's it. They were surprised when I said I didn't want to do SportsCenter. They were surprised when I said I was thinking of leaving. They were surprised when I said I was leaving. They were more surprised than I was. But they have been great about it from the standpoint of telling me they wanted me to stay and doing whatever they could possibly do to ensure that. I just said, 'Look, I'm past go. It's just time to go.'

SI: Was there anything management could have done to keep you?

Patrick: No, I don't think so. I sort of got the feeling -- and this is a business that breeds insecurity -- that maybe I wasn't as good as I thought I was or who I thought I was. This allowed me an opportunity to see what was out there and if anybody was interested in me. I had never been a free agent. I had never spoken with anybody about another job. I had people talk to me but I never courted another TV job. To syndicate my own radio show at a grass-roots level and to see what else is out there TV-wise intrigued me. It was more of the freshness and maybe even the uncertainty of it. That's what I was attracted to.

SI: When would be the first time viewers would see you on the air?

Patrick: I can't be on during the NFL season. When I took myself out of the running for The Price is Right, that precluded me from being on TV anytime soon. And I have not heard from The View, so unless I'm on Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien or Howard Stern [Patrick is a big fan], you probably won't see me on TV. And I just hope you won't see me on Cops.

SI: But we might see you on NBC?

Patrick: I talked to Dick Ebersol about covering the Olympics. I covered the Olympics in 1988 for CNN, but we were not allowed to cover any sporting events. So I did stories about the Olympics but not the Olympics themselves. We were covering everything from the weather in Calgary to the Mounties. I told Dick I've always wanted to cover the Olympics. He said, 'Do you want to go to Beijing?' I said, 'Wow, that was easy.' He said, 'I don't know what you'll do, but I'll find a spot for you.' I said, 'Yeah, I'd like to.' I have always been fascinated by the ability to sell sports in a way that my wife, Mom or daughters would be attracted to, and that's the brilliance of what he has done with the Olympics. It's the one thing I would love to be able to put on my resume. I may get that opportunity. If not these Olympics, maybe the next one.

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