To Grip or Not to Grip: Among PAs the word grip means to stress out when there is no way, just no way, that there will be enough time to edit a highlight tape for SportsCenter. The term gripfest refers to a situation in which two or more PAs are experiencing such a crisis at the same time.
Shireen Saski: She is 24, a telecommunications major from Michigan State and one of the better PAs. Proof of this is that tonight she has been assigned to do the Los Angeles Clipper-Houston Rocket game, which will not end until shortly before the 11:30 p.m. show begins, at the earliest. After the game is over, she must cut her highlight tape down to 50 seconds and prepare a rough script, called a shot sheet, for Dan Patrick.
With 15 seconds remaining, the game is still undecided, and that means one element Saski planned to feature in the highlights—the Rockets' celebrating coach Rudy Tomjanovich's 44th birthday with their sixth straight victory—may have to be dumped. "Unexpected finishes?" says Saski to John. "They're the absolute worst. A four-run ninth inning will kill you."
John then fires another of his surprise questions: "When was the last time you read a book?"
She pauses in mid-grip to reply, "You mean a book book? Not having anything to do with sports? In college, I guess. That was three years ago."
Did You Know? The most frequently asked question of ESPN employees is, "Do you ever get to work with Chris Berman?"
Keith Olbermann: He has known Berman longer than anyone at the network. Twenty-one years. They attended The Hackley School, in Tarrytown, N.Y., and worked on the school radio station together. "We had the same class in Wise Ass Sportscasting," says Olbermann.
Before ESPN, Olbermann did sports at CNN and then was a local sports anchor in Boston and Los Angeles. He was not unhappy to leave L.A., the nation's second-largest market. "My sports reports were perceived purely as an obstacle to getting more news about Madonna," he says. "Tommy Lasorda didn't know me from a stadium usher. Now that I'm at ESPN, he is all over me. When I left KCBS for ESPN, it was as if I had been adrift in this tiny, leaky raft, and then, suddenly, the QE 2 came by and picked me up."
11:23 p.m.: Uh-oh. Saski is still cutting the Clipper-Rocket tape in an editing room. A nervous Dan Patrick walks in. He has seen neither footage nor her script. Yet this game is scheduled to be reported on only minutes after the 11:30 SportsCenter begins. "Excuse me while I do something we ordinarily don't do," he says to John. Patrick looks at what Saski has edited thus far, does a practice reading of her script and then leaves very quickly.
11:29 p.m. Two-Minute Drill: Visions of Broadcast News bombard John's mind as he watches Saski do the 50-yard dash from the editing room to the studio—in black high heels—with two right turns and one left in the corridor. She hands the script to Patrick, and someone else grabs the tape and disappears.