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.

August 25, 2002

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."

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