So Long Kenny Mayne
A Little over a week ago right around 1 AM on a Tuesday, Kenny Mayne quietly ambled off a set in Bristol, CT as he had many, many times before. This time the move wrapped up a unique and wonderful career at ESPN where he helped build the once fledging sports network into a global entertainment behemoth. He finished with a two-hour marathon SportsCenter featuring many of his classic commercials and some brand new interviews mainly with Seattle athletes like Sue Bird and Marshawn Lynch.
He cursed out Aaron Rodgers for getting him into crypto currency —but not before getting the star quarterback to open up about his frayed relationship with the front office in Green Bay —and chopped it up with Fred McGriff, who as it turns out has never seen those Tom Emanski videos he so famously endorsed.
I only intended to watch a few minutes after seeing it was Kenny’s last broadcast. Instead, I once again found myself sucked in to the magic of the Mayne Event.
His deadpan style of comedy was as fresh and unique as ever. He indulged in some reminiscing, goaded on by Jon Anderson. He traded stories with Barry Melrose and poked fun at himself when he took a second crack at a highlight in hour two that he had botched earlier in the broadcast.
If you’ve ever seen my show, you may notice an influence there —though I fancy myself to skew a bit closer to Stephen Colbert selling used sports equipment.
Mayne’s unusual approach to discussing sports gave us many classic moments over the years, including perhaps most famously a feature that endeared Marshawn Lynch to the public long before Skittles and fine avoidance did.
When I was growing up, every one of my friends had the same routine when they were sick and off from school. You watched SportsCenter all day.
Back then it was the same hourlong episode played on a loop. The 6 AM show was on all morning, and yet my friends and I would watch over and over. It actually came as a great relief to find that others did this and it wasn't just me who was broken.
Legends like Linda Cohn, Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, and Kenny Mayne dished out the highlights and cranked out their classic catch phrases over and over again.
And they actually showed highlights of everything! It was great.
Mind you, none of this is to say that things were better, “BACK IN MY DAY!”
The original format of SportsCenter is no longer relevant. There wasn’t really anywhere else to turn for highlights in the show’s heyday and access to live games was far more limited. We watched initially because we had no idea what had happened the night before. As such, the suspense and interest was baked in to the show in a way that’s simply not possible today. Networks, teams, and even fans themselves now quickly dice up a highlight and send it out into the world mere moments after a great play has occurred.
The top plays were just the entry point though. We kept watching as kids because of the on-air talent, which over time has almost entirely departed for other pursuits. Mr. Mayne will engage in such endeavors, like his charity (runfreely.org) that helps wounded veterans get adaptive equipment. There will probably also be sports and runs to Applebees.
In 2021, there’s just no need for incredible anchors to dazzle us with the day’s events. Now SportsCenter has a far leaner selection of highlights and is instead crammed with analysis from talking heads and forced Disney product tie-ins.
But into the early morning hours on a spring Tuesday, at least for a little while, I was reminded of how it used to be. Not better necessarily, just different.
A brilliant sportscaster showed me great plays from the day and made me laugh. Then I went to bed without having completed any school work and wondered what the next games would bring.