ESPN’s prime-time newsmagazine E:60 begins its spring run with five new episodes airing on consecutive Tuesday nights starting April 13 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
E:60, which debuted in 2007, has received 13 Sports Emmy Award nominations, seven this year – the most for any show in sports television. Nominations have ranged from long-form storytelling to investigative journalism, graphic design and music. The show combines investigative reporting, in-depth profiles of intriguing sports personalities and features on emerging star athletes. The stories are presented in a fresh and innovative format that incorporates producer/correspondent story ideas meetings.
A team of award-winning ESPN journalists – Jeremy Schaap, Lisa Salters, Tom Farrey, Rachel Nichols and Michael Smith – appear in each show, with additional ESPN reporters contributing periodically. The program is produced by a group of seasoned and award-winning documentary producers, with content distributed across multiple ESPN platforms, including ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN International and as part of the new ESPN Sports Saturday programming on ABC.
In addition to its 13 Sports Emmy Award nominations, E:60 won a National Headline Award in March, and is a finalist for nine honors in the New York Festivals Television and Film Awards, with the winners to be announced in May.
“We are thankful for the recognition that E:60 has received in its ability to showcase the best stories in sports,” said Andy Tenant, executive producer of E:60. “This spring’s lineup of investigations, profiles and features is our strongest collection of stories to date.”
Some stories scheduled to appear in the upcoming five episodes of E:60 include:
Sacred Acre – For the past two years, E:60 has followed the story of Ed Thomas, the celebrated Iowa high school football coach who helped his town rebuild after a devastating tornado and was later murdered by one of his former players. In the aftermath of Mark Becker’s recent conviction for the killing, ESPN reporter Steve Cyphers goes back to Iowa for exclusive interviews with Jan Thomas, the widow of Ed Thomas, and members of the Becker family. The Thomas and Becker families, friends before the tragedy, have helped each other with the healing process.
“I’ve never come across a story with as many layers as this one has,” said Cyphers. “It went from sport to humanity in a heartbeat. Compassion and mercy are two words that that keep coming back and are most common in my mind, from the tornado through the trial.”
Michelle Akers: Horse Hero – During her stellar career as an international soccer star, Michelle Akers fought through dozens of injuries and battled the debilitating effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After retiring from the game in 2001, she took on a different battle and has devoted herself to saving abused horses on her farm in Georgia. But, recent devastation to her Georgia farm has threatened her cause. Reporter Tom Farrey details her struggle and the surprising measure she’s taking to save her horse rescue operation.
“It’s hard to imagine an athlete who has sacrificed more than Michelle Akers,” Farrey said. “This is woman who gave everything she had to women’s soccer, physically and mentally, helping pave the way for generations of American girls. And now she’s sacrificing again, leveraging just about everything she has, for the sake of horses others have given up for dead. Remarkable.”
Haiti Women’s Soccer Team – With their country devastated by an earthquake that killed thousands, including their coach, the Haitian Under 17 Women’s soccer team had to regroup to train and prepare for a tournament that would qualify the team for the U17 FIFA World Cup. Lisa Salters followed the team’s courageous effort that fell short when they were eliminated from contention.
“It’s one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever had to work on,” said Salters. “We spent three weeks with those girls. When they didn’t win, for them, it’s not just the team is over, it’s now we go back to our life. And we went back (to Haiti) and saw what they went back to and that is sleeping on the streets, with no food. It was just awful. It’s like soccer could have saved them, and it didn’t.”
Second Time Around: The Dangers of Concussions – For former college football linebacker Preston Plevretes, the consequences of playing with concussion are all too real. He suffered a devastating brain injury called Second Impact Syndrome more than four years ago that left him unable to walk or talk. Now, with the aid of therapists and family, he is rehabilitating himself and pursuing his mission of having others learn from his story and the need for athletic programs to treat brain injuries seriously.
“Preston Plevretes is the face of sports concussion,” Farrey said. “It didn’t take years or decades for him to experience the effects of head injury, as often is the case with former NFL or college football players. His life changed in the blink of an eye, as could that of any other young athlete who returns to play before a previous concussion has healed. Any coach, trainer or parent inclined to tell a concussed kid to ‘tough it out’ really ought to watch this story first.”
The Rabbi Boxer – Yuri Foreman is a top flight boxer (28-0) who this summer will be boxing in the first fight at the new Yankee Stadium and the first in the Bronx since Muhammad Ali beat Ken Norton in 1976. He also is studying to be a rabbi. Schaap reports how Foreman is reconciling two very different worlds.
“He really straddles two worlds,” said Schaap. “He’s a world champion fighter and studying to be a rabbi. And his religious identity is not just a marketing scheme. He doesn’t just happen to be Jewish. He plans to be a teacher, a man of the cloth. He doesn’t play it for jokes, it’s who he is. His personal journey – from where he’s been to where and who he is now – is as interesting a story as I’ve seen in sports. He truly is a renaissance man.”
Jordan Motor Sports – In 2008, Michael Jordan’s motorcycle racing team won the AMA Superstock championship and in 2009 earned nine podiums and 17 top five finishes. ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm visited with Jordan and his team earlier this year at Daytona.
“Michael is a very smart businessman,” said Storm. “I covered him for a long time as a player and I like to see that. He’s so competitive and so devoted to winning, and he’s been tenacious and determined in building a winning Superbike team.”
The new, original series of E:60 programs will continue the show’s original premise of combining the best forms and principles of television storytelling with investigative reporting. Exclusives, including the first on-camera interview with former NFL player Plaxico Burress after his sentence to prison, and investigative pieces, such as stories on pedophiles in youth gymnastics and the air quality in ice rinks, are staples of E:60 as are people-driven features such as the minor league baseball player who was housed in an assisted living facility and a blind high school football player in Kansas.
Click here for all E:60 features.