Transcript: ESPN and ABC7 Media Conference Call with 2014 TCS New York City Marathon Commentators

Miscellaneous Sports

Transcript: ESPN and ABC7 Media Conference Call with 2014 TCS New York City Marathon Commentators

ESPN SportsCenter anchors and TCS New York City Marathon co-hosts Hannah Storm and John Anderson and ABC7 sports anchor Rob Powers took part in a media conference call on October 29. Along with event producer Steve Mayer from IMG, and President and General Manager, WABC-TV Dave Davis, the commentators answered questions about the TCS New York City Marathon, which will be televised Sunday, November 2, at 9 a.m. ET on ABC7 in the New York area and on ESPN2 for the rest of the nation. The audio replay and transcript:

 

What storyline are you are most looking forward to sharing with fans on Sunday?

STORM: I’m really excited to be doing our second consecutive New York Marathon. It’s really an amazing event. My favorite part is at the start because it’s one of the most incredible spectacles in sports. A lot of people are focused on the ending, but I think the start is so amazing visually, just that power, that feeling of humanity there at the start.

I’ll be in both places, at the start and at the finish. Tactically, I can’t wait to hear my partner John Anderson and the experts call this race because I really want to see what Kipsang and Mutai are going to do. Apparently, they have their eyes set on the course record. They worked together before. Kipsang has called Mutai his favorite training partner. So really anxious to see if those two are going to work together in the early miles, how fast they’re going to go off in this race, with Kipsang with the World Marathon Majors title in his sights. And Mutai, who just knows this race so well, looking to make history as the first three‑time winner since Salazar.

And then on the women’s side, it’s just so wide open, but you look at, in Keitany and Deba, that will also be interesting to see if they can take on the course record. I’m always fascinated by women who come back after having babies. I can’t even imagine running a marathon after doing so, but history has proved time and time again that these women come back stronger. I can’t wait to see what Keitany is going to do because she hasn’t run a marathon since the London Olympics. She’s finished third here a couple of times, and Deba has been the runner‑up the last couple of years. Really, really wants to win in her hometown even though she doesn’t train in New York anymore.

I just feel this is a wide open race with a lot of questions. Keitany hasn’t run a marathon in a while. Deba hasn’t gone at top step in New York. To me, that’s a lot more than you asked for, but some uncertainty there on the women’s side, and on the men’s side, just an unbelievable field.

ANDERSON: I just feel like I have been running on Hannah’s shoulders now because everything she said is exactly where I’m at. So I’ll just say yes.

I do think the Mutai-Kipsang thing will be fabulous with the Kiprotich kicker in there. But Kipsang certainly has more to win financially in that little tete-a-tete, but I think those two will be fantastic. I think Meb will be a wonderful story because we wrote him off last year, and he fulfilled that by running, whatever it was, 2:23 and falling in the back and jogging home, which was fantastic by him because so many times these guys will drop out to save for later, but he, even in a poor performance, ran the whole way to benefit the spectators and then won in Boston. I think he becomes certainly interesting.

On the women’s side, I just want to see out who’s going to go out at some disastrously fast pace, whether it’s Keitany this time or Deba and see if they can actually win from two miles ahead or if they get tracked down again, since both of them have tried that and failed miserably at it in the end.

Then in the middle of the pack ‑‑ and maybe this is just how my quirky brain works sometimes. By the middle of the pack, I don’t mean the lead pack. I mean the literally middle of the pack. I can’t wait to see who finishes 25,743rd because that person will then be the 1 millionth finisher. So if there’s 50,000 people or so, the person that literally is in the middle of the pack will be celebrated by all of us, who are just everyday, average people.

I imagine this person will have like 1.8 children, will have 1.2 pets, and will just be the average American person. So I look forward to that although it might not come exactly when we’re on air. I’m almost as interested in that person and their profile as I am the top two finishers for the men’s and the women’s.

POWERS: I’m going to piggy‑back on what John just said. For us, it’s the 50,000 other stories that are not going to break the tape first. It’s the people that you run next to on the treadmills in the morning, the people that you see running in Central Park on their lunch hour. Those are the stories, some of which we don’t even know until race day, until we actually get there. We’ll have our team of reporters out along the race course to tell us what those stories are.

That’s the thrill of the New York City Marathon, to me. Other than that, Caroline Wozniacki is running this year’s marathon, which she trained in season, which is unheard of. One of the greatest tennis players in the world today was training for the New York City Marathon while she was also training for all these big tennis matches that she had.

I watched the interviews yesterday, she was just ‑‑ she’s so excited to do this. She has this resurgence really. She doesn’t really know exactly what it’s going to be like on race day, but she’s so excited just to find out. That goes along with what I just said. She’s one of the 50,000 runners that everybody’s got their own story, and we look forward to bringing that to you.

I know Channel 7 is very proud to team up once again with Hannah and John and ESPN and bring this to New York City viewers. It’s a New York City event. We’re a New York City station. We’re proud to be a part of it.

MAYER: I think, first of all, we take pride in the three who already have talked on this call. Our announce team is an all‑star announce team, and we’re actually all over the city. As Rob pointed out, we’re covering the race, obviously, from Staten Island all the way into Central Park, but we have reporters all throughout, and we’re captioning every inch of the story.

Unlike last year, where they returned from Hurricane Sandy and also the first major marathon after the Boston bombing was so much of our story line, this year we’re really focusing on the elite race, and we’ve got some really great profiles on Meb and Kara Goucher, Stephan Shay, Edna Kiplagat and others.

We’re also looking at the other stories, as Rob and John pointed out, the 50,000 other stories that are out there. We’ve got this great story which we’ll feature in the ESPN show on these two women, Karrie Zamora and Amy Pomante. Both lost their brothers fighting in the same area in Iraq. They knew each other, the brothers knew each other, and therefore the sisters of these two brothers met through, unfortunately, this tragedy and have bonded together through running and are running the New York City Marathon together in their memory. We’ve got a wonderful piece on that.

We’ve got David Willey, who’s our reporter, our roving reporter on the bike, and he will run with them, find them out on the course, and we’ll have that out as part of the show.

Caroline Wozniacki, we’ll feature, and we’ll also find her out on the course. One of the things we’ll feature this year, much more in terms of GPS mapping and showing where our runners are, and also giving everybody a flavor of New York through graphics. So, again, we’re super excited. We’ve got an amazing all‑star team to bring it to the country, and we’re ready to go.

 

Steve, you had mentioned something about Meb and some things that people might not know about him. What did you discover about him in talking to him leading up to whatever you are putting together about him?

MAYER: One of the things we’re doing with Meb, we did a sports science piece. I think it breaks down just the dynamics of the science of running. We’re also talking to Meb tomorrow for a little longer feature. We talked to Meb throughout the years, and it’s obvious, and one of the things we’re going to bring out in this story – his love of New York. This is where he broke through and won and how running is still such a huge part of his life.

But admittedly, our interview with Meb, our sit‑down interview is tomorrow, so if you’ve got a question you’d like us to ask him, we’re happy to do it.

Ask him how he keeps doing this after people do write him off so often.

MAYER: And that is a big part of what our story is, that the guy, everybody says, oh, Meb’s done, but he’s never done, and he keeps on surprising us. As even John pointed out earlier, we are certainly considering him as one of the favorites this time around as well. And we will ask that question. That will be part of the story.

 

I actually went back and watched the broadcast last night on YouTube and sort of writing up a little review of it. I thought it was quite a very good job by everybody. Steve, I guess my main critique would be sort of there were no mile splits really on the screen or really ever shown. Occasionally, you’d hear from a reporter, but in the media room they have tracking, where every single mile, there’s a chip, and it comes up in the media room, and you can track it and figure it out. Is there any thought to sort of figure out that at 10:05 two miles, and they were 5:00 at one mile, so that’s a 5:05 mile and sort of put that up on the screen.

MAYER: Your critique is a great one, and we recognized that as well. I don’t know why, because we had that available to us last year. There will be many splits, and I will also tell you that it is actually an item that is sponsored this year. So we’re going to get it out because it’s a huge focus of ours, and it was something that was missing from last year’s broadcast, and we definitely plan on it because, as you mentioned ‑‑ and this is something that we’ve developed along with the team at the New York Road Runners, an interface system.

Their chip system is actually interfaced with our graphics system, and each year it gets better and faster. So we have the ability to get all that information at a moment’s notice, and we will absolutely include it in this year’s broadcast.

 

John, sort of at the start of this teleconference, you kind of acted like you didn’t know a lot about running, but in watching the broadcast last night, I was very impressed by your knowledge of the sport. I was wondering sort of how much work went into that, sort of as a high jumper to run marathoning, I think. I saw you sort of answering questions last week, but do you start the week ahead of time? How much work went into that?

ANDERSON: Well, like anything, I mean, you study a little more late, but a lot of it is just a subject I keep track of because I enjoy it, not just ‑‑ even though I was a high jumper and lounged on the mats considerably as a youngster, I enjoyed the distance guys.

In fact, on the team at Missouri, two of the guys were great, were also from Wisconsin from way back, a guy named Kurt Anshutz, who was fantastic, and a guy named Rob Stelter, who was a half-miler.

The cross‑country team I was on in high school ‑‑ I was back in Wisconsin for a Packer Game two weeks ago and literally found ‑‑ stumbled in a house after a Badger hockey game, and here were five guys that we ran together on this cross‑country team. Hadn’t seen each other in years, and there we were, and we thought we were still a good looking group.

So it’s just something that I like and I keep track of. So when Kimetto broke the world record, I was totally excited, and I couldn’t wait for track and field news to come so I could see the 5K splits for all those things. So some of it is just an interest, certain things.

It’s not that I cover NASCAR here, not my favorite thing. I wish we covered more running, more track and field, whether it’s from Usain Bolt all the way up to the 10K and onto the roads. So it’s just something I enjoy and seek out even in times when I am not here or when I’m in my down time, I’m wondering, hmm, who’s winning in the diamond league this week? Where are they running in Brussels? How did those things finish up? So it’s just something I enjoy.

Hopefully, if that came through, that’s great, but a lot of that isn’t preparation. A lot of that is just I’m one of the few people that think, in this place, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that just really enjoys running and track and field, and whether it’s on the roads or on the track and keep track of it.

 

I have two questions, but they’re both pretty simple. The first one is sort of from the marketing, business side. The first year with TCS as the title sponsor. Talk a little about the support the marathon gets from marketing companies and other businesses that really want to get involved. And the second is the interesting thing about the NBA having 24 people in a relay, including the commissioner.

DAVIS: I can just say from WABC’s point of view, who works with the Road Runners on the sponsorships, TCS has been a great partner. They started looking at this a while ago. As they started to look at the U.S. as an entry point. They’re huge, really one of the largest IT high tech companies in the world, India‑based. The CEO has a personal interest in running and marathoning. He runs a lot of marathons himself.

Actually, they’re helping with some of the IT parts of the race coverage, and we have a long‑term partnership with them. It’s been a great relationship so far. I think it’s only going to get better as more people discover who TCS is.

PS, I’m also looking forward to Adam Silver trying to make it over the Verrazano Bridge. He’s running the first leg, and he claims to be quite a runner himself. So we’ll see.

STORM: He is a runner. That’s true, Dave. He is.

DAVIS: There are some former Knicks running in Brooklyn, and we’re going to have some fun with it.

STORM: Greg Anthony, Allan Houston, Chris Mullin, Dikembe Mutombo. It’s great. There’s WNBA stars, and don’t forget the NBA all‑star game is also in New York. What I think is really cool about this it’s teaming up two incredible sporting events. You’ve got the NBA teaming up with the iconic New York Marathon.

It’s going to be fun because there’s so many ‑‑ don’t forget all the people that line the streets, and some of them know people, some of them love the event. But to see celebrities and people they recognize going by is pretty thrilling. You’ve got Bernard King, Charles Oakley. So you’ve got a bunch of New York favorites that will be running.

ANDERSON: And I will just chime in, with as much of the elite field will be there and you’re trying to distinguish for viewers who are like, okay, they don’t recognize them as readily as they do their favorite football players or favorite baseball players, and how do you ‑‑ how do I pick out which of these guys from Kenya or Ethiopia, how do I identify them? The fact that Dikembe Mutombo is in there and we have a 7’2″ African that will be very distinguished, we’ll go that’s that guy. You will not be confused. It’s fantastic. When he takes the baton or whatever they have, the handoff or the handshake and will finish, I think that will be just a wonderful sight of some 7’2″ guy loping through Central Park to finish off the relay for the NBA team.

 

The weather report I heard this morning predicted dire weather report for Saturday, in the 30’s and possibility of snow flurries. Should it be bad or awful on Sunday, what preparations do you have for that? And what kind of adjustments would you make?

POWERS: I’m going to bring extra socks. I know on the WABC side, we’re bringing in Lee Goldberg right from the start. So he’ll be tracking the weather early on for us leading up to the race in our part of the show before ESPN starts. So we’ll be on top of it, and we’ll see what happens. I don’t know what the actual race is going to do about the weather, but what can you do? You can’t put a dome on the five boroughs.

MAYER: We’ll keep an eye on the weather. Obviously, we heard the same forecast that you have for Saturday. For Sunday it sounds pretty good. Our biggest concerns with our coverage would be with regard to helicopter coverage and helicopters being able to go up in the air in dire weather or severe wind. But everything we hear so far is that we should be okay. It’s going to be cold, and a lot of runners actually like those type temperatures because, by the time they cross the finish line, it will be right around 50 degrees, which should be pretty good.

And, obviously, it might affect our rehearsal a bit, but there’s no worry on our end at all.

 

Earlier on this telephone conversation, you mentioned that the two leading runners, best friends, training partners, et cetera. But one of them has much more to gain by a possible victory than the other, which leads a lot of people to think that there might be some possibility of collusion or assistance from one to the other. Will that storyline be even mentioned?  

STORM: I don’t know. They prepared for the race in separate camps. They’ve worked together in the past. Kipsang actually said in an interview that Mutai was his favorite training partner. They make each other better people and athletes. To me, it would be a real stretch to think there was some kind of collusion or money changing hands under the table.

That issue has been raised in a lot of previous marathons. In other countries, there’s a major wager on this, and it’s a national marathon. I just want to mention all of these things. The London book makers will be taking a lot of money on this.

ANDERSON: I would just say that, while that, I guess, could be there, the fact that Mutai stands to gain considerably by being a three‑time winner and winning, in his case, 2012 withstanding, a three‑time champion three in a row. Yes, there’s money, but I’m not so sure that, while friends, I believe, David Monte, who helps recruit the field for this race, he categorized them as fierce rivals.

While I don’t think anybody wants to be naive to something like that, I just think Mutai has much to gain as well. So sit back and go, okay, I will allow the other guy to finish ahead for the money and the world marathon title and take the kickback seems to me that that would be a bit of a stretch. While not out of possibility, I don’t see that with guys that are that rivals and what could be made down the road as well for Mutai, that that would play out that way.

 

Steve, last year one of the biggest production storylines was the fact that you guys were broadcasting in HD for the first time. Are there any production enhancements or changes to your production workflow this year?

MAYER: Not as dramatic, obviously, as last year’s transition to HD. I mention we’ve really improved the sort of technological interest that we would have to get information to our graphics in the fastest way possible, and that’s been something that you’ll see in enhanced graphics and especially in GPS mapping.

But overall, our coverage pretty much remains the same. Last year was, as you pointed out, very big step for us. We still ‑‑ we’ve added a few cameras, but we’ll have 38 cameras throughout the course covering all the action, and we have six production trucks that are both at the finish line and at the start line.

But there’s nothing that is as dramatic as last year’s move to HD.

I’m assuming the 38 cameras include the helicopter, the motorcycles, all that?

MAYER: Everything. The motorcycles, helicopters, multiple cameras obviously at both the start and the finish, fixed cameras throughout the entire course, yes. 38 all together.

 

I’d like to ask you all how you would describe the current state of marathoning in terms of popularity and also if you could discuss the recent world record and how low you think these times can go. When might we see a sub‑two hour marathon?

STORM: There’s been a lot of talk about the sub‑two hour as the next great mark. Mary Wittenberg said that, once she gets through the 2020, the 50th anniversary of the New York Marathon, that they’re already putting a lot of thought perhaps into staging an event specifically with the conditions to be able to do that. Obviously, with the slowness of the current New York Marathon course, that’s not something that’s an option to happen within the New York Marathon as the course is constituted now.

There are all sorts of things that would have to happen for that to happen, and it might not happen for ‑‑ you know, in this generation. But it is fascinating, and a lot of people feel it will happen eventually, and all those perfect factors will come into place between the kind of purse that’s offered and the course and the weather and the conditions and any kind of physiological advancements that will be made.

That is something, but it’s something that, I think most people would agree, is pretty far out there on the horizon.

ANDERSON: I said last year on this call, and I have seen more research on it, but I still don’t think the sub‑two hour will happen in my lifetime unless I live to be really old although it’s coming down. I still think three minutes is a long way to go. It’s more than a half mile down the road in terms of distance to cover. So I just think we’re a ways away from it.

In terms of the state of marathoning, it is still dominated by east Africans, and it will take ‑‑ God bless Meb, but if it wasn’t for him, I think it would be hurting more in this country. We need Ryan Vail to come out and run impressively. We have better chance, I think, on the women’s side right now to have a podium finish in New York at any of the marathon majors than we do with the men.

Hopefully, that picks up. Hopefully, it’s cyclical to some nature, but we have not produced a talent of ‑‑ I’m trying to go back and think of people who have run in this country that have had great podium finishes, and it’s been a long, long time. I don’t know what the answer to that is, how we go through.

You go down to the cross country ranks in college, and it is dominated as well to some extent by foreign runners. So I think there’s certainly a popularity to the running that is still out there. It’s how do you translate that into world class performances. You don’t get 50,000 people at a marathon here or 40,000 in Chicago, and I realize many of that field can be international, but I don’t think you have that kind of popularity without enough people out there running and on the roads and doing that. It’s just how do we pass it down to some degree so that kids want to run from a young age and then want to run in high school and continue that career on.

Certainly, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be there. The money is there now financially for people, whether it’s through purses or through sponsorships, that you can continue and race and race successfully and develop that talent and mature into one’s 30s. So I don’t know where that generation of runners will come from the U.S., how to solve that, but I would hope that picks up because it’s ‑‑ I think the audience is there. I think the talent pool is there. We just need to figure out how to better harvest that.

POWERS: I would add this. This broadcast can do nothing but help in that regard as well. Sunday afternoon is still prime real estate on ESPN2, and this is not only and this is not only nationwide, this will go worldwide. All eyes will be on this, and this is a great opportunity to grow.

DAVIS: And also, I would say, from a New York standpoint, with more than 50,000 participants and two million spectators in person and millions more on television, this one day in New York has a larger participation and fan base than a number of our professional sports teams do in a season.

So it is a huge deal in New York, and that’s translated because of New York’s stature as a world city across the country and across the world, as Rob points out.

 

Which Americans are you sort of high on right now? Or do you see anyone moving up through the ranks?

STORM: I think Desi Linden, I want to see, John. I don’t know about you, but she finished 10 in Boston, came a couple of seconds within winning in 2011. I’m interested to see her in this race and what she can do. She’s making her debut here. She’s really methodical, known for going out with a plan and sticking to it no matter what. So I’m interested in seeing her.

John, I think you mentioned Kara Goucher, right? She’s back here for the first time since ’08.

And talk about men running in their 30s, and you look at these women who are changing their training methods and coming back sort of rejuvenated and running at later and later ages. I think she’ll be interesting.

And Deena Kastor, I guess. Those would be like the American women that I would be looking for. I think, as John alluded to, you might have a real shot at seeing them finish or more American women finishing higher up than the men.

ANDERSON: Yeah, those two, and Kleppin I think, who’s only run a couple of marathons. I think this will be her third. And dropped her time so dramatically from her first marathon in Carlsbad to L.A., and has trained with Deena Kastor. I think there’s room for improvement there. So she could surprise. The first time people run New York might be a little more difficult. Goucher may be the exception, came in and ran what is still the fastest American women time on that course.

But I think Goucher and Desi are probably the two most likely, but I think they’re more likely to finish on the podium than an American man. I say that not knowing which Meb will show up. While Deena Kastor will be an exceptional talent to watch, I don’t think that ‑‑ it’s a nice story for her, and she’s done wonderful things, but I think chasing Masters records is different than chasing up front.

STORM: But at 41, I’m pretty fascinated to see what she’ll do.

ANDERSON: Absolutely.

STORM: It’s just pretty amazing. Inspirational story nonetheless, right?

ANDERSON: I find her and Meb at 39, they’re either inspirational or really depressing for people going, good God, I’m 41, and I don’t even want to get out of bed and walk nine holes. I want to take a golf cart. They’re one of two things. I’m not sure there’s a happy medium when you sit there.

POWERS: I’m guessing the NYRR would be very happy with Kara or Desi on the podium at the end of this thing. Those are the two that are going to carry the flag in this race. Men, it’s Meb right now, hopefully in the future we get more guys up there. But I agree with the other two.

 

I’d like to follow up a little bit on the increase in coverage with the 38 cameras, and you can go back a little bit and tell how over the years you have been able to increase coverage and what that allows you to do in addition to maybe just focusing on the leaders, different kinds of stories you can tell to relate to the audiences, the huge audience you have.

MAYER: We have been producing the marathon now for close to 20 years, and when we first started out, to your point, we had the lead men, lead women, some coverage at the start, some coverage at the finish, and through for a lot of reasons, we’ve just been able to add and add and add some more. Now, we’ve got two vehicles that cover the lead men, and then we have another vehicle moto that covers the second pack of men, same thing for the women.

We’ve got a moto that’s dedicated to the wheelchair race, which, again, is really exciting. We haven’t even mentioned one of the great stories, Tatyana McFadden, who we’ll be covering from the very start of her race all the way through to the finish. We’ve got a camera dedicated to the wheelchair race, and that’s something that we’ve added in recent years.

As we talked about, we have David Willey out on the course, and he’s out, roving reporter, and the technology now presents itself that we can immediately take him live at various parts of the course all throughout the course, interviewing some of those great human interest stories. Helicopters up in the air that cover the race. And we also have a reporter in the air, John Del Giorno, who’s joining us this year in the air.

11 cameras at the start line, 19 at the finish. We’ve got this race covered. And to your point, Fred, it has completely changed over the year, little by little, but to the point where we really feel comfortable that, if there is a story that happens, we’ve got it.

One of the things we haven’t even mentioned on this call, the addition for us on the women’s bike of Paula Radcliffe, three‑time New York City Marathon champion, who’s joining us for the first ever time, and she’ll be able to provide us commentary right next to, and that’s another two bikes. We have a men’s moto and a women’s moto, where we provide commentary right next to the runners, and Paula does the honors on the women, and Tony does the honor for us on the men’s.

And Paula’s perspective, being a three‑time champ, knowing every nook and cranny of the New York course, I think, for us, is just a huge addition to our coverage.

So it’s grown over the years, and we hope that it continues to grow. We feel like we’ve got it covered.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports (please excuse any typos).

 

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Allie Stoneberg

I advance ESPN’s communications and publicity efforts for NFL studio programming, Monday Night Football, the NFL Draft and our coverage of the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. I enjoy meeting journalists in person at games and events and delight in showing them around our Bristol, Conn., campus.
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