SC Featured, ESPN SportsCenter’s award-winning storytelling brand, will open its new season this weekend with the story of the bond between former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a man who served as his interpreter in Afghanistan and he assisted in immigrating to the United States.
Since its debut in 2013, the SC Featured brand has brought unique and compelling feature stories to ESPN’s flagship news and information program. SC Featured stories air on SportsCenter during the months of the NFL offseason, debuting in the Sunday 10 a.m. ET edition with a re-air in the 11 p.m. program and at other times throughout the day.
“Over the years we’ve presented SC Featured stories that have made people think, made them laugh, made them cry and everything in-between,” said Victor Vitarelli, senior coordinating producer, ESPN Features Unit, which produces SC Featured. “The power of sports shines through in every story. Our goal with every piece is to surprise and entertain the viewer.”
“Brothers in Arms”
The Villanueva feature “Brothers in Arms” will have an early debut of Saturday, Feb. 11, in the 11 p.m. edition of SportsCenter that follows that night’s Golden State Warriors-Oklahoma City Thunder NBA matchup (ABC, 8:30 p.m.). The piece will re-air the next day.
Before he became the starting left tackle for the Steelers, Villanueva served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. While there, as Ashley Fox reports, he forged a bond with his Afghan interpreter, Mohammad Arif Azimi. After U.S. troops left Afghanistan, Azimi’s life was in danger as Taliban forces were seeking retribution for his role in assisting the American soldiers. Villanueva helped Azimi immigrate to the United States 16 months ago on a special immigrant visa. Last weekend, SC Featured was with Villanueva as he reconnected with an old and trusted friend he had not seen since 2012.
What’s Ahead This Season
SC Featured broke new ground in 2016 with the multiplatform presentation of Pin Kings, one of ESPN’s most ambitious storytelling initiatives ever, and the multiplatform projects will continue in 2017 with several new offerings.
Among the new projects will be an examination of small-town, six-man high school football, which is played at more than 200 high schools in Texas, including the smallest public schools across the state. In addition to a Sunday SC Featured segment, the presentation also will include a six-part written component with digital video features.
Other SC Featured pieces airing in the coming months include:
ARTHUR – During the 2014 Adventure Racing World Championships in Ecuador, a group of Swedish racers had their sights set on a gold medal but instead formed an unlikely bond with a stray and wounded dog. The narrative spans from the depths of the Amazon jungle to a small village in Sweden, 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and captures the timeless bond between dog and human.
ANTHONY RIZZO – After battling cancer, Anthony Rizzo was repeatedly knocked down again on the baseball field, overcoming two trades and two demotions to the minor leagues before emerging as the cleanup hitter and clubhouse leader of the World Champion Chicago Cubs. SC Featured takes viewers to Rizzo’s hometown of Parkland, Fla., where he spent this off-season surrounded by his family and friends.
Since its creation 14 years ago, the ESPN Features Unit has received 67 Sports Emmy Award nominations resulting in 13 Emmys. In 2016, SC Featured received an Outstanding Short Sports Documentary Emmy for “No Excuses,” a profile of seven-year old wrestler Isaiah Bird who was born without legs.
SC Featured also won two Edward R. Murrow Awards in 2016, including one in the Feature Reporting category for “The Courage Game,” the story of 12-year-old gay lacrosse player Braeden Lange, who connected with one of the sport’s trailblazers, Andrew Goldstein. In addition, the Sports Reporting category award went to the SC Featured piece “Miraculous,” the story of Austin Hatch, who survived two plane crashes that killed family members and returned from injuries to realize his dream of playing basketball for the University of Michigan.
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