ESPN anchor Brian Kenny this week makes his first-ever visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he'll host a live edition of SportsCenter following Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
Kenny's trip is part of ESPN's plan to bring SportsCenter to 50 states in 50 days. "SportsCenter Across America," as it's being called, started July 17 in Boston and concludes Sept. 4 in Waukesha, Wis. (ESPN says the Indianapolis show is one of the few that won't be done in front of a live audience; they'll broadcast from the second floor of the Speedway's media center. But fans are invited to hang around outside, wave signs and cheer).
Kenny, who's been with ESPN since 1997, is surprised to find himself here, given that he's more of a baseball and boxing guy. So the interview had to start like this:
Q: Did you draw the short straw?
A: You know, I'm really looking forward to it. I didn't expect it, but it'll give me a chance to get out there and have a greater appreciation of the sport. I always like talking to the guys, and I like watching it. I'm not a die-hard fan, but anytime you can get out in the field and see the event and meet the people in the field, it helps enormously.
Q: When the 50 cities in 50 days idea came up, what did you think?
A: I didn't know what to think. And now that I've watched it, it's funny. Anchors will have conversations. I talked to Linda Cohn about it over the weekend - we did a SportsCenter - and we've both really enjoyed it. We have a tendency to go to the events that draw the most interest and the largest fan base, and that's mostly the pro sports and the big-time college sports. And here, we're at county fairs, we're doing wind-surfing, we're at all sorts of different festivals. It's bringing out a cross-section of people we wouldn't ordinarily have on our network. I think that's great.
Q: Have you heard much public reaction?
A: No. I just know we're talking about it. In many ways, there'd be more critics here if we didn't like it because we're all in the business and we all have a critical eye about what works and what doesn't work, what's real and what's a gimmick. Universally, people here really enjoy it. And all those little vignettes Chris Berman does - "Welcome to Oregon" - we all watch those things and say, "Oh, I didn't know that." They come up with clever things.
Q: It seems that Indianapolis is not really known in the country beyond sports. Is that your impression?
A: Probably. It's known as a sports hotbed nationally.
Q: Any predictions about who's going to win the race?
A: I could say Tony Stewart, but I really don't know. That's what my experts tell me. But I have no idea.