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This is SportsCenter is a series of comical television commercials run by ESPN to promote their SportsCenter sports news show that debuted in 1995, based on the show's opening tagline. The ads are presented in a deadpan mockumentary style, lampooning various aspects of sports, and sports broadcasting. The New York office of advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, of Portland, Oregon, was responsible for the writing and production of the commercials until 2017, with ESPN taking over production in-house since 2018.
A few of the ads are available for free on iTunes while many ads are available for viewing through the official ESPN YouTube channel.
Guest appearances by sports figures
A notable feature of the commercials is the seeming ubiquity of famous athletes on the ESPN campus. Some are even depicted doing menial, everyday tasks, usually while wearing their game uniforms. Athletes often have their idiosyncrasies parodied—for example, gymnast Kerri Strug being carried around ESPN headquarters because of her famous ankle injury.
Many commercials in the series have derived their humor from parodying conventional professional sports practices, by applying them to working for SportsCenter:
- A spot from the early 2000s had Michelle Kwan sitting on a couch just off-set with Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen seeing their ratings, and finding out they're not popular in Texas. The ad was a parody of figure skaters receiving their scores from the kiss and cry area.
- One ad has former anchor Rich Eisen being "sent down to the minors" (in his case, working for a high-school TV service, where two students asked him to buy them some beer, a request he declined to honor).
- San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman replaces anchor Kenny Mayne for the show's "Did You Know?" segment, similar to relieving the starting pitcher in a baseball game.
- The network drafting a can't-miss anchor prospect out of high school, only to see him flame out on the job ("Jimmy Key, what is he 45? I could hit him!") and ESPN discovering that "he just came out too soon", à la how basketball players leave school early and "flame out".
- John Buccigross wearing the "anchor-cam", a parody of MLB catchers wearing "catcher-cam" during ESPN and FOX's MLB telecasts.
- Charley Steiner being "traded" to Melrose Place in exchange for Andrew Shue.
- One rather infamous spot is the making of the SportsCenter swimsuit calendar, featuring Bill Pidto, Stuart Scott and Linda Cohn in various states of revealing swimwear.
- One ad featured Stuart Scott recalling various anchor's 'Perfect Shows' ("Bob Ley had his in '89, Steiner in '91"), and how Dan Patrick "had one going last season". It then cuts to the set to show the various crew members and co-anchor Kenny Mayne refusing to speak or even make eye-contact with Patrick during commercial breaks, similar to how in baseball it is considered bad luck to talk in the dugout to a pitcher who takes a no-hitter or perfect game into the late innings. Patrick ultimately slips up though, declaring on air "That of course is the kind of thing that can't never happen in a playoff race", and he is crushed as an "umpire" in the control booth declares he has used a double negative. Scott wraps up the spot by saying "In the end, he just let it get away from him."
- A parody of post-game interviewing finds a dejected Kenny Mayne and an upbeat Dan Patrick asked about their performances in that evening's broadcast in "locker room" interviews.
- The carpet in the ESPN headquarters is replaced with grass to prevent injuries, a parody of the controversy over injuries sustained by football players competing on AstroTurf (in the ad, ESPN workers are shown tripping on the carpet). The anchors have to yell over the sound of the lawn mower cutting the grass in the studio.
- One spot from the mid-90s had SportsCenter being 'relocated', lampooning the trend of team owners threatening city (and in some cases state) governments with relocation to get what they want. In the ad, Hair Club for Men founder Sy Sperling is depicted as the owner of SportsCenter, announcing at a press conference he is relocating to "the city of the future - Bristol, CT." He raves about free parking, more luxury boxes, and the availability of high-quality fruits and vegetables. Sperling wraps up the ad by saying, "I'd have loved to stay in California, but those bastards in Sacramento low-balled me", seeming to spoof the recent departure of both the Raiders and Rams from Los Angeles, both because of their unsatisfactory stadiums. In reality, SportsCenter was always based in Bristol since the show's inception in 1979.
- In a 1997 ad, Dan Patrick and Kenny Mayne are shown signing off a typical SportsCenter broadcast, and are then given sombreros, and they begin broadcasting the Spanish version of SportsCenter (with a mariachi version of the show's theme). While Bob Ley explains that they redo the show for overseas markets ("Same highlights, same anchors, different dialects"), they are also shown giving Russian and German versions a try, replete with national costumes, and the SportsCenter theme redone for those cultures.
- In a recent ad, Scott Van Pelt asks spelling bee champion David Tidmarsh to help him by spelling "Pujols". In true spelling bee tradition, Tidmarsh asks for the team (St. Louis Cardinals), country of origin (Dominican Republic), and for the word to be used in a sentence ("Pujols homered to win the game."), then slowly spells the word while Van Pelt cuts him off, saying "I found it online, got it."
- A 2005 ad begins with John Anderson commenting that Scott Van Pelt had been on a run of unbelievable shows, accompanied by footage of Van Pelt using numerous 'big-syllable' words ("A-Rod exhibits inordinate aptitude in spheroidical aviation!"); Anderson then sadly reveals that Scott had been using "performance enhancers", showing Van Pelt's cubicle being raided by FBI agents who discover a thesaurus. Van Pelt attempts to flee and is wrestled to the ground by the agents, shouting out, "Unhand me, you rapscallion!" The ad spoofed the recent steroid controversy in baseball surrounding players such as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, with a dejected Anderson concluding, "We gotta win back a lot of trust."
- A 2006 ad shows Scott Van Pelt and Stuart Scott jumping and stretching before a show, similar to what NBA players do before games. The ad ends with both men easily taking off their "warm-up suits" revealing their show suits underneath.
- In one ad Stuart Scott discusses "Rain Delays" and says that every so often there is one. Then they cut to a show where a leak from a pipe above the stage causes a grounds crew to come out and lay a tarp on the set. The anchors and grounds crew members are seen calling loved ones and chewing gum similarly to baseball players and fans. Scott says "You just hope it lets up."
- A 2007 ad features how a SportsCenter video game is made (this ad is a take on the sports video game craze).
- A 2008 ad features a coin toss between anchors Jay Harris and Brian Kenny to determine who will start the show.
- A 2008 ad features how SportsCenter viewers can decide which highlights to air via text messaging. They can choose one of the three options: have John Anderson read the highlights, have Jay Harris read the high lights or have a roller-skating cockatoo dunk a basketball. In the end, they chose the latter.
- A 2008 ad has anchors Steve Levy and John Anderson answering phone calls from viewers in a parody of sports call-in shows (including ESPN Radio).
- A 2008 ad has Scott Van Pelt and Neil Everett being "represented" by Drew Rosenhaus at the cafeteria. Rosenhaus negotiates the cost of their lunches from $23.50 down to $15, using many familiar tactics of player contract negotiation (For example: "What if I guarantee we'll be back tomorrow and give you an option for Friday?") Rosenhaus also offers to throw in incentives for extra chocolate pudding, with Van Pelt quickly piping up, "I want sprinkles."
- Van Pelt appeared in another sports agent spoof alongside "megaagent" Scott Boras. In the ad, Boras (known throughout baseball for his hardline negotiating tactics) represents Van Pelt, demanding (among other things) that the company name a sandwich after him in the cafeteria since Scott "uses more five-syllable words than any other anchor". When Boras demands an incentive clause allowing Scott to wear a Snuggie on-air for a year should he win an Emmy Award, the ESPN execs agree to "everything but the Snuggie", to which a stone-faced Boras replies, "We're gonna need the Snuggie."
- A recent ad features John Anderson being taken in a company expansion draft by ESPN Deportes. On a show, all he manages is "Hola!"
- A 2008 ad features the pit crews of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson helping anchors Scott Van Pelt and Neil Everett getting ready for the next segment during the commercial.
- A 2008 ad has anchor John Buccigross getting the ax and rallying for his job in a shopping center in a parody of coaches and managers getting fired.
- A 2007 ad has Jimmie Johnson using a pickaxe to slowly destroy a speed bump in the ESPN parking lot, as you see his race car near him, obviously too low to pass the bumps.
- A 2009 ad featured anchor John Anderson discussing that SportsCenter does do halftime shows, but unfortunately when the announcer introduces the hip-hop group the Jabbawockeez, many ESPN employees including anchors Brian Kenny and John Buccigross get out of the studio believing that the dance team looked like ghosts.
- A 2009 ad has anchor Jay Harris giving fellow anchor Brian Kenny a pep talk in the digital center, telling him "to concentrate".
- A 2010 ad has anchor Stuart Scott discussing how SportsCenter anchors get along despite having "different" personalities.
- A 2010 ad features various anchors doing charitable work throughout Bristol, Connecticut.
- A 2011 ad features various SportsCenter anchors capitalizing on the Twitter craze.
Sports mascots and cheerleaders are usually present in most ads, implying they work behind the scenes at ESPN. They are often seen casually milling around in the background, but occasionally they take on an active role:
- In a 2003 ad, when the show ends, everyone rushes out of the studio, creating a massive traffic jam. It then shows Mr. Met and Lady Met driving home on the freeway (with the Met children in the back), with Lady Met subtitled as saying they were glad to get out early. The New York Mets theme song, "Meet the Mets", is on their car radio. (A shorter version with just the Mets family has Lady Met accusing Mr. Met of making eyes at one of the female ESPN sportscasters.)
- Mr. Met subsequently would take a lead role in a 2009 ad in which he is talking with Stuart Scott at a microwave. When Josh Hamilton shows up to use the microwave, Mr. Met angrily gestures at him and walks away. Hamilton is confused until Scott reveals that some of the balls Hamilton hit in the 2008 Home Run Derby were his cousins.
- Boston University's mascot, Rhett, appears in two "on-campus" spots in 2001. In one, he frustrates ESPN's doctor, who is trying to find his pulse. In the other, he joins Curt Schilling, Jesper Parnevik, Kenny Mayne, Stewart Scott, Linda Cohn, and others in spreading "the wave" around Bristol.
- Wake Forest University's mascot, the Demon Deacon, appears in a commercial featuring David Wright of the New York Mets, wherein Wright, John Anderson, and Neil Everett lampoon the baseball practice of covering the mouth with the glove while speaking on the field so that the opposing team cannot read the speaker's lips — they discuss where they are to meet for a party later that evening while covering their mouths, Wright with his glove, the anchors with folders.
- Billy the Marlin, the Florida Marlins' mascot, which always has an open mouth, is startled to find his "girlfriend," Andrea Kremer, kissing another SportsCenter anchor.
- The San Diego Chicken, who is seen pulling practical jokes all over the ESPN building; it is revealed at the end of the commercial that inside the costume was Pete Sampras, playing against his image as being humorless and robotic.
- Syracuse University's Otto the Orange, who gets punched by Charley Steiner after Steiner is described as being a boxing enthusiast.
- Sparty, the Michigan State Spartans' mascot, receives the final handoff of gymnast Kerri Strug as she is carried around the studio. The image is an obvious allusion to US gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi carrying the injured Strug to accept her team gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.
- Steve Irwin ("The Crocodile Hunter") wrestled with Albert E. Gator when he spotted the Florida Gators mascot stepping out of an elevator.
- Big Red, the mascot of Western Kentucky University, is confused over which restroom to use until Rich Eisen instructs it to "use the woods out back."
- Stuart Scott gets food for the Milwaukee Brewers Racing Sausages. The Hot Dog chooses a hot dog, which causes Scott to remark "That's sick", then the Italian Sausage asks for pizza; the Sausages also appear in a 2007 spot where they chase the SportsCenter anchors down the halls of the ESPN studios, parodying Pamplona's Running of the Bulls.
- Sam the Minuteman, the mascot for the UMass Minutemen, knocks a tennis ball away from Andy Roddick as Roddick bounces it off his racket into the air in a waiting room.
- The Stanford Tree stares at anchor John Anderson after he throws a crumpled up piece of paper in the garbage can. Anderson is guilted into taking the paper out of the garbage and puts it into the recycling bin. The Tree makes another appearance in another ad where Jason Heyward describes to several anchors, in grisly detail, how a tree is cut into making his bat, which causes the Tree to faint.
- The Boston Red Sox mascot, Wally the Green Monster, reacts in shock after seeing Red Sox star David Ortiz wearing a New York Yankees hat. Ortiz was really just trying to break in the hat for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
- Rutgers University's Scarlet Knight appears in the Y2K episode chasing and then stomping on the University of Connecticut Husky, who was attempting to steal trophies in the chaos.
- In a 2002 ad, anchors Scott Van Pelt and Rich Eisen are saying some nonsensical words; as it turns out, it's none other than Boston Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster controlling the teleprompter until he is stopped by a producer. It's also the only Sportscenter commercial where the closing graphic "This is SportsCenter" doesn't appear at the end of the commercial. Instead it's replaced by "This is Spilifantrr", a take on the spot.
- The Blue Blob, a mascot of Xavier University, is shown eating Jim Kelly's NFL Hall of Fame jacket after beating him in rock paper scissors. Kelly then asks for best 2 out of 3, the Blue Blob declines.
- Brutus Buckeye, mascot for the Ohio State University, appears in the background performing Richard Simmons' conditioning exercises. He falls down in the end.
- A 2008 ad features the New York Jets Flight Crew asking anchor Chris McKendry advice on romantic relationships with players.
- A 2008 ad features former NASCAR driver and ESPN NASCAR analyst Rusty Wallace eating lunch with the University of Delaware mascot YoUDee, but when Wallace can't eat his entire lunch, he gives the rest of his lunch to YoUDee and the mascot was able to swallow the food in one gulp.
- A 2008 ad has the University of Kansas mascot Big Jay working at the answering service when John Anderson's voice is heard on the answering machine.
- A 2008 ad has the New Jersey Devils mascot NJ Devil on an elevator when Jay Harris asks: "Goin Up?" and the Devil shakes his head, implying the Devil is using the elevator to descend to Hell. Harris then steps out of the elevator.
- A 2009 ad shows the thermostat in the office with a sign saying "Do Not Touch". The Pittsburgh Penguins' mascot, Iceburgh comes over and turns the temperature down. As the "This is Sportscenter" title is shown, NJ Devil comes over to turn the temperature back up.
- A 2009 ad features the UMass mascot, Sam the Minuteman, in a commercial about Brett Favre's comeback. The segment begins with Josh Elliot finding out Favre is coming back and words spreads from the copy room to the mail room to Brian Kenny and finally to Jay Harris, who alerts Sam the Minuteman of the comeback. Sam puts two lanterns in the window as Scott Van Pelt and Stuart Scott walk by, trying to figure out if it was one lantern or two to signify a comeback.
- A 2009 ad features the Oregon Duck in the office typing on the computer, the duck stops typing as he hears real ducks quacking from a pond outside the office. The mascot then leans back in his chair and lets out a sigh as the "This is SportsCenter" title is shown.
- In a 2010 ad, anchor Hannah Storm is seen washing her hands when the Milwaukee Brewers' mascot, Bernie Brewer enters the ladies' room. Storm tells the mascot to use the men's restroom.
- A 2010 ad features the Tennessee Volunteers mascot Smokey being told by Vince Doria not to bring animals to the studio. A dejected costumed Smokey then walks away in disgust.
- A 2010 ad features Josh Elliott coming out of the studio. While on his way to his car, he sees the Chicago White Sox mascot Southpaw and asks him if he wants a ride. Southpaw declines the offer.
- A 2010 ad features Steve Levy drinking water out of a fountain. Boxer Floyd Mayweather then splashes himself with the water before the Michigan State mascot Sparty attempts to drink the water as the "This is Sportscenter" graphic is shown.
- A 2010 ad features Derek Jeter in the ESPN men's locker room about to shave when he notices green hair in his razor. He asks ESPN employees Stuart Scott, Karl Ravech and Josh Elliot if they used his razor to which all answer in the negative. The color of the hair in the razor isn't acknowledged by any party, as the Phillie Phanatic walks by with a towel around his waist, seemingly exiting from a shower. Jeter greets the Phanatic with a "(What)'sup, man" still baffled by who used his razor.
- A 2010 ad features anchors John Buccigross and Dari Nowkhah coming out of the men's room complaining how bad it smells and then the Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger comes out with toilet paper popping out of his butt.
- A 2010 ad features the Georgia Bulldogs mascot who runs through the cupboards of the ESPN kitchen until he finally finds some animal crackers.
- A 2011 ad features the Maryland Terrapins mascot Testudo arriving late at a pre-show meeting.
- A 2011 ad features the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot Pirate Parrot finding some crackers in the garbage after anchor Dari Nowkhah throws them away.
- A 2011 ad starts with Joey Votto and Karl Ravech washing their hands in the bathroom while Ravech raves about how he will win a mustache contest, as Cincinnati Reds mascot Mr. Redlegs emerges from a stall. Votto tells Ravech "good luck with that" while Ravech tells Mr. Redlegs he will win the contest.
- A 2012 ad features Bucky Badger, mascot for University of Wisconsin, looking at online pictures of Wilma Wildcat, mascot for University of Arizona, on his computer, then quickly minimizes it when Hannah Storm stops by, asking Bucky if a story he's working on will be ready. When Hannah leaves, Bucky promptly returns to looking at pictures of Wilma.
- A 2012 ad featuring anchor Jay Harris and Chicago Bulls mascot Benny the Bull playing darts.
- A 2013 ad features Michigan State University's Sparty and Rutger's Scarlet Knight. The mascots are in the SportsCenter break room, making protein shakes. Sparty is putting protein shake powder in a blender container when anchor Jay Harris comes in with banana, yogurt and strawberries and asks "hey fellas, you using both blenders?". Both mascots stare at Harris awkwardly and Sparty deliberately turns on the blender. Harris leaves in frustration.
- A 2013 ad features the Western Kentucky mascot, Big Red, trying and failing to climb into Brad Keselowski's race car trying to get a ride home. Keselowski suggests that Red ride with Kevin Negandhi, who is leaving for the night, but Red continues to try to get in despite the fact he cannot fit.
- A 2014 ad has U.S. women's soccer players Hope Solo and Alex Morgan playing keepie uppie with T.D., mascot for the Miami Dolphins. Jay Harris asks to join in, and promptly loses control of the ball, much to the frustration of the others.
- As part of the buildup toward Super Bowl XLVIII, Jay Crawford and Steve Levy are in an elevator which is boarded by Miles, the Denver Broncos mascot. Shortly before the elevator door closes the Seattle Seahawks' mascot, Blitz, who promptly knocks a clipboard out of Miles' hands. Miles responds by touching all of the floor buttons on the elevator and leaving, with Blitz chasing him. Crawford and Levy lament that this was only the beginning of Super Bowl week and there is still more to come.
- In a follow-up ad, Miles is in the men's restroom as he tries to put on a Seahawks jersey while being mocked by Stuart Scott following a lost bet.
- A 2015 ad has the Stanford Tree shredding some papers while being mocked by anchor Kevin Connors since paper is made from trees.
- A 2016 ad features anchor John Anderson holding a post-show press conference in a parody of pre-game and post-game news conferences. However, the "reporters" turned out to be mascots Wally, Mr. Met, Slugggrrr, Billy the Marlin, Clark the Cub and the Phillie Phanatic.
- A 2016 ad features Miami Marlins mascot Billy the Marlin allegedly pulling a prank on Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte by tossing some tuna fish on Lochte's keyboard.
- A 2017 ad features a collection of mascots attempting to hold a conference call. Because all of them are mute, and respond only by nodding or shaking their heads, the person on the other end of the line mistakenly believes the phone line is dead.
- A 2017 ad features Boston Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster working as a meteorologist but he gets in the way of the forecast and ends up getting replaced by Seattle Mariners mascot the Mariner Moose.
- A 2019 ad features ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney grabbing some honey only to be confronted by Chicago Cubs mascot Clark the Cub.