Two weeks ago, 100 on-air personalities and reporters got pink slips from sports media giant ESPN. And while the jobs of Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap, two of the longest-tenured and most respected journalists in the industry, were never in any jeopardy — but that doesn’t mean the “Outside the Lines” and “E:60” hosts didn’t feel the effect.
TheWrap spoke with both Ley and Schaap exactly eight business days after the Bristol Bloodbath. Among the other topics covered — a few of which we’ll get to tomorrow — we asked those reporters where they were when the news broke, and how morale at the network has been since.
Ley was on the Acela train that fateful Wednesday, heading to Philadelphia for the NFL Draft. And despite the sadness surrounding the company, the Pennsylvania megalopolis lived up to its moniker of being the City of Brotherly Love.
“I had strangers coming up to me to console me …. about the loss of friends and colleagues,” Ley, who joined ESPN on just its third day in September 1979, recalled. “Which tells you the connection that our network — more specifically, our colleagues — had and have with our viewers. We have fans, not just viewers.”
“Look, it’s been a real tough time,” the longest-tenured on-air ESPN employee added. “You try and move on, but I spent a good portion of the weekend speaking with our friends … you can empathize, but you can’t understand unless you’ve been in that situation. It’s very difficult.”
As for Schaap, well, he wasn’t at the company’s Bristol, Connecticut, headquarters either, nor was he in his usual New York City office. The second-generation Worldwide Leader in Sports star was shooting a piece in Cleveland that day with Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas — and even big, tough football players were shaken over the layoffs.
“He [Thomas] was asking me, ‘What’s going on in Bristol?'” Schaap recalled. “He felt terrible.”
The son of beloved sportscaster Dick Schaap has a theory on why we all cared so much about this particular bad news dump — even for the people we’ve never met, or the smaller names we weren’t familiar with.
“People feel connected to ESPN in a way that they don’t to almost any other kind of media they consume,” he said. “People grew up watching Bob, people grew up watching my dad. They take it personally in a way that — you know, I should be accustomed to it, but I’m not. It always surprises me.”
Check back with TheWrap tomorrow for more from our interview with “OTL” host Bob Ley and “E:60” frontman Jeremy Schaap.