Why ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’ Hosts Have the Most Fun in Sports TV

Michelle Beadle, Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley tell TheWrap how they can push the envelope in ways the network’s other shows can’t

Last Updated: August 7, 2015 @ 5:39 PM

The sky is literally the limit on ESPN’s “SportsNation,” where the motto is “ask forgiveness rather than permission,” according to its energetic hosts.

Michelle Beadle, Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley lead the on-air party that was originally based on a fan forum and poll section of ESPN.com. Delivering what the fans want still remains a guiding mantra with viewer-generated content and surveillance of social media trends.

“Unlike other [ESPN] shows, we don’t delve super-deep into the serious issues, although the three of us oftentimes have opinions on them,” Beadle told TheWrap. But controversial news topics, such as Tom Brady’s ongoing Deflategate scandal, “are the conversations every sports fan is having, so we’re closer to reflecting that than we are reporting on it like shows like ‘Outside the Lines’ would.”

While she holds her tongue on the show, the outspoken Beadle has been known to fire back on Twitter at fellow ESPN staffers, such as “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith, who made insensitive comments about domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal.

ESPN

ESPN

Usually however, instead of focusing on trade controversies or the latest NFL player arrest the team gets to have a blast, such as a recent episode when they built a BattleBot inspired by the competitive robots’ return to ABC for a new show.

Sadly, the BeadleBot was horribly outweighed by it’s mechanical rival, Lock-Jaw and was quickly destroyed in the glass area specially-built within “SportsNation’s” Los Angeles studio. “It was a massacre. I am actually surprised we lasted as long as we did,” said Beadle, who had her face plastered on the makeshift robot that was created by a 13-year-old viewer.

Stunts like that “definitely take time and planning; we didn’t know what we were getting into. We thought the BattleBot could just roll around on the studio floor,” producer Richelle Markazene revealed.

The segment is typical of “SportsNation’s” philosophy of trying anything once and “if it works we keep using it and if it doesn’t work, we lose it,” Kellerman said. “We can try anything once,” Wiley, who was a Pro Bowl defensive end in the NFL before turning to broadcasting, added. “We ask for forgiveness not permission, then get a slap on the wrist and come back the next day.”

“SportsNation” has had dinosaurs, Transformers, puppies, Chris Tucker and even George Clooney invade the studio, plus segments dedicated to “Game of Thrones,” “Saved by the Bell” and “Star Wars,” when the whole set was decorated like the Millennium Falcon.

“I found myself on the set dressed up as Boba Fett talking about sports in L.A.,” Kellerman recalled,  “I was thinking, ‘If you could tell 8-year-old Max’ … it’s every kid’s dream.”

ESPN

ESPN

But even the most jovial of hosts — who play social media-driven games like Winners and Losers, Jeers of the Month and the HashTag Game, and once challenged Rob Gronkowski to beer pong — have to watch what they say on Twitter.

“I can’t always say what I want because I have my own personal career [to think about] … plus it’s not smart,” Beadle said. But aside from not swearing, “I don’t really filter what I want to talk about, and treat it like it’s [my own account].” But “I know the suits don’t really think that.”

Wiley avoids getting into any confrontations on Twitter: “If we go into a deep discussion in 140 characters, who is going to win? I learned early on to keep the happy face on and respond to those who are positive.”

Kellerman’s policy is to remember that they all work for Mickey Mouse. “I am aware that this is a Disney company and as a parent of three little girls, I know that if it is a Disney product, I can sit my kids in front of it and I don’t have to worry,” he said. “So I am conscious of that on Twitter — I don’t want to say something on social media that someone would have to worry about.”

“SportsNation” airs daily on ESPNESPN2 and ESPNews. “BattleBots” airs Sundays on ABC at 9 p.m.