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ESPN the Weekend Archives

March 10, 2011

ESPN The Weekend Recap

Andrew Rossi

Guest blogger Andrew Rossi recaps the exciting events and activities that took place during this year's ESPN The Weekend held March 4-6 at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

ESPN Weekend Signage

Two of my major passions are sports and Disney, and ESPN The Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios offers the perfect combination of the two. This year marked the eighth anniversay of ESPN The Weekend, but it has really grown in size and prominence over the years. Over the course of three days this past weekend, March 4-6, the Hollywood Studios was transformed into a sport fan's paradise with an impressive lineup of sports greats and many well-known ESPN personalities.

This year included possibly the most star-studded collection of athletes to date, ranging from NFL Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Darrell Green to current stars such as Donald Driver and Greg Jennings of the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. There were also NBA legends Karl Malone and Julius Irving, soccer great Mia Hamm, and baseball stars of past an present, including Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven and Cal Ripken Jr. as well as current stars like Mariano Rivera, Cliff Lee, and Justin Verlander just to name a few.

One of the great things about the ESPN Weekend is that it is truly all about the fans. You normally just get to see these athletes and ESPN personalities on television, but here you actually have the opportunity to interact with them. It was amazing for me to get to see people whom I so greatly admire, not only the athletes but also the men and women that I often watch on ESPN, such as Sports Center anchor Linda Cohn, Monday Night Football analyst Ron Jaworski, and college basketball guru Dick Vitale.

There is so much to do at the ESPN Weekend that you can literally go nonstop from park opening to close and still not see everything. The weekend's activities range from the taping of live ESPN shows to question and answer sessions with athletes, sports trivia game shows, and celebrity motorcades. The best piece of advice I have is to get to the park early and be sure to grab an event times guide. There are often multiple events going on in different locations throughout park at the same time. The best thing is to plan in advance what events you want to attend and which athletes you would like to see the most. This will really help you maximize you experience.

Another tip: If you are coming to the Hollywood Studios for the ESPN Weekend do not plan on going on many rides while you are here. With so many special events going on, you will be hard pressed to find time to do anything else. I was at the park for all three days and did not go on a single ride. If you are a Florida local that gets to the parks frequently this will not necessarily be an issue. However, if you are vacationing and want to experience the ESPN Weekend in addition to all the attractions the park has to offer, be sure to schedule another day to enjoy the rides and shows. At the same time, if you are vacationing and are not really interested in the ESPN Weekend, I would suggest avoiding Hollywood Studios altogether on those days and plan to go into the park some time during the week. The park is much more crowded this weekend than it would typically be this time of year (although I did find Friday to be the least crowded of the three days).

Here is a look at some of the things you can expect to see at the ESPN Weekend:

Friday's events kicked off with the live filming of ESPN's First Take. The show featured appearances by a variety of sports stars and the hosts even came down off the stage to interact with fans during the commercial breaks.

First Take Filming

Dana Jacobson

Jay Crawford

All the live shows filmed this weekend were at a stage set up in front of the Sorceror's Hat. If you want to be close to the stage for the filmings, I would recommend getting there at least a half an hour ahead of time. Other live shows filmed this weekend included half-hour editions of Baseball Tonight and NFL Live on Friday in addition to a two-hour Baseball Tonight special on Sunday. It is a great opportunity to see all the hard work that goes into producing these shows.

Baseball Tonight Filming

Bobby Valentine

Tim Tebow Interview

Another highlight of the weekend are the celebrity motorcades that process down Hollywood Boulevard toward the Hat Stage. The motorcades generally feature three or four athletes who then take part in a question and answer session on stage hosted by one of the ESPN personalities. These motorcades feature past and present athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB and offer some great photo opportunities.

Cal Ripken Motorcade

Chad Ochocinco Motorcade

Julius Irving Motorcade

Urban Meyer Motorcade

I was surprised to find that it was not very hard to find a spot along the motorcade route; you could arrive just a couple of minutes ahead of time and still get a good spot to view the athletes.

In addition to the events taking place at the Hat Stage, there are also sports panels and Q&A sessions with the athletes that take place inside the Premiere Theater, which is located behind the San Francisco facade on the Streets of America (the location of the former Hunchback of Notre Dame show). The events held here are a great opportunity for fans to interact with the athletes. I am always fascinated to hear the personal stories of the athletes, which provides a very different view of sports from what you see on television.

Baseball Tonight Panel

Coaches Panel

NFL Live Panel

The theater is fairly large in size and it never completely filled up for any of the events that I attended there. That being said, if you want to be close to the stage I would recommend getting there anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes ahead of time to wait in line.

The ESPN Sports Zone, located behind Rock n' Roller Coaster, is a great place for kids and adults to take part in a wide variety of sporting activities. Here you can try your hand at passing and catching a football, show off your skills on the basketball court, see how fast you can pitch a baseball, take some swings in a batting cage, and even watch a bass fishing demonstration.

Sports Zone1

Sports Zone2

Sports Zone3

Sports Zone4

Sports Zone5

Sports Zone6

What is also great about the Sport Zone is that athletes and ESPN personalities make appearances there throughout the day (although there is no set times for when they will be there). Depending on when you are there, you might be able to see kids playing flag football with a couple of NFL stars or some basketball legends offering tips on the court. This is also the place to be if you are looking for autographs. Most of the time when the athletes are taking part in the panels or Q&A sessions on the Hat Stage or at the Premiere Theater they do not have time to sign autographs, but at the ESPN Sport Zone the athletes make themselves available to take pictures, shake hands, and autograph items for fans.

Overall, the ESPN Weekend is one of my favorite events to take place at Disney World throughout the entire year. In fact, it is unfortunate that ESPN The Weekend only occurs once a year. I would love to see them have one weekend in the fall and another in the spring, which would allow for an even greater variety of athletes to attend.

To see more photographs from the ESPN Weekend, be sure to check out the photo gallery. Also, feel free to add your own reviews of the weekend's festivities here.

March 5, 2011

ESPN The Weekend

Andrew Rossi

I'm having a great time at ESPN the Weekend right now. I spent most of yesterday at the event and my photos are already in the ESPN Weekend Photo Gallery.

Here are a few tips based on my experience yesterday!

1. Be sure to get an event times guide as soon as you enter the park. There are often multiple things going on at the same time at different locations throughout the park so it helps to plan in advance what you are most interested in seeing.

2. If you want to be close to the stage, especially for the taping of live shows, it helps to show up about a half an hour ahead of time.

3. If you are looking for autographs, be sure to head to the ESPN Sports Zone (located near Rock n' Roller Coaster). Athletes make appearances there throughout the day, although there is no set times for when they will be there.

4. The athlete motorcades process up Hollywood Boulevard toward the Hat Stage. It is actually fairly easy to find a spot along the route to view the motorcade, so you only need to get there a couple of minutes before it starts.

Please post your reviews of ESPN the Weekend in the AllEars Rate and Review Section!

March 5, 2008

A Different Disney Experience

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Alex Koma, son of AllEars Senior Editor Deb Koma, and an occasional contributor to the newsletter himself, recently attended ESPN The Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios. He shares his unique experience:

As a huge sports fan, Disney World's annual event ESPN The Weekend has always seemed like the ultimate dream. Disney World is my favorite place on Earth, and sports are my favorite thing to do, so naturally the event sounded great to me. However, it has always seemed far off, like the dream that I thought it was. It appeared to be too tough to organize, with the pressures of school and work making things difficult. I could only watch the commercials wistfully and hope.

Well, this year, my dream was realized. My mom, Deb Koma, came to me in late December 2007, saying that maybe she would have to go to the World that weekend, and that I might be able to come along for the ride. I was ecstatic. After looking at schedules and making reservations, things finally came together and on Friday, February 29, I was able to go to ESPN The Weekend. And what a weekend it was.

ESPN The Weekend included just about every imaginable feature a sports fan's fantasy could have. It had live broadcasts of popular ESPN shows like "NFL Live" and "1st and 10," appearances by many famous athletes and ESPN personalities, live ESPN Radio broadcasts, and interactive game shows for fans to take part in. Over the course of the three days I was there, I got to experience all of these things. I was able to see legendary players like John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Darryl Dawkins, Bill Laimbeer, Mercury Morris, Jim Palmer, and Herschel Walker. Stockton has always been an idol of mine, with his ability to compete at a Hall of Fame level despite his lack of size compared to other basketball players, and it was great to see him in person. There were also current players making appearances, like Shaun Alexander, Travis Hafner, Brandon Jacobs, Maurice Jones-Drew, Donovan McNabb, Charles Tillman, Adam Vinatieri and Roy Williams. Seeing people in real life that I had normally only seen on TV underneath helmets was really cool, and now every time I see them on TV I will think of my memories from there.

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John Stockton
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Jim Palmer

Meeting the ESPN staff I had gotten to know through the network's various shows was really special as well. I got to meet Neil Everett, the SportsCenter anchor, and get his autograph, as well as Baseball Tonight personalities Karl Ravech, John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Eric Young and Steve Phillips, and NFL Live hosts Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth and Sal Paolantonio.

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Alex with Jay Crawford

My most personal experience came when meeting the host of the show "1st and 10," Jay Crawford. My mom had the opportunity to interview Mr. Crawford, and because she is not exactly the most diligent follower of sports, she took me along to help. Getting to talk to a person who I watch regularly on TV was a really unique experience and Mr. Crawford was a very enjoyable person to speak with. As an aspiring sportswriter or broadcaster, I asked him how he got into this line of work and his response, telling me to work to get involved in any and all journalistic activities, even if they are volunteer work, will certainly help me down the road. I greatly appreciated him taking the time to talk with me. The whole thing was a great experience and was certainly one of the highlights of the weekend.

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As is the case with many things, ESPN The Weekend saved the best for me for last. On Sunday, my last day there, I chose to go to see the "Dream Job" experience at the Sounds Dangerous theater. The premise of "Dream Job" was that three audience members would be chosen to narrate some of the past year's best sports highlights, much like they were on an ESPN show like SportsCenter, and then be judged by Al Jaffe, ESPN talent coordinator, and two celebrity judges. I thought that this sounded like something I would at least like to watch, so my family and I headed over.

While standing in line, about 10 minutes before the show was to begin, a cast member started talking to all of the people assembled there. He said that if any one of us wanted to try to be one of the contestants, then we should think of our best 20-second sports highlight to deliver to him, and the best would be chosen. He went through the line and heard several people speak before coming to me. He asked my name and then I delivered my best impression of Myron Cope (a well-known Pittsburgh sportscaster who just recently passed away) calling the 1972 Steelers playoff game featuring the legendary Immaculate Reception: "Bradshaw drops backs, passes to Fuqua, and the pass falls incomplete - but wait! Franco's got it! Go Franco! He's at the 20, 15, 10, 5 -- TOUCHDOWN! Steelers win their first playoff game in franchise history and there's pandemonium in Pittsburgh!" He seemed like he liked it and moved down the line. About five minutes later, he came over the P.A. system and announced that I was one of the lucky three chosen! Connor, an 11-year-old Red Sox fan, and Marla, a Chicago Bears fan, were also chosen and we were quickly hurried backstage.

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We got to meet our judges, NFL wide receiver Roy Williams and cornerback Charles Tillman, and got miked up. A production assistant then explained to us that we had our choice of a basketball, football, or baseball highlight to call. Connor chose baseball, and was to call Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, and Marla chose football, and was to call Super Bowl XLII. I chose basketball, and was to call Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, where Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James scored an incredible 48 points and 29 of his team's final 30 points, carrying his team within one game of the NBA Finals. I knew I would be able to call it well.

After getting everything set up, we were then taken to the post show area at the theater, where the various sound booths and activities were set up. Each one of us were assigned a booth with a DVD player and given a disc featuring the highlight we had chosen. We were also given a "shot sheet" telling us the sequence of events in the highlight and any helpful notes regarding it. We each then had about 10 minutes to prepare before show time.

I was up first. I was escorted onto the stage and, after making some small talk with our host, Jake, I was ready.

I was seated at a desk with a plasma TV so I could see the highlight being played, and then it was show time. I read the scripted dialog: "Welcome to SportCenter, I'm Alex Koma, and this is today's top highlight!" And then was on my own.

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The best way to express what I did next is to say that I went completely insane. I screamed my lungs out over every big dunk, every big three-pointer hit and jumped out of my chair by the finish. I'm told the crowd loved it, but I didn't hear anything but myself. I guess I had other things on my mind at the time.

The judges then told me what they thought. Mr. Jaffe commented, "You must have forgotten to take your meds today." Mr. Williams said he thought I was very good and Mr. Tillman called my performance a perfect 10. I was then taken to a seat at the back of the theater and got to watch the others perform. Connor did a very good job calling his highlight, especially considering his age, and Marla delivered a nice call of the Super Bowl, although she was a little nervous.

After they were finished they brought us up to the stage. Jake then asked the audience to applaud for the performance they liked best. Marla and Connor both received a fair amount of applause, but when Jake asked the audience to applaud for me, the noise was deafening. Apparently, I was the winner!

I took home an ESPN The Weekend shirt, a gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods, grilling tools and... a full-size gas grill! I also got to get autographs from Mr. Williams and Mr. Tillman, which was really special. It was an amazing experience, and the best part of my weekend. I even had people coming up and congratulating me afterward, after we had left the theater.

It was the perfect way to end a great weekend and I will remember it for a long, long time. ESPN the Weekend was everything I thought it could be and I would do it again in a heartbeat (if you're listening, Mom). It was a great time. Next year, I can watch commercials for the weekend, and instead of feeling regret about not being able to go, I can remember the great times I had in 2008 and look forward to going again.

(Editor's Note: If you want to see a portion of Alex's prize-winning
performance, click on the youtube video below!)

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the ESPN the Weekend category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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