NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson Becomes First Athlete To Co-Host ESPN's "SportsCenter"
'13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson yesterday "became the first athlete co-host" of ESPN’s "SportsCenter" when he joined regular hosts John Anderson and Lindsay Czarniak on the 6:00pm ET edition, according to Nate Scott of USA TODAY. Johnson was "featured in several segments, including one in which he asked analyst Tedy Bruschi six questions about the NFL." Show producers "tried to make things easy for Johnson, who has little-to-no broadcasting experience, by setting him up for interviews" with Red Sox C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, with "whom he compared beards and talked about winning a World Series," and Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops. Johnson and Stoops "are friendly, and shared stories about spending time together in Norman." Johnson's wife, Chandra, attended OU. Johnson also appeared on "Live With Kelly & Michael" yesterday, where hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan "had fun by giving Johnson time to practice reading from a teleprompter" (USA TODAY, 11/20).
ROOKIE MISTAKES: Johnson in the hour-long "SportsCenter" appearance seemed nervous at times and made a few minor errors. Anderson told Johnson at the outset, "I promise this is safer than racing." Johnson replied, "I don't know about that. We'll find out." When Johnson began speaking with Saltalamacchia, he said, "I guess looking at the right camera would help." The recent comments FS1's Donovan McNabb made about drivers not being athletes were addressed by Johnson, Anderson and Czarniak, but an awkward silence followed that caused Johnson to ask, "I guess it's up to me now, right? Now I get to throw it to the next segment." Anderson replied, "Whenever there's silence, we'll let you go and you can fill it." Meanwhile, as Johnson interviewed Stoops he asked, "I've got a very serious question for you: Did you ever think you'd be interviewed by me?" Stoops replied, "No, I would never have thought. I'm glad you're not ready to retire. You don't need a second job just yet. You've got quite a few more laps left in you." At the conclusion of the show, Johnson thanked the crew for helping him and said his "favorite part" of anchoring the show was "just that it’s over, to be honest." Czarniak: "That's a ringing endorsement for future guests." Johnson: "Well, it's a scary deal" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/19).