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ESPN Anchor Takes Long, Hard Road

May 20, 1999 GMT

Through it all, Kenny Mayne didn’t care much about landing his dream job at ESPN. The money and fame were great, but he had more important things on his mind.

Mayne and his wife, Laura, had recently lost the second of their twin sons as a result of difficulties during her pregnancy.

One of the boys, Creighton, died a day after he was born on May 28, 1996, while Connor fought in the hospital for nearly six months before dying.

Then Laura had a miscarriage a year later. And another last year.

``It wakes you up to what is real in life,″ said Mayne, who was promoted to the 11 p.m. ``SportsCenter″ late in 1997.

His wife is pregnant again, and this time the couple has made it past the point when all of their previous problems occurred.

``We’re totally grateful and optimistic,″ he said.

The 39-year-old Mayne keeps a photo of Connor on his desk during each show. He doesn’t hesitate when asked about the greatest moment of his life.

``It didn’t even involve me,″ he said. ``Connor was actually doing well at a point and they called me when I was at ESPN and told me that Laura was giving him a stroller ride. I just started crying.″

His personal tragedies were far more difficult to handle that his struggle to get to Bristol, Conn., of course. Nonetheless, he endured many disappointments before finally getting a job on ESPN’s biggest showcase.

Mayne was a senior quarterback at UNLV in 1981 when Randall Cunningham was a freshman. After college, Mayne had an unsuccessful tryout with the Seattle Seahawks and then went to work at an independent Seattle TV station as the person who ``called to see if it was a two or three-alarm fire.″

Mayne paid his dues and eventually became a news-sports reporter.

Then he began his relentless plan to get a job at ESPN. He pestered executives for two years, finally got an interview _ but didn’t get hired.

``We brought Kenny in for an audition and he did pretty well, but I was higher on him than most people here,″ said Al Jaffe, vice president of talent. ``He has a different outlook and perspective and although he’s had real tough times personally, he’s thrived and flourished here.″

After being ignored by ESPN, he quit the Seattle TV station and picked up a variety of jobs _ including assembling garbage cans, telemarketing and a sales position with MCI _ until he finally was hired for ESPN2 in 1994 after doing some free-lance work for them.

Then about three years later, Keith Olbermann left ESPN and Mayne was offered the 11 p.m. slot with Dan Patrick.

Now, after all of his personal setbacks, Mayne knows that mispronouncing a name or stumbling over a line isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

``I realize that people think it’s a big deal that I do the 11 o’clock show, but I’m pretty grounded,″ Mayne said. ``The biggest thing for me is getting home so I can hang out with Laura and the baby.″


OUT-FOXED: Go figure.

That’s what Fox executives are saying after the NHL told them they won’t get the prime Colorado-Dallas playoff matchup because of a scheduling conflict with figure skating.

Fox spent $30 million this season, but got the second pick of the NHL playoff games this weekend due to the ``Champions on Ice″ show at Dallas’ Reunion Arena on Sunday.

Instead of getting the prime Western Conference matchup of Colorado-Dallas, the network was left with the Toronto-Buffalo game Sunday afternoon. Disney’s ESPN, which along with ABC will get the NHL package beginning next season, lucks out and gets the Avalanche-Stars matchup on Saturday night.


TURNING THE PAGE: Paul Page is no longer the voice of the Indy 500, but he knows exactly why the race isn’t as popular as it used to be.

``When the split between the CART series and the IRL happened, fans started taking sides and it really got ugly,″ said Page, who won’t work next Saturday’s Indy 500 after calling the race for the last 10 years for ABC. ``As a result, they walked away from both.″

NASCAR picked up many of the disgruntled fans when the leagues split in 1996 and has been booming ever since.

Because the CART series and IRL want their own broadcasters and there are so few IRL races on ABC, Page moved to the CART series. Bob Jenkins takes over his play-by-play duties.

The Indy 500 had a 5.5 rating last year, the lowest mark on its regularly scheduled day. In 1997, when it was delayed until Tuesday because of rain, the race had a 5.0.


TUBE BITS: ESPN’s Chris Berman didn’t cut his hair for nearly two months to play host to ``SportsCenter″ of the 1960s, which airs Friday at 7:30 ET p.m. ... HBO airs Oscar De La Hoya’s welterweight title defense against Oba Carr on Saturday at 10 p.m. and ``Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel″ on Tuesday at 10 p.m., featuring a segment on 16-year-old Kosovo boxer Elvis Muriqi. ... ABC brought Hank Goldberg on for his expert predictions, but the ESPN handicapping guru is 0-for-2 so far. ... Fox Sports Net’s ``Hardcore Baseball,″ with hosts Steve Lyons and Kevin Kennedy, debuts June 1 at 5:30 p.m. ... Turner will team two of the top NBA broadcasters for the first time when Marv Albert and Hubie Brown work Game 3 of the Pacers-76ers series at 8 p.m. Friday on TNT.