As Sage Steele sat on the ESPN set, ready to cover Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the sound was deafening.
The mania. The mayhem. The magic. It was all around her.
Yet for some reason, with only three minutes to go until Steele went live on international television, her mind turned to something other than basketball.
It flashed back three decades to a 12-year-old girl — a painfully shy 12-year-old girl — sitting at the dinner table, telling her family that someday she would be on ESPN.
“I just took a deep breath and said, ‘Smell the roses. Appreciate where you are,’ ” Steele recalls thinking before tipoff. “Why me? Why did it work for me? It could have a been a million other women and men.”
Why Steele? It’s an answer that’s easy to come by. Spend even a few minutes with the fast-talking, funny, humble ESPN anchor and her spirit is infectious.
While she was back in Indianapolis last week — to be the keynote speaker at Forest Manor Multi-Service Center’s Champions Awards Luncheon — The Star caught up with the Indiana University graduate turned sports broadcasting superstar.
Steele was raw, honest and, at times, completely off the cuff. She also was completely unpretentious.
As the host of NBA Countdown on ESPN Fridays and Sundays — and with 142,000 followers on Twitter — Steele has the limelight directly on her. But she says she has purposely chosen to not change who she is or forget where she came from.
“That’s how I was raised,” said Steele, a 42-year-old mother of three with husband Jonathan Bailey. “And if I did change and if my head did get big, I would have the longest line of people waiting to kick my ass.”
Growing up an Army brat
Childhood for Steele meant moving from city to city, state to state, country to country, wherever her father was stationed in the U.S. Army.
“By the time I was 11, I had lived in three other countries. My field trips would be the Acropolis in Greece, going to Paris with my Girl Scout troop.”
She had friends who were Belgian, French, Norwegian and Turkish.
“We were so worldly, but with that, we were sheltered. The military is so accepting racially and culturally. It didn’t matter that my mom was white and my dad was black. It was an easy, wonderful life.”
Achieving the dream
When 12-year-old Steele announced her ESPN dreams at the dinner table, it was a shock. Steele was so shy that her parents had actually consulted with doctors to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with their daughter. Steele wasn’t particularly athletic. She ran track in junior high and high school and she competed in equestrian. But she loved sports and she knew sports.
“It’s ironic how it all turned out. I can’t believe that little old me, who was too shy growing up, somehow I overcame it. Yes, by my own strength and hard work. But I’ve had a ton of people caring for me. I’m overwhelmed sometimes.”
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Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
PGA Tour Expects Mic’d Players To Be Common For 2023 TV Broadcasts
“This doesn’t need to be a walk and talk like I did. But we can make it what you want it to be.”
Following the success with Max Homa last weekend, the PGA Tour is planning to mic a player up this weekend at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
According to Sports Business Journal, the Tour is considering micing up a player on either the 14th or 18th hole at Pebble Beach.
“The point of this is that if you want it to just be, they have an air pod on your caddie and they ask him one question, he could elaborate on something,” Homa said in an interview on the podcast No Laying Up. “That would be an improvement. This doesn’t need to be a walk and talk like I did. But we can make it what you want it to be.”
Homa added that he appreciated that the questions he was asked while taking part in the segment were solely on the task at hand and tackling the hole he was on.
“It wasn’t about how it is being a dad, how it is being in contention, it’s about golf,” he said. “This hole. That’s what we wanted it to be.”
CBS received positive reviews for debuting the new segment in their season debut at Torrey Pines last week.
It will be interesting to see if having players mic’d up for a segment will carry into NBC coverage or if it remains exclusively CBS. Have to think that in April at The Masters, if CBS keeps with it, the segment has the potential to be pretty compelling especially if the interview is with a player in contention or even leading.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years
“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”
The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.
The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.
Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.
NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.
That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.
NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year
So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.
Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.
So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.
ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.
The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.
At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.