Dan Patrick Talks Rise To Sportscenter Through CNN, ‘Sports Jeopardy’
A girlfriend told me to stop whining
Josh Helmuth: I read your career actually began kind of late — in your late 20s I presume. How did your career begin? How did you make it to network level?
Dan Patrick: I had been turned down for the weekend job in Dayton, Ohio when I was 27. And I never thought that I would get into sports — at least TV wise — after that. And I took a vacation to Atlanta… a little girlfriend told me to stop whining. I came down there and the last day I was in Atlanta, she said, “you should go in there, CNN is hiring people.” And I felt, “well maybe I’ll get into TV,” but it will be camera operator or producer or whatever it might be. I wasn’t sure. But I was going to do something ‘sports.’
I had an audition tape with me and I just happened to say to the secretary, “I’m going back to Ohio. Could the head of sports see the tape today?” The [Head of Sports] looked at my tape. He liked it and hired me on the spot and a week later I started at CNN.
So, not the most direct route to getting into the business. But I don’t think there is one. I was fortunate. Right place, right time.
You’re handing out the F’ing Super Bowl trophy!
Josh: What is one of your most proud moments and one of your major regrets? Can you give me one high and one low in regards to your career?
Dan: Probably the biggest high that I had was handing out the Super Bowl trophy after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in one of the great Super Bowls of all-time… I didn’t tell anybody in my family I was handing out the trophy because I wanted them to be surprised as they were watching it. And I just remember getting done, handing out the trophy… It was all sort of a blur… I just wish my dad had been alive at that moment, just to see that. And I walked off the field as if I had just won a Super Bowl.And I just got all these messages — my family, my brothers… they’re texting me, “You’re handing out the F’ing Super Bowl trophy!” Like, I wanna say, “Yes, I am. I’m busy right now.”
But that was one of those moments — I came from a very small town and there I was handing out the Lombardi Trophy and it was pretty amazing.
As far as the lows go… I don’t know if I have one that really put me on my knees… nothing really stands out.
Don’t worry about your pay
Josh: What kind of advice do you give to aspiring young journalists?
Dan: Find what you’re good at. Find what you love. And fine tune that… You don’t necessarily have to go to college but you can go there and go to a campus radio station or campus newspaper and therefore you have those tapes, those elements, to get through the door. Get an internship as soon as possible. Freshman year, see if you can get an internship at the local station or newspaper. Then the following year get one — maybe it’s a different part of the business — but make sure you get internships. It’s invaluable.
And don’t worry about your pay. Too many people worry about where they’re going to be and how much they’ll make and they miss that opportunity. It’s a stepping stone. You may have to go to one place — but it’s a means to an end. People want to get to New York or L.A., and it doesn’t happen that way.
An EKG on how we did Sportscenter
Josh: Who’s been your favorite on-air colleague?
Dan: Keith Olbermann. He was a great teammate.
Josh: He really is phenomenal at what he does, isn’t he?
Dan: It took him a little while to understand how to do an hour long Sportscenter because he came from local sports where you gave everything you had, both guns blazing, for five minutes. And I said, “you’ll never last if you try to do that on Sportscenter.” And he understood how to pace himself…
It was almost an EKG on how we did Sportscenter — highlights, pumping it up, having fun and catch phrases. And then you might lower it down if there was something serious to talk about… but he was fun. I think it was a learning process for both of us for those five and half years.
Sitting in Alex Trebek’s chair
Josh: Tell me about the game show.
Dan: I sort of pushed their hand on it… They (SONY) had a Sports Jeopardy app. So I called them up and said, “We have to do this on TV. We have to.”…
Crackle was doing something different. We were going to do this on digital, and they said are you okay with that? I told them I started at CNN, I started at ESPN when it was in its embryonic stage — I’m not afraid to take any chance… They did it first class. It looks great. It’s fun. You have really sharp people on there…
I’m excited. I really, really wanted to do it. I’m very fortunate. I’m there sitting in Alex Trebek’s chair. The same Jeopardy step; they dressed it up in a mancave of sorts and I’m very proud of it.
My dad’s favorite baseball statistic
Josh: What’s the most random sports fact you know that you’re most proud of?
Dan: Ohhhh gosh… I mean, I can name the 1927 Yankees starting lineup.
Josh: Really? Do it. Name them off.
Dan: Collins, Gehrig at first, Lazzeri — second, Koenig at short, Dugan at third, Meusel, Ruth, Combs in the outfield — Waite Hoyt, Urban Shocker, were the starting pitchers.
Dan: I used to go to parties and make you stump me before you could leave.
Josh: Can I take a crack at trying to stump ya?
Dan: Ya, sure.
Josh: Okay. I’ll give you my dad’s favorite baseball statistic. Who’s the only Major League Baseball player to hit two grand slams in the same inning?
Dan: Ummm, let me see. I think he played for the Reds. Was it Tony Cloninger?
Josh: I gotcha on this one. He did wear red. But he didn’t play for the Reds.
Dan: Was it Babe Ruth?
Josh: It was Fernando Tatis — a St. Louis Cardinal.
Dan: Oh, I thought you said the only PITCHER. Oh, okay.
I thought it was a trick question — maybe it was Babe Ruth. It would help if I listened to the question.
Who needs a mustache?
Josh: Give me three things you think you and Alex Trebek have in common.
Dan: We’re tall. We’ve got good voices. And we both appreciate Jeopardy… I can’t grow a mustache.
Josh: There’s three things we have in common then. We can’t grow a mustache, we both love baseball and we both come from incredibly small towns.
Josh: Keep up the good work man.
Dan: Tell your dad I said hello.
“Sports Jeopardy!” hosted by Dan Patrick premiers Wednesday, August 24th at 9 am ET on Crackle.