SportsCenter’s finest: ranking the anchors

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Despite my occasional outbursts over the lack of quality on Sports Center – someone please point me to a content analysis of what proportion of the time Tim Tebow was talked about this preseason – I cannot live without ESPN’s signature program. Crucial to the enjoyment of an hour of Sports Center are the anchors who host the show. Everyone has their personal favorite and debating something like whether Jay Harris is the most underrated anchor on ESPN is something most true sports fans have certainly done at one point or another. The following is a ranking of the top five contemporary Sports Center anchors based on the careful and empirical investigation of my opinion. A debate such as this is not for the casual sports fan – to them this may seem trivial, a waste of time even. But for the most devoted sports fans, the debate over who best delivers sporting news is a vital part of our discourse.

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5. Linda Cohen

           The second most senior anchor on this list, Cohen has been a Sports Center staple for the last two decades. Starting in 1992, Cohen’s warm persona and interviewing skills have established her as one of the most well-liked anchors of our generation. Cohen has also paved the way for many of the female anchors currently working at ESPN and in sports journalism in general. You know that when you tune into an episode of Sports Center anchored by Linda Cohen, you will get a quality performance each and every time.

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4. John Anderson

           Anderson was a mainstay in the 11 a.m. sports center for years before he was moved to the 6 p.m. block with Jay Harris earlier this year. Anderson is incredibly versatile, as he can shine as both the lead personality and the secondary anchor on any given broadcast. A perfect example can be seen when we look at his tenure in the 11 a.m. block. Whenever he hosted with Scott Van Pelt – we will get to him later – the charisma between the two was undeniable. In fact, the duo of Van Pelt and Anderson ranks as my personal favorite anchor team of all time.  Van Pelt is certainly the alpha dog, but he wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Anderson, whose intellectual wit and ability to convey the weight of important events makes him one of the most popular anchors ever.

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3. Chris Berman

           I know he doesn’t host Sports Center very often, but the face of ESPN cannot be kept off of this list. If I made a list ranking the top five personalities across all the ESPN programs, Berman would be number one, easily. The fact is, no one in the history of mankind has read highlights better than Chris Berman. Anyone who watches Sunday night Sports Center knows exactly what I am talking about. During The Blitz, Berman and co-host Tom Jackson flawlessly narrate highlights of nearly every game. Could you imagine anyone else besides Berman slipping in a “Whoop!” as Adrian Peterson stops on a dime and causes a defending cornerback’s knees to buckle beneath them? Sadly, the clock is ticking on the greatest ever as he has said he will not continue working into his 60s. That gives us about three years to treasure the greatest that ever was and ever will be.

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2. Scott Van Pelt

           Anyone who tries to come up with power rankings of contemporary Sports Center anchors will have SVP in their top two, and most will put him as one. Van Pelt not only stars as an unbiased journalist during his primetime Sports Center block at 11 p.m. but he also he puts on one of the best radio programs in the country where he demonstrates his overwhelming knowledge of sports and skill at subjective argument. In my opinion, the fact that Van Pelt has proven that he possesses such an acute knowledge of sports makes him all the more credible as an anchor. Being able to transition from an opinionated radio host to an unbiased news anchor on a daily basis must be extremely difficult and Van Pelt does it flawlessly. No matter who he hosts with, it seems as if he literally pulls the charisma out of them. Just look at some of the people Van Pelt has consistently hosted with – the careers of Steve Levy and Jon Anderson have been aided by their work with Van pelt. At age 43, Van Pelt has a long, long career ahead of him which is great for ESPN and great for sports fans everywhere

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1. Neil Everett

           Scott Van Pelt may be the most well-liked anchor by the majority of America, but to me the best contemporary Sports Center anchor is – without a shred of doubt in my mind – Neil Everett. Everett was picked to anchor the newly formed West Coast Sports Center in Los Angeles in 2009, and the success of that branch is largely due to Everett. The 1 a.m West Coast show has a modern feel that is in tune with the latest pop-culture and Everett embodies this theme. In a word, Everett is cool. His signature one-liners are original and fresh, and the charisma he emits when the camera is on him jumps off your television screen and into your living room. No one on the network can narrate the opening montage of Sports Center better than Everett. Too many anchors have lame conclusions to these montages. For example, Robert Flores’ conclusion is “Sports Center, we’re working it.” I literally cringe whenever I hear that. Everett on the other hand has the best  one-liner of all time as he concludes the opening montage with the famous two part phrase, “Sports Center” before pausing and yelling almost unintelligibly, “Right Now!” Not only is there no other anchor I’d rather watch, but there is no other anchor I would rather sit down and talk sports with over a few beers than Neil Everett.  And to me, what better barometer is there?