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WP: ESPN Wants to Make ‘SportsCenter’ Great Again

ESPN’s Bristol CT. campus | Photo courtesy Fish Eye Aerial

During a recent episode of “SportsCenter,” anchor Keith Olbermann was counting down a series of top plays when he arrived at a block by Duke star Zion Williamson. “He puts a 21-49 down!” Olbermann announced as a slow motion replay zoomed in on the thunderous rejection.

That was an inside joke, one only the most connected of ESPN insiders would understand. Olbermann was referencing the phone extension of a man without any name recognition outside Bristol, but one who has been tasked with reviving the network’s signature program, in part by drawing on his nearly four decades at the “worldwide leader in sports.”

“I’ve had the same extension since I got here,” Norby Williamson said.

Williamson, 55, is something of a mythical figure at ESPN, a central Connecticut native who started in the mailroom in the 1980s and became the first producer of the 11 p.m. “SportsCenter” hosted by Olbermann and Dan Patrick, which helped turn ESPN and its signature highlights program into cultural icons in the 1990s.

All told, ESPN looks more like it used to during its heyday — less debate, more news and highlights. Even the faces are familiar: Past stars like Olbermann and Chris Berman are on the air more often under Williamson’s watch. And so far, executives are pleased with the returns.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

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