The Conversation: Tomahawk Nation Interviews ESPN's Anchor and Host Kenny Mayne

Tomahawk Nation had the amazing opportunity to chat with ESPN's Kenny Mayne about the new series of his show 'Mayne Street' and a few other issues in sports. It was a great conversation and we hope you learn as much from Kenny as we did.

For those of you who are not familiar with 'Mayne Street', each new episode debuts Tuesday mornings at 9AM EST on espn.com. On Mayne Street, Mayne stars as himself in a fictionalized version of life at a sports television network. His reoccurring foils revolve largely around his fictional production crew, as well as other ESPN personalities.

Kenny Mayne

Image from here.

Take a look inside for Tomahawk Nation's conversation with Kenny Mayne...

Before getting into the transcript from the interview, Tomahawk Nation would like to thank Kenny for the opportunity to pick his brain for a few minutes. It was a great conversation and it was a pleasure to talk with him.

Kenny joined ESPN in 1994, previously working as a free lance reporter for the network in the four year leading up to his full time position. As stated on his ESPN biography: "In more than 13 years as an anchor and reporter for ESPN, Kenny Mayne has become well known for his offbeat style, dry humor, and unique sayings ("thanks for having electricity") and home run calls ("I am amused by the simplicity of this game!")." It is that unique humor that drives the ideas behind 'Mayne Street.' To read more about Kenny, go here to see his complete biography. 

Here is our conversation with Kenny Mayne. Our questions are in bold type. :

Throughout your career you have had the opportunity to meet some of the greatest athletes in the history of sports. When you were growing up, who were some of your sports idols and which ones have you had the opportunity to meet?

It's not a sports icon, but the biggest one, I would say was Stevie Wonder. That was by far the biggest thrill.  I got to do something with him a couple of times, actually. I got him to say that, "I can't be at the baseball all-star game because of a high ankle sprain." It was a crowning achievement with him. And, then before the Super Bowl when it was in Detroit, when the Seahawks, my team, made it for the first time ever. It was a more standard one with him there. But growing up, just like all little kids have all the football guys you liked. We didn't have a team when I was really young, so I was a Packers fan being out in Seattle with no team. Getting to go out to Lambeau Field was pretty cool. That would be the other one that rivals that.

Even as a Bears fan I can respect that. Who would you like to meet that you haven't as of yet?

That's a tough one. I can't even give you one. Even the smaller ones that are less celebrated. I guess, it depends on what we're doing. We have fun and end up having enjoyable times coming out of these shoots. Some complete no-names, some free lancers actors that I work with, we have as good a time as if I were to work with whomever. I think to a great degree I've gotten over, and this isn't any put down, it's just the whole notion of celebrity isn't what it once was. You know when you're a little kid and get to reach out and get a sweatband from a Sonic or an autograph or seeing someone drive away, you couldn't believe the magnitude of the moment. As you get older, especially in the job that I have and you're around it more, I'm not quite as easily impressed with celebrities as I once was. And again, nothing against that. What they do is great and all.  Just because a guy throws a football well doesn't make him a better person than somebody doing something else.

Since you, Dan and Keith manned the anchor desk at ESPN, sports media has changed a lot and what are your thoughts about the influx of digital media like Twitter and Facebook and what impact they have made on sports journalism.

The one thing is that it has raised the competition level. We used to think in radio or television, bursting in to do an update was fast but that's not even as fast now.  As you know, somebody can be sitting with their portable device and be on top of a news story or sports news story and in seconds they can put it out in the universe. Where before, you had to go back to the station and get in front of the microphone and type it up. Everything is sped up. Some of it is for the good and some of it's detrimental because some people rush out with things that haven't quite been vetted. There is a danger in that but at the same time it's probably been progress to a great degree to see the speed with which everyone can now receive things. It's also, in a way, sort of cut down the importance of what the old ones did. In the old days, the 11 o'clock SportsCenter was, for a lot of the country, the first time they were hearing about this or that game. Now, if you already care about whatever it is you care about, you're going to know the answer before it gets on tv. Hopefully, our shows are still different enough and doing something with more than just the raw information and still make it entertaining.

As you may or may not know, I write for a site that focuses on Florida State sports. Florida State fans always shudder at the words ‘wide right;' has there been a wide right moment of your career?

I've blown a few things. I think that's what you learn from. I think almost every time we have a good story we'll afterwards say if we had done such and such it would have been that much better. During football season you have to do one [episode] a week. You get a 48 hour window to fly there and shoot it, fly home and hope it's good. I know one that I definitely blew. I was in Los Angeles and was trying to get a couple more celebrities in this thing I was doing.  Jaime Fox.  We happened to be where he was and it was a basketball league that he was in. I wasn't looking and had my shoulder turned talking to some people and he walked up to us to say hello and just started talking. But, he had sunglasses on and a hat and I honestly had no idea who he was. I was like ‘Hey, how was your game?" and I was just saying generic things. And, as soon as he left, I think,  "I should have known that guy, right?" and my cameraman said you just dissed the academy award winner. I go running after him, apologized, he didn't care. It was no big deal to him but the NBA guys then said to him ‘Jaime, have you met Trey Wingo from ESPN?"  We were all confused at that point. But, that was something that was in my hands or potentially in my hands, an interview I might have had a shot at, that I let it go.

Many of the fans of ESPN know your work from "Mayne Street" and even see you as the humor factor. But, obviously your work with horse racing is all business. Where did that interest horse racing come from and do you get out to the track often?

I grew up in the Seattle area and we had a great track just south of Seattle called ‘Long Acres.' It was ten miles from home. My uncle used to take me out there all the time and I started going with my friends. I liked to go out to the track for the workouts and the build up to the races, the whole spectacle of it. Once I got to ESPN, that was something I told them early that what is it I might have a clue about, that was certainly one of them and it took a while for me to actually get a chance to cover it. I was doing a lot more coverage of  it than I do now. I show up probably five or six times a year and have some involvement but not quite as much as it once was.

Are you a fan of the Winter Olympics?

Oh yeah. I mean I'm not going to say that during the other intervening four years I follow short track speed skating quite like I do now. They are marvelous athletes, to spend all that time that they put in for that one moment. It's not like other sports when, I know skiing has its season and they have their other events, but it seems for most people that what happens at the Olympics is how they are judged. So it's a little different than a football player who plays nine seasons to prove himself, here it's like here is your moment every four years.

In terms of "Mayne Street," if someone wasn't familiar with the show, how would you describe it to them?

Hopefully, it's funny. That would be our first description. It's meant as a situation comedy, but it's much shorter and it's on the Internet. We're running four or five minute segments. They have a little story their trying to tell. We have great actors that joined up with us that we're lucky to have involved: John Glaser, Alison Becker, Aubry Plaza, Ben Schwartz, Chris Smith. Not all of them are widely known, but each of them is doing pretty well as they rise up in the business. Aubry is on ‘Parks and Recreation,' Alison is on several things, John Glaser has his own show on ‘Adult Swim' and Ben Schwartz has got a movie part in a Will Ferrell movie that's coming out. Each of them had something going before we lined up with them and that's why I think those things turn out quite well. In comparison to what we do during the football season, where we rush up to a team, do twenty-two straight weeks and get some NFL players who aren't actors and say "Hey, here's your line." Some of them are better than others obviously, like Jared Allen who is pretty good. Sometimes it's not that the guys aren't good. There isn't time for the footage for doing what we would like to do. They don't have but ten minutes to give us. Where as with these actors, we start at eight in the morning and go all day. It's a little bigger production than what we do in the NFL.

How hard was it to get Jared Allen into a pair of Jorts?

It was very easy. Jared is clay in our hands; you can get him to do anything. He's a good guy. I'm a big fan. He's great on the field; he's a smart guy. He immediately gets it. Sometimes with other people you're explaining the premise even as they're reading lines. Jared, you tell him what we're doing today and this going to happen and that's going to happen and he usually has a couple of good thoughts of his own and want to try things or he'll excel at what we give him.

Are you worried that Peyton Manning is going to steal your job when he retires from football?

He seems to thrive in that. It's funny, we did a story with him this year, finally. We had tried and tried and had been turned down. The team isn't up for the kind of stuff that I do so much. Peyton got word of what we were up to and said he'd like to try it. It was during a bye week so it didn't interfere with anything. It turned out well. We presented the reason that he is taking so long at the line to get the ball snapped is that he is using a rare form of Gaelic.

That's a great episode.

We had fun doing that. Again, there is one that turned out well, but if we had fifteen more minutes, we forgot about x, y and z that would have made it even better. We're lucky to get what we get on the football shows because we're kind of interfering with these guys in the middle of their work week and it's something different than the standard that they're used to: coming by the locker and asking them about how they are going to prepare for team x.

How do athletes typically respond when you do approach them? Who has been the most difficult person to get on the show or aside from Peyton Manning?

It's not so much the players being the difficult but organizations. Certain organizations are just less apt to want to help out. They just don't see this as something their players should be doing. The Saints might be the tops now. Redskins, not because of Coach Zorn, who I thought was unfairly run out, more because of the administration there. Oakland was tough but this year we got one of their guys. They've lifted up a little bit. We always used to think Dallas was tough but we ended up screwing around with them and the owner of their team making fun of his new stadium. That would suggest that they are looser than had been painted before. Anytime you get turned down, you just go try the next thing. We shoot for the moon on celebrities. For example on the Super Bowl story, we were firing off. Brad Pitt. We tried for him. We tried for Britney Spears. We didn't get anywhere. But then, we did get Ellen Degeneres. We did get Branford Marsalis. We did get James Carville. I was very happy with the three we got. If you had told me going in you would get those three and don't try for anyone else I would have taken it. Sometimes it is the person getting to hear it as opposed to the layers of people that surround them. Because, they have people making decisions for them, so they never even hear of the request. Maybe I'm wrong, but maybe if Brad Pitt walked up right now he would have said he would have done it. He seems like he's the kind of guy who would have done something silly for five seconds to support that story.

What can the fans expect out of Mayne Street this season?

Hopefully we get back to basics, just with our core group. Some of our original helpers. Scott Van Pelt is back involved. The one that runs Tuesday features John Glaser and he's a great asset. We pretty much gave him the ball and he ran with that one.

I have one last question for you. As a Cubs fan, is this team really cursed?

I don't think so. I think sometimes, you could look around at other teams, but that is a ridiculously long run. There might be something to it. There are all sorts of cities that go through ridiculous droughts. The Cubs have been competitive so many times, it's just weird that every time it's like the Lucy football thing. Every time they're almost there, it gets pulled away or something crazy. You go back and you try it again.

Absolutely. I really appreciate you taking the time today to chat about your show, good luck with the upcoming season. We really appreciate your work and everything you do for ESPN.

Alright. Thanks for having me.

Take care.

 

Make sure to check out the latest episode of 'Mayne Street' Again, thank you to Kenny Mayne for taking the time out of his schedule to chat with us about the sports world.

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