29 Mar 2004
Reviewed by Patrick Laverty
The NCAA basketball Final Four is still a week away, but the ESPN Dream Job Final Four is done. A champion is crowned, a one-year contract has been issued, and maybe just as exciting to the winner, a brand new Mazda 3.
The two-hour finale came down to Zach Selwyn, Maggie Haskins, Aaron Levine and Mike Hall. Last week, this column predicted that Zach would walk away with the deal. We'll see if that came true.
As the show opened, something looked strange. The judges' booth looked a little smaller, actually, make that a lot smaller. Someone's missing. That was Lavar Arrington, who got called back to Washington for a mini-camp. Like Ty Law loves to say, "a man's gotta eat". So the judging would come down to the three of them, allowing Kit Hoover to hands down win the "why is she there?" award. Tony Kornheiser kept referring to her as "Paula" due to her niceness, but Kit made Paula Abdul look like the wicked witch of the west. Anyway. It won't matter for the final pick, as only America's vote will decide who the final winner of Dream Job is, and making it even better, the winner will play for his salary on the following SportsCenter. We'll see what that means.
First competition of the night is one that I have no idea why they went with. Each contestant had to do a play-by-play of the finish of a famous game. I haven't seen too many SportsCenter anchors do PBP, and especially none really do it well. First up is Zach who got game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals when Jordan may or may not have pushed off to hit the game winning basket. Zach did ok, but he seemed a bit too excited through the entire call, which neutralized the final shot excitement. Zach later referred to it as his "Ode to Michael Quigley".
Aaron was up next with the 2000 AFC Wild Card game between Buffalo and Tennessee. You know it better as "The Music City Miracle", or if you're from Buffalo, "The Illegal Forward Pass". I think whoever was controlling the sound to the footage did a poor job as it was turned up too high against Aaron's microphone. He was speaking loudly, but couldn't be heard as well. Other than that, I thought Aaron did a great job, I think he hit everything right on the nose, and added a nice phrase, "In a city known for their music, a new verse is written."
Maggie was third in the lineup as she had the 2001 ALDS between the Yankees and A's. The game where Jeter came out of nowhere to make the cutoff throw to the plate to nail a non-sliding Jeremy Giambi. The thing I notice is that she's not as smooth as the others. Another case where it seems the brain is moving faster than the mouth and sometimes has trouble catching up. I also thought she was calling the play more like a SportsCenter highlight, rather than an announcer at the game.
Last up in this competition was Mike Hall. He had the 1988 A's vs. Dodgers World Series, Game 1, where Gibson hit the pinch hit home run. Mike was the one among the group who actually sounded like a play by play announcer with the way he called the game. The only criticism Al could come up with was that Mike's voice broke once. Not bad.
Next competition was that each had to sit down and do three minutes of Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser. How would they do with their arguments and can they keep up with Tony and not get intimidated.
Aaron is first this time, and he seemed a little bit nervous as they started with whether the Yankees are bad for baseball. Aaron did seem a little intimidated and Tony seemed to get the better of him, but when the topic switched to whether Joe Gibbs is too old for the NFL, I thought Aaron had some good points by stating that Gibbs has surrounded himself with some good people and kept up well. The other three apparantly learned quickly how to stand up to Tony, as Maggie was next and she had no trouble going right at him and was very Wilbon-esque. Maggie was not going to give an inch and if Tony would interrupt, Maggie would interrupt him right back. Maggie pulled out the age-card when the topic was on young soccer phenom Freddy Adu when she explained that the young crowd would flock to Freddy despite Tony's point that not even Pele could win over the Americans.
The one we were waiting for, Zach stepped up to Tony. He took great stands on the Bonds and steroid controversy including a rather interesting quote that he wants to see a cup of "hot urine" from Bonds. I thought Zach did a great transition into the second story, exactly like you see on the real PTI. He was very polished. Tony felt Zach's was the most real PTI yet. Last up again was Mike Hall, who probably finished 4th in this part of the competiton. He had some good points with his original argument on why college basketball players should not get paid, but then made the next argument difficult when he agreed with Tony on whether ice skating is a sport. Tony tried switching his argument mid-stream, but by then it was too late.
So the time came to cut down to the final two. America would not get to vote in this, however America's vote did scroll by the bottom of the screen. America's two votes would have gone to Maggie and Aaron. Tony was up first and dropped the biggest shocker of the entire competition. He cut Maggie and Zach! This was Zach's first vote in the entire series. Tony said he'd hire Zach immediately for some variety show, but he's just not SportsCenter material. Kit next cut Maggie and Aaron, and lastly, Al dropped the bombshell by cutting Maggie and Zach! Zach was done. Just like that. Al's sentiments pretty much echoed Tony's in that Zach will get a job on the air somewhere, but he doesn't seem like the type for SportsCenter.
On to the finals...
The final two are Aaron Levine and Mike Hall. Two college kids vying for their dream job.
They started with a somewhat Jeopardy-like quiz show, where the questions weren't easy, but certainly were not that hard either. The most frustratingly difficult question of the night however, was to name Judge Smails' nephew in the movie Caddyshack. You could hear both contestants and part of the audience groan. I admit, I did as well. The answer by the way is Spaulding. "I want a hot dog, I want a hambuger, no, I want a cheeseburger" "You'll get nothing!"
Back to the competition, Aaron won by hitting on some of the higher point questions and nearly lapping Mike by a score of 33-17. On to the final contest.
What better way to see who is the better man for the next SportsCenter anchor than to let them do a SportsCenter. But this is no Dream Job SportsCenter, this is more like the real thing. They had just about everything in the 5-7 minutes that each of them were on the desk. First, they paired up with a real anchor, Aaron with Craig Ravech and Mike with Linda Cohn. During their SportsCenter, they had to do the preview, the open, conduct an interview, listen to the producer giving instructions in their ear, such as a breaking highlight or loading a new story, but oops, the teleprompter is broken and they have to ad-lib it with only a shot sheet that Stu was just handing to them. Very intimidating.
I thought both of them did excellent and at this point it was a wash. Dead even. The only thing I noticed on both, was that both went long into a sound clip. It was kinda like when the DJ on the radio starts talking over the singer of a song. Mike interviewed Peyton Manning and wasn't afraid to ask a couple questions about the AFC championship game and Manning's four interceptions. Aaron interviewed Carmelo Anthony and showed he'd learned when he later explained that its best to overprepare for an interview, in case their interviewee is short on words. Aaron did have plenty of questions and didn't come up short.
That was it. At this point it was completely out of the judges' hands. They'd take a break, let America vote and come back with the winner. As they went to commercial, Aaron looked really confident and Mike looked like he wanted to puke. I agreed with Aaron, he'd done it, he'd won. I'd even already written it down on my notes that I take for these articles. Aaron had won. But let's stick around just to make sure.
Ok, quick commercial note. If you're in a contest that says you can't use cash, check or credit card, why is it ok to use a Visa Check Card? Isn't that actually two out of the three. The poor guy riding with the Amish was the only one who followed the rules, yet he's made to look like the idiot when the other two actually cheated. I don't get that commerical. More beach volleyball, please.
Back from the break, and Mike and Aaron are ready. Stu has the card, and he announces, America selects, with 60 percent of the votes, the next winner of Dream Job is Mike Hall! Hugs, handpounds and confetti for all. Not only does Mike win his Dream Job, a year on the desk as a SportsCenter anchor, but he also wins a brand new Mazda 3. Not bad for a college kid from Mizzou. The only thing left is to figure out how much he'll make. That is to be determined on SportsCenter, next.
Mike and Stu are sitting down. Just like Mike has done before, Stu will ask sports questions for Mike to answer. ESPN will start Mike at $70,000. He will get an additional $5,000 for every right answer, subtract $10,000 for the first wrong answer, as it is all over at that point, and Mike can stop at any time. Even after he hears the question. Five right answers later, and Mike has locked himself into a $95,000 salary for the year. He stopped before answering how many Grand Slam titles Andre Agassi has won. I guess the real correct answer would have been "who cares?"
So that's it. From over 10,000 who tried out for the slot, to Mike Hall being the very first person to compete on Dream Job and getting the very first vote to be cut, Mike Hall survived it all and won his Dream Job.
You can catch Mike on his first day on the job on all three SportsCenters tonight (Monday). On at 6, 11 and 1 am. Usually the 1 am is replayed all the next morning, so you can probably catch him Tuesday morning as well.