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The Overhead Compartment with Bob Ley

The Overhead Compartment with Bob Ley

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Shining a spotlight on celebrities and athletes who love to travel. Created and developed by Stacy Steponate Greenberg.

1979 was a momentous year in sports history. Magic Johnson beat Larry Bird in, perhaps, the most famous NCAA basketball game ever played. Number 2 Alabama beat Number 1 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. The Steelers and Pirates won titles for the city of Pittsburgh. And, in tiny Bristol, Connecticut, a cable television network called ESPN was born. Decades later, the impact of ESPN on the culture has been enormous, and right at the center of it, from its very inception, has been the network’s signature anchor, Bob Ley. Now ESPN’s longest tenured employee, Ley has logged thousands of hours on the air and accumulated numerous awards, Emmys and accolades. Now, Ley’s highly viewed program Outside The Lines, which he has hosted since it launched in 1990, will be reinvented with its own dedicated studio, a new look and a permanent home on ESPN, airing M-F at 1 pm ET. The Overhead Compartment was fortunate to grab the remote control and share a few secrets with one of the most insightful journalists in the game.


The Overhead Compartment with Bob Ley begins now….

OC: You joined ESPN three days after the network launched in 1979. What was your expectation when you arrived?

BL: I was 24 and hoping this new operation would last for a bit. I had 18 hours to decide between my job offer from ESPN and another, slightly better opportunity at the time. At the time, it was not a no-brainer. It appears to have worked out OK.

OC: When, and why, did ESPN truly become the “worldwide leader in sports?”

BL: The ‘why’ is the easy part. We’ve always tried to respect the intelligence of our viewers, to – as the man who hired me, Chet Simmons once said – talk to sports fans the way you wanted to be spoken to. The ‘when’ is more of a moving target, but there’s a general consensus that in 1987 with our first NFL contract, we had – in only eight years – arrived, with greater things ahead of us.

OC: The sports broadcasting landscape is currently so crowded and so noisy. What place does “Outside The Lines” occupy in it?

BL: OTL stands on its 27 years of telling stories and asking questions that often you won’t see or hear otherwise. More light than heat, more knowledge than noise. But turning it up to 11 when we have to.

OC: Is there anyone you have never interviewed that you would like to?

BL: Pope Francis is a football fan, a card-carrying fan of the San Lorenzo Club in Argentina for which my friend Santi Solari once played. Would love to talk sports and society with The Holy Father. My colleague David Muir of ABC News actually did interview His Holiness, and had to spend weeks working on his Spanish to do so. That might be a bridge too far for me.

OC: How have you seen the world of sports change for the better?

BL: The ability for fans to access highlights, information, data, stories and learn about their games and the players has never been easier, or widespread. You can be plugged in from anywhere on Earth to watch, and – just as importantly – be part of the conversation about a game, or an issue.

OC: For the worse?

BL: The perversion of the FIFA World Cup selection process (the culmination of decades of privileged corruption in that organization), the conversion of the Olympics to some focus-grouped corporate outing, the luxury-boxing of our own domestic events…..all just seem to take us further from some ideal of better times. But what’s the common denominator in those factors? Yup, long green.

OC: What was the most dramatic sporting event you ever covered?

BL: World Cup Final, France v Brazil, Stade de France, St. Denis, July, 1998. France’s first World Cup championship – won at home – and, the pre-game drama over whether Ronaldo would play for Brazil.

OC: In which country did you find the fans the most passionate?

BL: Honduras. The fans love for Los Catrachos renders their goal celebrations so magnificent there is an actual physical quality to the sound in San Pedro Sula.

OC: What is your favorite city to visit for work?

BL: Paris.

OC: What do you do when you have down time in that city?

BL: Walk – with my Canon SLR – and explore off the main streets. The light, the historic architecture, the people – all make for a constantly changing landscape. And when you’re tired, there’s only a thousand places or so to stop for a leisurely three course, two hour lunch.

OC: What are three restaurants anywhere on earth that everyone needs to eat in if they can?

BL: Aprazível, in the hills above Rio; Brasserie Lipp, on the Blvd. St. German, Paris; Lobster Landing, Clinton, CT.

OC: First thing you do when arriving at a hotel in your room?

BL: Hang up suits, shirts, check to see I’ve got an iron and ironing board….even before making sure the wifi doesn’t suck.

OC: Complete the following sentence: I never leave home without:

BL: Thinking that Dorothy had it right.

Bob Ley, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!