Big Lead Sports Bar

8/17/2008

MONDESI'S HOUSE INTERVIEW: ESPN'S STEVE BRABAND


Recently, ESPN chose a 25-year-old former Pittsburgh native named Steve Braband as the face of their marketing campaign to introduce the new, live Sportscenter, which kicked off on August 11.

Braband, who works for ESPN as an International Program Coordinator, beat out 160 of his co-workers for the opportunity, which consisted of 268 live spots promoting Sportscenter over a 15-day period of time.

I heard through the grapevine that Steve was a Mondesi's House fan, so I reached out to see if he'd be interested in answering a few questions for the site, an offer he was happy to take me up on. So sit back and enjoy a Q&A with the Seneca Valley High grad who you've become much more familiar with over the past few weeks, ESPN's Steve Braband:

Tell us about the audition process. I read that you came across as very down-to-earth, although you said that's because you gave everyone a laugh by getting locked out of your car. What happened?

Well there were two auditions. The first one was your typical "job interview" and for them to get a feel for what I looked like and who I was. The second one was considered as a "call back" and was about an hour long. They basically had me talk about myself, my life outside of work, and my career aspirations. They got a kick out of the fact that my girlfriend is a staunch Philadelphia Flyers fan (yinzers please don't hate me, she is REALLY cute) and that we didn't really speak during the Eastern Conference Finals.

I had to do three fake spots (which you can see on steveislive.com). They wanted me to show the inside of my car, but as I reached for my keys, I noticed I left them inside. They thought that was hysterical and "real". I had to call Triple A.

After the campaign started, they explained to me that they picked me because I seemed comfortable in front of the camera and wasn't trying to be the next big SportsCenter anchor. I was just myself. But I could be the next SportsCenter anchor, if asked.....

Now that the campaign is over, were you happy with how it went? How did you feel after it was over?

Yes. I couldn't be happier. There are spots here and there that I didn't fell too good about. But we did 268 of them. They aren't all going to be Emmy award winners.

I did things I never would have imagined. I mean...I dedicated a karoke song to Erin Andrews during Wednesday Night Baseball, I hung out with professional athletes, I bugged the crap out of SportsCenter anchors, I took a mud bath on national TV, went to a Neil Diamond concert, attempted "power yoga", annnnnd I made my mother proud. How could I not be happy right now?

I definitely got a little emotional at the end. Go ahead, make fun of me. But we put so much hard work and dedication into this campaign, and then when the clock struck zero.....it was just.....over.

But I ain't done yet...on to the next step!

That sounded like a graduation speech, sorry. Anything you'll miss (or not miss) about the campaign? I will definitely miss the ENTIRE crew. At times there were over 15 people following me around Bristol and in my house. I was lucky in that every single person who worked on this campaign was an amazing person. We had a blast every single day and night and I thank them all!! I will also miss getting random friend requests on Facebook.

What would you call the best and worst spots of the campaign?

There were 268 spots altogether. The worst was, one spot in the morning I stumbled over every single word I said. I called the green tea I was drinking... "hot-iced-non-organic green tea". I stopped and was like..."what...MULLIGAN!!!" It was hysterical but I also looked like a goof.

It is hard to pick "the best" spot we did. One that definitely ranks high on the list, was at the New Britain Rock Cats baseball game (minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins) I was doing a spot with a relief pitcher in the bullpen, and in the middle of my read, the entire bullpen ran up behind me and pied me in the face! It was totally unexpected and I loved every minute of it. I felt like I just pitched a no-hitter.

I also did a spot with Kenny Mayne. A man who I idolized on SportsCenter since I was a kid. He is dry and humorous just like he is on TV. Buy his book. It is full of sentence fragments, kind of like my answers in this interview.

Also the karaoke to Erin Andrews. She called me out during the broadcast and said I wasn't giving her any love, so we decided to pick the most ridiculous song to karaoke (Werewolves of London) and dedicate it to her. It was those kind of moments that made me realize how great this project was and how real and spontaneous each spot was going to be!

I am still waiting for her to call me though.

You're a confirmed blog reader, so tell us what it's like to go from reading blogs to being written about on blogs?

That is an awesome question. When I was picked for this, I could immediately picture my goofy face plastered across the blogosphere. I knew I would be criticized, made fun of, and even hated, but for the most part I think everything that was written was completely fair. It's weird to see some blogs that I had read on a weekly basis trash me, but I knew it would happen. So no worries bloggers, its all good, I will come visit you in your parents basement and I can tell you stories about how awesome it is to be on TV. haha! :)

You got to hang out with Kordell Stewart recently and even play some foosball. What was that experience like?

Awesome. As much as I booed that man during his career in the Burgh, I found him to be a genuinely cool guy. He was the first "athlete" I did a spot with. I went from getting post-it notes in the last spot, to being teammates with Kordell in foosball. That's what made the campaign a success, I could be doing some mundane activity that everyone does on a daily basis...to....playing games with a former pro bowl QB.

Fun Fact: Kordell still hasn't retired and wants to play again. He was kind of upset that I sucked at foosball.

Did giving out your address on your blog on Day 5 result in more fan mail, as you hoped for?

They kept all my mail from me to keep the joke going. I did receive a lot of mail at the end though. People were asking for autographs and pictures which was new to me ..and.. my Aunt Debbie sent me cookies. Someone also sent a lifesize painting of me with the clock around my neck. I was flattered and a bit confused as to who had that much time on their hands to do that.... but seriously though, thanks to that guy!

Paper football with Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer on Day 10? Tell us some more about that.

Well it was just supposed to be Plax and I (THAT should be a reality show). Then Amani walked by and Damien, one of the production guys, worked with him before and asked him to join. Both guys were awesome. I asked Plax if he still had that truck he had with the Steelers. If you dont remember ...it was HUGE and resembled Optimus Prime. He said with a straight face "nah man, gas is too high". Awwwwesome. Plax was also curious as to what he was going to say during the spot. I told just to look in the camera and say "Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!" . He responded by saying "nah nah aint gunna go there man". Also hilarious and awwwesome. Amani told me not to hit the paper football "with my purse" which ended the spot perfectly. Not coincidentally, I picked both on my fantasy team.

That day was amazing. I also arm wrestled pro bowl defensive end, Osi Umineyora. Great guy and he would crush every bone in my body with one swift blow to the stomach. Giants kicker Lawernce Tynes stopped over and wanted to shake my hand and said he LOVED the spots. Eli Manning walked by. I think he weighs 83 pounds and is really 5 foot 2. I still don't see how the Patriots couldn't bring him down...... 18-1.

What has happened to your clock, Cogsworth? Do you get to keep it as a memento, or has it already been sold on eBay?

First off, I hope people got the Cogsworth joke/pun. The name was created by myself, my girlfriend and my buddy from the advertising crew, Ross Asdourian (he was also the Flordia Gators mascot when he attended Florida University, another fun fact). According to my girlfriend....Cogsworth was the name of the talking clock in the Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast". ESPN is owned by Disney....hardy har har....everyone get it? Good. After the last spot, one of the PA's (shout out to my boy Will) ran over and took it off my neck. I never saw it again (tear). That thing weighed 16 pounds and I had it everywhere with me for a span of two weeks. It was the centerpiece of this project, everyone treated the clock like it was a small infant child. I still think the PA's spooned with it at night. Right now I think it is being stored in some hidden vault in Bristol. Kind of like the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.....

What radio station did you work for in Pittsburgh? Any favorite memories from that phase of your career?

KDKA Radio AM 1020. They gave me my start in broadcasting. I interned there in the Summer of 2004 and was a producer for the next two years upon graduating from Clarion. While I interned, I was responsible for gathering audio clips from Steelers Training camp, Pitt football practice, and of course Pittsburgh Pirates losses. One time following a Kip Wells performance in which he surrendered 7 runs on 5 hits. I asked manager Lloyd McClendon..."is there anything positive you can take from Kip's outing". Mac quickly responded by saying "which college do you go to? They needed to improve their journalism classes. Keep working hard kid." That was definitely a favorite moment.

When did you make the move from Pittsburgh to ESPN?

July of 2007. So I have only been here for one year.

What do you miss the most about the Burgh?
Three things.

3. The Hot Dog Shoppe (not the one in Oakland, the one in Cranberry Twp)

2. Local Radio and TV and their overexposure of everything Steelers.

1. The walk across the Clemente Bridge to PNC Park.

You live in a house with four other ESPN employees. Am I crazy, or does this sound like the premise for a future reality show?

The funny thing is that myself, Kyle, Pat, and Matt all went to Clarion together. We were best friends there and now we all work for ESPN. It's really weird how it worked out. Our other room ate Christy is subject to living with four guys who are really good friends, but she just acts like one of the boys, we love her to death. We always joked when we moved in that they could do a show about our house. These commercials kind of made that a reality and may have opened the door for that to happen. I would definitely recommend that our house become a reality show, but we would have to tweak some of the household behavior to meet Disney/ESPN standards.

In all seriousness, has ESPN given you any indications of any future projects you could be involved in?

Once the campaign was over, I started to get a lot of advice from people who either worked on the campaign or watched it from a far. Everyone has been telling me to figure out what "I want to do". That is what is on the agenda right now. I have so many ideas and so many things I still want to accomplish. Steveislive.com may be taken off the web in a week or two, but I plan to launch steveisALIVE.com to try to keep my name out there.

The thing about these spots was that it was something that had NEVER been done on television before. You go from watching million dollar produced ads for Heinken beer and then the next commerical is some yinzer sittin on his couch, eating oatmeal, and telling you that SportsCenter is going to be LIVE in the mornings. You have to do a double take. Some people never believed that every one of them was LIVE. I guess I get some satisfaction out of that... and that is why people keep telling me that we can do more of this! Did I even answer your question?!? haha.

Time for a few Pittsburgh sports-related questions:

-I know you took the Jason Bay trade hard. Now that some time has passed, what do you think about the Pirates' deadline deals?

I am still indifferent. It's weird to watch the team now. No Bay. No Nady. No Tike Redman. I like Moss and Karstens, but I guess its going to take awhile to get used to the lack of star power. Two LaRoches is two LaRoches too many for me....does that make sense?? But seriously, an outfield of McClouth, McCutchen and Moss could be something nice to watch for the next couple of years. We just need the pitching to come around, not that this is breaking news!

-Considering the state of the team and the schedule, do you put the Steelers over or under 9 wins this year?

I would be tar and feathered in Market Square by Steeler Nation if I didn't say that they are going 16-0 this year. So over. By a lot.

-How far do you see the Penguins going this season?

Beating the Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Mellon Arena. Marion Hossa is stoned by Marc Andre Fleury on a break away with 5 seconds remanining, he trips, breaks his leg in half, and his career is ended. Is that too brutal?

-Where is Lesean McCoy going to end up in the Heisman balloting?
He has currently rushed for 622 yards and 8 touchdowns in three games in my NCAA 09 season for XBOX. So I say he's taking home the hardware.

STEVE BRABAND: THE LINKS


Steve is Live [Official Website]


4 comments:

RedHawks Hockey said...

steve if you read this, i love you. you made watching espn worthwhile again. i dont know what i will do without you. i looked forward to your spots every day. good bye friend...

Deaner said...

Great interview!

Evan 0 said...

steve,

the guys at raisethejollyroger.com are going to miss you. your commercials were spectacular.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

He should have asked Lloyd McClendon if Kip Wells' performance made him want to kick a folding chair through the ceiling