By Jim Dresbach, Pentagram November 10, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Nov. 10, 2011) -- The military mixed with the sports world leading up to Veterans Day as ESPN originated a live show Nov. 8 from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's Whipple Field.
With the monuments of Washington, D.C. as a backdrop, SportsNation, a program that centers on the day's sports news and fan opinion, drew Army platoons, Airmen, Marines and civilians of all athletic allegiances to salute service members and veterans.
"This is awesome. We're dealing with real live Soldiers," SportsNation co-host Michelle Beadle said before rehearsals and run-throughs started. "I've been promised there's going to be some cannon shooting, and I'm going to be doing the hat band [with the U.S. Army Drill Team]. Anytime we can get on the road and be live is a good thing and people seem to enjoy the show."
"These guys and women are from all over the place," Beadle said about military sports fandom. "I like this [show set up] because we never know what kind of fans are going to be out there."
And a wide variety of fans did make appearances supporting their respective teams. From the hometown Redskins and Capitals to Louisiana State football to much-maligned quarterback Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, fans showed their support or non-support with signs, jerseys, pennants and flags. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the recently crowned World Champion St. Louis Cardinals were also well-represented by civilians and Soldiers.
While the bulk of the production set-up was completed the day before the show, rehearsals and tapings involving the ESPN crew, the on-air talent team of Beadle, Colin Cowherd and Herman Edwards along with the U.S. Army Band Downrange, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Drill Team and the Presidential Salute Battery. The first Soldier to be seen at the top of the five o'clock program would be the Army Band's Sgt. Martha Krabill, who served as the master of ceremonies and introduced the talent and welcomed the television audience.
"This is a huge honor. I'm so excited," Krabill said between pre-show rehearsals. "At the very beginning of the show, I'm the one who is welcoming America to the show. It is such an honor that ESPN would come here. I know all the troops are really excited because a lot of people watch this show on a regular basis."
The broadcast intertwined sports with the military and local units. Soldiers from the Military District of Washington served as a jury to decide topical questions such as NFL-worthy playoff teams. During the first segment of the show, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington sought out former NFL star and coach Edwards to talk some NFL playoff scenarios during a backstage conversation.
Toward the final 10 minutes of the program, the talent became guest gunners assisting the 3rd U.S. Infantry Salute Guns Platoon in firing of the anti-tank guns, and Beadle took part in a drill team exercise that showed the talents of the U.S. Army Drill Team.
Fans of the show ranged from high-school age to baby boomers, but many were appreciative that SportsNation visited the District of Columbia.