Sunday afternoons are usually given over to watching or playing sports. But on the first day of May, more than 100 people packed the New Canaan Library to hear about sports, or more precisely, how sports are broadcast to us.
New Canaan's George Bodenheimer, president of cable sports giant ESPN, gave a humorous and enlightening talk, detailing the growth of the Bristol-based network from a fledgling seat-of-the-pants creation in 1979 to its dominant presence in sports media today.
"We take our sports seriously, but we don't take ourselves too seriously," he said. "We have fun."
Bodenheimer spelled out ESPN's mission, culture, passion and brand as being keys to its success.
"Our mission is to serve sports fans," he said. "Our culture is one of hard work, a can-do attitude. Our brand is sports – ESPN is what you think of when you think of sports broadcasting.
"But our passion is the difference maker," he continued. "People with passion overdeliver." Bodenheimer cited the rollout of a network covering English soccer in six weeks as an example of what can be accomplished with passion.
He also touched on the increasing role in sports of women, saying "There's an under-served market of women athletes and sports fans." And he touched on digital media: "By 2014, more people will access the Internet from their pocket device than their computer, and we need to be part of that." And he contrasted ESPN's current success with its early years, when "we didn't know how long we'd be in existence." During those early days, Bodenheimer worked in sales for the network in Texas and Arkansas, "basically giving ESPN for free to any cable operator that would show us. But I discovered every one of those little towns was a sports town."
Based on the turnout on a sunny May afternoon, New Canaan definitely falls into that category as well.
Are you a fan of ESPN? Where do you get your sports news?