ESPN afternoon SportsCenter anchor Robert Flores took some time to answer my moronic email questions. He's good like that.
Many of you who have the luxury of staying at home all day might recognize Robert Flores from ESPN's afternoon SportsCenter, which he co-anchors with Chris McKendry. Or you might recognize him from his time on ESPNNews. Or, for those of you who are Lone Star residents, you might remember him as the Austin sports anchor who was fired after he accidentally dropped an f-bomb on air. Or you might not have any idea who he is at all. But you should . Here Flores gives us some insight into what it's like doing a live SportsCenter everyday, the fallout from getting fired, and how he's most likely never going to get caught carousing like some of his other ESPN colleagues.
DS: How do you like the live format? Have you had any missteps on the air so far that have been completely memorable? So far, we've had McKendry spout off "Viagra" instead of Villanova and Clayton allegedly breaking wind during the morning hour. Does this cross your mind every day when you do live spots?
,RF: I was a little skeptical at first about a morning and afternoon Sportscenter. But, after five months I like it. I think we're still trying to find our niche but I think we've made some improvements in how to cover breaking news as well as give a fresh perspective to last night's highlights.
Now, let me just say I did extensive investigation on the alleged incident involving John Clayton. I talked with our audio guys, as well as the floor crew... I went "CSI" on that piece of tape and I feel confident in saying John wasn't the culprit. Honestly, I don't know who or what did it but it wasn't the "Professor."
You want to talk about embarrassing moments. For me it happened when I was on the evening SportsCenter several months ago. I said "shot clock" during a highlight, except I said something that rhymes with "clock". Yeah... I know. But that clip ended up on the Howard Stern show so I felt a little better.
DS: Before you were at SportsCenter, you worked as a sports reporter for KEYE in Austin where you were fired for "uttering the F-word" on air. Somehow, your career wasn't ruined after that and you managed to land at ESPN. Tell me what the day was like after you realized that your "fuck" made the air and then the subsequent firing. Walk me through your emotional state, if you could:
RF: Which is a perfect segue into question number two. It's amazing that this story still gets talked about. What ran on the air that morning was a "busted take" from two nights before. So not only was the tape wrong, but it was from the wrong day as well. Luckily because that place was struggling a bit a lot of people didn't see it. But, the company had a "zero tolerance" policy so I got canned. I couldn't believe it at first. I remember telling my son who was 10 at the time, "I said something I shouldn't have said and I got fired. If you make mistakes you have to be willing to face the punishment".
DS: Ironically, you were also on air during Danyelle Sargent's first "what the fuck was that?!" moment on ESPN news. Did you comfort her or have any sage advice for her after that happened?
RF: Danyelle is a great person and I enjoyed working with her. I remember at the time having a sinking feeling in my stomach because I knew our mics were "hot" She felt terrible about it as did everyone else. There wasn't much I could tell her. At the time I felt like anything I would have said would have made things worse. However, she eventually moved on and it seems like she's enjoying herself now during this phase of her career.
DS: What is the five-year plan for an ESPN afternoon anchor? Do you have aspirations of becoming the next 11:30 "Big Show" SportsCenter personality? Do you have catch phrases written down some place that you recite to yourself in front of the mirror each morning to motivate?
RF: I just want to do good TV. I like my new role. Before I was kind of all over the place, this show seems like something that "belongs" to me, something I can grow into. I like working with Chris and everyone else on the show. Being live for three hours everyday I think you develop a "bunker" mentality with your co-workers. However, I'm always willing to accept new challenges.
DS: Do you get paranoid when you're out in public, acting all crazy, that some punk with a cellphone will snap your picture and you'll end up with some of the sports blog ignominy of some of your colleagues? What if some jerkoff actually peered over your shoulder to see who you were texting and then reported its contents to the world?
RF: I'm not famous... I'm kind of like the Tony Danza of Sportscenter anchors. Although, I continue to enjoy quite a following in West, Texas.
DS:Do you understand how some sports fans can get turned off by ESPN's all-encompassing power? Do you wish that, sometimes, ESPN was more mom-and-pop than Wal-Mart?
RF: Yep it doesn't get more "mom and pop" than Wal-Mart.. 7,300 stores worldwide..they are the little engine that could.
I think most of our harshest critics are fellow members of the media. People who write for blogs, newspapers etc. I read where CBS' Jim Nantz said when asked about our BCS deal, "I hope they just leave something for us." I'm a huge fan of Jim Nantz, like me he's a University of Houston alum, but ESPN is a sports network. That's what we do. And if memory serves...doesn't CBS have a billion dollar deal to show the NC Double A basketball tournament exclusively? However, I'll let you in a little secret — we are in serious negotiations with CBS Young and the Restless so be on the look out for that.
Before working here, I rarely watched SportsCenter. I didn't really appreciate the product. After working here obviously that's changed. I think we do our best to keep in mind what fans think and want and hopefully those who turned away come back in the future
DS: When I first talked to you on the phone, I mistakenly referred to you as the "Most popular Mexican sports anchor in the world." You corrected me and said something about the "Hispanic community" or something. Either way, do you feel like you're some sort of a trailblazer for some ethnic community?
RF: Yep I'm Mexican American. Earlier this year I was asked to speak at this function in Dallas. The organizers asked if I was the first Hispanic to anchor Sportscenter. I thought to myself, "you know that's a good question." I asked our PR department and they weren't sure..at any rate if I am the first then I'm honored. If not, it's nice to be among the first. ESPN has done great work in the area of diversity both on and behind the camera, ESPN Deportes has been a big success. However, I hope we can continue to make strides in that area especially since the Hispanic fan base continues to grow both domestically and abroad.
DS: So what does Robert Flores do when he's off air. Say I called you on the phone and I was like, "Hey, Bobby, what's up with you, ese?" What kind of off-air activity would you be doing?
RF: First, I would say , "there's no Bobby here." Then I might say, "Who you trying to get crazy with ese, don't you know I'm loco??"
A.J. I live an exciting life. If I'm not saving lives in my side job as a podiatrist, then I'm whittling driftwood in the likeness of Ric Flair.
If I'm not doing those things then I'm playing basketball or video games with my kids. I also like to play golf in the spring and summertime
DS: What is the your proudest moment at the WWL so far? Was there one particular day where you spun around in your chair, reveling in your own awesomeness?
RF: One day one of our producers had his family up to the newsroom and he introduced me as "one of our Sportscenter anchors". Sounds hokey I know, but it felt good at the time. In fact I'm crying right now as I type this.
DS: Who is the best in your business right now? Fred Hickman?
RF: Well, I worked with Fred a few times and he was nothing but nice to me. But for my money best in the business right now: Scott Van Pelt and John Buccigross. Both are hilarious and do a great job of telling story with the hi-lites. With that said, just about everyone at ESPN is the cream of the crop, so to just pick one or two is very difficult.