I’m not crying, you are.
On Monday night the driest man in sports television history made more than a few eyes damp when he signed off from SportsCenter for the last time. I’m of course talking about Kenny Mayne, the Kent-born ESPN anchor whose deadpan defied highlight exuberance for 27 years on the network’s most famous program.
The Kirkland homeowner announced two weeks ago that he was a “salary cap casualty”; ESPN asked him to take a big pay cut, and he declined. When Mayne released the news via tweet, he worried only “seven people” would like it, he later admitted in a piece for the Los Angeles Times. “This is not false modesty when I say that my biggest fear wasn’t the unknown of leaving my professional home for the last 27 years,” he wrote, “but the embarrassment that no one would give a damn.”
People gave a damn. His tweet received 100,000 hearts and offline love from the many athletes he covered and befriended over the years. Still, his message forgot to mention that he had a couple more weeks of shows to wrap up before officially leaving the "Worldwide Leader in Sports."
When he did get around to clarifying, he invited a handful of sports stars to join him for his final SportsCenter. Most of them needed no introduction to Seattle sports fans. Sue Bird, Marshawn Lynch, and Jamal Crawford all called in, expressing their appreciation for Mayne’s shtick and friendship. Lynch, who managed to mix in some headline-grabbing comments about aliens, even got Mayne to break character for a few seconds with an earnest gesture.
Crawford, the Rainier Beach legend and longtime NBA guard, pledged $27,000 (for Mayne’s 27 years at ESPN) to Run Freely, the foundation started by Mayne and his wife, Gretchen, to help injured veterans walk and run again. Mayne will continue to focus on that cause, but he's certainly not leaving the media sphere, broadly defined: In the Times story, he says appearing in commercials will likely be a "near-future focus." Something tells me he'll be okay at that too.