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Published: Sunday, 5/11/2008

ESPN host talks sports for a living

ESPN's Jay Crawford graduated from Sandusky Perkins High School in 1983 and Bowling Green State University in 1987. ESPN's Jay Crawford graduated from Sandusky Perkins High School in 1983 and Bowling Green State University in 1987.
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In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Ryan Autullo talked with Jay Crawford, a Bowling Green State University graduate who now is the hosts of the ESPN2 morning show First Take.

Bump into Jay Crawford on any given day and his response to the question, how are you doing, likely will be the same. Crawford is living the dream. He doesn't wake up in the morning to go to work. He wakes up to talk about sports. There's a big different in Crawford's mind.

Crawford is essentially the mediator on First Take, a show that among other things promotes debate on the latest news and issues in the sports world. Crawford occasionally will inject his opinion on a subject, but he prefers the role of host, which is where he began his career while working on the radio station at BG.

Prior to arriving at ESPN in 2003, Crawford spent five years at WFTS-TV in Tampa. It was there that Crawford picked up some side work - as a professional baseball player. Crawford made three appearances in 2005, splitting time between independent teams St. Paul and Long Beach. He registered a 0-1 record with a 2.25 ERA, and in his final outing, Crawford threw two hitless innings.

Crawford graduated from Sandusky Perkins in 1983 and earned a bachelor's degree in radio, television and film four years later. A fan of Ohio State, Crawford said he'd pull for BGSU to defeat the Buckeyes in football provided the game was close in the final minutes.

"I HAVE FOND memories of my time at Bowling Green. I went away to school from Sandusky with some of my childhood friends and baseball teammates. Going there wasn't that big of a stretch in terms of being out of my element. Looking back on it, I have so many fond memories on the things we did to pass time - a lot of school work, but we had a great deal of fun. While you're in it you can't wait to get out of it. Once you're out of it, a few years later you realize, wow, I had it made.

"I WORKED AT the radio station. My freshman year the hockey team won the national championship. Just about every semester I took hockey as a class so I spent a lot of my time at the ice rink. I knew a lot of the guys so to see them win a national championship was really exciting. From an athletic standpoint, it was certainly the highlight of my four years there.

"THE MOST FULFILLING part of my job is it doesn't feel like a job. I feel like I've been fortunate enough to work in a profession where it's such a passion it really doesn't feel like actual work. I love what I do. I love who I work for. I love the show that I work on. I consider myself fortunate. When people ask me how I'm doing I say, 'I'm living the dream.'

"I WORKED IN Florida from 1998 to 2003 and the 18 and older team I played on won the state tournament. Along the way one of the Devil Rays' personnel guys scouted some of our games and watched me throw and recognized me from TV. He asked me if I had any interest in throwing at all. I said, 'Well, I'm not going to quit my day job for that.' One thing leads to another and he ends up leaving the Devil Rays organization. But he worked for some minor league teams after he left Florida and was a guest on our show. He asked, what would you think about coming to St. Paul and throwing for us?

"MY DREAM GROWING UP was to be a professional baseball player. I thought seriously of walking on at Bowling Green, but in the end I decided I wanted to get my grades in order first. Once you miss that boat your freshman year you're kind of behind, so I never played in college. It was at that point I said if I can't play professional baseball the next best thing would be to go into broadcast.

"I'M A HUGE MUSIC guy. I love U2 and I had an opportunity to interview Bono. For me that was almost an out-of-body experience. When I was in high school they weren't as close to being as big as they are now. For me to sit down and interview the guy 20 years later, it was mind boggling. Sometimes they say be careful about meeting your heroes because they rarely live up to expectations. But in this particular case he might have exceeded expectations. It was probably the only time I've been nervous going into an interview.

"I LOVE THE SUPER Bowl. I've been to eight in a row to cover for shows. But the one event that I've covered that really stands out - I'm a huge Indians fans - I got to cover the Indians when I worked in Columbus. Even though it was the most heart-breaking sporting event I've ever covered, the 1997 World Series was one of the coolest experiences of my life. The media was in the lobby of Joe Robbie Stadium in game seven and I was listening to it on a transistor radio. When the Marlins scored the winning run, 50 clubhouse workers pulled down the plastic inside the Indians' locker room. Even though I've never been more disappointed as a sports fan, it was really neat to be part of it. That same year Ohio State won the Rose Bowl. It was one of the best games I've seen."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com.



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