The ESPN television sports broadcasting network is offering fans the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream - to be an on-air anchor on television. The ESPN "Dream Job" contest is a reality show that gives average sports fans the chance to earn a one-year contract to work on ESPN. Several potential candidates showed up recently at an audition in Washington for the Dream Job show.
On a cool, clear autumn day in Washington, nearly 200 people stood outside the ESPN Zone restaurant for a shot at making ESPN 's Dream Job show. Most of the candidates were young men, most were dressed in suits and ties, and they had come from all over the Eastern United States for a shot at winning their Dream Job.
One candidate was Michael Vincent, a 24-year-old African American man with a bright smile and dressed in a blue suit and tie. Vincent told VOA Sports he drove from his home in Miami, Florida because he wanted the chance to live out his dream - being an anchor on ESPN 's popular sports news show called SportsCenter.
"It's like Scarface [actor Al Pacino in the movie Scarface] said, 'You get the job, you get the money, you get the women!' Okay and that's what happens. And that's what happens," said Michael Vincent. "You get money, you get the power, you get the job, you get the women, period. What could be after that? I'm 24 so there isn't much after that."
Also in line is Mike Malloy, an information technology specialist, who lives in Washington, D.C. Like the other candidates he wears a stick-on name tag, but his says "Mike - Yankees Sweep" referring to the American League Baseball playoff series between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins. Malloy, a New York native, says he has other reasons for wanting to audition.
"I'm incredibly bored at work, so I figured this would be a nice diversion," he said. "I'm an IT [information technology] consultant and it's really boring. I'm going to - flying by the seat of my pants [make the effort even though he has no experience] - see what happens."
But it's not only men in line, there are also women vying for the ESPN Dream Job. Cathy Conger is a mother of two children from Washington, D.C. She says if she had the chance to do her life over she would be a sports journalist. Conger says that she has just as good a chance as anyone auditioning.
"I think the [so-called] 'soccer mom' demographic is not represented enough in the sports world," she said. "So here I am. I know I've got plenty of friends my age, women who love sports, watch sports, play sports. We need to be represented."
Once the candidates get inside the restaurant they are taken to an area where they have seven minutes to answer 30 sports trivia questions. Jason Blake is one of the casting directors for the Dream Job show, and he says that the purpose of the testing is to make sure the candidates have what it takes to be on the air.
"We take them, once the trivia test is done, [and] they go to an interview round table, "he said. "Here we have about eight to 10 candidates, who are being quizzed and judged by some of our casting staff and as well as some celebrity judges. The first thing we ask them to do is the play-by-play of their favorite sports moment of all time. So that way we can see what they like, see if they have potential right away."
Inside the roundtable, several candidates - men and women - are having a heated discussion about sports, in this case about professional (American-style) football player Terrell Owens of the San Francisco 49s.
Once the roundtable is over, and the judges make their decision, the candidates are called back for another round of auditions. From 29 cities across the United States, 10 regional winners will be chosen. Jason Blake says that the idea is to find the next big sports anchor.
"And then those 10 regional winners are going to go to [ESPN headquarters in] Bristol [Connecticut] in February - February to March to [they will] be filmed in the reality show ESPN Dream Job which follows them competing for that one-year, on-air contract with Sports Center," said Jason Blake. "We're not necessarily looking for just a TV show. We are ultimately looking to get that one next SportsCenter anchor."
No professional broadcasters are allowed to take part in the contest. Only a handful of the men and women lined up outside the Washington D.C. restaurant will even make it past the first two levels. But there is a possibility that one of them could be the next big thing, and find their Dream Job.
Decisions during the elimination process will be made by both a panel of judges and viewers of the shows (via ESPN.com or wireless text messaging). The field will continue to narrow each week until the March 28 finale when the winner will be selected.