Photo Courtesy ESPN
Monday, March 9, 2009 | midnight
His numbers on the field aren’t legendary, but Kenny Mayne’s contribution to sports goes far beyond his performance as an athlete. Mayne’s unique approach to covering sports has made him one of the most recognizable figures in the sports media.
Long before the ESPN funny man made a living as a sports broadcaster, he played sports. Mayne came to Las Vegas in 1978 as an All-American quarterback from Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) Community College. During his time at UNLV, Mayne battled injuries and never saw much action on the field, backing up Larry Gentry and Sam King.
“I was the perennial backup,” Mayne said.
Despite limited action on the field, Mayne had hopes of a pursuing a career in football. The Seattle Seahawks signed him as a free agent, but he failed a physical because of a broken-ankle he suffered during his junior season at UNLV.
With dreams of becoming a professional football player fading, Mayne devoted more of his attention to becoming a successful broadcaster and started work for a TV station in the Seattle area.
Early in his career, Mayne had more interest in political news rather than sports coverage.
“Since I played sports I didn’t want to just do the obvious and be a sports broadcaster,” he said.
After covering a variety of topics as a local television reporter, Mayne transitioned specifically to covering sports and in 1994 made the jump to the pinnacle of the sports media, ESPN. He started out as an anchor for SportsSmash on ESPN2, and eventually transitioned to the coveted spot as an anchor on SportsCenter in 1997.
His dry sense of humor with highlight calls like, “We all know that games aren’t played on paper…they are played by little men inside our TV sets,” and “I’m amused by the simplicity of this game,” turned Mayne into a star on the network.
Mayne says his humor comes from his upbringing, and watching plenty of Johnny Carson as a kid.
“It’s just how I turned out,” Mayne said. “Everybody is a product of their environment, and my dad was a funny man and my best friend is very funny.”
Mayne has turned his comic approach into his shtick. ESPN. He hosts a comedy based segment on NFL Primetime called the “Mayne Event,” and last year starred in the short format comedy series on ESPN.com called Mayne Street.
“It just sort of happened,” Mayne said of his comedic role with ESPN. “It took me out of the conventional way of covering sports.”
As Mayne has developed into a star with ESPN, he says his time at UNLV helped him prepare him for a unique job in the sports media.
“I loved going there and made some great relationships that I still have today,” Mayne said. “It was exciting.”