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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Geno's memories of ABC/ESPN studio host John Saunders


                            Photo Credit: Mack Brown/ESPN



When news broke Wednesday morning of ESPN/ABC's studio host John Saunders passing away at the age of 61, I felt stunned and speechless.

Saunders' death brought back skin-tingling memories of SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott's passing on Jan. 4, 2015, when it felt like a big piece of the sports media world was gone in the blink of an eye.

The same applies with Saunders as I remember him more as the face of ABC's College Football studio coverage since 1992.

Sure, legendary announcers such as Keith Jackson, Brent Musburger, Brad Nessler and Mike Tirico have come and gone, but you knew that each Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET that John Saunders would be the studio guide previewing the slate of games on ABC.

With studio analysts over the years from Todd Blackledge to Craig James, Saunders knew how to bring the best out of his colleagues and never got in the way or wanted any of the spotlight.

In a time where mindless debates tend to dominate the sports media landscape, Saunders was the opposite and wanted to make others around him better.

On a personal note, I covered last season's TCU/Minnesota football game to open the 2016 season for this very site and found out during the week that John Saunders would host coverage on-site for ESPN. The inner-kid came out in me because I remembered watching on an oversized couch back in Detroit, MI on Saturdays with a poised Saunders delivering scores and highlights on my TV screen. For those wondering, why that was a big deal be reminded in the 1990's, the internet merely existed for instant scores, so having the studio shows was my Twitter. 

I hoped to possibly run into Saunders in the press box at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN to introduce myself.

My opportunity came served to me on a silver platter pre-game as I noticed Saunders sitting across the media dining table chatting with analyst Mark May.

The kid in me wanted to come up and greet him, but the professional in me thought it would be in poor taste to interrupt someone's conversation.

I decided not to say anything to him because of my inner fear of being ignored, so I held on to hope that I might cover another college game with the same scenario down the road, but being able to actually introduce myself. Sadly, that second chance will never happen.

Saunders' death is a reminder to anyone in life that if you want to go out and get something done, then do it because no one will do it for you at the end of the day.

Life is too finite to be timid, so as Freddie Mercury once said, "The Show Must Go On!"





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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

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