I was just a kid when Charley Steiner yelled “Follow me! Follow me to freedom!” at the end of the “Y2K” This is Sportscenter ad. ESPN was a much simpler network then, before screaming heads led by Messers Bayless and A. Smith really damaged the reputation of everyone’s go-to sports network. Back then, the anchors of Sportscenter, like Steiner, were the stars, and the audience got to see anchor personalities shine through during these 30-second spots. Sometimes the spots featured professional athletes; sometimes they didn’t. But the spots were almost always funny and ripe with self-deprecation.
More than a decade later, Steiner is gone from the network. ESPN has chosen to count down the 50 greatest “This is Sportscenter” commercials from the past 18 years on August 1, with irrelevant host/SNL member Jason Sudeikis. As always, W+K New York ran point on this project with “the worldwide leader in sports.” I’m not sure why the network has chosen to unroll the countdown now, but we’re told that there will be bonus footage and interviews with the actors, athletes, and producers who helped shape the commercials. So for one last day, we can all follow Charley Steiner to freedom.
You can watch a few of the top spots after the jump, including a great bit featuring the entire Manning family from a few years ago.