SportsCenter's Van Pelt on coronavirus impact: We might 'have to ration news out like it's canned beans'

SportsCenter's Van Pelt on coronavirus impact: We might 'have to ration news out like it's canned beans'
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"SportsCenter" anchor Scott Van Pelt says in a new interview that his show "might feel like we have to ration news out like it's canned beans" given the sports blackout prompted by the coronavirus pandemic that has eliminated much of the content the program normally covers.

The perspective comes following drastic changes in the world of sports last week, with the NBA, March Madness, NHL, MLS, PGA, NASCAR, MLB and other sports leagues postponing or cancelling their seasons and events altogether.

ESPN's signature program, "SportsCenter," which launched as the Connecticut-based network's first show in September 1979, got a reprieve this week due to big NFL offseason trades and news highlighted by Tom Brady's departure from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the network has been pressed for regular content given the pandemic and resulting impact on sports leagues.

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"We're literally taking this day-by-day because this has never happened before," Van Pelt told USA Today in an interview published Thursday. "For the time being, we've had the cancellations and sports news to talk about. But that's a temporary fix for a permanent issue."

“At some point, we very well could run on empty to where we might feel like we have to ration news out like it’s canned beans,” the 53-year-old added. “We like to think we’re a creative bunch at ESPN. But I’m also no magician. I’m not an illusionist. I won’t be one for the audience.”

Burke Magnus, ESPN's executive vice president of programming acquisitions and scheduling, said "compelling archival content" and "stunt event programming" may be offered in addition to coronavirus reporting and NFL free agency news.

“Since this week coincidentally is the beginning of the NFL league calendar and free agency, we’ve built our schedules with an eye toward that being a major topic of conversation,” Magnus said. “The second goal is aimed at looking ahead to entertain fans through fun, compelling archival content and/or themed and stunt event programming that will provide a diversion at a time that there are virtually no other live sports to watch.”

Van Pelt, who joined ESPN in 2001, also made the point that people can both take coronavirus seriously while missing what many feel is the escapism and camaraderie that comes with sports.

"There's room in our hearts for empathy on the virus and sports," he said.