Kuwait's a center of sports as ESPN comes to Camp Arifjan
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Lights, camera, Arifjan.
More than 500 members of the military crowded a Camp Arifjan warehouse for ESPN’s first live “SportsCenter” broadcast from Kuwait, cheering their favorite or jeering their least-favorite teams during the hourlong sports news program Tuesday.
Opening the show was Army Staff Sgt. Teddy Barlow, who held roll call for the assembled units before turning the formation over to “SportsCenter” anchors Steve Levy and Kenny Mayne.
Levy and Mayne covered the weekend’s sporting events in their casual, rapid-fire manner, while seated in front of the packed house of desert camouflage-clad soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
During commercial breaks, anchors and audience traded barbs and jokes.
“I thought they were awesome,” Levy said of the spectators after the show. “This is something I’ll never forget.”
It’s also something that the gathered crowd will remember.
“I got my chance to get on camera and be crazy,” said Spc. Noah Brown of the 854th Engineer Battalion, “and give a ‘shout out’ to the family back home.”
During the broadcast, troops held up signs and flags to a handful of cameras in the audience. Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Gawlick held up a sign for his daughter, Nicole, who turned 11 on Tuesday.
Late in the show, nine soldiers and one airman took to the stage to introduce the top 10 plays of the day, which included everything from spectacular baseball catches to surfing dogs, which came in at No. 3.
In addition to professional sports, or in the surfing dogs’ case not-so-professional sports, “SportsCenter” ran highlights from a Camp Doha, Kuwait, flag football game.
The chance to be on television drew sports fans and non-sports fans alike.
“It was a great experience,” said Staff Sgt. Juan Buenrostro of the Fort Riley, Kan.-based Service Battery, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment. “It’s a good break and a huge morale booster.”
Buenrostro and fellow battery members Sgt. Thomas Reust and Spc. Jared Kiser all agreed that this was a highlight of their return trip home after a year in Iraq.
Sgt. Ann Dooley of the 80th Ordnance Battalion sat on the front row of Army cots that served as audience seating. She said she isn’t a sports fan, but wanted to attend anyway.
“This is the first time I’ve experienced something like this,” she said. “I’m impressed. It’s neat.”
Broadcasting for the military in Kuwait was also neat for Mayne. “We’ve done stories with the military,” he said. “But obviously nothing like this. You sort of feel pressure not to screw it up for them.”
“SportsCenter” will do live broadcasts from Kuwait daily through Saturday.