For all sports buffs, Jason Dasey for years was one of the most important persons in their lives. After all, it was he who gave the daily dose of news from the world of sports as the iconic host of ESPN’s SportsCenter. Jason’s been in the field of journalism and broadcasting for more than thirty years, working for the likes of BBC, CNN, ESPN, having covered events like the FIFA World Cup 2006 and the US Open in tennis (for a full biography of Jason, visit his website, www.jasondasey.com) . In an exclusive interview with The Viewspaper, Jason tells us about his breakthrough report, his fame as a Sportscenter host, and his experiences of working with the likes of Harsha Bhogle, Ravi Shastri, Wasim Akram, and the rest of the ESPN team.
VP: Your breakthrough article, where you gave an insiders report on Australia winning the America’s Cup in sailing (and in doing so, giving the USA its first loss in 132 years in the competition) had a lot of fortune to it, since you were supposed to be on a vacation at the time. Can you tell us more about that day, highlighting exactly what you said to gain access to the New York Yacht Club (if you still remember it)?
Jason Dasey: The America’s Cup story was a turning point in my career and an example of fate meeting opportunity. It was my first ever trip to the USA and the last thing from my mind was my job as a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. When I boarded the plane from Sydney, Australia was trailing 3-1 in the best of seven race series and on-one expected the Americans to lose.
Soon after arriving in New York, the news came out that Australia had almost miraculously came back to win. The yachting races were being covered by one of the Herald’s reporters at Rhode Island, a couple of hours away, but no-one was at the posh New York Yacht Club. So I turned up at the club in a blue blazer that I borrowed from a friend. Just as I arrived, they were carrying out the America’s Cup trophy for the presentation in Rhode Island. It looked like a funeral. I approached one of the members who had been crying and told him that I was an Australian journalist. He invited me for dinner as a guest in the club and I got the story of my life.
VP: During your time with SportsCenter India, you had become immensely popular, so much so that ESPN had an advertisement where a group of ladies recognized you and one asks you for an autograph, and when you were just about to sign it, she mentions she wants Irfan Pathan’s. Did it ever happen that ladies, who many wouldn’t expect to recognize the host of a Sports show, come up to you for an autograph?
Jason Dasey: Yes. During my frequent trips to India, I was always surprised by the number of people who knew me. Some came from outside the usual demographics of sports TV viewers. Even today people from India still Email me and ask me if I’d consider coming back to host a daily news show again. Those clever promos definitely helped raise my profile and got people thinking about our programmes. And, funnily enough, Irfan Pathan actually commented on it when we did a telephone interview on SportsCenter, saying that he was happy to be part of it!
VP: As a judge of the first Dream Job, was there anything particularly special that you saw right from the start in Anand Narasimhan, who went on to win the competition?
Jason Dasey: I first saw Anand in one of the heats and he immediately impressed me. He had an engaging and likeable quality that made him stand out. Of course, he wasn’t the finished article by any means, but I could see his potential. As it turned out, he’s become a very solid presenter and is getting better all the time.
VP: Were there some other candidates that you thought could, one day, take your seat on SportsCenter India, and maybe even establish themselves on SportsCenter Asia?
Jason Dasey: All of the four finalists from Dream Job 1 were quite strong. It’s great that they’ve all gone on to carve themselves good careers in the media. Puneet Pal Singh has been hosting SportsCenter India, which is great to see as he’s a dedicated and talented broadcaster and is reaping the rewards of his hard work and persistence.
VP: At ESPN, you worked with several Indians, like Harsha Bhogle and Ravi Shastri. What were your experiences working with them that stand out in your long career?
Jason Dasey: Harsha and Ravi were excellent professionals and it was a pleasure working with them. The highlight of my time with Harsha was the Dream Job final when I was one of the judges alongside Wasim Akram and doing ‘live’ reports from the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany when Harsha was host, especially the time I appeared with the Australian colours painted on my face before the Socceroos faced Italy in Kaiserslautern.
The highlight of working with Ravi were those SportsCenter India cricket specials – with Suni Gavaskar and Wasim Akram – during some exciting India-Pakistan encounters. Ravi was always an insightful pundit.
VP: You speak English, French, conversational Indonesian/Malay and a few phrases of Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese. Do you know any Hindi phrases, other than your catchphrase “Namaste India”, from your time at Sportscenter India?
Jason Dasey: My restaurant Hindi has always been the strongest part of that language for me! Darain Shahidi taught me a few other words – and helped me with my farewell report in Hindi when SportsCenter India changed languages in 2005. To be honest, my Hindi needs a lot of work. But living in Singapore, I did learn a few words of Tamil with all my trips to Little India for Dosai and Goa fish curry.
VP: Which sporting event that you covered did you enjoy the most?
Jason Dasey: The 2006 FIFA World Cup is my favourite. I did also enjoy the 2003 and 2004 U.S. Open tennis when I co-anchored from New York City with Vijay Amritraj. Covering two years of the IFA Shield final in Kolkata is another experience that I will never forget.
VP: You interviewed both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the French Open this year. What were the similarities and differences that you noticed in them?
Jason Dasey: Rafa and Roger are vastly different in their style on the court and it’s the same when it comes to their manner in the interview. Roger has an aura that comes from being the greatest player for so many years. He seems to enjoy the interview process – whether it’s in English, French, German or Swiss-German – and gives 100% to every answer. Rafa is younger and while he’s always professional in the interview setting, clearly finds it less enjoyable. But I like Rafa… for somone so gifted and successful; he has a genuine humility and respect for the game of tennis.
VP: Did you always want to be associated with sports broadcasting, where you have spent the majority of your career so far?
Jason Dasey: When I was a kid growing up in Sydney, sports were always my passion, whether it was cricket, rugby or football. Because I wasn’t good enough to represent Australia in any of my favourite sports, reporting on them seemed to be the next best thing. Saying that, I am happy to have had a few journalistic achievements outside sports – including BBC World Service Radio reporter and a foreign news host/reporter for an American TV station. But sport is fun because it’s usually uplifting and all about achievement.
VP: Finally, can we expect you to host SportCenter (India or Asia) again, even if only for one “Testimonial” special show?
Jason Dasey: I would definitely be open to hosting SportsCenter India or Asia again. But it really depends on the viewers – my old fans, if you like – in India. If they would like to see me back on the air, they should speak up, perhaps contacting the bosses at ESPN/STAR Sports. If that happens, how could I refuse?