|Getting Inside Inside Baseball|
Maggie Haskins ’04 just wanted a job interview. Really. She did not dream of being a star on reality television. But when she heard about an open casting call for a new ESPN reality show, the aspiring sportscaster was intrigued.
The show was called Dream Job, and on it, a dozen contestants would compete to become the next anchor of the station’s real-life show SportsCenter. To Haskins, a former Brown softball player who was coeditor of the Brown Daily Herald sports section, it sounded like a perfect first interview. So she boarded a Bonanza bus for Boston last September for the casting call. TV executives watched as groups of ten hopeful applicants gathered around pool tables and debated such hot-button issues as who would win the World Series.
Two months later, Haskins, a Chicago native and U.S. history concentrator, got a phone call saying she’d made it to the New York regional competition. Eventually judges whittled down the original pool of 10,000 to the twelve contestants who would appear on camera—including just two women, Haskins and Lori Rubinson ’86. Filming started on February 22 in New York City and lasted six weeks. Because the show was taped on Sundays, Haskins was able to participate without missing classes.
The job, she discovered, was challenging. In the first episode, she had forty minutes to write a news story around two sports highlights. She performed the package live on TV. Each week the four judges, along with the viewing public, eliminated contestants based on their performance. Considered a long shot by some newspaper and Internet critics, Haskins nonetheless managed to hang in week after week. (Rubinson was cut in the third episode.) Haskins says she built on the judges’ criticisms, shortening her leads and working on her vocal intonation. Sent to Florida to cover spring training, she profiled Jody Gerut and Brandon Phil-lips of the Cleveland Indians. Judge Tony Kornheiser said Haskins’s editorial choices at spring training “left him cold,” but for Haskins the experience was nothing short of a thrill. She discovered she loved field reporting. A lifelong baseball fan, Haskins says another highlight of her six-week adventure was a studio interview with Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox.
By the fifth episode, Haskins felt she’d improved dramatically. Even Kornheiser seemed to agree, lavishing praise on her writing. After that, she says, the sixth episode, in which she was one of the final four contestants, was “icing on the cake.” But alas, even though the judges called her “the most improved,” she was one of two cut in the first hour. “It stunk,” she says.
Thankfully for Haskins, Dream Job was not a typical reality program: the focus was on sportscasting, not backstabbing roommates or tactless judges. Still, all reality shows seem to need a dose of romance, and Dream Job proved no exception. As the series progressed, it was revealed that Haskins and another contestant, Mike Hall, were dating. Haskins says she thought it was funny that her personal life was suddenly a matter of public interest. She says she and Hall, the show’s ultimate winner, are friends.
After filming ended, Haskins met some friends in the Caribbean for spring break, and then came back to Brown—and back to reality.