Dan Patrick is leaving ESPN, as I'm sure everyone has heard by this point. ESPN personalities have received quite a bit of criticism over the years, a lot of it deserved, but Patrick has been great for a number of years. As I've said before on this blog, I grew up in Bristol, so I was surrounded by ESPN for most of my life, and I was lucky enough to cover them for the local paper for a handful of stories. I was able to speak with a number of the big personalities over there for interviews; some were extremely friendly (Karl Ravech, Rob Dibble, Rich Eisen, Charley Steiner, Berman) and some were not (Olbermann, Stuart Scott). Patrick goes squarely into the nice category, as he took a half hour after a press conference to speak with me about sports journalism, the life of a SportsCenter anchor, and all the responsibilities and commitments that go with it. Two years later, I talked to him for another story, and he remembered speaking with me, asking me where I was going to college, and giving me encouragement to continue pursuing a journalism career.
Throughout the years, while other ESPN personalities seemed to sacrifice their journalistic integrity and bleed more onto the entertainment side, Patrick kept a measure of integrity, both on TV and on radio. He was one of the few who seemed to understand how to blend in the entertainment element without losing sight of ESPN being a sports network. I don't think any of the other big-time ESPN personalities (save for Peter Gammons) would have been able to pull off the interview with David Stern after the Phoenix-San Antonio "Steve Nash body-check" game. Patrick didn't back down, and was able to ask some tough questions, questions that are all-too-rare from the biggest of the ESPN personalities these days.
ESPN will be worse off without Patrick, and hopefully he finds success in his next opportunity.