In 2004 only a couple of months after we moved to Florida Walt Disney World hosted the first ever ESPN the Weekend. The event was a celebration of the sports network’s 25th anniversary and since ESPN is the most viewed channel in our house Doobie and I were quite excited about the event.

This past weekend we attended our 5th ESPN the Weekend and the event continues to be a highlight of the year. I’m a big fan of Mike and Mike in the Morning which now airs on ESPN2 and having a chance to see them record the show live is such a thrill each year. (pics of Mike & Mike)Although as their popularity increases its getting more and more difficult. I can still remember how disappointed I was at the first ESPN the Weekend that they weren’t offering their show for live viewing but instead we got to see the Mikes as guests on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Actually it was because of that appearance that Doobie (my husband) started watching them, too.

This year in a Standing Room Only presentation of Stump the Schwab (pics)– once again Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic were a delight to watch as they “assisted” their teammates in answering trivia questions with the hopes of going head to head with ESPN trivia guru, Howie Schwab. Poor Linda Cohn on the third team was disappointed by the lack of hockey questions. I got a kick out of the fact that Greeney’s team was the Wildcats and they stepped on to the stage to a High School Musical song. Greenberg however was not the only sports guy familiar with Disney music. Later in the weekend New England Patriots Ben Watson shared a secret with the gathered audience. He has a fondness for Ariel’s song “Part of Your World” and even sang parts of “Be Our Guest.” Wonder if that will make a SportsCenter highlight?

Whenever the ESPN talent discusses the Weekend they highlight how guests can interact with sports stars and they’re right. Its fun to watch kids play three on three with Harlem Globetrotters or catch a pass from a NFL player. But I love having a chance to meet and get autographs from the ESPN celebrities.(pics) Since the event’s beginning we’ve met Peter Gammons, Sal Paolantonio, Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth, Dana Jacobson, Chris McKendry, Woody Paige, Steve Phillips and Howie Schwab. They all let their hair down a bit for the weekend. Almost as if they stop being sports anchors and spend some time simply being sports fans just like us.

At ESPN the Weekend you’ll inevitably encounter the family of passionate fans. (pics) Last year there were three generations men enjoying the day together, each wearing a jersey representing the team of their era. During the presentations you can whispers of the more knowledgeable fans sharing information with the less knowledgeable in their group about the players appearing on stage. In some cases sharing their favorite memory of the athlete –or- why they hate them.

This year’s ESPN the Weekend introduced Cris Carter as the newest member of their team. I had not watched him on HBO and didn’t know his style of commentary but I’m now very excited about his addition to the ESPN family. He was a straight shooter with a bit of an edge that will bring some new energy to NFL Live which I’ve found a bit flat.

With all the fun at ESPN the Weekend its hard to imagine ways to make it better but this year I realized that I’m never more out of touch with sporting news that during these few days when I’m spending all day completely in ESPN events. Perhaps they could offer somewhere to view ESPNews or add a bottomline to a tv screen that is part of the pre-show.

Another wish is that people wouldn’t ask questions at Baseball Tonight or NFL Live that will be discussed on TV. For example I cringe when I hear the question “How will my (insert favorite team here) do this year?” unless its from a child. Otherwise that’s the same type of stuff we hear each week on their show. I don’t know if they’d answer but I’d be curious to know which ball clubs are the most challenging to cover or which athletes are the best interviewees. Perhaps ask about their most embarrassing moments, favorite moments. This year one question I really enjoyed was asked of New York Giants Brandon Jacobs & Amani Toomer “What were you thinking in the huddle towards the end of the Super Bowl?” (pics) The players answer took us to the field and since these two are not the ones typically grabbed by the side line reporters we learned more about a player’s mindset in the midst of the game. And I love when the athletes are asked questions that offer more about how and why they are who they are.

But if I could only change one thing it would be to bring back ESPN the Fireworks, a high energy sports montage accompanied by a fireworks display. This event finale was only featured in the first year but it was amazing.

Aside from seeing Mike & Mike live in person my favorite moment from this year’s event was the chance to speak with Trey Wingo. He patiently listened to my question and gave a thoughtful answer. I grew up in baseball home without much exposure to football. I’ve been to one football game where Cris Carter broke his collarbone. I’d heard about the Mark Schlereth’s 29 surgeries, 20 on his knees (15 left, 5 right) and Ronnie Lott loosing part of his finger in a tackle. I enjoy watching football but always wondered “Why do they play?” I mean with all the sports opportunities out there why one that takes such a toll on the body. Trey helped me to understand why football — by showcasing the differences between it and something I did understand baseball. So Trey has a new fan. I’m more inclined to stay with a channel if I see him on the screen. And once again I’ve learned something that increases my enjoyment of sports at ESPN the Weekend.