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Out of Bounds: An interview with Melissa Stark

Monday, October 29, 2001

By Rob Rossi

A lot of things changed in the fall of 1996. The Steelers began a new era with Jerome Bettis. It also was the start of the last season of Mario Lemieux's first act with the Penguins. The Spice Girls had only started burying rock and roll. And Melissa Stark left a job at Home Team Sports in Baltimore (her hometown) to join ESPN. Not that it was her first brush with the big time. While at the University of Virginia, Stark, who double-majored in foreign affairs and Spanish, was an intern for two years with the "CBS Evening News." But when she got to ESPN, she found herself catering to high school athletes on "Scholastic Sports America." That didn't last long, and Stark is now patrolling the sidelines for "Monday Night Football" -- prime time's longest-running show -- appearing on the same network (ABC) that once was home to The Fonz. Heeeeyyyyyy ...

Melissa Stark
(Bob D'Amico, ABC Photo)

Q: What is a conversation with Dennis Miller like?

A: It ranges. A lot of times it's very funny. He's always making jokes. Rarely do you sit down ... just last week, I sat down and had a very serious conversation with him. But, it's more the former than the latter.

Q: Name three items people might be surprised to know you take on a road trip?

A: OK, I've got to think about this for a sec because I don't really have anything that surprising.

Q: OK, take your time. What was it like meeting Dan Rather?

A: I was pretty young at the time -- in college, so it was actually rather intimidating. He's a very stoic, very serious person. I was an intern, so he gave a little talk to all the interns. I was basically just looking for any kind of advice I could get. He said, "This is the type of job you have to sacrifice your life for." I remember that.

Q: Did you watch any of the 2000 Presidential Election coverage?

A: A little bit, and I saw a lot of the jokes [David] Letterman made about it. I have no idea what [Rather] was doing. Some of the references he made were just outrageous. Just laughable.

Q: Did you expect that from him?

A: Well, here's the thing: The things he was saying were very stogy, old references. It does sort of fit the bill, in a way. Did you think they were jokes?

Q: He called Bob Schieffer "Deputy Dog."

A: Oh my gosh. I just thought that was hilarious.

Q: Was the Cowboys-Redskins game [Oct. 15] as bad as it looked?

A: It was pretty bad. We've had some bad ones this year. Our role was to sort of poke fun at it, to say, "Look, we were stuck with a situation with two 0-4 teams." It just dragged.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up?

A: That's so funny because I asked all the players that question this week. They're having trouble coming up with [an answer], and I'm thinking, "Come on." I haven't even thought of it. ... We would go down to the Salvation Army, some of those old second-hand stores and buy old clothes. A lot of times I would be an old lady, with a wig and powder on my face. You know, falsies, a cane and an old lady dress. I was an old lady ... a lot.

Q: Any reason?

A: I don't know why. I just thought it was funny. It was different. Everybody was a witch or the same things. This was sort of off-beat. I've got to ask my mom.

Q: Can you speak Spanish?

A: A little bit. It's kind of embarrassing though, since college I haven't. I moved to Italy right after school, and since they're both Romance languages, it kind of turned into Italian a little bit.

Q: That's never a bad thing --trying to turn something Italian?

A: Right ... no, no. Actually, I think the [Monday Night Football] guys were counting on me a little bit when we were down in Mexico City for a game. And we were struggling. They wouldn't let us in through security. They didn't understand who we were. Al [Michaels], Dennis and Dan [Fouts] were freaking out. I think everybody was counting on me with my Spanish. I tried my best, but I think I let everybody down.

Q: What is the Spanish word for "song"?

A: Oh my God, you're killing me. I can't remember.

Q: OK, the question was going to be "What is your favorite song?"

A: But I'm going to feel so sad if I can't remember the Spanish word for song.

Q: It will probably come to you at 1 a.m.

A: And then I'll be so mad and will have to call you. Shoot! My favorite song? Can I name some bands? I love U2. I like Barenaked Ladies. I like -- It's cancion. The Spanish word for song is cancion. C-A-N-C-I-O-N. That would have killed me. -- OK, Barnaked Ladies, Eagle Eye Cherry. I like Bruce Springsteen a lot.

Q: Did you have any teen-age crushes on celebrities?

A: Rick Springfield, when I was like under 10. I kind of had a crush on The Fonz.

Q: The Fonz or Henry Winkler?

A: The Fonz. Definitely not Henry Winkler. That was so dumb.

Q: When you had a crush on The Fonz, would you have bid on e-Bay for an autographed photo of him?

Madonna
(Boy Toy Inc., Miramax Films)

A: Well, it really wasn't like that. I was obsessed with Madonna. Honestly, I would have any piece of jewelry, any clothing ...I would go to concerts dressed up like her.

Q: And you thought the Old Lady was your best costume?

A: I know. See, I won a prize for a costume I dressed up in. I'm trying to think. Now I've got old costumes in my mind. I dressed as a gypsy -- a lot of gaudy jewelry and colors.

Q: So ... like Madonna?

A: Yeah, a little bit. I probably was Madonna one year and I just forget. ... So, I wouldn't bid for anything from The Fonz. It wasn't that type of obsession. It was more like I would have wanted any piece of clothing, article, anything from Madonna.

Q: Do you know how much an autographed photo of you is going for on e-Bay?

A: I don't think it is going on e-Bay.

Q: Nine dollars and 99 cents as of midnight Thursday.

A: You're kidding me! That's hysterical. Is that the all-time low?

Q: It's only a starting bid.

A: I was going to say, "I don't think so." I hope not.

Q: Funniest ESPN commercial?

A: Can you jog my memory?

Q: Charlie Steiner and "Follow me to freedom."

A: Is that the one where Evander Holyfield says, "Come and get your whoppin"? That one is pretty funny. Charlie is hiding underneath a desk and Evander is saying "You're gonna get a whoppin, Charlie." The one I thought was so funny was the one that played off "Jerry Maguire," and Charlie was like, "You had me at hello." Charlie is so funny. Of course, when he was on the set of "Melrose Place."

Q: Thought that might be your answer.

A: Really? Well, that was pretty good.

Q: Name three items people might be surprised to know you take on a road trip?

A: Oh, back to that?

Q: Well, Brian Giles takes a "Scream" mask.

A: What! Oh God. I don't really take anything. OK, honestly, I always take a book, my running shoes. And -- this isn't very good -- but I always take a pair of flannel pajama pants. It's always freezing in hotel rooms.

Q: How many times would you guess the Heinz ketchup bottles will go on during the game?

A: They only go off when the Steelers are in the red zone? I would say ... three.

Q: How strange would it be to look up and see giant ketchup bottles flashing red lights?

A: I'm sure that will be very strange. Dennis will probably have something to say about that.

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