If you’re an avid SportsCenter watcher, you’ve seen Kevin Negandhi. Negandhi has hosted over a half dozen different programs during his time in Bristol, but his work on the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter is what he’s best known for.
As the first Indian-American to be featured on a major sports network, Negandhi is a trailblazer in the field. He’s displayed the knowledge and versatility to cover just about every sport ESPN showcases as well.
We spoke with Negandhi recently for our “21 Questions” feature. Our conversation ranged from what drove him to be a sports broadcaster, his undying love for the city of Philadelphia and its teams, his perfect last meal and much more.
Get ready to find out more about Negandhi than you ever thought you could.
Here we go…
1. What Philadelphia athlete (current or former) would you most want to co-host a SportsCenter with?
KN: Joel Embiid… Can you imagine what he would say while reading a Timberwolves highlight?
(I would’ve said Brian Dawkins or Ryan Howard but I’ve been on the set with those guys before on SportsCenter)
2. You are the first Indian-American to be on a major sports network. What did that accomplishment mean for you at the time and what does it mean now a few years later?
KN: It meant a dream came true for a 14-year old kid who had a big imagination. When I got the call, it felt like my entire journey in life was this attempt to climb Mount Everest and here I was standing at the top looking around. And after savoring that, my goal was to challenge myself to get better so I wouldn’t fall from the top. The first time I was on ESPN and later my first night on SportsCenter, I thought about all of the Indian-Americans who follow sports because they’re passionate fans. I wanted to represent not just my family, my hometown.. I wanted to also represent them because at the time, there was no one in the landscape of American Sports Network TV that looked like me. It was important that I didn’t screw up. AND, it was important that I succeeded. I put that pressure on me and now, seeing a handful of talented Indian/Pakistani sports anchors, reporters, play-by-play announcers on air at different networks is fantastic. We love sports like everyone else and the ridiculous stereotypes of the past are slowly fading away.
3. They’re making a movie about your life. What actor would you choose to play you?
KN: Hasan Minhaj – (FYI- He loves sports and he has much better hair than me right now so it works perfect)
4. What was the moment that made you realize this was what you wanted to do in life, to be a sports broadcaster?
KN: I was 14. I wanted to be an architect up to that moment (George Costanza would be proud). But I had no interest in the process of being an architect. One day, I remember watching a college basketball game. And there was a player at the free throw line and the two announcers started discussing his profile and his major. The play-by-play guy said the player wanted to do what they were doing for a career. And it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I said – “wait a minute- I can go to games, talk about games, travel AND they pay me?!!!!”.. That night, I watched SportsCenter and during the 11 p.m. broadcast, I said – This is my dream. I want to be the first Indian-American on SportsCenter. Seventeen years later, it happened.
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) October 17, 2019
5. You recently published on Twitter your list of the top cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. What are the the non-cheesesteak places and dishes a visitor to Philly “must” try?
KN: This list created quite a discussion. My only regret is that I didn’t expand it to a Top 10 because there were a few places that should’ve been mentioned like Max’s, Larry’s, Ishkabibble’s, Mama’s.
As for some places outside of Cheesesteaks – Ralph’s, Zahav, Vernick, Hiroki, Double Knot, Fork, Suraya, Reading Terminal Market
6. Working on a variety of different shows and covering different sports at ESPN, you work with a lot of different personalities. What is it like to have to develop a rapport and connection with that many different people?
KN: I love it. My favorite part of my job are the conversations in the green room. I think many people will tell you that at ESPN. So many diverse opinions due to wide-ranging experiences in various sports/fields. I love seeing the interaction from athletes in different sports, especially when they’re picking each other’s brains on what it was like for them. You learn a ton of things in the green room conversations that you would never say on the air. But you find out what analysts like and don’t like and it’s my job to make sure to bring out the best in them with the right questions for answers that have context and substance to help the viewer see it from their perspective and walk away smarter.
7. Who is your favorite all-time random Philly athlete? Not necessarily one of the stars, but just a personal favorite of yours.
KN: He’s not an athlete – He’s a coach – one of my favorite people – Coach John Chaney. He was so good to me during my time at Temple and he helped so many college kids through the years. I’m still in awe of him.
8. As a native of West Philadelphia, is it basically a citizenship requirement to know all the lyrics to the “Fresh Prince” theme song?
KN: HA! Yes – especially when people ask me where I was born. But I’m quick to interrupt when they start singing the lyrics to let ‘em know I was born there but I wasn’t raised there since my family moved to the burbs less than a year after I was born.
9. Obviously, you’re an unabashed Eagles fan, but being a Temple grad, what has it been like to watch the evolution of your alma mater’s football program from Big East doormat to legitimate Group of 5 competitor and sort of a launching point for coaches?
KN: It’s kinda surreal. Especially when they made that run in 2015 with GameDay and I got to be a part of the ESPN/SC coverage of that weekend against Notre Dame. And then in 2016 when they crashed the SC set Live one morning when I was hosting after winning the American Conference. You have to understand, when I covered the team in the mid 90s, they won maybe 8 total games in my 4 years. The program needed a lifeline in the early part of this century or it was done. Now, it’s a model of success with Power 5 Programs taking our head coaches and so many players making an impact on various NFL rosters. Best part of it? I’m being serious here – those players are the DNA of the program and the school. Fantastic students and they represent the best of my alma mater. I’m damn proud to see them succeed on the field and outside of football. They’re family.
10. One of the events you’ve had the chance to cover is the Special Olympics. What was that experience like for you?
KN: Life changing. Honored to share so many stories of true courage and inclusion to a national audience. On a daily basis on SportsCenter, I get to talk about the greatest athletes in the world getting the chance to compete at the highest level of their respective sport. When it comes to Special Olympics, we are highlighting a movement that is breaking stereotypes in communities everywhere. It’s my favorite assignment. You see pure joy in the athlete’s faces, not because of a result, but because they were allowed to compete, they were allowed to take part in a journey. You see tears from family, friends, coaches, volunteers because lives are really being changed right before our eyes. It may sound cliché but its when sport transcends.
11. Who have been your biggest idols and influences in this business?
KN: I grew up listening to the great Harry Kalas and later sitting in a booth with him during an internship. So many people in Philly helped me when I was doing a million internships while holding multiple jobs. In college, two mentors who passed away were so critical in my growth – Rick Beardsley who was a professor at Temple and Gary Papa who was the Sports Director at WPVI-ABC 6 in Philly. They truly believed in me when I needed someone to see it. Vai Sikahema from NBC 10 had to convince my dad that I was going to be successful in this business. At ESPN, colleagues like Bob Ley, Chris Berman, Scott Van Pelt, Jay Harris, Kenny Mayne, the late John Saunders and Stuart Scott, Steve Levy, Rece Davis, Trey Wingo, Hannah Storm, Mike Tirico have all had an influence in my career. I’m lucky to call them friends. Behind the scenes, there are a handful as well.
12. What is your favorite guilty pleasure 1980s song?
KN: I have so many but the one I blast in the car to annoy my kids as I try to hit the high notes while playing air keyboard– Take on Me by aha
13, What is your favorite non-Philadelphia U.S. city and why?
KN: Sarasota, FL. I lived there before I came to ESPN. It’s where I met my wife. Nothing better than sitting on the white sand, watching the sunset on the Gulf of Mexico with a cocktail while listening to the waves.
14. Would you rather have a personal chef or a personal driver?
KN: Without a doubt – a Personal Chef. I like to drive.
15. How do you handle operating and balancing the positives and negatives of social media?
KN: That’s a good one. You don’t let either one take over your mood or mindset. If you do, put the phone down and walk away. My test with any comment – if I’m still moved by a tweet a hour later, put the phone down again. Then go hang with my kids. Because that’s the true joy and my reality. Not a comment on social media.
16. Who is the funniest person at ESPN that you would least expect?
KN: If we’re talking on-air… Bob Ley. He always had a strong comeback line in every situation.
17, The Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl two years ago seemed to have a magical effect on the city of Philadelphia. Can you describe what it was like for you, and was it something you feared you’d never get to see happen?
KN: It was incredible. Still can’t believe it happened. Everything about that experience felt like a dream. One of the greatest weeks ever. I got into sports because of the Eagles and my connection with my dad. Over time, it’s the bond with so many relationships in my family – my brother, mom, cousins, friends.. and now deep-rooted with my kids and wife. Never thought a Super Bowl would happen or if it did, I would be 60 or 70. And there I was at the game with my best friend.. then celebrating with the team afterwards and then covering the parade in Philly for ESPN. Getting emotional just looking back. That’s how special it was.. Always makes me smile.
18. As a father, what is the most overrated kids television show? What is the most underrated?
KN: The WORST kids show.. and I mean the WORST kids show ever is Caillou.. I’m getting mad right now just thinking about it. Took the Super Bowl smile off my face.
Most underrated – Little Einsteins and the classics – I’ve made sure my boys have gotten into Tom & Jerry.. they love it!
19. Describe your perfect last meal.
KN: My mom’s Indian food. There’s nothing better. She recently visited us and made it for me and my family. We all love it.
20. Would you rather try to field a punt in an NFL game or play goalie for one period in an NHL game?
KN: Fielding a punt. It’s just once. I’d take 10 seconds of pure craziness over 20 minutes of pucks hitting me without warning.
21. Last question: what piece of advice would you give to young adults trying to break into this business?
KN: Learn to do everything. Write, Edit, Shoot, Interview.. Be versatile. Be creative. Make mistakes but learn from them. Find someone that will give you the critique you need, not the critique you want and never take it personal when you hear something negative about your work. And put the phone down and make eye contact in every conversation.
You can read more of our interviews with sports media stars here.