This coming weekend would have been the next ESPN the Weekend event at Disney's Hollywood Studios had Disney not pulled the plug on the event and cancelled it suddenly back in July. I can't help but look back on the event and what could have been.
What's interesting is the first couple years I experienced ESPN the Weekend, I wasn't a fan of it. I felt the event was not nearly as fan friendly as Star Wars Weekends and there was too much viewing and not enough interacting. I did feel over the years, however, that ESPN the Weekend improved and became an annual event that I did look forward to.
The athletes in attendence meant very little to me because so many of them never met any guests. You could tell most were very likely promised money for showing up (or maybe just a free Walt Disney World vacation) and would simply wave to the crowd, answer a few questions from a panel and be on their way. Some athletes were genuinely nice and took time to sign autographs but the entire athlete aspect to the event didn't do anything for me. To be honest, that's okay because I felt like the heart of ESPN the Weekend was centered around the events.
The events like the Baseball Tonight show, Stump the Schwab and live broadcasts are what brought me back year after year. They really gave fans an insight into how ESPN programming is done as well as a fantastic opportunity to pick the brains of our favorite ESPN hosts. In addition, there was the Interactive Sports Zone that was setup behind Rock 'n Roller Coaster and this was always a favorite place to walk through. Kids absolutely loved it here and even as an adult, I found plenty to see and do here. With the great weather Central Florida typically enjoys at the end of February, it was a pleasure to be outdoors and experience this area.
Ulitmately, ESPN the Weekend will be remembered for the events it brought us. In five years, no one will remember (or care) that Chad Ochocinco or Tim Tebow were there one year. Rather, I think the events that were unique to ESPN the Weekend will be what defines the event. And who knows, perhaps in a few years Disney will bring back ESPN the Weekend. While I'm not counting on that actually happening, here's hoping we get one more chance to ask Karl Ravech how the Tigers will do or see how fast your kid can throw a fastball.