Sportscaster vs. Cancer

by ROBBY DOUTHITT & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & hile John Stockton was dishing out passes for Gonzaga Prep in the late '70s and Mark Rypien was throwing game-winning touchdowns for Shadle Park in the early '80s, a future telecaster for ESPN's SportsCenter, Neil Everett, was over at Lewis and Clark high school, playing football, basketball and listening, as he recalls, to Ted Nugent a lot.

Everett, who graduated from LC in 1980, will be among the guests at Gonzaga University's Coaches vs. Cancer event this Saturday. The annual fundraiser, a golf tournament and a black-tie dinner at the Davenport Hotel, all hosted by Mark and Marcy Few, has raised nearly $3 million to help fight cancer since its inaugural year in 2002; it has been voted by readers of The Inlander as Spokane's best charity event for two years running.

The sportscaster, though, has a much more personal connection to Coaches vs. Cancer than just simply being from Spokane. Everett's mother, Jackie Robertson, was a teacher at the Spokane continuation school, now known as Havermale High. In 1983, at Deaconess Hospital, she died from cancer, and the Havermale library remains dedicated to her memory.

"I am only who I am today because of her," Everett says.

The perks of his job include appearances in SportsCenter commercials with the likes of tennis legend Roger Federer. Everett has also had the opportunity to have dinner with his childhood hero, Bill Walton -- and to work with people he says are some of the most talented in all television.

But for somebody who works in television, Everett doesn't watch much of it. In fact, Everett says he doesn't even really watch the Olympics.

"I'm just not that all geeked up on them," Everett says. "Yeah, I'm interested in what [Michael] Phelps does and if the U.S. basketball team falls on its face, but I couldn't tell you the name of one gymnast."

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & n ESPN sportscaster who doesn't watch a lot of television and isn't enthusiastic about the Olympics? Everett (full name, in case you're checking your LC yearbook, Neil Everett Morfitt) is definitely honest.

He's also honest about the problems facing sports. He believes there is a growing disconnect between athletes and fans, mostly because many athletes have an arrogant sense of entitlement and because it's just become too expensive to go see a live sporting event. Steroid controversies aren't helping either.

But still he loves coming into work every day at the center of sports journalism.

The only drawbacks: Sometimes he has to talk about Brett Favre too much, and he no longer gets to live in Hawaii, where his road to ESPN first began.

After graduating from University of Oregon with a degree in journalism, Everett took a job as a sports information director at Hawaii Pacific University in 1985. He eventually worked his way up to assistant athletic director, while "dabbling" in sports news at a local TV station.

Then he got a call from an agent who wanted to represent him.

"I told the agent, 'Look, I live in Hawaii, the only thing you can do for me is get me an audition with ESPN,'" says Everett.

The agent eventually came through. In Everett's first audition, he says he talked too much about surfing and sumo wrestling and not enough about mainland sports. No job offer. He came home devastated.

He didn't give up, though, and landed a second tryout. That time, he came prepared and nailed it. In 2000, he was hired.

The most surprising thing about working on SportsCenter, Everett says, is the lack of ego around the office.

"On the surface, with all the talent around, you might think the opposite. But everybody is so comfortable and confident in their own skin," says Everett. "They've reached the zenith of sportscasting, so there's no hidden desires to try to get ahead of the next guy."

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & verett did have one desire, and he didn't hide it much -- to get to star in one of ESPN's hilarious promo commercials, which often feature famous athletes.

"Those commercials are a huge deal," Everett says. "Whenever I would go home, all anybody would ever say to me was, 'When are you going to be in a commercial?'"

His big moment finally came in the form of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hoisting him over his shoulder and carrying him out of a burning building. (Everett jokes that, after the final edit, about the only recognizable thing about him in the commercial was his ass.)

Over the years, Everett has made a name for himself on the 11 pm edition of SportsCenter while giving subtle shout-outs to his past. He starts every show with the Hawaiian greeting, "Howzit" (slang for "How's it going?"), and constantly refers to Gonzaga as "America's team."

Although Everett came of age in Spokane, Hawaii is truly his home, he says. He does have fond memories of the Lilac City, though -- especially Expo '74. That's when -- and this is true -- Ted Nugent was given the key to the city.

Coaches vs. Cancer, with a golf tournament and black-tie gala, is Aug. 22-23. Call 242-8291 or visit

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