For 17 years, Pat O'Brien was known as the sports guy on CBS. He covered everything from Super Bowls to the NCAA Tournament to major league baseball to the NBA to the US Open tennis championship. Then in 1997, he left to start an entertainment program in Los Angeles called ``Access Hollywood."
He kept his hand in sports, reporting on the Olympic Games in Sydney for CNBC and in Athens for MSNBC and NBC. Then it was back to entertainment as he began hosting ``The Insider" in 2004.
Now he's back with CBS Sports, but he still has a foot in both worlds as he tapes ``The Insider" from Times Square by day and hosts the ``US Open Late Night Show" from Flushing Meadows by night.
O'Brien admits the juxtaposition is an interesting one.
``I go from talking to Barry Manilow to Andre Agassi," O'Brien said earlier this week.
Or, as he put it, ``I feel like an old-time ballplayer who pitches one game and goes out and catches the next one of a doubleheader."
O'Brien started working for CBS as a courtside reporter at the US Open in 1981, and eventually hosted the ``US Open Late Night Show," which recaps the day's matches.
``When I left, Sean McManus, who was just taking over as head of CBS Sports, said, `We're both young men, we'll work together again,' and sure enough, here we are."
McManus, now president of CBS News and Sports, said it made sense to have O'Brien host the late-night show that features entertainment as much as it does tennis; the Gin Blossoms performed the other night.
``We try to make it fun, and thought Pat's had a pretty high profile in sports and thought we might add some different flavor, and so far it's worked out really well," McManus said.
O'Brien, 58, said he has no problem going from entertainment to sports ``because there's no line anymore between the two. Sports stars are entertainers, and entertainers want to be in sports."
Consider that musician Jon Bon Jovi, who dropped by a recent Patriots practice, owns an arena football team, or that athletes often appear cracking jokes on late-night TV.
``But I think it's good," O'Brien said. ``I think it's that the American public realizes that, so they can't get enough of this celebrity world, and sports is part of that."
That blurred line has become the mainstay for Michael Barkann , the former Ch. 56 sports anchor who works for
Barkann, in his 16th year working for USA, was told when he started that he didn't need to know tennis, just to do fun interviews, like a chat with the hamburger vendor.
``But as the years went on, I went from doing the sillier stuff to doing pre- and postmatch interviews with the players," Barkann said.
So he has one eye on the court, and the other in the stands, looking to corral Elle McPherson or Phil Collins. Perhaps his biggest coup came years ago when he interviewed Barbra Streisand when she called then-boyfriend Agassi a Zen master.
So it's not just about tennis at the Open, he said.
``It's a big balancing act, because one minute you're sitting up there with John Madden and the next minute you've got to be on court interviewing Maria Sharapova," said Barkann.
He didn't need to say which was more appealing.