In Praise Of: ESPN’s Stump the Schwab | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

In Praise Of: ESPN’s Stump the Schwab

Howie Schwab, ESPN’s longtime research director and a beloved figure inside the network, died on April 20, at 63

Schwab was in charge of the company’s large research department, which was responsible for coming up with those crazy factoids that were spread throughout ESPN’s game broadcasts, SportsCenter, and other shows. And his influence was still felt even after he left the company, in a round of layoffs, in 2013. 

But Schwab’s most prominent publicly facing role was as the host of a game show, Stump the Schwab, that aired on ESPN between 2004 and 2006. Producing 80 episodes throughout four seasons, Stump the Schwab was ESPN’s best-ever game show. 

ESPN has tried game shows a few times over the years. In the late 1980s, Chris Berman hosted a game show called Boardwalk and Baseball’s Super Bowl of Sports Trivia, which is best known for one appearance by future ESPN personality Dan LeBatard. The 2 Minute Drill was also hosted by Kenny Mayne in the early 2000s. (Sports Jeopardy was not on ESPN, although it was hosted by former SportsCenter mainstay Kenny Mayne- and Schwab worked there for a time after his ESPN departure.)

But Stump the Schwab was the best of them, mainly because it took advantage of the personality of a guy who wasn’t exactly the natural choice for an on-air role. 

The concept of Stump the Schwab was a bit like Win Ben Stein’s Money, which wrapped up its run on Comedy Central shortly before Stump the Schwab started. Schwab was the face of the show — although Stuart Scott served as the nominal host. 

The contestants on the show would try to outsmart Schwab, which was a tall order since he was the research director of ESPN. 

Also, the game play was actually hard. Like, I doubt I could have named more than one or two of the last 16 Senior PGA champions: 

I always got the sense, watching Stump the Schwab, that the contestants on the show knew a LOT more about sports than the average person watching at home.

Tons of episodes of the show are on YouTube, and I’m in the mood to spend the next few episodes watching them.

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