It wasn’t exactly the lottery but an Arlington woman hit the sports jackpot recently, winning an all-expense paid trip to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
Ana Stevens, an 18-year-old Arlington Bowie graduate, won the trip as part of a contest for an even bigger prize - the chance to go to Hawaii courtesy of ESPN’s Mike & Mike show. The day she was picked as a weekly winner, she had only entered once.
“The other days, I texted in probably six times a day,” Stevens admitted.
Stevens has been listening to the morning drive sports-talk show that airs from 5 a.m. - 9 a.m. on ESPN 103.3 with hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg for about three years, shortly after meeting her boyfriend, Ryan Wills, 20. The contest, named Say HI to the Mikes, began in late October and featured one weekly winner for six weeks. Those winners were then flown to Bristol for a chance to win a choice of one of two specialty trips for four to Hawaii - one designed by Greenberg and one by Golic - live, on-air Dec. 4.
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“We began working on the ‘Say HI to the Mikes’ concept over the summer,” said Megan Judge, ESPN Director of Audio Distribution and Marketing Integration. “We initially thought of Hawaii because of the gorgeous Disney property there - and the destination definitely fit the ‘once in a lifetime’ feeling we were going for. The fun part came as we were brainstorming activities for the winners and the idea of Mike Greenberg's itinerary versus Mike Golic's itinerary was born.”
Stevens, a Southern Louisiana native who is an avid New Orleans Saints and Louisiana State University fan, said when she first got the phone call to let her know she won, she wasn’t going to answer.
“I think it was a Friday and it was a strange number but I said, ‘Who cares? I’ll answer,’” she said. “They told me I was the weekly winner and it was crazy; I was going nuts.”
After that initial call, Stevens said she had to fill out a lot of paperwork and have it back within three days. Then, it was “a whole lot of waiting.”
“I was the third winner so there was three more weeks to go,” she said.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Stevens, who took her boyfriend with her on the trip to Bristol.
“I missed my flight [Dec. 3] because at DFW Airport, they changed our gate at the last minute and I was in the A concourse and they changed it to D,” she said. “We had to take a shuttle and we missed the flight by seconds. We ended up having to wait until 5 p.m. because the noon flight was full.”
The itinerary for the winners and a guest of their choice when they arrived included a VIP tour of ESPN’s Bristol campus including the SportsCenter, Mike & Mike and Baseball Tonight studios, as well as visits to live production control rooms. They were also treated to a welcome dinner with the Mike & Mike production team at Max’s Oyster Bar, a local West Hartford, Conn., favorite. Each then joined the Mikes for the live broadcast on Dec. 4.
Sadly for Stevens, because she missed her flight and didn’t arrive until midnight Dec. 3, she and Wills missed the tour and the dinner. But they were given a tour on Dec. 4 and Stevens thinks they got a better one.
“I’m pretty sure we did because we had a tour guide that has been working there for 17 years and he had access to all kinds of stuff,” she said. “It was really awesome and we got a lot of pics.
“We took pics with a lot of people like Stephen A. Smith and it was really cool. [Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back] Jerome Bettis was actually in the green room we were waiting in after we were in there so we took a picture with him. ”
On top of the travel mishap, Stevens said she was sick and could barely talk. When she was on the live broadcast and Greenberg and Golic were interviewing each of the winners before the final drawing, Stevens said she wasn’t sure she would be able to speak.
“I was really sick; I was exhausted and when we took the tour and right before the interviews on TV, I couldn’t talk. It was really bad,” she said. “I was so surprised when my voice came out and actually projected. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do [the interview] again.”
When it came time for the weekly winners to pick up the pineapples lined in front of them to reveal who had won the trip, Stevens said she and another contestant had a feeling they weren’t the grand prize winner.
“I didn’t think I was going to win because I was on the end and we probably had no chance,” she said. “We thought it was going to be someone in the middle so we were pretty much encouraging everyone else. When I lifted up my pineapple, I was like, ugh, but I am young and I can always go later.”
Had she won, Stevens said she would’ve taken Golic’s trip because it offered more of everything. Picking who would join her and her boyfriend, however, was a bit trickier.
“That was a hard decision. My parents said it was OK if we didn’t take them and his parents said we needed to take someone our age,” she said. “We have an 8-month-old so we would’ve need someone to watch the baby too so we had decided to take Ryan’s brother and his girlfriend.”
Despite not getting a chance to go to Hawaii on someone else’s dime, Stevens said just being part of the experience was worthwhile.
“This is the first thing I’ve ever won and Mike and Mike were really down to earth and funny,” she said. “Ryan was way more excited than I was but it was really cool.”
Judge said the contest was the “biggest contest ESPN Radio has ever run.”
“We had more than 1.4 million entries in just six weeks,” she said.
Stevens said she’s never played any athletics and that her favorite sport is football but confesses she watches “everything sports-related.” She is currently a student at TCC and hopes to be a biochemist.