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Todd Blackledge brings 'Taste of the Town' to college football
Lincoln Journal Star ^ | 8-28-13 | Kent Wolgamott

Posted on 09/03/2013 5:39:37 AM PDT by FlJoePa

Todd Blackledge won a national championship, quarterbacking Penn State to the 1982 title, played six years in the NFL and has been a nationally televised college football analyst for nearly two decades.

But for the past six seasons and heading into a seventh, Blackledge has been best known, or at least most recognized, as “a food guy.”

In 2007, Blackledge began a “Taste of the Town” segment on each of his game broadcasts. He goes to a restaurant tied to football — he went to Misty’s in Havelock on his only trip to Lincoln — or an off-the-beaten-path, must-eat place, brings along a camera crew and chows down.

Going out to find the best, funky offerings in a college town was nothing new to Blackledge when he started “Taste of the Town.”

“I’ve always loved to eat and I’ve always loved it when I go to the games to find those places,” he said. “I’d ask the security guys, I’d ask players from the teams, I’d ask equipment guys. I didn’t ask many presidents or administrators. I’d ask the down-and-dirty guys. I’m not opposed to fine dining, we’ve done some of those. But I like those funky, hole-in-the-wall places.”

"Taste of the Town" came to be when ESPN management encouraged its game broadcasters to take some chances. Blackledge suggested a food segment to his producers.

“I said “Let’s do this, let’s see if we can pull this off,’” Blackledge said. “After about three weeks it was huge. It just struck a chord. People like to eat and associate food with some happy memories. It appeals to a much-wider audience than the rabid college football fan ...

“I’ve had coaches, fans, media guys tell me ‘my wife or girlfriend, she doesn’t care about the game. But she’s a big fan of the segment. She tells me when ‘Taste of the Town’ comes on to call her.’”

Blackledge has now compiled stories about and recipes from many of the places where he’s eaten in “Taste of the Town: A Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat,” a book co-written with J.R. Rosenthal and featuring photos by ESPN producer Bryan Jaroch.

“It’s primarily a cookbook,” Blackledge said. “We have over 100 recipes with varying skill levels. I hope it works as a cookbook that people keep in their kitchens and I hope it’s entertaining with storytelling about the places and the people and football. … And I hope it’s useful like an app would be. If you’re going to a game in a city you’ve never been to and want to find a place to eat, it can be used for that, too.”

Blackledge counts The Salt Lick, a BBQ institution in Driftwood, Texas, about 20 miles from Austin; Golden Harvest breakfast place in Lansing, Mich.; and Satchel’s Pizza in Gainesville, Fla., among his favorites. He said every college town has a place that’s perfect for “Taste of the Town.”

“I’m convinced they all do,” he said. “It can be an ice cream parlor. It can be a doughnut shop. It can be a place that everyone goes to or an out-of-the-way place you have to work to find. That’s part of what makes college football special and part of why I like the college game better than the pros. It’s the passion, it’s the pageantry, it’s the tradition and it’s the towns.”

Misty’s didn’t make Blackledge’s book beyond a listing. "Taste of the Town" targets the SEC and the South, where the segment has been the most popular, and was dependent on where Jaroch had shot photos.

But he said a Lincoln eatery could very well make the cut if there’s a second volume of “Taste of the Town.”

If he returns to Lincoln, Blackledge knows that he’ll hear about the pass he threw to Mike McCloskey, who caught the ball out of bounds, setting up a 27-24 Penn State win that Nebraska fans believe denied the Huskers a national championship and gave it to the Nittany Lions.

“That thing will never die,” he said. “That’s a funny phenomenon. People don’t believe me, but when I first went back to ESPN six years ago, I went out to the College World Series to meet with my producer, director, partner and crew who were working there. We were going to a tailgate they had for ESPN and I told them ‘I’m going to tell you, don’t be surprised if somebody says something about Mike McCloskey being out of bounds.’ The first person we met was the mayor of Omaha, and he said it to me.”

Blackledge was getting ready for his first game of the season when we talked last week. He and his partner Brad Nessler will be in Dallas at Cowboy Stadium for an 8 p.m. Saturday game on ESPN between No. 12 LSU and No. 20 TCU.

Because Dallas isn’t a college town, he hadn’t yet figured out where he will go for “Taste of the Town” on Thursday and Friday. He guessed it would be another BBQ joint. Nor has he yet determined how the 2013-14 season will stack up.

“I hate preseason polls,” Blackledge said. “Every year I get on a soapbox, not that anyone listens to me, and say that I don’t think there should be any polls until October. I’d rather see teams play, see what kind of chemistry the kids have, see who’s eligible and who’s injured and see some games. I don’t pay much attention to what a team looks like in August. I want to watch them in September.”

Blackledge doesn’t know where he’ll be this season. After the first two weeks of the season, the games are assigned on a week-to-week basis.

Regardless of where he goes, he’ll be ready to go in the booth — and on the lookout for another eatery.

“I study it hard,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and carved a niche for myself as an analyst. Although, after about three months of ‘Taste of the Town,’ I became a food guy. Now, when people recognize me, they don’t ask about the games. It’s ‘Where are you going to eat?’ I can handle that. I’m still a football guy. But I’m now a food guy too, which is great.”

TOPICS: Food; Miscellaneous; Sports
KEYWORDS: food; football; ncaa
Todd's book is available today. Hope it does well. He is one of the few analysts that does a great job for abc/espn.

He also has a website with a lot of the food/restaurants on it.

1 posted on 09/03/2013 5:39:37 AM PDT by FlJoePa
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To: FlJoePa

“I’d ask the security guys, I’d ask players from the teams, I’d ask equipment guys. I didn’t ask many presidents or administrators....”

That should be on his website.

2 posted on 09/03/2013 5:48:16 AM PDT by ConservativeStatement ("World Peace 1.20.09.")
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