Before arriving in Bristol, Conn., Neghandi had graduated from being the Temple News sports editor to freelancer for USA Today and local TV work in outposts such as Kirksville, Mo., and Sarasota, Fla. At ESPN he has hosted everything from ESPN News to College Football Live to Outside the Lines. And now, each morning, he sits beside Hannah Storm and serves a healthy heaping of sports to millions of Americans looking for some scores to complement their coffee.
Negandhi talked to Page 2 about his dream job, growing up in this area, and why it's OK to cry if you're a Philadelphia sports fan.
Question: You're the first Indian American to serve on a national sports network. What does that mean to you and your family?
Answer: Indians are considered hard workers. Doctor. Engineer. Or motel or convenience store owner. Those stereotypes - I take a lot of pride in breaking them down. When I first pitched my career choice to my family, for them it was, "OK, this is just a phase. He'll be a businessman or an attorney, and that's how things will be." There's nothing wrong with that.
[In] Indian culture, kids aspire to big things. Being on a national network is something foreign to the community. Mothers will say to my mom, "Your son has inspired my son to be in sports." That, to me, is so big. You're breaking down walls. I'm the first Indian sportscaster on ESPN. That's pretty cool.
Q: Do you remember where you were and what it felt like when you got the job offer from ESPN?
A: I was at a high school football practice. It was one of those moments - you can't scream in the middle of practice, even though you want to. Since I was 14, I wanted to do SportsCenter. It was like, for 20 years you prepare to climb Everest and then you finally do. I partied my butt off that weekend.
Q: Earlier in the week, you wished Jim Gardner a happy birthday on Twitter. As a tribute, perhaps you should grow a Gardner mustache for SportsCenter.
A: [Laughs] I would. But it would take five weeks or until Jim's next birthday to grow one. My brother could grow a beard when he was 13. When I try to grow facial hair my family calls me "Patches."
I'm not sure if [Gardner] remembers me. I interned at Action News in the middle to late '90s. Gary Papa played a huge role in my growth. Vai [Sikahema] was great to me when I was 20 years old. I don't think there's one person who's been in Philly over the last three decades who doesn't know [Gardner] in some way.
Q: Your Twitter bio says, "Wish they built Wawas in Connecticut." Everyone has a go-to order at Wawa. What's yours?"
A: Classic tuna hoagie, lettuce, tomato, sweet peppers. Bag of Herr's chips - sour cream and onion. Butterscotch Krimpets, Chocolate Junior, Kandy Kakes, chocolate milk, iced tea, hot chocolate . . .
Q: Wawa should use you as a pitchman.
A: You have no idea how much business I've brought them through Twitter alone. Wawa is Nordstrom. 7-Eleven is Walmart.
Q: You've said you were raised in the 700 level. Ever wind up in Eagles jail?
A: I never ended up in Eagles jail. I saw others end up there. I was in the 700 level the day Buddy [Ryan] ran up the score against the Cowboys after the strike. I was like, 12 years old. That was a great day.
Q: The editor of PhillyGameDay.com recently complimented you and said you were born to host SportsCenter. You replied by saying you wish you had been born to hit so you could help the Phils offense. That's how I know you're from here - you're panicked over a first-place team.
A: [Laughs] I'm not one of those guys. I consider myself the most objective Philly fan alive. My dad, he booed Ron Jaworski and Mike Schmidt. I got it, but I never went to that extreme. Last year, I said, "Be patient with the Phils offense." This team is going to get a huge boost when [Chase] Utley returns, but they score eight runs one day, then only get two hits and no runs the next. And they're getting older. It's going to catch up with them.
Q: Phils uniforms: Old-school powder blue or classic red-and-white pinstripes?
A: Powder blue. When I saw those the other day, I thought Marty Bystrom, Von Hayes, Juan Samuel. [Laughs] OK, that's some bad baseball, but the uniforms - they had charm.
Q: Eagles: Midnight green or kelly green?
A: It has to be kelly green. It drives me nuts that they haven't brought back the '89-90 jerseys. Those kelly greens, man, when Seth [Joyner] and Randall [Cunningham] and Reggie [White] wore them - why not go back and keep them?
Q: McFadden & Whitehead or the Roots?
A: Oh, the Roots. The Roots for sure.
Q: Buddy Ryan or Andy Reid?
A: Oh. God. Good question. God, I loved Buddy. But you have to go Andy with his track record. Buddy was so, so good. But if he ever figured out the offense with Randall, they would have won something. I'm still upset with the Fog Bowl. If not for that Fog Bowl, they would have won the Super Bowl.
Q: Take the Phils out of it. The next team to win a championship will be . . . ?
A: You know and I know the Flyers are close, but they will never win a Stanley Cup until they get a bona-fide goalie. They haven't had one since [Ron] Hextall. The Flyers fan base is so loyal. They might come after me for saying anything against their team. I'll say the Eagles will win the next one. I would have picked the Phils as my number 1, 2, and 3 choices. That organization changed everything for Philly fans. They made us happy. I cried when they won in '08. My wife was with me. She's a huge Phils fan now, but she's from Florida. She didn't understand why I was crying. I tried to explain it, but you really can't. You have to be from Philly to understand.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813, email@example.com,
or @gonzophilly on Twitter.