Anchor Fred Hickman (above, left), who’s worked at outlets like CNN, ESPN, and the YES Network over three-plus decades in broadcasting, is moving on to New Orleans to be sports director at WVUE-TV. While that’s the Hickman news of the moment, though, we can’t help but have some different memories pop into our heads when his name comes up. Specifically, in late 2008, after Hickman’s ESPN stay ended, Deadspin came out with some odd stories about his time at the network…and with Hickman on the move again, we can’t help but look back.
First, we’ll say this: these stories flew in the face of what Hickman seemed to be: when the report emerged, New York magazine called him “competent yet unremarkable.” He struck us as what a lot of people probably wish more anchors were like: low on shtick. You won’t see one of these pages for Fred Hickman, in other words. On the other hand, you had tales like this:
According to some people close to the network, Hickman missed more than 200 days in a little under three years at ESPN. The reasons for his absence were, according to many of the individuals who knew about this varied from legitimate to absurd…on at least one occasion when Hickman was supposedly out for a dire emergency, one of his colleagues spotted him getting a haircut.
Additionally, the guy who looked to be the picture of the steady pro had something of a reputation for being unprepared for segments. And he spawned a running SportsCenter joke with what can only be termed a Ron Burgundy moment:
SportsCenter anchor John Anderson still begins his top 10 plays segment by saying “Number 10…Fred.” This is an inside joke done to pay homage to Hickman’s tenure. The origins of it come from when one PA wrote out the top 10 play list by giving name indications on each play. Number 10, in this case, was given to Hickman and marked “Fred” on the prompter. Hickman, in turn, read “Number 10…Fred ” on air.
Now, none of those moments would have happened had Hickman never been hired – which, of course, he was, despite Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio saying the network received prior warning that Hickman could be a bit…odd. That didn’t stop him from getting a post-ESPN job at Fox Sports, either, nor his current gig. And Hickman’s past has some elements that, unlike “Number 10…Fred,” are not funny in the least: specifically, a cocaine habit in the 1980s (of course, he was far, from alone in that regard).
It’s anyone’s guess as to what role, if any, his past issues might have played in his ESPN struggles (the Seattle Times‘ report on Hickman’s past troubles said he “never missed work” while he was using). He mentioned dealing with “tragic personal circumstances” around the time he joined Fox Sports, and as far as we can tell, there are no odd stories from his tenure there. Here’s hoping there weren’t, and that there won’t be in New Orleans either. Sure, it’s fun to read about an exasperated colleague referring to him as “Fred fucking Hickman,” it would be nice if he were the guy he always appeared to be – and that, when he says “I believe that the best is yet to come,” he’s right.