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Harvard Grad Loses In ESPN Finale

By Alex Mcphillips, Crimson Staff Writer

America spoke, and so did the judges.

Harvard grad Grant Thompson ’98 will not be the newest Sportscenter anchor.

After 11 weeks of competition on ESPN’s flagship reality show, last night’s “Dream Job” season finale pitted Thompson, 28, against 22-year-old David Holmes of Uniontown, Ohio. The prize for the winner is a one-year on-air contract with ESPN.

Thompson, who has been working as a screenwriter and actor in Los Angeles, tripped up while hosting his closing “My SportsCenter” segment.

It is standard practice for the show to throw obstacles at competitors. In his case, ESPN blanked the teleprompter while Thompson introduced Spurs-Heat highlights from last night.

Flustered, Thompson—who had won over judges and online voters over the weeks with his poise—never fully recovered.

“That was not the Grant Thompson we’re accustomed to seeing,” said Al Jaffe, an ESPN executive and panelist on the show.

“I wasn’t very impressed,” ESPN television analyst Stephen A. Smith said.

A late push—including a strong on-air interview of New England Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest—helped Thompson stay in the game.

His earlier victory against Holmes in the sports trivia segment gave him cause for hope.

In the end, his finale mistakes were too much to overcome.

Jaffe, Smith, ESPN “Cold Pizza” host Kit Hoover and the online voting public all opted to cut Thompson.

ESPN Around the Horn panelist Woody Paige voted against Holmes, saying he chose to consider the candidates’ body of work spanning the whole season.

A visibly gracious Thompson congratulated Holmes as confetti fell from the studio ceiling.


Seth Hanlon ’98, Thompson’s roommate at Harvard, described Thompson’s early acting start, illustrious IM days and brief criminal history.

“He always loved sports and always had a knowledge of sports,” Hanlon said.

Thompson, a “psychotic Gator fan” according to Hanlon, grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and followed the Florida football team with a fury.

With the help of his parents, that didn’t change in Cambridge.

“Freshman year,” Hanlon said, “his parents would cut out every article about the Gators from the Gainesville Sun and mail them to him. He spent more time studying those than his Math 21a book.”

Thompson’s passion for football carried over to the IM field, where he was MVP of the 1997 Leverett House A-League IM football champs. He also played JV basketball and JV baseball.

“If you were an animal on the African savannah,” asks Thompson’s online Dream Job bio, “which would you be?”

Thompson’s reply reveals plenty about both his athleticism and wit.

“A gazelle,” he answers. “The two species of gazelle are Grant and Thompson. No s--t.”

In 1998, a bit part in the John Travolta movie A Civil Action persuaded the genial college senior to try acting.

Since then, appearances on “7th Heaven” and “Six Feet Under” have supplemented his brief movie career—which includes the part of the Costa Mesa quarterback in Bring it On and Hunter in The Butterfly Effect.

But Thompson remained evasive about his most embarassing moment.

“Getting arrested. . . er, detained at the Harvard-Yale game,” he writes in his bio.

Hanlon is equally shifty about Thompson’s criminal record.

“Let me phrase this the right way,” he said. “It was for the desecration of the Yale symbol on the football field.”

The votes are in—Grant Thompson may have finished second in “Dream Job,” but he’s probably first in the hearts of Harvardians.

—Staff writer Alex McPhillips can be reached at rmcphill@fas.harvard.ed

—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn contributed to the reporting of this article.

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