An Internet search of the phrase “she’s a beauty, that number nine,” yields two search results: a lyric from the Neil Young song “Ordinary People,” and an affectionate nod from ESPN anchor and Spokane son Neil Everett.
The 1980 Lewis and Clark High School graduate who went on to the University of Oregon, is known for adlibbed catchphrases as a veteran anchor on ESPN’s nightly SportsCenter broadcasts. He and co-anchor Stan Verrett host the show featuring the day’s sports highlights and top plays of the day. The Neil Young lyric comes up during the Top 10 plays, when Everett – whose real name is Neil Everett Morfitt – announces play number nine.
Everett discussed the origin of that line, along with “Bartender! Jack!” which he uses when a highlight includes a player “jacking” a home run; his thoughts on Gonzaga; his time living in Hawaii; and his love for Spokane during an interview with The Spokesman-Review this week.
S-R: Do you still have connections to Spokane?
Everett: I’ve got a ton of friends there. I usually try to make it up once a year for the Coaches vs. Cancer that Gonzaga puts on.
I don’t get that many other opportunities to get up there but I have a lot of people I’m still close to up there.
S-R: What do you remember most about attending Lewis and Clark High School?
Everett: I remember the friendships I made, mostly. I remember the coaches, Jerry Connors and Rick Giampietri, for the football team. It was a great experience growing up in Spokane.
S-R: When you grow up in the west, the Super Bowl starts in the afternoon, the men’s basketball championship starts at dinner time and East Coast day baseball games start during breakfast. Does that change how you view sports?
Everett: Obviously it does just because if you want to watch the NFL on Sunday you had to get up at 6 or 7 in the morning in Hawaii, and then when I lived back east you had to wait until 1 o’clock. That was quite the difference. On the West Coast it seems to be just about right, 9, 10 o’clock. I don’t spend a lot of my free time watching sports on TV though. In Hawaii obviously I had the beauty of everything outside and I’ve got the same in Los Angeles. … In Connecticut I was probably working and going to be covering all the sports and was going to be watching enough of them when I got there.
S-R: Does Gonzaga need to get out of the West Coast Conference to be successful?
Everett: No, I don’t think so. I think schools like Gonzaga and Butler have proven that in basketball. The demarcation line between college football and college basketball is quite different. Gonzaga was rated 1 in the country and got a 1 seed. You can’t get any better than that. So I don’t know why they would need to move to elevate their program, I think their program is elevated already.
S-R: How would your life have been different if you’d been born with Kelly Olynyk’s hair?
Everett: I used to sport some Kelly Olynyk hair when I was in college. I thought I rocked it pretty well. Right now if I tried to do it I’d just look like an old hippie out of place. But back in the day I could wear the long hair.
S-R: You’re notorious for avoiding social media. Are you just being stubborn or do you have a personal Twitter vendetta?
Everett: I don’t have a personal vendetta. It’s something I don’t feel that is necessary in my life. I’ve got enough things on my list to worry about without adding another one.
S-R: If you were on Twitter, who would be the first person you’d want to follow?
Everett: Ted Nugent
S-R: Do you have a favorite SportsCenter Top Play?
Everett: Anytime we get Gonzaga or Oregon or anything Hawaii into the mix, I always get a kick out of that. But I don’t have a specific one.
S-R: You’ve become famous for your catchphrases. Did you hunt for these different lines or do the good ones just come to you?
Everett: Sometimes you just hear a lyric in a song or it just comes to you. “Bartender! Jack!” just came to me once. “She’s a beauty, that number nine” is a line out of a Neil Young song that you really got to pay attention to hear it. It’s a shout-out now to my girl. She just said her favorite number is nine. And then I knew that line from the Neil Young song so it was just kind of a way to let her know I was thinking about her.
S-R: Have you ever said “Bartender! Jack!” in an actual bar?
Everett: (Laughs) No, I never have.
S-R: Thoughts on the NBA team owners denying the move of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle?
Everett: I’m not shocked but I also won’t be shocked if the Sonics’ dream is still realized via the Kings. And if not then the next NBA franchise is ready to move, hopefully Seattle is where it lands.
S-R: Any picks for the NBA finals?
Everett: I don’t know how you can pick against Miami right now, especially with Russell Westbrook being out for Oklahoma City.
S-R: Any early MLB picks?
Everett: I’ve always been a guy who’s more interested in individuals than teams. I think it’s too early to say who looks really good and all that. You just hope it’s competitive. I hope every series goes seven games in every sport because it gives us more to talk about. The two greatest words in sports are “game seven.”
S-R: Thoughts on Jason Collins, the NBA center who is the first active player in the four major U.S. men’s sports to announce he is gay?
Everett: I applaud him for having the courage to do something like that. It obviously wasn’t easy. You hope that it’s well-received and it should be.
S-R: What’s more exciting, the Super Bowl, March Madness, or MLB Opening Day?
Everett: I’m a March Madness guy. I grew up under one of Spokane’s all-time winningest basketball coaches (stepfather Dave Robertson). I’m going to pick March Madness.