ESPN’s Lindsay Czarniak on birth of first child and returning to Indianapolis 500

(Courtesy Lindsay Czarniak)
(Courtesy Lindsay Czarniak)

Lindsay Czarniak briefly considered bringing her son, Delano, on a work trip scheduled for this week. But she realized there are years of similar trips ahead, plenty of future chances to travel with her son.

Who, after all, is only 10 weeks old.

So Czarniak will be on her own when she leaves for Indianapolis on Thursday. She’ll again host ABC’s coverage of the Indianapolis 500 next Sunday, her first work assignment since her first child was born on March 10. And like so many parents returning to work, she’s already anticipating the feelings: dread about leaving home, mixed with excitement about getting back to a career she loves.

(Courtesy Lindsay Czarniak)
(Courtesy Lindsay Czarniak)

“I know it’ll be hard. I’ve talked to so many women that have been through it,” Czarniak said in a recent phone conversation, as Delano warbled in the background. “Thinking about leaving him right now makes me sick to my stomach. You’re just so in this world; it’s such a special time and you kind of don’t want to set foot outside this world. But I know it’ll be exhilarating for me. It’s going to be exciting again, and I know that’s going to help.”

The Fairfax County native became the first woman to host the Indy 500 telecast last year. She raved about the experience, comparing it to covering the Olympics and saying the race “gets in your bones.” And after years of covering auto racing, it seemed like a fitting event to mark her return to television.

She’ll also go back to her role co-hosting ESPN’s 6 p.m. weekday “SportsCenter” on June 5. Aside from one spot on the “Today Show” with her husband, MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin – they discussed the controversy over Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy missing Opening Day to take paternity leave – these will be Czarniak’s first TV appearances in three months.

Still, the former WRC anchor kept an eye on her old world. She and Melvin watched ESPN in the hospital. They checked in on the NCAA tournament during Delano’s first few weeks at home. She’s been using her iPad to catch up on sports headlines between feedings and diaper changes, and when Donald Sterling became a national story or NBA games ended with buzzer-beaters, she’s thought about what it would be like in the studio.

(Courtesy Lindsay Czarniak)
(Courtesy Lindsay Czarniak)

“The adrenaline that goes along with that, the excitement of being part of the story and telling the story, of course that trips a trigger,” she said. “That’s why I love what I do. So that makes me miss it.

“But not miss it enough to be like, ‘I’ve got to run back right now,’ ” she went on. “I think I never expected that I would love the time at home with Del as much as I do, and just find it so easy to completely unplug, just because of the love I have for this little guy. I mean, everyone says that, because it’s so cliché, but it’s very true. It’s interesting for me to see that the adrenaline and the drive I’ve always had for my job really took a second seat to him right away.”

She’s already reached out to other moms at ESPN who have gone through this transition, women like Sage Steele and Shannon Spake. And while Del, who will be back in Connecticut, isn’t likely to be part of the Indianapolis 500 telecast next weekend, don’t be surprised if he’s referenced by Czarniak or John Anderson on some future episode of SportsCenter.

“Part of what makes working with John so great is just that we genuinely get along, and I really care about him and his family,” she said. “That stuff naturally comes up, so I would expect that sure, of course, it might be talked about from time to time. Not overkill, because the show’s not about us. But I expect that Del could be our little mascot at some point.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · May 18

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