Earlier versions of this article misstated the amount of money that the program's host, John Brenkus, and his partner, Mickey Stern, raised to buy an Avid digital editing machine. It was $159,000, not $9,000. This version has been corrected.
The 'Science' of Success: John Brenkus's hit sports show is part of a locally grown media franchise
With the cameras rolling and the crew waiting patiently in the Los Angeles sunshine, John Brenkus, host of ESPN's "Sport Science," began to have second thoughts:
This is a bad idea.
Brenkus was standing on a football field behind Vernon Davis, tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. Davis, 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, was wearing a harness. Attached to the harness was a nine-foot tow rope. Attached to the tow rope was a handle.And attached to the handle were Brenkus's hands, sheathed in high-tech gloves.
The scripted experiment Brenkus was now rethinking was designed to see whether Davis was strong enough to, while sprinting, drag "the equivalent of the NFL's largest defender across the goal line for the ultimate touchdown." The 5-8, 160-pound Brenkus was standing in for the 360-pound defender. (The experiment would later be repeated with two people behind Davis.) Brenkus's crew of scientists and film technicians was ready to measure the force of Davis's power surge on takeoff.
Davis, whose nickname is Cyborg, faced the goal line 20 yards away, ready to blast off when given the signal. Brenkus, not so much. When he had met the imposing Davis, Brenkus thought: This guy is massive -- he probably ripples the air when he walks. Hey, that could be a good experiment. ...
The gloves Brenkus wore were slick with embedded sensors, something he hadn't counted on when devising the experiment. The slickness compelled him to grip the tow rope beyond the white-knuckle stage; if he let go, the gloves wouldn't record their data, and the entire enterprise would fall on its face.
Brenkus took a deep breath and gave the signal to go.
Davis's burst off the starting line accounted for a full 1,200 pounds of force. He charged the 20 yards without hesitation or interruption.
Brenkus flew four feet into the air, legs arching behind him, and crash-landed on his chin 12 feet from his starting point. Davis dragged Brenkus 15 yards on the artificial turf, shearing skin from the host's chin and forearms.
For the record, Brenkus accelerated from 0 to 15 mph in half a second, the equivalent of being pulled off a pier by a 500-horsepower speedboat at full throttle. It's all in the data.
And, yes, Vernon Davis could drag the NFL's biggest defender and then some.
For Brenkus, it was just another day at the office.