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Dream Job has Hall scrambling

Balancing ESPN’s reality show with college is not an easy task for the MU senior.
Sunday, March 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:42 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Saying Mike Hall is having a great time would be an understatement. Saying Hall’s life has become hectic would be a greater one.

Hall, who has made it to the final eight on ESPN’s reality series Dream Job, finds himself caught up in a whirlwind that deposits him in Columbia one day, in Florida the next and in New York for the weekend.

Hall, a University of Missouri senior, spends no more than two days a week in Columbia, making it next to impossible to keep up with studying sports for the week’s episode of Dream Job, let alone his schoolwork.

“The only chance I have to focus my mind on studying is the two days I’m here a week,” Hall said. “That’s not enough. And when I have those two days, I don’t want to use it to study. I want to use it to take a breath. I want to get ahead on my sports.”

This week, Hall made it back to Columbia at 11 p.m. Monday and scrambled to get things in order all day Tuesday, only to find out he had to leave Wednesday morning for Cleveland Indians spring training in Florida. His flight left at 8:50 a.m., so he had to be up at 6 to catch a shuttle to St. Louis on three hours of sleep.

Call it an occupational hazard.

Hall managed to pick up his dry cleaning, have a friend over to help him pick out suits for the weekend because he knows nothing about fashion, go to three classes, teach an improv comedy class and squeeze in two interviews Tuesday before he was off again.

That’s the good news.

He also found out Tuesday he will miss two midterm exams because of obligations to Dream Job.

Amid all of that, by 9 p.m. Tuesday, he was four hours behind the competition in studying college basketball, the inevitable topic of tonight’s episode.

Hall planned to stay up another four or five hours studying college basketball, then buying as many magazines on the subject as he could find at the airport for reading material on the plane.

A friend had dropped off a tape of the previous week’s show, but it sat unwatched on Hall’s desk. He clearly itched to pop in the tape.

“I’ll get to see myself in a split-screen with Harold Reynolds,” Hall said. “My own SportsCenter. That’s wonderful.”

The tape would have to wait. Hall stayed up until 3 a.m. studying basketball, taking a break at 1 a.m. to watch the tape. He doesn’t have much time to look back, only ahead.

“If I had it my way, I’d watch this tape 100 times tonight,” Hall said. “I’d dissect it. I’d go to every anchor at KOMU and ask them how I could get better. I would respond to my e-mails instead of just reading them.

“I would be able to relax and not worry about sports, or use the time to get farther ahead. But every time I start to gripe about this stuff, I tell myself to shut up. It’s a wonderful opportunity; it’s a great thing.”

It’s not all great. Hall considers every contestant a good friend because the contestants spend 18-hour days together in the same pressure-packed environment. They go bowling, hang out together and develop instant bonds. In the first three weeks, Hall has had to watch four friends walk away in disappointment.

“It’s hard because I know all these people so well,” Hall said. “But obviously, the goal is to never be let go. The goal is to be sad seven more times for other people, and not sad less than that many because less than that would mean that I’d be gone.”

Even if Hall doesn’t get the ultimate job offer, a one-year contract as a SportsCenter anchor, he knows the experience will mean good things for his job prospects when he graduates in May.

Those calls aren’t coming in yet, though, and he’s not ready for them. There’s only one job he’s interested in.

“If I get anyone who does call me, I’ll be like, ‘Thank you, this is great. Let me call you when I’m done with this,’” Hall said.

Before the show started, Hall said he didn’t expect the experience to change much about his life at MU. He’s not so sure anymore.

“On a regular day walking around campus I’m pretty much still just the tall, dorky blond kid,” Hall said. “But if I go out, five minutes don’t pass without somebody sticking a hand in my face, saying, ‘Dude, good job.’ Or, ‘Hey are you that guy? Good job.’”

So far, so good. But Hall is only halfway there. He has three weeks to go, and seven more friends to beat out for the ultimate reward.

“We’re teammates,” Hall said. “I think (fellow Dream Job contestant) Nick (Stevens) said it best, ‘This is like the Olympics. I don’t want to trip the person next to me. I want to beat them. I want that person to run a world record, and I want to beat it by a tenth of a second.”

If he does, a new Mazda 3 will replace the beaten-up Buick in the driveway. If not, life goes on, and he’s better for the experience.


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