I came here because it was sports 24 hours a day, [and] that's the way I lived, so it seemed like the best place for me," says Dan Patrick, veteran ESPN anchor. "It went from joining a fraternity to being a part of Americana, something I didn't envision." Thing is, 25 years ago when ESPN began, not many could envision what was to come of the little cable-TV enterprise that flipped the "on" switch September 7, 1979.

Since then, ESPN has become the worldwide leader in sports media, with more than 90 million people being exposed to some form of ESPN weekly (SportsCenter alone is seen by 88 million people monthly). And the network's marketers are happy: 97 percent of Americans know the ESPN brand.

Headquartered in tiny Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN Inc., which is celebrating its silver anniversary with an extravaganza of retrospective "ESPN25" programming, now has more than 40 business entities, including networks such as ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, and ESPN Deportes; 25 international networks; a publishing arm with ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Books; radio, online, and wireless entities; and management of events such as the X Games and ESPY Awards. As ESPN original Dick Vitale would say, "Awesome, baby!"

ESPN's signature SportsCenter revolutionized how we get our sports - in tight, dramatic highlight-reel packages. It has changed the role of anchors, making them stars, while giving athletes an even bigger platform on which to perform and sometimes strut outrageously. It has also created a national and international sports community, a gathering place that we're all part of.

Which begs the question - what did we do before ESPN?

American Way turns the tables and the microphone on some of the personalities, past and present, who have made ESPN into a media phenomenon, including anchors Dan Patrick, Linda Cohn, and ESPN vets Chris Berman and Dick Vitale; and John Walsh, ESPN senior vice president and executive editor, who's responsible for studio news and informational programming and oversaw SportsCenter's rise to superstar status in the early '90s.