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What has been the most memorable game you’ve covered? –Bill Schiess, Rexburg, ID
There are actually a few that come to mind. I would have to say, first and foremost, the NCAA men’s basketball title game between Maryland and Indiana in 2002. As a Terps alum, who was fortunate enough to cover every one of Maryland’s tournament games that year, it was so special to be a part of that (especially after having endured the previous year’s meltdown against Duke in the semis!). No matter how many great events I cover, that will always stand out as one of the most special.
Two others worth mentioning: Super Bowl XXXV. Yes, it was a clunker, with the Ravens pounding the Giants, but still, it was the first Super Bowl I had ever covered and I made sure to take time out to embrace the frenzied atmosphere that is the NFL’s grand stage.
And not to be forgotten, the 2001 Army-Navy game, just three months after 9/11. I had the opportunity to interview President George W. Bush, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and Heisman winner Glenn Davis all in one day. It was inexplicably emotional. What a thrill and an honor.
What are your three favorite cities to watch a game? – Mark Mitchell
I’d have to say for the NFL (even though standing on the sidelines during a January game is BRUTAL!!), Green Bay is one of my top choices. Amazing, loyal fans who live and die by the success of their Packers. Plus, so much history has taken place on the “frozen tundra of Lambeau Field”, it’s tough not to feel nostalgic when you’re there.
Final Four city? San Antonio. Cool, fun town. Great atmosphere. Everything’s centrally located. Good food!
Ballpark? Wrigley. I love so much of the history of the place… how, back in the day (before high-rises) they would raise the “W” or “L” flag so all the folks around town knew if the Cubs won or lost. I love how it’s right in the middle of the neighborhood. How, if you sit out on your porch, you can hear the fans go crazy when someone hits a homer, almost as if you’re in the stands. Really neat place to watch a game.
A couple of regrets: never got to see the Celtics play at the Boston Garden or the Bulls at Chicago Stadium.
Is radio more challenging than television? –Rob Layton
Without a doubt, both as a reporter and host. When I did Monday Night Football & NFL post-season for Westwood One, I’d interact way more with the guys in the booth than I ever did in TV, so I always had to be on my toes. I had to not just be able to talk about what I was seeing on the field and the sideline, but react to what the announcers were discussing.
Hosting New York Football Live for ESPN Radio, was, to this point, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in the business. While all the TV shows I’ve anchored are at least semi-scripted with a rundown of discussion topics, radio was 100% fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and very caller-driven. I had to be prepared for the show to turn at any moment. Extremely challenging, but equally as rewarding!
When you’re not working, what do you like doing with your free time? –Sean Opalenik, Cleveland, OH
I really like getting caught up with what’s going on in the rest of the world. Sometimes I get so consumed keeping up with sports during their respective seasons, I fall more out of touch with current events than I’d like. So, I love being able to spend a few hours delving into the New York Times, getting in a great workout, and catching up with friends and family. Love music, too… all kinds! So if I can get to a concert, check out a Broadway musical or visit the NY Philharmonic, it’s always a treat!
I’ve heard you like to play golf. How’s your game? –Art Shiral, Kent, WA
I’m a total hack, lol. I love to play and shoot in the low 100’s. Unfortunately, many of my rounds are scrambles in charity tournaments, so I’ve never really gotten a grip on my true handicap. I’ve found, though, that golf is not only a wonderful way to spend time with friends, but an amazing networking tool that has allowed me to get to know coaches and players in an informal, relaxed setting.
Were you a “tomboy” growing up? –Sam Brian, Smithers, WV
Totally, Sam! If the boys on the block were playing kickball, I was always right there (and believe it or not, when we were choosing sides, I was never the last one picked). I’ve loved sports for as long as I can remember, in large part, because both of my parents are avid sports fans and encouraged and supported my involvement with athletics. I played soccer when I was little, started dance and acrobatics when I was 4, then gymnastics at age 7. In high school, I got involved with track and field, running hurdles and the 4×400 relay and throwing javelin and shot put (I know… me. Throwing shot put. Good visual, huh?) So along with my passion for writing, you can see how my love for sports made the pursuit of my career a no-brainer!
I read that you like playing piano in your downtime. What kind of music do you listen to? –Keith Pangilinan, Bakersfield, CA
My musical tastes really run the gamut, Keith. I’m a classically trained pianist, but listen to everything: Top 40, classical, jazz, rock, country, Broadway showtunes… you name it. Billy Joel and Elton John are two of my favorite solo artists because the piano has always been an integral component of their artistry. Journey’s probably my favorite group (I know, I’m stuck in the 80’s!). As far as classical, Mozart tops the list.
What was your best event as a gymnast? How tall are you? – Larry H.
Well, I’m 5’4″ (yep, kinda tall for a gymnast, but we’re not all tiny). My best event depended on the time period. In club gymnastics as a kid, I’d have to say uneven bars. But as my dance evolved during my college years at the University of Maryland, and we had more freedom to choose music and style of choreography, I gravitated more toward floor exercise. My senior year, for example, I used a mix of Madonna’s “Vogue” for my music and it was a blast.
Where did you get your education for TV? -Tom Kennedy, Bothell, WA
Tom, I take such pride in the broadcast degree I earned from the University of Maryland in College Park. The Merrill College is among the most nation’s most renowned journalism schools and because of its limited enrollment, it’s extremely competitive to get in. Initially, I planned focusing on print journalism, but would up going the broadcast route. I took classes that gave me a taste of every facet of the business, both in front of and behind the camera, and participated in two extraordinarily valuable internships.
Paying it forward, I am now a member of the J-Schools Board of Visitors, and take part in many of the major decisions regarding the program’s future, from the class curriculum to the recent construction of our new state-of-the-art building on campus. Very, very rewarding.
Was being a TV sports reporter what you always wanted to do growing up? –Peter Jones, England
Actually, Peter, my initial dream was to write for Sports Illustrated. That was something I set my sights on when I was 12 or 13 and I wrote for my high school paper with that goal in mind. But when several journalism students at the University of Maryland kept lauding the broadcast professors, I figured I’d check it out. I’ve stuck with it, obviously, but have recently started doing more writing, which I’ve really enjoyed!
What does it feel like to be on the sideline of an NFL game? –Brian Pehl, Fredericksburg, TX
There’s really no way to describe the excitement. The game is so unbelievably fast when you’re watching it up-close. And for as big as some of those guys seem on TV, imagine what they look like when they’re flying out of bounds at you! Plus, you see so much in the bench area– interaction between players and coaches, moments of elation and exasperation that never make air– you feel like the ultimate “insider.”
What’s been the toughest working conditions you’ve had to endure covering a game? –Ken Ortiz, Daly City, CA
Without question, the Raiders-Seahawks, December 16, 2000. It rained so hard that day, I think Husky Stadium (Seattle played its home games there while Quest was being built) was under water before we even kicked-off. I thought my cute rain hat and umbrella would sustain me, but within within five minutes, I had busted two umbrellas. SHEETS of rain. 40 mile an hour wind gusts. It was crazy! At halftime, I went to the restroom, took off my hat, and I swear a gallon of water dumped out of the rim. After that day, there’s hardly anything Mom Nature can throw at me that I can’t handle.
Do you have a favorite NFL team? –Michael Hedrick, Springfield, MO
Tough one, Michael. Being from New Jersey, my family always pulled for the Giants, but after having worked the league for so long, I tend now to root more for individual players and coaches than I do teams. That said, sometimes there are conflicts. Prime example: when Bill Parcells was coaching the Cowboys. Love the man. Loathe the team, lol.
There are those who look to people like you for inspiration, because you knew your destiny at an early age. If you could say something to those who are paralyzed by the “fear of failure”, what would it be? -Stuart Houchin, Louisville, KY
What an intriguing question, Stuart! I can definitely say I have a huge fear of failure, but fortunately, I’ve turned that into a source of motivation, rather than a deterrent from pursuing my dreams. There will always be people who feel women have no business covering football—or sports, in general. If I gave in to the naysayers way back when, my life certainly would’ve taken a different course. While I believe there’s a component of fate in life, I also think we have some control over our destiny. And if you let “fear of failure” paralyze you, you relinquish your ability to do that. So I guess I’d encourage people with any sort of intrepidation to change their mental approach and channel their fear into positive energy that enables them to reach new heights.