Monday morning I found myself emulating a professional persona I’d never expected to: clicking around in heels and pencil skirt, Starbucks in one hand, a fancy notepad in the other. I found myself amidst sporty backdrops, professional athletes (NOT in their athletic attire), countless camera men and photographers, big-time owners and several other (I’m sure) important people (at least in the realm of the NFL).
[Disney owns ESPN in case you were wondering where the connection for this came from since I’m so not-plugged-into the NFL. During the panel session later one of my bosses said, “For those of you who don’t know, Disney owns ESPN. Disney owns almost everything.” I just laughed and smiled. Yes it does.]
Anywho, my boss knows I am a PR major so she invited me to join her at ESPN’s Chalk Talk segment that was hosted prior to Monday Night Football at Arrowhead Stadium. As a VIP, I was given a tour and introduced to important producers, managers, etc. Although I’m no football fan, I was enthralled with the opportunity! I don’t particularly enjoy sports (unless we’re talking NHL) but I knew what an unlikely opportunity this was to learn new things and meet some important people (networking!)
A family friend of my boss’s joined us since he is a junior studying Sports Broadcast and Journalism at Drake University (so this was RIGHT up his alley!) It was cool to see how completely opposite aspects of the event captured our interests: I was fascinated with the structure of the event, the behind-the-scenes aspects of it; the planning, what style backdrops were used, how catering was organized, which members of the press were invited, etc.; Tad was intrigued by the content of the event; the actual sport, players, statistics, video elements, etc.
While it was a wonderful opportunity I’m exceedingly grateful for (and proud to say I attended) it definitely confirmed sports PR is NOT a field I have interest in. I’m not created for it. But man was it exciting to witness those who were! I learned a lot. My perspective on professional sports was slightly altered too.
I learned a lot of applicable advice for myself personally and professionally via the discussion of the panelists (such as resume and networking tips) but also saw a new side of the NFL. Hearing the tender and passionate side of football (the sense of family unit, social enhancement, childhood memories, etc.) gave me a new appreciation for what I used to only identify as stocky, brooding men fighting over a piece of pig on some turf. I began to understand the sense of community football offers. Also, I used to condemn athletes for their crazy, impressive salaries (I never thought it was fair athletes were paid so well while teachers are paid so little). However, I feel I had an awakening to just how many people it takes to host events and games such as these! One of the producers (who was working as a freelancer) asked us to guess how many cameramen (cameramen alone) it took to adequately film a Monday Night Football game. I guess around 200. Nope. Nearly 400 people! That’s a lot of jobs! I was shocked throughout the day at how many jobs existed within this one aspect of the NFL.
While I didn’t pursue any die-hard professional connections to the sports world, my friend Tad did. Since sports is his passion, he took initiative after our tour and introduced himself personally to one of the producers. Later, before the talk show portion of the event, the producer came and found him and asked if he’d like to sit in the back during the show to see how everything worked. Tad agreed wholeheartedly. While back there, the producer nonchalantly said, “Man, one of our stats guys isn’t coming in tonight. What are you doing tonight?” Tad said, “NOTHING!” Yeah. He ran stats for the Monday Night Football game. From the ESPN truck. Got paid (well). Got official (printed) ESPN credentials. His mom cried when he told her.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience! Sports aren’t for me, but I now understand why they are for some people!