Magazine article The New Yorker

Action

Magazine article The New Yorker

Action

Article excerpt

ACTION

--Reeves Wiedeman

Late last month, Jerome Bettis, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, race-walked into a meeting room above the cafeteria at ESPN headquarters. "They got me doing the shuffle," he said, removing his suit jacket, loosening a purple polka-dot tie, and guzzling from a glass of water, as if rehydrating at halftime. Bettis had just taped a segment on "SportsCenter," his second appearance of the day, and was now preparing for an hour-long film session with Barry Nash, an on-air performance coach employed by ESPN to help retired athletes become more proficient talking heads. Fans remember Bettis as "the Bus," because he wasn't much smaller than a Greyhound. Nash, who wore a plaid shirt and red tortoiseshell glasses, was slight enough to squeeze into half a seat. He cued up a clip from one of Bettis's recent appearances and began speaking in broadcasting koans: "People want to know--how is this Jerome different from all the other Jeromes I know?"

ESPN, the Megalodon of sports broadcasting, has no shortage of retired millionaires sending job applications: both the N.F.L. and the N.B.A. host annual seminars for players interested in broadcasting, and a current Pittsburgh Steeler recently asked if he could work as an unpaid intern. But finding linebackers who understand the difference between B-roll and a boom mike can be difficult. "They go from a job where you're trained to say as little as possible to a job where you need to say as much as possible," Gerry Matalon, a senior producer who helps run ESPN's on-air talent development, said recently.

In 2008, to remedy the problem, ESPN created a talent department staffed with several performance coaches like Nash. When the network hired Ray Lewis, a voluble former Baltimore Raven known for his enthusiasm and his incoherence, in equal measure, it asked him to undergo training with Arthur Joseph, a vocal coach who often works with opera singers. "We wanted him to focus on delivering that same intensity, but to put it in a proper sentence structure," Tim Scanlan, a vice-president in the talent department, said. Joseph met Lewis at his home, and put him through a series of exercises that he calls "vocal yoga." Football fans can thus thank Joseph for the following images: Ray Lewis extending his arm and staring into the middle distance, to "trace the arc of sound"; Ray Lewis loosening up his jaw with a "yawn-sigh"; Ray Lewis pulling on his tongue with two fingers and saying the word "hat. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.