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Alumni Spotlight: Recent grad describes his first month on the job at ESPN

I walk up a set of rickety metal steps on the side of an 18-wheeler and cautiously open a steel door. I am faced with a scene that would make Ray Bradbury shudder: a tiny room jammed with flat-screen monitors playing to a dozen people behind computers wearing futuristic glasses, shouting things like “Go for gold” and “the Flag is down.” But this is not a scene from a foreboding science fiction novel. It’s my life.

l-r, Scott Gustafson '00 and Joey Accordino '11

At least, it has been for the past month. On June 27, I started work as a production assistant trainee in the Event Production Department at ESPN, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports. Working at ESPN has always been one of my goals, and an undergraduate career at Elon jam-packed with communications extracurricular activities and an Elon-ESPN pipeline helped me accomplish it one month after I walked across the stage Under the Oaks.

The Event Production Department is the group that covers all of ESPN’s live sporting events, from the World Cup to the Spelling Bee. And after just four weeks at work I’ve managed to secure a trip to the ESPN-founded X Games in Los Angeles, where I’ll assist producer (and 2000 Elon alumnus) Scott Gustafson in covering the Staples Center events, some of which will be broadcast in 3D.

Sports broadcasting is no picnic, though. Fourteen-hour days are common, and lunch breaks are a luxury. But you’d be hard-pressed to find someone on my crew who would rather be doing something else. The feeling of delivering on deadline and seeing the fruits of your labor broadcast to millions of viewers is near-impossible to replicate, and everybody plays a role. During my week at the X Games, I’ve assisted with cutdowns for 3D broadcasts, cut video teases, interviewed six gold medal winners and performed play by play for our pre-show rehearsal.

So, I walk up those rickety metal steps into my ultramodern production truck with the confidence of someone who is a valuable piece of the puzzle, but with the humility of someone who knows there is still much left to learn. I hand Scott the updated athlete list for the event we are mere moments away from producing, something called Moto X Enduro, an off-road dirtbike race. I slip on my own pair of 3D glasses and begin to observe the unfolding action with diligent focus. After all, I need to be prepared to interview the winner.

-- by Joseph Accordino, a 2011 graduate of Elon University’s School of Communications. You can reach him at joseph.e.accordino@espn.com, follow him on Twitter @accordino or connect with him on Linkedin at linkedin.com/in/accordino.

Colin Donohue,
8/31/2011 3:47 PM