During Assistant Professor David Bockino’s Through the Lens of ESPN class, students enjoyed a staggering media tour, visiting ESPN, Fox Sports, SNY, MLB.com and the New York Yankees, as well as sports outlets and athletic venues in Bueno Aires.
With a title like Through the Lens of ESPN: From Bristol to Beyond, Assistant Professor David Bockino’s Winter Term class was sure to resonate with students interested in working in the sports industry. And the global education course didn’t disappoint, providing a behind-the-scenes look at prominent sports institutions from Connecticut and New York to Argentina.
To kick off Elon University’s Winter Term session, Bockino and his 13 students – a mix of communications, sport management and business majors – delved into a variety of topics related to the sports media industry, focusing largely on ESPN, The Worldwide Leader in Sports. The students started by reading Jim Miller and Tom Shales’ well-known oral history of the cable network, “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” through which they examined the company’s start in Bristol, its first acquisition of NFL rights, the rise of “SportsCenter” and the popularity of anchors Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, and the birth of ESPN2 and ESPN.com.
The class even Skyped with Miller, who shared additional insights about the book and what he thinks about the company moving forward. A prolific author, Miller has also penned The New York Times best-selling books “Powerhouse, The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency” and “Live From New York, An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live.”
Well-versed in the history and status of ESPN, the class set off on Jan. 13 for the company’s home base in Bristol, Connecticut. The following day, the students received a daylong tour of ESPN and its studios, visiting the sets of “SportsCenter,” “Baseball Tonight” and other programs. A few students sat in on a live taping of “SportsCenter;" others shadowed producers in the control room. Afterward, Kevin Negandhi, the show’s host, spoke to the class, offering his advice on what it takes to succeed in the industry.
The all-access visit to Bristol was coordinated by Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president of studio production, and Elon alumna Amanda Braunlich ’09, a production coordinator at the sports network. A longtime member of the School of Communications’ national advisory board, Williamson was instrumental in providing the experience, Bockino said.
For Brad Klier ’20, who works in student television at Elon, the opportunity to watch a live airing of the noon “Sportscenter” was a personal highlight.
“As someone who has watched ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ my entire life, this was a bucket list experience,” said the sport management major, who has minors in communications and business. “It was really interesting and enlightening to view firsthand the scale of the production that went into the show. We were also lucky enough to carry out a Q&A with Norby Williamson, which allowed me to personally ask Mr. Williamson some in-depth questions regarding his thoughts on the evolving media landscape. I will never forget going to ESPN’s campus.”
That evening the class made its way to New York City, commencing a whirlwind three days meeting with other sports industry professionals. First, the students spoke with representatives in ESPN’s advertising sales department and MLB.com. Then, they sat in on a live production of “First Things First,” an FS1 morning program hosted by Nick Wright and Cris Carter. Following the Jan. 16 show, the hosts offered the students their thoughts on succeeding in sports media. The class later met members of the Fox Sports advertising and research departments.
The New York leg of the trip concluded with visits with two Elon alumni. The class toured Yankees Stadium, then met with members of the ticket sales department including Zachary Reuveni ’18. The students then spoke with Doug Williams ’13, an anchor of SportsNet New York’s nightly highlight show, and toured the SNY studios.
The entire class then went international.
Bockino and his students flew to Buenos Aires, where they toured the city, visited the city’s ESPN studios, and traveled to the headquarters of the Argentine Olympic Committee and the National Sport Center where Argentine Olympic athletes train. Juan Franchini, a sport consultant based in Buenos Aires, was instrumental in pulling together several of these visits during the class’ time in Argentina.
The students also toured the iconic soccer stadiums La Bombonera, home of local club Boca Juniors, and El Monumental, home of Club Atlético River Plate. The student group later enjoyed River Plate’s Jan. 23 home match against Unión de Santa Fe, a 2-1 Union win.
While the class enjoyed the insider access during their travels, Bockino also relished the opportunity to talk about topics beyond the playing field.
"My favorite part of the course was how we were able to incorporate concepts from a wide array of social science disciplines,” Bockino said. “For example, we brought in concepts from psychology such as social identity theory to talk about the crazy Boca Juniors/River Plate rivalry. And we used concepts from political science and sociology to talk about the importance of soccer and the sports newspaper El Grafico in building a sense of national identity within Argentina.”
Klier echoed Bockino’s sentiments that the class didn’t limit itself to sports.
“I was able to truly immerse myself in Argentinian culture, and gain an authentic understanding of the various aspects of their unique and rich culture,” he said. “Professor Bockino’s perfect organization of our travels strongly helped in that respect. I was able to explore the city of Buenos Aires in terms of cuisine, architecture, history, and traditions in a safe and free manner.”
Did the class live up to its billing? Klier certainly thought so.
“I initially heard of the course via word-of-mouth from a few friends, and quickly realized that this course was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain first-hand, expert knowledge of sports media, the evolving media landscape, and media’s impact on society and cultures,” he said. “The course perfectly coincided with my great interest in sports media and the constant evolution of media as a whole in the modern age.”
First hybrid Study USA/study abroad course
While all global short-term programs at Elon are high-impact, each is unique. Some are intensive, immersive opportunities for students to study in remote locations, while others are comparative and travel to up to five countries.
Through the Lens of ESPN: From Bristol to Beyond, however, is a first for Elon: a hybrid Study USA/study abroad course. This innovative structure allows students to examine a topic and industry from a global perspective – both within the United States and abroad.
All global short-term programs for the 2019-20 academic year, including Winter Term 2020, will be announced on Friday, March 1. Learn more at all study abroad and Study USA programs at the Global Education Center Open House slated for 1 to 5 p.m. on March 1 in Global Commons 360. For more information about the Study USA program, visit www.elon.edu/StudyUSA.