Tag Archives: ESPN

2 For 40 Under 40

There are 169 towns and cities in Connecticut. But 2 Westporters — one current, one former — have made Connecticut Magazine’ s “40 Under 40” list. The feature celebrates 40 Nutmeggers doing interesting and/or important work, all before their 40th birthday.

Andy Friedland now lives in New Haven, but he grew up here. Here’s the magazine’s shout-out to the 2008 Staples High School graduate:

With a sharp rise in hate crimes statewide nationally and internationally in the past 3 years, Friedland’s job as associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut office keeps him busy.

A former team leader with AmeriCorps, he is a primary responder to combat anti-Semitism, other bias incidents and all forms of bigotry. He works with schools, law enforcement and “whoever comes into the picture” to educate people about anti-Semitism and its local origins.

Friedland has led educational programs on topics such as the Holocaust and genocide and the separation of church and state. He has lobbied for and testified for the ADL’s initiative Backspace Hate for legislation to address online harassment, including cyberstalking.

Connecticut has good laws, Friedland says, but adds that it’s important to “keep laws up to date and take on the issues that are really important and dangerous.”

Andy Friedland (Photo by Harold Shapiro for Connecticut Magazine)

Dan Orlovsky grew up in Shelton, but lives here now. His writeup says:

Orlovsky has been famous in Connecticut since he was a teenager. In 2000, the senior quarterback led Shelton High School to an undefeated season and the Class LL state championship before being named state player of the year.

Despite receiving interest from traditional college football powerhouses, Orlovsky stayed in state and attended UConn. He rewrote the school’s record book — still holding every major passing mark in Huskies history to this day — and also led UConn to the program’s first bowl game, a 39-10 win over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl in 2004. Orlovsky was named MVP of the game.

The Detroit Lions selected Orlovsky in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Serving mostly as a backup QB in his 12 years in the league, Orlovsky was uniquely preparing himself for his second career as an ESPN football analyst.

Orlovsky was already considered a rising media star when he joined the network in 2018. Now he provides color commentary in the broadcast booth (he recently called the Camping World Bowl on TV and the Rose Bowl for radio) and intelligent and insightful analysis on studio shows including Get Up!, NFL Live and SportsCenter.

Dan Orlovsky (Photo by Melissa Rawlins/ESPN for Connecticut Magazine)

Congratulations, Andy and Dan. And to all you other Westporters under 40: Get to work!

(For the full “40 Under 40” story, click here. Hat tip: Amy Schafrann)

Chris McKendry: “Best Job At ESPN”

Chris McKendry may have “the best job at ESPN.”

And — according to Sporting News — it may be the start of “a different relationship in the future between on-air talent and TV networks” everywhere.

McKendry — a Westport resident — spent 20 years anchoring “SportsCenter.”

Now she’s a fulltime tennis sportscaster. As Grand Slam host, she travels the world covering the US Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open.

But that leaves plenty of time to raise her 2 sons.

Or — if she wants — to work for another network. (Just not on tennis.)

This summer, the former Drexel University tennis player hosted over 150 hours of US Open Coverage. The 16-hour days — for 2 long weeks — were grueling. But it was worth it. Ratings were up 8% over last year.

Sporting News’ interview with McKendry covered a range of topics. To read the full transcript, click here.

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

Chris McKendry (Photo courtesy of Sporting News)

“The Sports Reporters” Ends; Westport’s ESPN Link Stays Strong

This  morning marked the final broadcast of “The Sports Reporters.” ESPN ended the provocative roundtable discussion show after 29 years.

Joe Valerio

Westport has many connections to the Bristol-based broadcast. For the past 27 years the producer was Joe Valerio, a longtime resident whose son Brian graduated from Staples in 2003.

Former Westporter Dick Schaap was the 2nd host. On September 16, 2001 the show expanded to an hour, to explore (from a sports perspective) the terrorist attacks of 5 days earlier.

Schaap delayed hip replacement surgery in order to host that show. It was his last, as he died from complications 3 months later.

Another former Westporter — New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer  Selena Roberts — was a regular panelist.

Jeremy Schaap

“The Sports Reporters” will be replaced by a morning edition of “E:60,” ESPN’s news magazine. Co-hosts are Bob Ley — and Jeremy Schaap.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate has returned to his hometown.

The other day, Schaap wrote about growing up with “The Sports Reporters.” He began with a tribute to Valerio:

When I think of The Sports Reporters, and I do, often, I think of the big brown paper bags filled with dozens and dozens of H & H Bagels that producer Joe Valerio brought to the set every Sunday morning—when the show was still in New York and before H & H went out of business. (By the way, how exactly does the best bagel bakery in New York go out of business, ever? A pox on Atkins.)

I think of those early mornings, still kind-of-warm bagels — the obvious but still true New York analog of the Proustian Madeleine — and, as they were being consumed, the pre-taping banter among the panelists. In the tradition of producers of talk shows everywhere, Valerio, who’s been producing the show since 1989, would tell everybody to save their best material for the set, not to leave it in the makeup room, but there was never more than semi-compliance.

Click here to read the rest of Schaap’s thoughts on “The Sports Reporters,” as he brings the Westport/ESPN Sunday morning connection full circle. And click here, to see some of the top reporters in the sports world give the show — and Joe Valerio — some love.

(Hat tip: Tom Haberstroh)

Jeremy Schaap Scores Big

Lost in the uproar over FIFA’s bribery/racketeering/wire fraud/money laundering scandal is the fact that not only did Qatar probably earn its 2022 World Cup site selection the old-fashioned way — they bought it — but that they are now using slave labor to build its stadiums.

Up to 1,200 migrant workers may have already lost their lives in construction accidents. (Qatar claims the number is 0.)

Jeremy Schaap

Jeremy Schaap

Westporter Jeremy Schaap reported on the nation’s despicable work conditions for ESPN. Now, his “E:60” story has won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, given for investigative journalism on social justice issues. It’s the 1st RFK Award ever for the sports network.

Schaap — a 1988 Staples grad who has returned to Westport to live — traveled to Qatar to investigate working and living conditions, and to Nepal, where coffins from Qatar arrive almost daily.

The 47th Annual RFK Awards for Journalism were presented at the Newseum in Washington, DC last month. For Schaap, speaking with Kennedy’s widow Ethel was both professionally rewarding and personally gratifying: His father, noted journalist Dick Schaap, wrote a biography of Robert Kennedy, published just months before the senator was assassinated in 1968.

Jessica Gelman, Tom Haberstroh Star In Special “Super Bowl”

When Jessica Gelman starred on the Staples High School basketball court in the early 1990s, Tom Haberstroh was just entering elementary school.

As he grew up — and became a Wrecker hoops player himself — their paths crossed occasionally. Tom says, “She was the first athlete to teach me that girls could kick guys’ butts.”

Jessica Gelman, at work. (Photo/Sports Business Journal)

Jessica Gelman, at work. (Photo/Sports Business Journal)

Jessica went on to star at Harvard, play professionally in Europe and enter the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. After earning an MBA at Harvard, she’s now a high-powered vice president with the Kraft Sports Group, handling marketing strategy for the New England Patriots and Revolution. Last year, Sports Business Journal named her to their “Forty Under 40” team.

Tom’s path took him to Wake Forest. He’s been an ESPN NBA analyst since 2010.

Jessica Gelman fights for a rebound, as a Staples junior.

Jessica Gelman fights for a rebound, as a Staples junior in 1992.

Both Jessica and Tom are numbers guys people. She took high-level math classes at Staples, learned to use data as a pyschology major in Harvard, and became an early leader in the field of sports analytics. (Her database of 3.4 million names makes Kraft the envy of the sports world.)

A decade ago, she taught a course on sports analytics at MIT Sloan School of Management with Daryl Morey. When he got a new job — general manager of the Houston Rockets — they turned the class into a conference.

The initial event, in 2006, drew 150 people. (“Half of them were my friends,” Jessica jokes.) Nine years later, she’s still the chair.

This year’s conference — tomorrow and Saturday (February 27-28) — will draw over 3,000 industry leaders. Michael (“Moneyball”) Lewis, statistician Nate Silver, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, and league commissioners Adam Silver and Rob Manfred are among the presenters.

So is Tom Haberstroh.

Tom Haberstroh, as a Staples senior in 2004.

Tom Haberstroh, as a Staples senior in 2004.

Like Jessica, he’s a sports industry leader in the field of analytics. He parlayed his background — which included Jen Giudice’s AP Statistics course at Staples, and the strong influence of math teacher Rich Rollins — into a highly respected specialty.

(In a small-world coincidence, Jessica’s former colleague Daryl Morey used an ESPN statistical segment of Tom’s to promote Dwight Howard for the NBA All-Star game.)

A few years ago, Tom introduced himself to Jessica at the Sports Analytics Conference. They kept in touch. This year, Jessica asked Tom to moderate a panel on the growth of sports science and data collection.

The 2 former Staples basketball players are huge fans of each other.

“Jess just won the Super Bowl with the Patriots,” Tom says. “Now she’s running a Super Bowl conference of her own.”

Tom Haberstroh

Tom Haberstroh

“Tom’s stuff is great!” Jessica replies.

Both look forward to this weekend’s conference. Tom jokingly calls it “the Super Bowl for sports nerds.”

Don’t be fooled. If the conference adds a 2-v-2 basketball game to the agenda, Jessica Gelman and Tom Haberstroh will kick everyone’s butts.


David Lloyd’s Subtle Shout-Out To Westport Little League

As host of ESPN’s 1-3 p.m. weekday Sportscenter, David Lloyd can’t play favorites.

But that didn’t stop the Staples grad from adding this little bit of support on his Twitter profile to the Westport Little League team that vies for the New England championship starting Friday:

David Lloyd

And where does the tournament take place?

Bristol, Connecticut — ESPN’s back yard.

David is on vacation this week. No word on whether he took the time off to cheer on his favorite hometown team.

Debra Haffner To ESPN: That’s A Foul!

When Jason Collins came out as the 1st gay male athlete currently active in a major American team sport, ESPN’s Chris Broussard called homosexuality “an open rebellion to God.”

Some Americans said “amen!” Many more said “aaaargh!”

Rev. Debra Haffner

Rev. Debra Haffner

Debra Haffner swung into action.

Rev. Haffner — president of Religious Institute, the Westport-based national multifaith organization advocating for sexual health, education and justice in faith communities and society — organized an online petition.

It read:

Stop Trying to Score Points By Misrepresenting My Religion!

If ESPN addresses religious issues, it must include leaders from the many religious traditions that affirm sexual and gender diversity as a blessing, or they must cease from commenting on such issues entirely. We strongly support open dialogue, but true dialogue cannot be one sided.


Haffner and her organization then had “dialogue” — phone conversations and emails — with Monica Diaz. ESPN’s vice president for diversity, inclusion and wellness cited her network’s long history of commitment to women, people of color and the LGBT community.

Okay, said Religious Institute. But if the on-air comment had been racist rather than anti-gay, it would have been dealt with immediately — and in far stronger terms than ESPN’s president’s initial tepid apology.

Haffner says she and her staff will work with ESPN to ensure a broad spectrum of religious views when reporting future stories.

If, that is, ESPN feels the need to include religion at all.

DJ Sixsmith Hangs With Bob Ley

“06880” is a big fan of DJ Sixsmith.  The Staples senior is a mega-talented radio and TV sportscaster.  He’s got a good shot at becoming the next Bob Ley.

The real Bob Ley knows it too.  The other day the ESPN star wandered down from Bristol, and over to the Staples Media Lab.  He and DJ chatted about their careers.  (Bob’s is longer — he joined ESPN on its 3rd day of existence in 1979, more than a dozen years before DJ was born.)

They also talked about the March 22 fundraiser Bob is hosting at Fairfield University.

Bob Ley (left) and DJ Sixsmith.

The event — which also includes Bob’s colleagues Josh Elliott, Chris McKendry and Justin Kutcher — offers an outside-the-lines, behind-the-scenes look at ESPN, like how the shows get on the air, and all the fun stuff left in the newsroom that viewers never see.

It’s a benefit for FSW, the 161-year-old Bridgeport-based social services agency (formerly Family Services Woodfield).  Bob is a board member, and DJ helped promote the event (including a silent auction) on the air.

On Tuesday, Bob Ley will tell tales about his work — everything from announcing World Cup soccer and NCAA Final Fours, to covering an earthquake during the 1989 World Series and assessing the impact of the 9/11 terror attack on sports.

DJ Sixsmith does not have that resume — yet.  He’s called some pretty exciting basketball and football games, but the Staples Wreckers are not the Green Bay Packers.

Then again, when Bob Ley was 17, Howard Cosell didn’t wander into his high school station to say hi.

(Tickets for “Outside the Lines & Behind the Scenes at ESPN” are $20 general admission; $50 for a meet-and-greet and auction.  Click here to order, or for more information.)

Kyle Martino Heads To The World Cup

Kyle Martino — the Westport soccer star who was National High School Player of the Year in 1998, earned MLS Rookie of the Year honors, and shared the Los Angeles Galaxy field with David Beckham — is going to the World Cup.

Kyle Martino

He won’t be playing for the US national team — though he’s done that in the past.  For a  month starting in mid-June, Martino will be a key part of ESPN and ABC’s radio crew.  He’ll announce games with TV veterans J.P. Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth, and former New York Cosmos star Shep Messing.

Martino has earned praise for his ESPN television work, covering the US men’s team and MLS.  However, for the World Cup, Disney — ESPN and ABC’s parent company — has signed a largely British TV crew.

That will be particularly interesting on June 12.  It’s the Americans’ 1st game of the tournament — against England.

Don’t want to hear a Brit call the match?  No problem.

Gather in front of a huge hi-def screen.  Mute the sound.

And listen to Kyle Martino, live from South Africa.

Game time is 2:30 p.m.

Kyle Martino Tackles Something New

Kyle Martino is not yet 30 years old, but he’s already had a lifetime of success.

The Gatorade National Player of the Year at Staples in 1998, he starred at the University of Virginia; was named Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year in 2002; played on the US national team; was David Beckham’s teammate on the Los Angeles Galaxy, and is now one of ESPN’s top soccer announcers — with a shot at calling World Cup matches this summer.

At the same time, he’s forging a career in finance.

Kyle Martino (Photo courtesy of Fairfield County Business Journal)

Martino’s storied careers — on the soccer pitch and on Wall Street — are the subject of a front-page story in the current issue of Fairfield County Business Journal.  Writer Ryan Doran notes that while playing for the Columbus Crew and Galaxy, Martino prepared for life after pro sports by taking classes at Ohio State and UCLA.

He arranged an off-season internship at Lenox Advisors, a wealth advisory firm.  He was mentored by Tom Henske — a Lenox partner who in the 1990s won 3 national championships as the University of Virginia’s goalkeeper.  (In a you-can’t-make-this-up coincidence, Henske now serves as Staples’ goalie coach.)

“The reality of knowing that there is a next chapter after, for a kid who sees his name in neon lights, is that you have to figure things out very quickly after hanging the cleats up,” says Martino.  He figured things out long before his career ended.

Martino hopes to develop a specialty helping athletes manage their money.

He’s kept his ties to the Staples boys soccer program, assisting with training and offering inspirational talks whenever he can.  He’s a great role model for teenagers — whether they want to be professional soccer player, sports broadcaster or financial advisor.

Or all 3.