ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Gerry Matalon is on a mission.
In his presentation at the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp, which began today at NFL Films, in Mt. Laurel, N.J., Matalon aims to give players a realistic picture of what a career in the media looks like.
His message? “This is not a football job. This is a media job talking about football. . . It is starting early, ending late. You better bring a lunch,” Matalon says.
Originating in 2007, the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp is now in its sixth season of offering current and former players an opportunity to learn some of the basics — and advanced lessons — of all aspects of broadcasting. Over 20 players are participating and each of the league’s broadcast partners shares some of their own people to help serve as “drill sergeants” during the four-day “boot camp.”
(According to the NFL, of the 105 players who took part in the Broadcast Boot Camp from 2007-2011, 44 have earned broadcasting jobs as a result of their participation in the program. That list includes ESPN’s Woody and Tim Hasselbeck.)
In addition to Matalon, ESPN will be represented on the BBC faculty by Ron Jaworski and Senior Talent Producer Jason Romano.
“You get your master’s degree in a week at the Broadcast Boot Camp,” said Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback. “I wish this was available when I was going through that transition.”
Jaworski says he will emphasize to the “recruits” the amount of work he puts into his myriad ESPN responsibilities, including the NFL Matchup show and the meticulous preparation required in advance of game productions like Monday Night Football.
ESPN analyst Damien Woody, a graduate of Broadcast Boot Camp (Class of 2009), agrees. “The prep work that goes in (to a media job) is bigger than what people realize.”
It’s that type of realization that leads Matalon to recall a conversation he had years ago with an analyst about his first year in the media business. He remembers the analyst saying, “If I’d have known how much work it took to be good at this job, I would have gone back to the NFL and been a backup for another season.”
Matalon advises hopeful analysts to be “why-ners”: “Their job is not to tell me what,” he said. “Their job is to tell me why. I know what happened. I can see what happened. But they’re the experts. They need to tell me why it happened.”
A part of ESPN’s talent planning and development team, Matalon said he finds the greats make the hard look easy. Like Jaworski, he seeks to arm people with knowledge and information.
“I want people to believe in themselves that they can perform successfully in this line of work, as long as they absolutely understand it’s work,” Matalon said.
If the attendees at this year’s BBC receive that message, it will be mission accomplished for Matalon.