Disability is no impediment for ESPN play-by-play man Benetti

Tonight, when Louisville visits South Florida at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU, viewers will hear the play-by-play voice of Jason Benetti with analyst Tim Welsh. In his third season with ESPN, Benetti’s career path might mimic that of many announcers – he got his start on high school radio and moved on to play-by-play calling for local cable television, colleges and minor league baseball – but he never played the sports for which he holds such passion. Benetti lives with a mild form of cerebral palsy which impacts his balance and ability to walk.

In between prepping for the game and his adjunct professor duties at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School for Communications, Benetti spoke with Front Row about being an announcer and disabled, and how the latter, has hindered the former. Answer: not at all.

How did you get into sports broadcasting?
I played the tuba in my high school’s concert band, but I wasn’t balanced enough to carry it in marching band. So, the band director asked me to announce the band’s set via the stadium microphone during our football games.

Does cerebral palsy impact your work?
The daily difficulties are really limited to a misstep here and a stumble there. Some people who meet me may note that my shoes are more worn than the average person’s because of my gait. I’ve chosen a profession in which the way I walk doesn’t directly affect my performance.

How did you join ESPN?
I met with ESPN Regional coordinating producer Chris Farrow in the summer of 2011. Soon after, he offered me the chance to call a Preseason NIT game for ESPN3 between Syracuse and Albany at the Carrier Dome.

Tell us about working with the ESPN team?
I’ve been floored by the respect producers, directors, camera people, sound people and everyone else has given me. To me, they don’t even see a disability.

In October, I spoke to ESPN’s ENABLED group for employees with disabilities. I was joined by an employee who was born without legs and another employee who had a portion of his feet amputated. While I was there to share my experiences, I left with even further understanding on how disability comes in many different forms, and how fortunate I’ve been in the way cerebral palsy has affected me.

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