Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – October 7, 2016

Casey and Jack Cochran consult with a doctor about Casey's concussions.
Casey and Jack Cochran consult with a doctor about Casey’s concussions.

This Sunday, Outside the Lines will debut an SC Featured, “Thirteen: The Cochran Concussion Story,” at 9 a.m., ET on ESPN2.

Features reporter Jen Lada and producer Kristen Lappas tell the story of a Connecticut father and son whose relationship revolved around football.

Former University of Connecticut quarterback Casey Cochran “had reached out to Jen about his story (the fact that he had 13 concussions and eventually quit football),” Lappas said. “He wanted to share more details with her about his troubling career and how he is raising awareness for head trauma and concussions.”

Like all strong storytellers, Lappas and Lada sought to tell Cochran’s story in the most effective way. So first they needed to find a unique angle.

“At ESPN, we obviously have told countless stories about athletes who have faced the repercussions of multiple concussions, and so heading in, we were looking for a unique angle to this specific story, and whether it would be worth telling or not,” Lappas said.

Lada decided to meet with Cochran to gather some background.

“I met with Casey at the beginning of the year to discuss his high school and college football career and my interest in his story,” Lada said. “During that initial conversation, we realized that we both had been coached by our dads in high school. We compared notes and laughed about the uniqueness of that experience.”

As the conversation continued Lada became drawn to the father-son dynamic between Casey and Jack; Casey’s father won eight state championships as a Connecticut high school football coach.

Casey was an incredible subject to work with. He wants to get his story out there for kids to see the uncensored, real effects that multiple concussions can have on a person.
– Kristen Lappas

“As Casey revealed more about Jack’s coaching history, success and philosophy as well as his attitude towards Casey’s current situation, it became obvious that they had a very compelling story together,” she said.

From the first meeting and throughout the process, Cochran was extremely transparent with them.

“Casey was an incredible subject to work with. He wants to get his story out there for kids to see the uncensored, real effects that multiple concussions can have on a person,” Lappas said. “He allowed us access to his psychiatrist and doctor’s appointments throughout the summer. This element provided a level of authenticity, which I don’t think has been achieved before, regarding the topic of concussions.”

Lappas hopes the piece will have an impact on fathers and sons, coaches and players, and open their eyes to the realities of playing the game.

“Our hopes for the viewers watching is that they are able to take a real look at the pressures that children face when it comes to taking hits and remaining in the game,” Lappas said. “It is a story that is relatable on an entirely different level, and that is, the complicated and ever-changing relationship between a father and son.”

Former UConn quarterback Casey Cochran speaks at a coaches’ conference about taking concussion precautions.
Former UConn quarterback Casey Cochran speaks at a coaches’ conference about taking concussion precautions.
Ramona Shelburne hosts panel discussing attitudes towards women in sports

From Hope Solo to Ronda Rousey to Serena Williams, female athletes suffer the double standard of being penalized for behavior that in male athletes are often accepted and sometimes praised. Critics complain that women’s sports lack excitement and big personalities.

This year’s Olympics plot lines included critics calling for Gabby Douglas and Allyson Felix to be aware and maybe ashamed of their authentic reactions and to simply “get over” crushing disappointments.

espnW and ESPN The Magazine recently convened a panel to discuss these issues, led by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

“espnW editors Melanie Jackson and Becky Hudson asked me over the summer if I’d be interested in moderating a panel on controversies in women’s sports. I was overseas at the time, but this was an automatic yes for me,” Shelburne said. ”I’ve been really interested in this topic for a few years now and did a lot of deep thinking on it last year when I was working on a story about Rousey.”

The panel came together to discuss whether female athletes can be real, bold and interesting, without being cast in a negative light. Or, to put it another way, can women’s sports be compelling without controversy?

“These issues really resonate with women, because we all experience them every day. You could tell how much each woman on the panel had felt these things all throughout their career by the authenticity in their answers,” Shelburne said.

The panel consisted of 2012 Olympic medalist LaShinda Demus, U.S. soccer legend and ESPN commentator Julie Foudy, Olympic softballers Stacey Nuveman Deniz and Natasha Watley, UFC fighter Cat Zingano and University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

Read more about the panel in Shelburne’s story We Don’t Need Another Hero available online today and in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine.

By Jay Jay Nesheim

Journalism On Display

  • In a collaboration with The Undefeated, ESPN The Magazine’s Tim Keown looks at the evolving identity of 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. Lately, Kaepernick’s been largely alienated by his team, if not by the sport altogether. In this piece, Keown answers the questions everyone is asking. “Why him?” “Why now?”
  • Bill Belichick might be the greatest coach in NFL history, but 41 years into his career, does anyone know who he is, or how he got there? Is the Patriots’ dynasty due to his genius, or to Tom Brady’s greatness? To find out, ESPN The Magazine writer David Fleming and NFL Nation reporters interviewed many coaches, players, and associates to present a compelling portrait of Belichick, his personality and his relationship with Brady in “No More Questions.” Front Row also interviewed Fleming about the story.
  • ESPN The Magazine and writer Ryan McGee examine the history of the Heisman frontrunners in “Don’t Hand the Heisman to Lamar Jackson yet.” Jackson, the Louisville quarterback, is dominating opponents, including handing No. 2 Florida State the worst loss in school history. While Jackson’s moved from 100-1 odds to 6-5 odds to win the Heisman, history shows that the September frontrunner rarely brings home the hardware.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN2; 10:30 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be Mike Lupica (host), Mitch Albom, Bob Ryan and Pablo S. Torre.

By Molly Mita

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