Thursday, September 13, 2007

Twenty Questions With Tina Cervasio

Last spring, a post comparing NESN field reporter Tina Cervasio to ESPN counterpart Erin Andrews was mentioned on Deadspin and resulted in the biggest day in the history of One More Dying Quail. Since then, Google searches for "Tina Cervasio" and similar terms have been fixtures in my list of Site Meter referrals; it varies from day to day, but between those searches and continuing hits from a Red Sox Times story on Andrews and NESN's female reporters, Cervasio is a major part of my daily traffic.

Last week, I visited Cervasio's web site and decided to contact her for an interview. Somewhat surprisingly, she accepted and answered a few questions for me via email. I'm not the best interviewer in the world (alright, I suck - this was my first time, so be gentle), but I tried to cover a variety of topics, from common perceptions of sideline reporters to the awesomeness of Tim Wakefield. The only true disappointment? She won't introduce me to Erin Andrews or Bonnie Bernstein. Not cool, Tina. Not cool.

OMDQ: Let's start this thing off by resolving some trust issues: since we're doing this via email, how do I know I'm really dealing with Tina Cervasio and not just an intern in NESN's PR department?

TC: Because I would never TRUST someone else answering questions about me!!

OMDQ: Can you take me through a day in the professional life of Tina Cervasio?

TC: On the professional side of things, after I wake up, 90% of the time I’ll put WEEI on and listen while I get ready for my day. I’ll go buy & read the Globe and Herald, then read the other Red Sox and sports stories either online or when they are emailed to me. When we are playing in Boston, I’ll head over to NESN in Watertown to have meetings with producers, voice over any features, get my mail, answer emails, autograph requests. Then I’ll head over to Fenway (the latest I’ll get there is 2:30 … any later and I’ll feel out of sorts.) For about an hour, I’ll type up in-game reports that I would like to do, edit sound bites, talk to my game and pre-game producers about what they need from me for the Pre-Game show and the actual Game broadcast. I’ll share my ideas, I’ll write out my check list, write up my in game reports and hand over or email copies to everyone involved. The clubhouse opens at 3:30, I’ll go in, get the lineups, set up any interviews with players or coaches that I need, check in with Don & Jerry, catch up with the Globe writers that I will be talking to later on the pre-game show. Sometimes I’ll get sound bites right in the clubhouse, other times we’ll head out to the dugout to do interviews. At 4 PM, Terry Francona has his media meeting in the interview room at Fenway or the Manager’s office in other ballparks. After he’s done with the formal meeting, taking questions, having off-the-cuff conversations … he does another meeting with the electronic media. When we are on the road, I’m usually the only camera. From there, I’ll call my pre-game producer and update him on the meeting and the sound I’ve collected, we’ll discuss my news hit, and “Insider & MLB Topics” with the Globe writers. Then I’ll head to the opposing team to either get sound from the manager, or grab a quick interview with a player. Sometimes they are formal, some quick stick mic interviews, sometimes I’ll just get sound bites from the player on a story idea I have for in-game or for our pre-game show. (Am I boring you yet?) At Fenway when the Sox take B.P. first, I’ll do one last check at about 5:30 in the clubhouse for any updates or lineup changes … powder my nose, hook up my IFB … and I’m in the chair for pre-game by 5:50 to do a sound check. From there … It’s show/game time!!

OMDQ: After the Clay Buchholz no-hitter earlier this month, you were on the field and interviewing him seconds after the game ended. How do you prepare for situations like that? I imagine grabbing a guy who just delivered a walk-off hit and trying to do a coherent interview must be especially tough.

TC: The only way you can prepare for situations like this, are through experience. My job is to capture the emotion of the moment, not to break down the game … I went through a very similar experience on June 7th, when Curt Schilling was one out away from a No-Hitter. It was the same preparation for me … just get into his mind, the emotion, what they are experiencing. When there is a walk-off hit … then my questions are more game related … on the rally, the inning … whatever was the turning point leading up to the game winning hit. It’s crazy at Fenway when 36-thousand are screaming and “Dirty Water” is blaring through the Park. I just have to make sure I remain calm to listen to the player’s answers, my producer counting me down in my ear and telling me who and when to throw it back to … it’s a whole lotta stuff going on at once. 9 out of 10 times I never even hear my producer ….

OMDQ: What are the most exciting moments you have ever had to work through in your professional career? Do you ever find it difficult to keep your composure when everyone around you is going crazy after a big win?

TC: Buchholz’s no-hitter and Schilling’s one-hitter were definitely my most exciting experiences covering the Red Sox! Another thrill for me in my professional career was calling the Women’s Gymnastics All-Around Competition at the Summer Olympic Games in Greece, on Westwood One/ NBC Radio … when American Carly Patterson won the gold on her floor routine the final routine of the round. I was a gymnast as a kid (not very good), and I have always been enthralled by the Olympics, so to be able to broadcast and capture that moment, it was a dream come true for me!

OMDQ: In your time with NESN, who has been the easiest person to interview? The most difficult?

TC: The easiest interview falls into a collective group: Rookies! They are very willing to talk because they are experiencing the Majors and Pros for the first time in their career, and being interviewed on television is part of that experience they have been dreaming of. So they always say yes, and they are very honest in their answers. BUT … after putting in some Major League time … and with the media demands in Boston, Things Change!

TC: It’s definitely difficult to interview Matsuzaka and Okajima because I definitely think things are getting lost in translation.

OMDQ: Instead of being lauded for their brains, female field level reporters are often judged primarily on their looks (I'm not sure Armen Keteyian or Jack Arute has ever had that problem – although Armen certainly is a sexy man). Do you ever get the urge to stick it to The Man and do a Sox game wearing ratty old jeans and a T-shirt, with no makeup and your hair thrown up in a ponytail?

TC: That wouldn’t be me. Although when it rains … my hair goes right up in that ponytail! While I’m in a male dominated business, and working in dirty dugouts, and on grimy baseball fields every day, I’m a girly girl when it comes to clothes … so I’ll always dress up a bit. Even when I’m not reporting on-air.

OMDQ: Along those same lines: my mother is fond of seeing female sportscasters on television and, without actually hearing them speak, wondering out loud, "What do these women know about sports?" Do you ever meet people who say stuff like that to your face, and what is your standard response? (Be nice – I love my mother dearly.)

TC: Sure I run into those people. My response is … “I’m a journalist that covers sports.” Brian Williams was never President of the United States, but he “covers” the President and the news surrounding our nation. It’s the same as news, you take the time to gather knowledge of your subject, read, interview people, collect information, and then you report it.

OMDQ: Do you ever get the opportunity to interact with other sideline reporters? If so, can you introduce me to Erin Andrews and Bonnie Bernstein?

TC: I interact with field reporters from all the ML teams we play. We’ll help each other out with stories (because we are on different broadcasts). We’ll tip each other off on who is a better interview from our team, or who will, OR WON’T do walk-off interviews. When Bonnie or Erin are doing Red Sox games for ESPN, we usually sit in the very same area to do our reports. So I have gotten to know both women, and they are awesome! Bonnie has been someone I’ve always looked up to because she graduated from the University of Maryland right before I started there, and she has had a stellar career. Erin has such pizzazz, an amazing broadcast delivery, and is super nice. How about you contact them, and try to get them to do an interview … just like you did with me!

OMDQ: Does it bother you that people refer to you as a sideline reporter when it is actually only a portion of what you have accomplished in your career?

TC: Right now my job is the Boston Red Sox Field Reporter, including the pre-game, in-game and post-game, as well as all the Red Sox news that happens in the off-season. I’ve been an anchor, host, football sideline reporter, play-by-play announcer …. People can call me whatever they want, I just love what I do, and hope to keep doing it for a long time!

OMDQ: You decided at a very young age that you wanted a career in sports. What drew you to that field in general and on-site reporting in particular? Who did you admire as an aspiring media member?

TC: I always loved sports, to write, to talk and to tell stories. As I learned in school about journalism, reporting, and broadcasting … it all just became a perfect fit! My dad told me to find something I love to do and find someone to pay me for it. I loved going to sporting events. Guess I took my dad’s advice to heart! One of the people I watched through high school and college was Lesley Visser. She was one of my inspirations, and continues to be.

OMDQ: As a Jersey native who is on record as being uncomfortable with the attention Boston pays its celebrities, where does the NESN gig rank in terms of a "dream job"?

TC: NESN is a dream job, because I am covering a Major League Baseball team, pretty much every day of the year. I basically live the same schedule as the ball players, and I am reporting on television every single day! While I do strive to be on the national level, every job is different. This job calls for 24/7 Red Sox. My next job may be covering all sports, and returning to the anchor desk. Any time I can work as a sports broadcaster, radio or television, and make a living doing it … I am living my dream.

OMDQ: Everyone in New England knows they'll see you on Red Sox broadcasts during the season, but what happens at the end of the year? How do you keep busy when baseball is done?

TC: I continue covering the Red Sox in the off-season. We have the “Red Sox Hot Stove” show on NESN, hosted by Tom Caron and I’m the lead reporter. That starts the first week in November. I do hard news and features for that show. For example, last year I went hunting with Jonathan Papelbon and to the Dominican with David Ortiz. I also covered the Winter Meetings and Matsuzaka mania. Plus, without the travel, I’ll even cover Patriots, college sports, wherever NESN needs a reporter and if I’m available.

OMDQ: What is the best part of your job? The worst part?

TC: Come on… I live with the Red Sox. Do I need to explain the best part of my job?!

TC: The worst part … I don’t live with my husband. He remains in New Jersey pursing his career goals. We see each other when the Red Sox are in Boston and he’ll come up for the weekend, or I’ll stay in our house in New Jersey during Yankees series. It’s very hard on us. I miss him terribly. He’s been my biggest supporter. But we both know this is my dream come true, so we deal with it as best as we can.

OMDQ: Do you ever lose the thrill of stepping onto the field at Fenway Park, even as a "civilian"?

TC: When I step onto the field at Fenway Park, I know, every day, it is a privilege. However, it is my job, and I am at work … so you can’t get all caught up in it, you have to stay focused. And when you do it 81 times a year … you unfortunately get used to it.

OMDQ:Whose career accomplishments are more impressive: Roger Federer or Tiger Woods?

TC: I would say Tiger, just because I know golf better and have attempted the sport. What impresses me most about Tiger is the circus he has to deal with every day, and the concentration and level of excellence that he maintains through it all. I don’t believe Federer has the type of media following and crazed hype surrounding him every day, every moment that Tiger does. I have seen athletes affected by the attention, whether they are positive or negative stories/reports, to the point where their game, or the level that they are performing at … changes. Tiger is consistent. And when he does falter, we see him make changes and return to dominance. He just blows my mind.

OMDQ: Your web site says you're a New York Giants fan. Three questions: a) is this the year you guys finally accept that Eli Manning is NOT equal to his brother, b) did I make a mistake drafting Amani Toomer in two different fantasy leagues, and c) how long until Tom Coughlin loses control of the team (again) and is finally shown the door?

TC: a) Yes, but didn’t we all know that already.
b) Yes, the guy is older than me & coming off a torn ACL. Bet you were thrilled when he missed that TD by a toe.
c)No playoffs: Mr. Coughlin, I would like you to meet, the door.

OMDQ: Completely off topic: what is your favorite movie?

TC: Completely cheesy: Top Gun

OMDQ: Do you read any blogs on a regular or semi-regular basis? Where do you get the bulk of your news?

TC: I get the bulk of my news from newspapers across the country, … I’ll go to links from there. Mostly,, I’ll read the different blogs from SI writers and writers.

OMDQ: Finally, my wife would like me to close this out with the following hard-hitting question: what is Tim Wakefield really like?

TC: Tim is one of the nicest guys on the team. Honestly, ask any reporter. He always says hi. This is a guy you’ll see every single day … he’ll walk by … “Hi Tina”. Even the day he pitches. (That’s rare around the Sox Clubhouse!) He gives a ton of time away from the ballpark to charities … and he’s a golf-a-holic. Always has his clubs on the road!! Tim never says no to an interview, and he’s very honest. How about this one: on the road, I have to wait for the writers to clear the manager’s office after a game, before I can do “Terry’s Take.” Many times, one writer will linger and continue talking to the manager. During this time, the writers and other reporters get the starting pitcher. There are times on the road when the timing doesn’t work out and I’ll miss the pitcher by the time I finish taping my interview with Terry. So I’ll have to hunt the starter down, and I’m usually out of luck. Wakefield waits for me. He’ll even do a separate interview after he’s done with the first round. He’s an All-Star with the NESN people!!!!!

OMDQ: Okay, just one more: the next Sox game I attend, I stand next to the dugout and ask somebody to tell you that Brian from One More Dying Quail would like to say hello. Do you a) drop what you're doing and come over to say hi so you can put a face with the name and bad jokes, b) take my infant son and bring him to Manny Ramirez, who will bestow upon the boy the savant-like ability to hit any pitch at any time merely by blessing him on the forehead, or c) turn your back and pretend I don't exist until I go away? (Personally, I would go with Option C, but that's just me.)

TC: A) For sure!!! I would love to do B), but I would probably get fired!
Thanks to Tina Cervasio, NESN's Gary Roy and Gideon Cohen from If Management for making this interview possible.


Jack Cobra said...

Awesome interview, nice work.

The Big Picture said...

married?! pfff.

nice interview!

Dan said...

Nice work, brother!


Jay said...

Great interview. Hopefully we won't hear any more Simmons jokes about her.