The first few months of 2014 have been a sports lover’s dream. From Super Bowl XLVII, to the Sochi Winter Olympics, the upcoming NBA Finals and college basketball’s March Madness, millions of viewers have been glued to their TVs watching history happen. TFAS alumni have been a part of the action, from reporting, to cheering, attending games and enjoying the inspiration of athletes all over the world.
TFAS Alumna and Fox Sports Sideline Reporter Jennifer Hale (IPJ 99) believes what people love about sports and athletes are the stories.
“To me the value of sports comes from the inspiration in stories of perseverance and hard work. If we’re paying these athletes to put a ball in a hoop or through a goalpost, we’ve probably lost our minds,” Hale said. “I think we’re paying them for the inspiration they can provide and to remind ourselves to better our own lives. We take away a lot of inspiration from that.”
Here are four alumni who have enjoyed the fun and games of 2014 so far, with plenty of anticipation for what’s to come.
Sabrina Casanova Perkins (IPVS 07)
College basketball fans, eat your heart out. TFAS alumna Sabrina Perkins can say that during her lifetime, she got to see her alma mater, the University of Louisville win an NCAA championship.
“Watching the Cardinals win the National Championship was a surreal experience for me… It was immensely gratifying to witness the Cardinals be crowned kings of college basketball once again,” Perkins wrote. “Cheering on the team through the tournament will certainly be a memory I cherish for the rest of my life.”
As an undergraduate student attending games at Freedom Hall was an unforgettable experience.
“The atmosphere at Louisville basketball games is without a doubt one of the best in the country. The historic venue, exceptional attendance by fans, and [Coach] Rick Pitino’s up-tempo style of play all contribute to the buzz and excitement felt while attending a game,” Perkins wrote.
Perkins attributes the craze around Louisville hoops to the basketball culture in Kentucky in general. While in most other parts of the country football rules the landscape, in Kentucky basketball remains supreme.
“Due to this, Louisville has some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in all of college basketball,” Perkins wrote.
As far as this year’s tournament, Perkins believes Pitino has the team peaking at the right time. Although as a seasoned college fan, she knows it depends on match ups and where the selection committee places Louisville.
“The team certainly has the tools to make another deep run,” Perkins said.
Sports Reporter Jennifer Hale (IPJ 99) Turns Hobby into a Dream Career
Professional athletes would have a difficult time keeping pace with Jennifer Hale as she traverses sidelines and places in her sports reporting career. Hale reports on the NFL, NBA and is an anchor for WVUE Fox 8 in New Orleans. For the sports lover who grew up watching SEC football with her father, and then went on to cheer at LSU, she has come full circle.
“Everyday at my job is different. I’ve loved sports since I was a kid. To get to cover something that was a childhood passion doesn’t feel like a job. It doesn’t feel like I’m going to work everyday,” Hale said. “I think if you can love going to work everyday, you found where you’re supposed to be.”
Hale originally began a broadcast journalism career in politics, following her TFAS experience in the Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ). She said she had considered sports reporting but thought of it more as a hobby. For several years, Hale volunteered as a sideline reporter for her alma mater, Louisiana State University. One day a friend saw her work and recommended her to Fox Sports.
“It is a different animal covering sports and politics. There are a lot of lessons that carry over, and I think my political background certainly helped me hit the ground running with sports reporting,” Hale said. “Relationships, good interview skills, story telling, all those apply no matter what subject you are covering.”
During football season, Hale will spend the week researching, and on the phone with players and coaches. If it’s a Sunday game, Hale will attend practice for the home team on Friday and then sit down for in-person interviews. She does the same with the visiting team on Saturday. For basketball, since there are more games per week she has to research in double time, plus do all the interviews.
In so many years of reporting, Hale has a favorite sports figure that she has written about – Legendary Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale Brown.
“Brown’s story to me is a perfect example of how perseverance and hard work can take you to the top if you’re willing to do it consistently year after year,” Hale said.
Going into March Madness, Hale will be busy doing her homework.
“March Madness is the time for me to start scoping out who’s going to be coming up into the NBA next year. Who’s coming up? Who’s going to be in the NBA draft? What are their skills? What teams would they fit best with?” Hale said.
Lifelong Seahawks Fan Neil Vigdor (IPJ 98) Cheers on his Team from the End Zone of Super Bowl XLVIII
It was a bucket-list kind of moment for Neil Vigdor. The clock at Super Bowl XLVIII was winding down and his favorite football team from childhood, the Seattle Seahawks, was about to clench the team’s first Super Bowl title in history. The moment was surreal for Vigdor and the other Seahawks fans as they celebrated the 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos.
“You dream that you could see something like that happen on TV, let alone be there to experience it yourself,” Vigdor said. “People were hugging and kissing and soaking up the win. People didn’t want to leave the stadium.”
Vigdor described getting his ticket to the Super Bowl as serendipitous. His former classmate works for the NFL and called Vigdor the Wednesday before the big game to offer him a ticket.
Sitting in the end zone with the other Seahawks fans, Vigdor said the noise and excitement was unreal.
“The noise was incredible from the very first snap. I think Denver was completely caught off guard,” Vigdor said.
Vigdor attended the Seahawks home opener in September 2013 when the fans set a Guinness World Record for crowd noise at 137.6 decibels. He said they brought that same energy east for the Super Bowl.
“It was amazing to see so many Seahawks fans on the east coast,” Vigdor said. “The showing was really impressive and fostered a lot of pride.”
Vigdor, who has followed the Seahawks since his childhood, started loving the team when Steve Largent was a player.
“You dream that you could first of all go to a Super Bowl. Then to see your team in the Super Bowl and completely shellac the other team was pretty amazing,” Vigdor said.
While football is his favorite sport to watch, Vigdor has his eye on March Madness and some college teams. He said he will be rooting for Wichita State and thinks Florida will be tough.
Frank Seravalli (IPJ 07): Flyers Expert and Hometown Favorite
Frank Seravalli has a job that any sports fan would covet: a beat writer for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. Now in his fifth season on the job, Seravalli knows the team inside and out, and even travels to all 41 road games. What does he love most about the work?
“The news is different every day. The team could be winning or losing, players get injured, coaches change, players are traded, there’s always something going on. The Flyers are definitely an interesting team to follow in terms of the NHL,” Seravalli said.
Following his experience in IPJ, Seravalli returned to his native Philadelphia and got an internship at the Philadelphia Daily News. While he originally thought the market was too saturated to become the beat reporter, eventually the job opened up.
“The drive to break news and be at the forefront of my beat, especially in a crowded sports market where everyone is always paying attention is what keeps me driven and gets me out of bed every morning,” Seravalli said.
While he has loved hockey since his childhood, Seravalli is a well-rounded sports reporter. He has traveled overseas to cover sporting events; he has covered the MLB World Series twice, NFL playoff games, and the Philadelphia Eagles. While he is not a huge college basketball fan, he will keep his eye on Villanova, a hometown favorite.
“Whenever Villanova is able to make a run in the NCAA tournament, it certainly captures the attention of Philadelphia,” Seravalli said.