Women’s History Month: Tina Cervasio (Reporter/Broadcaster)
Added by Gregg Snyder on March 1, 2012.
We are starting off our Women’s History Month project with one of the most recognizable and well liked sports reporters in our area. Tina Cervasio is the current broadcaster/reporter for the New York Knicks and New York Red Bulls. Tina is a very hard working, friendly reporter that goes above and beyond to bring the fans the news they want. So ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to Tina Cervasio…
From animals and fishing, to baseball and basketball, you’ve covered a variety of topics throughout your career. Were you always an outdoors and sports person?
Yes. My family was always involved in sports. My mother’s in education, but a lot of her brothers, my uncles, were high school coaches and small college coaches. So, throughout my life, even as a kid, Friday night’s we were at Uncle John’s football game, Saturday morning we are at Uncle Joe’s freshman football game, and during the week we would go to cousin Mark’s basketball game. It was family oriented and my passion began with sports and education and the importance of sports and having a well rounded life and that comes from my family.
When did you realize sports broadcasting and journalism was the path you wanted to take?
I was about 11 years old and my father took our family to the Rose Bowl. My dad was always a huge college football fan. He actually played at Cornell and had a passion for college football. So he decided to go as a family and I just had the time of my life. I was a little girl involved in gymnastics and softball at the time and dancing. Those were the main things I was doing as a kid but was just obsessed with football, college football was my first love.
My dad and I were just talking about everything and he said if this is something you love, find somebody to pay you for it, you can make a career out of this. He said I could work in sports and start exploring while you’re young and learn the courses to take and at the time I had a lot of interest in public speaking and broadcasting and was a big fan of watching Barbara Walters on television and thought, wow, I can report on sports on television.
As I was going through high school, so many women were becoming more visible such as Linda Cohn and Hannah Storm. I saw what they were doing and I knew immediately what I wanted to do. So, I went through high school and studied courses in college all based on being a sports broadcaster.
Was it difficult gaining respect as a female sports personality? If so, is it still a challenge or do you feel that it’s now changing?
It’s always a challenge because I feel like women have to be perfect in everything they say. If you miss speak it’s because you don’t know the game or you don’t deserve to be covering the sport. If a guy miss speaks, he miss spoke. It still exists with women and I thought we’d be further along.
What has changed is the numbers. Wherever you look there are women covering sports, every regional network, every affiliate on the networks and they are playing a major role. You will turn on SportsCenter and two women will be hosting at the same time, which is something we didn’t see when I was in high school or college.
It’s still a challenge, there are still naysayers but there’s strength in numbers. There are so many talented, smart, fantastic female sports journalists out there in every facet of the industry from writing in the newspapers, magazines, dot com, on television, and that’s what’s changed the most which is fantastic.
As you started to study and really move toward a sports career, was there anyone in particular that stood out as a role model or inspiration to you?
I didn’t have any one particular role model or inspiration. I was in college at the University of Maryland and Bonnie Bernstein graduated a few years earlier and she was one of the youngest reporters on ESPN.
To me, and this is how I am today, I hate the label ‘Female Sports Broadcaster.’ I’m a sports broadcaster. So, for me, I had a lot of male sports broadcasters that I looked up to as well and just enjoyed watching especially being from New York, Len Berman and Wide World of Sports.
I did have two mentors that still stand out in my mind. Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network. I met him when he was doing games on Fox Sports. He was actually training to become an NFL analyst. When I met him I was a runner, making $50 a game to get guys coffee in the booth, or water, or their kids ice pops, or make photo copies. He taught me a lot about how to conduct myself in the sports industry and how to study and prepare.
Also, Spencer Tillman who I worked with on NFL DirecTV Sunday Ticket. For two years I had the opportunity to be a reporter and sometimes co-host with him, fill in for him. So I spent a lot of time shadowing him and working with him. He taught me a lot about the business and how to overcome challenges and how challenges in life and in your professional career only make you better. He was a very inspirational figure.
So, it was two men that were my mentors.
Tina reports on the NY Knicks and NY Red Bulls
You’ve been in Boston with the Red Sox and now in New York with the Knicks and Red Bulls. I want to put you on the spot and ask which city you prefer?
New York! I was born and raised in Nutley, NJ which is eight miles from the Empire State Building. It’s my home. Boston was a wonderful time, it was an awesome two years. I think NESN and the Red Sox were a spectacular experience. I never threw a 98 MPH fastball and people were dumping Champagne on my head. I have a World Series ring that has my name on it, Cervasio, Red Sox, 2007, NESN, the whole nine yards. We just had the ticker tape parade here for the Giants. I was in the Red Sox rolling rally which becomes a ticker tape parade when you’re in the financial district. I loved it, but New York is my home.
In college you learn you’re going to go to small markets, you’re going to have small jobs, you have to move a lot. I’m like, that’s fine, I will do what it takes to get to be where I want to be as a television sports broadcaster. My goal is to be a New York broadcaster. That was my goal. Here I am, so it’s a dream come true.
Are you where you want to be in your career, or do you have further aspirations and goals?
I have further aspirations to add to where I want to be being a New York professional team broadcaster. I’m a New York Knicks announcer and there’s only so many positions in each sport and to be in one of the sports I was a big fan of as a kid and had a lot of knowledge of because a lot of my uncle’s were basketball coaches.
I had the opportunity this year to do NFL sideline reporting and cover college football, so I just want to continue to add to it and add national work that doesn’t conflict because I love my job as one of the Knicks announcers.
You are one of the more active reporters in the social media world. Is it important to you to stay connected with the fans in that way?
Absolutely, I love it. There are times when they can’t get me in the game a lot because of other promotions. So, a lot of my reporting is on Twitter. What a player told me coming off the court, or things I saw or things I reported before the game. So, to me, it’s very important and it’s just another medium, it’s mini blogging.
I love Twitter. As a TV reporter, I’m used to those short blasts of information. It’s important to get some tidbits out to fans and I love when I can tweet pictures of other fans holding signs and tell their story. A lot of Knicks’ fans are throughout the country. There’s a Knicks fan in San Antonio, he’s always tweeting to me.
Do female sports journalists and broadcasters stick together as a group or do you each do your own thing?
I joined a foundation called Women in Sports and Events (WISE), when I returned to New York in the spring of 2008 and I just love that group. There are male members as well but it’s this group of women I found through a Google search. I saw they were having their annual Women of the Year luncheon. I joined the foundation, went to the luncheon by myself, ended up running into some executives from MSG and other networks. There are three to five Women of the Year honored at each luncheon that get up and give their story and they are inducted by someone.
I was so inspired and I left that lunch feeling so empowered and I’ve become very active in WISE. I was a mentor one year were they assigned me to a woman that was working in the industry. I’ve been involved with the New York chapter, I go to events constantly, we have sports viewing parties. We have a New Year New You Make Over Party, so it has nothing to do with sports.
There’s a great combination of very successful women across the country. It creates networking. This is just one foundation. There is the Women in Sports Foundation, the American Women’s Media Association. I always feel that if I ever lose my job or if I ever want to leave the broadcast side of sports, I can get a job in ten minutes because I have this network of people that know me personally, professionally, and support me in everything. That’s what’s great about the foundation.
Is there another female sports broadcaster or journalist that you are most friendly with?
Oh gosh, I’m close to many. I’m close with everyone I’ve worked with. Hazel Mae, I’m looking to get in touch with her for dinner. She was at NESN. Kim Jones, we’ve never actually worked together, we became friends years back when she was writing for the Star-Ledger and I was working for CN8-TV and we were both at Giants practices. We got to know each other, hang out socially, we’ve done events together, reach out to each other for support and then we would see each other a lot with the Yankees/Red Sox matchup, we couldn’t wait to see each other.
There’s a lot of women behind the scenes, also Erin Sharoni, she’s on CNBC. I’ve worked with Deb Placey, Jill Martin, we’re friendly, we have a lot of fun at work. Anita Marks I’m very close with. She just got to be in her Super Bowl parade, I’m very happy for her, she’s been covering football for years.
I have a lot of close friends. Bonnie Bernstein I’ve gotten to know, more over the last year actually. It’s a network and it’s great to learn about their experiences and also sometimes we understand each other and our schedules. So even when we hang out we may not talk sports but we’ll check scores.
Looking back on your career, can you tell us your favorite all-time interview? And also, your favorite sporting event you’ve covered?
So hard to single out because each one is so different but there are a few and I do mention these quite a bit. There is one that happened in Boston covering the Red Sox. It was a pregame interview and Bill Russell was in town. It was when the Celtics weren’t so good, in late April of 2006. He came on our pregame show and I got to interview him on the field at Fenway Park and it was Bill Russell, the Celtics and NBA legend. He was so nice and I could have sat there for two hours. He was telling me his story about the brutal racism that he endured when he was playing for the Celtics and he described the things that went on and how he would abide by them because that’s the way things were in America. He talked about blocking things out and focusing on your goal and seeing the big picture. It was unbelievable and emotional and I learned so much from the interview.
One of my most exciting sports experiences was in 2004, I was calling the play-by-play for women’s gymnastics for the summer Olympic games in Greece. I was a gymnast as a little girl but was never any good, because I was about 5’6″ by the time I was in fifth grade. I got more involved in cheerleading but I knew the sport and had this great opportunity, great job and was working for Westwood One Radio which essentially was the NBC Radio Network and called the entire Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics Tournament in ’04. Peter Vidmar, USA Olympic Gold Medalist, was my analyst and I got to call Carly Patterson’s gold medal when she won it for the all-around.
Tina interviews former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein while working for NESN
Tina is one of the friendliest sports reporters I have ever spoken to. Follow her on Twitter @TinaCervasio, she will be more than happy to tweet with you about the Knicks. You can also follow Tina throughout her career on her website, www.tinacervasio.com.