ESPN’s Pablo Torre hosts Sports Reporter Challenge

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Jack Marchesani

As a continuation of Malvern’s Distinguished Speaker Series, Pablo Torre, a nationally-recognized sports reporter most notably known for his work at ESPN Magazine and Around the Horn, spoke at the Duffy Center on Monday, March 23.

Torre led a debate with three students who completed Malvern’s Sports Reporter Challenge, on whether college athletes should be paid. Following this, he gave a presentation on the influence of sports on American culture, stigmas about sports and mental health, and the tie between masculinity and the sporting world.

5 Things We Learned from Pablo Torre
5 Things We Learned from Pablo Torre

A past student of Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot, Torre has become a household name in the world of sports reporting in the last decade. In a session with the Blackfriar Chronicle staff, Mr. Torre explained he was not involved in newspaper or journalism at Regis. Instead, he was a committed member of the debate team, which, he explained, would help him in television reporting. He would later attend Harvard University, where he majored in Sociology, wrote for the Harvard Crimson, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

He then went to work for big name publications and programs such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, Olbermann, Around the Horn, and others. Mr. Torre has specialized in reporting on the seemingly overlooked areas of the sporting world.

In the weeks leading up to Torre’s presentation, students were issued a challenge by Experiential Learning Director, Mr. Aaron Brady. The winners of the challenge were invited to participate in an interactive sports reporting show with Torre.

Student contestants were asked about their research skills, presentation skills, and preferred coaching style. Students were also asked to select two potential faculty mentors for the presentation.

Once students responded, six contestants were invited to compete in a preliminary round of reporting in order to further narrow the student group. The six students were asked to compete onstage in the Duffy Center in a talk show-style discussion moderated by Head of School, Mr. Christian Talbot.

The six students included Ben Yankelitis ‘16, Danny Malloy ‘18, Matt Daller ‘17, Michael Droogan ‘16, Cameron Williams ‘16, and Brandon Fronczak ‘15. Each student was assigned one faculty mentor.

In the preliminary round, judged by Coach John Harmatuk, Coach Jeff Carroll, and Director of Admissions Mr. Sean Kenney. Students were charged with researching in-depth sports related questions, such as Should college athletes be paid? and Should users of performance enhancing drugs be allowed in the MLB Hall of Fame? The questions had a focus on diversity in the sports world. Brady recommended that students collaborate with faculty mentors to prepare their presentations.

In two groups, the students were challenged to respond to Talbot’s questions regarding the pre-determined topics. Brady instructed the students to prepare four-minute presentations on each topics. However, the student contestants were thrown a curveball when Talbot presented them with a discussion based seminar.

“We ended up having to answer questions we had to think about and improvise based on our presentations,” said Droogan.

“It was helpful in learning how to present my ideas, and it gave me a new perspective into the world of sports,” said Malloy.

The panel of judges selected Yankelitis, Droogan, and Fronczak to move on to the next round. Brady instructed these students to prepare to further debate and discuss the topic of whether NCAA athletes should be paid.

“Starting with Adam Bryant’s visit two year ago, we designed opportunities for students to engage in deeply student centered learning experiences on the speaker’s expertise,” said Talbot, in an introduction for Torre.

On the night of the event, Torre took the stage along with the student contests to moderate a roundtable mock sports reporting event.

“Being part of the panel with him as the moderator was very exciting. He helped us feel like professionals and stay calm on stage,” said Ben Yankelitis.

Yankelitis argued that student-athletes were employees of the university they attend, and deserve payment, stressing the restrictions in education for student-athletes.

Meanwhile Fronzak and Droogan supported the idea that education itself was payment enough for their hard work.

“It was cool to work with a professional who’s on TV regularly,” said Fronczak, who plans to swim at Ohio State next year.

Following the interactive challenge, Torre spoke about his work and observations in the sporting world.

His first topic was the unifying ability that sports have in American culture. Torre showed that each cable customer pays over $6 monthly for ESPN (his employer), while other networks cost only cents. Torre pointed out Americans “need” to watch sports.

“If you put a football on a table and pointed a camera at it, it’d get decent ratings,” said Torre.

He also expressed that sports are a “Big Tent” of American culture under which all celebrate and compete, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, and gender, highlighting the diversity the “Big Tent” brings to the sporting world.

Magnus Sims ‘15, who came to see Torre speak said, “I thought his points brought up a lot of questions that were difficult to answer. He answered these questions, but left us with questions for us to think about, surrounding ‘The Big Tent,’ masculinity, and the sporting world.”

Next, Torre spoke about the ties between mental health and sports, citing the major brain and skull injuries that often come from contact sports. He also highlighted the stigma for many male athletes to fear reporting mental illness.

“One of the huge problems in analyzing these issues is self-reporting. You must self-report, and say ‘I have this concussion.’ The big issue with macho-culture is that saying that makes you not as tough,” said Torre.

He also recognized the issues surrounding diversity in sports, and how we view athletes.
He first called to attention Seattle Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman, who was called a ‘thug’ after an aggressive interview. Torre noted that audiences overlooked the fact that Sherman attended Stanford University.

While discussing Harvard grad and NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin, Torre, who is of Filipino descent, challenged the audience to name 3 Asian-American actors who could play a ‘romantic lead’ in a movie.

Silence. Torre had proven his point.

“[Torre] showed how powerful sports can be in impacting societal issues,” said Michael Szipszky ‘15, who attended the event.

The audience was amazed at Torre’s unique perspective on the world of sports. Highly applicable to Malvern Athletics, the lessons learned challenged the crowd and required in-depth thinking to draw connections at, as Torre put it, “the crossroads of sports and social issues.”