Jenny Dell on Walking the NFL Sideline Beat
The former Red Sox correspondent is ready for some football.
Jenny Dell is famous in Boston. The T.V. reporter gained a passionate, if slightly intoxicated, following while covering the Red Sox for the New England Sports Network. During the team’s worst-to-first run in 2013, Dell broke story after story – and looked good doing it. This summer, as the Red Sox lolled in their own mediocrity, Dell made two big decisions: She accepted a marriage proposal from third baseman Will Middlebrooks and a job as a sideline reporter for CBS Football. She’ll cover her first game on September 18, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Atlanta to take on Matt Ryan’s Falcons.
That’s the day Jenny Dell stops being “that hawtreportah” and becomes a football correspondent. It is – metaphorically and actually – a whole new ball game. She talked to MAXIM about why she’s excited.
How did you become such a big sports fan?
My parents are from Brooklyn, New York, so I grew up as a huge sports fan. My Dad used to be a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan so I watched sports as a child to hang out with my father and I always enjoyed it. I ended up going to UMass Amherst where I became an actual fan. If you weren’t a Red Sox fan at UMass you were basically booed off the campus, so my college roommates – all from the Boston area – took me to Fenway Park freshman year and I fell in love. That was it. I became a Sox fan.
Did you decide right then you wanted to be a broadcaster?
I got a job right out of college at ESPN with the hopes to move more towards marketing at ESPN. There was an opening in production and I fell in love with production, behind the scenes, and I was walking around the ESPN cafeteria one day and someone pulled me aside and said, “Did you ever think about going in front of the camera?” I said, “Nope” and that’s how that all began.
And it didn’t take you long to get one of the best gigs in sports reporting, following the resurgent 2013 Red Sox.
I literally covered the worst to the first. I was lucky because I worked with Bobby Valentine when I was at ESPN and he was doing Sunday night baseball. So, I knew him from before he got the job with the Sox and I think that helped out. There were times he was frustrated after the game and talked to the reporters one way, but when the TV lights turned on he was good to me.
Then he was gone and they got good.
It literally was every reporter’s dream to cover the players who were on that team. With Farrell in there and everything that the city of Boston went through in that year and the triumph and wins for the city, it was nothing less a miracle. We could be down by six runs going into the ninth and there would still be that hope, because you knew that this team was something special.
Then you got poached to cover football?
I was lucky enough to go meet with a bunch of different networks and I really connected with CBS. I just realized it’s such an honor to be on the NFL sideline.
Covering football seems like a totally different animal. Football games are big events. How do you approach them differently?
Football has always been the big sport in my family and, growing up in Connecticut, every Sunday was ‘Football Sunday’. Mom was cooking in the kitchen and I was helping out with that. Dad and all his buddies were over and that’s what I think about when I think about football.
Patriots or Giants? You have to choose one.
My parents were Giants fans, but I started really getting into sports and caring in college at UMass. I can 100% say that, right now, I’m a Patriots fan. I know I’m going to have to go right back to being unbiased, but I’ll secretly cheer for the Patriots.
Are you nervous for your first game? You’re like an early draft pick.
Preparation is key. Research, research, research, and, when you don’t think you can research anymore, do it a little more. I think that, being a woman in sports, you’re always going to be questioned on your knowledge and on your ability, so it’s your job to not only know it, but to know it better then the guy sitting next to you. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow, but that’s just how it is.
As you look at the NFL this year, what in your mind are the big stories?
Being a Patriots fan, I’m looking forward to seeing how the team ends up now that they have Revis. I think that was a great addition. The Jets quarterback situation is obviously a big question mark. But, yeah, that’s what I think the best thing about sports is: There is always a different story line. I always used to say with the baseball teams that it’s like a soap opera you’re watching everyday and there are different story lines that are unfolding. It’s the same thing with football and that’s why I think people tune in. You get invested in the different players and in the different teams and in the different stories. You want to see everything unfold.