An Interview with ESPN Radio Host, Sean BielawskiBy Tyler Daly
October 22, 2010
Sean Bielawski, 24, hosts The Sean Bielawski Show on ESPN Radio Blacksburg. The charismatic and well-spoken host from Roanoke, Va. has had an interesting journey to the job he has today.
Bielawski gave the following interview to Tyler Daly to discuss his career.[Edited for content]
Tyler Daly: When did you decide that you were interested in working with sports media?
Sean Bielawski: It was something I had always kind of thought about. When I first started at the University of Virginia, I went there with a tentative plan to do pre-law. But, after my first year I realized I didn't want to do that. My second year I was kind of floating around taking a bunch of random classes, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. And then I stumbled upon economics and decided to take that because it was something that came naturally to me. But then, my third year I realized, I don't want to be stuck in a cubicle the rest of my life. I wanted a job I looked forward to going to every morning. Then I saw an ad in the Cavalier Daily, the UVA newspaper, talking about how they wanted sportswriters. They were so short on writers that they brought me in immediately. That job got me interested in pursuing other opportunities in the field. So right before my senior year I applied for an internship with ESPN Radio in Charlottesville with Wes McElroy. I got the job and that's where it all began.
TD: When was your first time live on air with ESPN? How did you feel about it?
SB: My first substantial time on the air was with Wes my senior year. The first few times I did it, you know, your mind is racing. I was a nervous wreck, but I got a lot of great experience up there.
TD: You attended the University of Virginia for your degree. How did you end up back in Blacksburg working alongside Virginia Tech?
SB: It started with the fact that the same people who owned the station in Blacksburg owned the ESPN station in Charlottesville. In August of 2008 they were looking to make some changes in Blacksburg and my boss at the time knew I was from the Roanoke area. He knew I had grown up around Tech athletics my entire life, so it just made sense. I came down here as the assistant sports director during August of that year and I've been here ever since.
TD: Were there any courses or professors you encountered in your time at UVA that really shaped the way you do your job today?
SB: I actually had zero formal training. I didn't take any media classes and I didn't take any journalism classes. Everything I learned was on the job training. I just picked up bits and pieces from the editor at the Cavalier Daily and Wes. This is still a big learning experience for me. I learn everyday; I'm just kind of picking it up as I go.
TD: Blacksburg is a place with a lot of Hokie pride. What have you enjoyed most about working in a town with such a passion for its local school?
SB: It's been kind of interesting, obviously, being a UVA graduate working here in Blacksburg. I absolutely have to be objective. The thing about Tech fans that has always been so interesting to me is the loyalty. The loyalty is something I have definitely taken notice to. It's great to have passionate fans in the area because that makes my job more interesting. Those fans call me on the show and e-mail me with their opinions on what Tech is doing right and wrong.
TD: Of all the people you have interviewed so far in your career, who have you enjoyed talking to the most and why?
SB: The Virginia Tech baseball team has been the most fun to cover. Pete Hughes, their coach, is great at what he does. He's so honest and in this business it's very obvious when a coach is giving you "coach speak." Never once have I thought that coach Hughes was beating around the bush or not giving it to me straight and I certainly appreciate that. Seth Greenberg is also another guy that's very open and honest. I would say those are the two guys I have really enjoyed dealing with.
TD: If you could interview any athlete you wanted on your show, who would it be?
SB: Like I said, I really like interviewing anyone who is honest. The big stars today are so marketing conscious and afraid they might say the wrong thing. They're careful because they don't want to diminish their brand. I would say Charles Barkley because you know he is always going to be honest and give you good answers.
TD: Is there any unique style or major difference in the way you like to conduct your show as opposed to others with similar radio shows?
SB: I'd like to think my lack of a background in the field of media allows me to have a different perspective. Because I took economics, I think I attack the issues from a different angle as opposed to someone who has been in the media field for a while.
TD: What has been your most memorable experience with ESPN Radio so far?
SB: The first thing that came to mind when you asked that was being on the field when Tech played Alabama last year. I was walking around on the field in awe at just how physically impressive Alabama's players were. They were huge, massive guys. The next thing would be the Nebraska game here at Lane Stadium last year. At Lane, the media is allowed to go down to the field with four minutes left to go. I went down on the field and I was standing there with Kyle Tucker, who writes for The Virginian-Pilot. I turned and said to him, "I'm going down to the goal line, because if something does happen that's where it's going to be." The very next play Danny Coale caught the deep pass down the sideline. I was standing right there next to the pylon of the end zone where he almost scored and it was just incredible.
TD: On ESPN Radio's schedule you follow significant sports media figures like Mike and Mike, Colin Cowherd and Scott Van Pelt. Do you look up to guys like that and have you learned anything from them?
SB: I always try and pick up pointers anywhere I can. The thing I like about Cowherd is how prepared he always is. He makes an argument and it seems like he has an answer to every possible question to his argument. He anticipates that so well and that's something I try to take into consideration. I would definitely say Cowherd is the guy on ESPN I take the most from.
TD: Do you have any advice to give to students interested in making a career in sports media?
SB: Do everything you can to master the craft. If you want to do radio, learn everything you can about public speaking. If you want to write, master the vocabulary and grammar. The path I have taken is the one less traveled, but there's no right or wrong path. It's also very important to make connections because the business is very competitive. There are people who look at what I do and say to me, "I want to do what you do." But of those people, so few actually get up and do something about it.
TD: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SB: Just always be prepared. You see the guys on TV commentating on the game and the huge stack of papers they have around them with stats, rosters and random facts. Everyone develops his or her own process so find one that works for you and you can be successful. Take advantage of all the available sources of information and be open-minded to them. For example, I originally shunned Twitter. I didn't see the merit and scoffed at it at first. But things like Twitter, they're game-changers. So much information pertaining to the sports world is leaked on Twitter first, you have to be on top of that stuff and stay aware.