Friday, March 15, 2002
The Queen of Curling Coverage:
TV producer Amy Rosenfeld oversees her third Olympics and racks up some rare distinctions
As athletes and the media worldwide were gearing up last fall for the 2002 Winter Olympics, freelance sports TV producer Amy Rosenfeld got a call from an executive at NBC that didn't start out well. "The first thing she said was, 'Please don't be mad at me,'" Amy recalls. The Carlisle resident was already assured of a job in Salt Lake City, having proven herself in 1996 at the summer games in Atlanta and again in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics. "I didn't expect to be producing one of the marquee sports like figure skating or downhill skiing - they don't give those to freelancers," she recalls. "But I could hardly believe it when the NBC boss's next words were, 'I'd like you to cover curling.' I was thinking, 'Curling? You mean shuffleboard on ice? What can I expect to be assigned next time, mah-jongg?'"
Despite her initial dismay, Rosenfeld admits that it was a thrill to be right at the eye of the storm as interest and excitement for curling - the sport in which participants glide along the ice pushing a 42-pound stone with what looks like a squeegie mop - grew with each passing day in Salt Lake City. "At first, when people asked me what I was covering, I would just mumble something and change the subject. By the end of the games, I was yelling, 'I'm covering curling!'" This was only the second time that curling was included in Olympic competition, and Rosenfeld says that in 1998 the network barely gave it any airtime at all. "That gives me an interesting professional distinction: I've produced more minutes of curling than anyone in the entire world," she reports proudly. "And my mother was thrilled to see me doing anything at all that involved close proximity to a cleaning implement."
Growing up in Concord
Growing up in Concord, where she attended the public schools and then Concord Academy before Colorado College, Rosenfeld was heavily involved in sports herself as both a player and a fan. In high school she competed in soccer and downhill skiing, and continued as a varsity skier in college. Her career as a sports TV producer began in the late 1980s, the serendipitous result of another opportunity that fell through. "What I really wanted to do was go into comedy," she explains. "While I was in college, I applied for an internship with the David Letterman show." Rosenfeld's initial triumph at being offered the highly selective internship was quickly tempered by reality when she realized that in order to receive academic credit for the unpaid position, she'd have to pay Colorado College a tuition fee while also paying cost-of-living expenses in New York, where the show is televised. Regretfully, she turned down the opportunity. Feeling groundless, she turned to her sister for advice after graduating. Her sister had an acquaintance who had just founded a new cable network - the New England Sports Network (NESN). "I started there in 1989," Rosenfeld recalls. "I was the lowest of the low there. I didn't even make the coffee; I carried the coffee grounds."
It didn't take long for her to learn the ropes at the sports station, and within a few years she was responsible for producing all of NESN's Red Sox and Bruins coverage. Her big break came in 1996, when NBC offered her a freelance assignment at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. "My assignment was to work as a feature producer in the athletes' village, which was great until the bombing happened," Rosenfeld recalls. "After that, it felt like Kosovo." Nonetheless, the decision to go to Atlanta was a career-changing one. "The Olympics have the same importance for people in sports media as they do for athletes: getting the chance to be there is the realization of your ultimate goal," she explains. "In Atlanta, the equipment, the technology, the connections I made - it was a whole different world from NESN." Not long after returning from Atlanta, she quit her job at the cable station to become a full-time freelancer. "My father had real problems with that decision," she admits. "He was still hoping I'd go to business school."
Covering a variety of sports
But the many professional contacts she'd made at the 1996 Olympic Games paid off, and other opportunities followed. Over the course of the next four years, she covered a variety of televised sports, including major league soccer, numerous college events, and women's professional basketball. In 1999, she got a plum assignment: producing the Women's World Cup in Pasadena, a sporting event that she believes altered the course of women's athletics in the U.S. "The Women's World Cup was probably the greatest moment of my career so far," she recalls. "I'll never forget walking into the stadium and seeing the sight of 92,000 fans filling up the Rose Bowl, all of them fixated on women's soccer. That kind of interest in a women's sports event was unthinkable prior to the World Cup." Asked why that particular event was such a turning point in professional sports, she recalls the distinctive personalities of players like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain. "Everyone got involved in watching, too," she adds. "Even President Clinton made it known that he was cheering them on, although the juxtaposition of President Clinton with a women's locker room might not have actually been the best thing for his image at that point." Asked whether she was responsible for producing the famous moment of victory when Brandi Chastain peeled off her shirt on camera, Rosenfeld deadpans, "Are you kidding? I took off my shirt at that moment, too."
With the Salt Lake City games behind her and another two years to prepare for the Athens Summer Olympics, Rosenfeld is busy this winter covering college hockey and is off to Asia later this year to produce the Men's World Cup. "I'll be spending six weeks in Korea. That's a lot of kim chee," she says ruefully, referring to the popular Korean dish made of pickled cabbage.
Local college sports
Ever since moving to Carlisle in the summer of 2000, Rosenfeld has found it harder and harder to travel for long stints. "Before living here, I had an apartment in Boston for 11 years, and I might as well have just lived in the American Airlines terminal at Logan," she says. "Now I feel lucky to be covering a lot of local college events that don't require leaving home." She concedes that the years of diligent work and constant travel since college have taken a toll on her personal life, despite the fact that, in her words, she has spent at least half her career in men's locker rooms. "I drop in once in a while to visit with my high school friends at their Friday play groups," she says. "They bring their toddlers; I bring my cell phone." Extended family keeps her grounded; she sees her parents, who still live in Concord, often, and maintains close relationships with her siblings and their children.
With all the excitement of a career that has already matched many of her dreams, Rosenfeld still loves coming home to her recently renovated timberframe-style house on Shady Brook Lane. "Travel is increasingly stressful, and the world of television has always been stressful," she says. "Until moving to Carlisle, I never realized how much an environment can keep you sane. I get such pleasure out of taking the John Deere out and mowing the lawn. It brings me back to serenity. Deciding whether to buy weed killer or fertilizer, hearing the coyotes at night, seeing my neighborsliving here is a natural tranquilizer for me."
She admits also that another selling point of the location of her house is its relative proximity to Starbucks; Rosenfeld is a famed coffee addict among her acquaintances. In fact, a framed picture in her living room drawn by her young nephew sums up several aspects of her life quite concisely. The crayoned caption reads simply, "My Aunt Amy is going to the Olympics. She will drink a lot of coffee there and get me a present."
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito