Bryant Gumbel speaks his mind to students and faculty

It’s not often that you hear of someone who majored in Russian History yet ends up becoming famous through the sports industry. Despite that, this is the case with Bryant Gumbel, the host of HBO’s Real Sports show that focuses primarily on telling the interesting side stories that people discover throughout the ever-changing world of sports each and every day.

Gumbel, a member of the class of 1969 at Bates College, located Lewiston, ME took a visit to Marist College last Thursday to speak with students and professors, alike on the hot button topics in the world of sports, along with offering up some career advice to the students in attendance who one day aspire to work in the field of sports as well.

The visit was set up by Keith Strudler, the Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communications, giving students a chance to interact with one of the biggest names in the business and also continuing to promote the Center for Sports Comm. Strudler was also the one posing the questions to Gumbel throughout the course of the discussion.

“I think it further validates the Center’s importance. It brings attention to the program, perhaps get people both in and outside of campus to realize the work we do” Strudler said.

Upon graduation from Bates, the brother of CBS Sports’ Greg Gumbel worked briefly for a paper and pulp company before quickly realizing that he desperately wanted a career change. Gumbel then convinced Allen Baron of Black Sports Magazine to let him write an article for free. Upon writing this article, Baron was impressed enough that he offered Gumbel a deal that included writing six articles for $300.

Little did he know at the time that this would turn into a TV audition in Los Angeles for a chance to cover local sports with one of the networks in the area. Following the audition, Gumbel was offered a contract for $21,000.

“I took it simply because it was more money” Gumbel said.

From the perspective of someone who was in the audience for the discussion, one of the things that impressed me most about Gumbel was his bland opinions on certain topics. It made it seem as if the talk had more of a flow to it, with a noticeable rapport being developed between Strudler and Gumbel as the talk went on.

“To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. He has always been very open and outspoken, but I didn’t consider whether he would tone it down for a university audience” Strudler said. “I was very pleased that he was open and honest. It made for a great conversation.”

Over the past five years or so, scandals of just about every sort have marred the landscape of college sports and altered it in a number of ways. With that being said, his thoughts on the current state of major Division I athletics was just one of the questions that was posed to Gumbel. This was one of the points in the talk where his blandness gave the audience a chance to really gather his perspective on the hottest topics in sports today.

“It’s broken” Gumbel said. “There is nothing more exploitative than the NCAA, it exploits the young people, the ones who fuel the system.”

That quote alone provided the perfect chance for a follow-up question regarding his thoughts on whether or not college athletes should be paid to play. Essentially, what Gumbel went on to say that is the NCAA is condoning a certain form of indentured servitude by not paying these players who, as previously mentioned, “fuel the system.” He brought up the concept that everyone else from coaches and athletic department workers to managers are getting paid for what they do, yet the ones actually out there on the field or court playing are not. Furthermore, Gumbel also presented the argument that Division-I sports are a year-round commitment, without a true offseason. Sure, you can call the times when there are no games the offseason, but don’t forget to take into account the offseason workouts, among other things.

To go along with the debate of whether or not college athletes should be paid, quite possibly the best example that Gumbel used was bringing up Tim Tebow and the extremely high level of popularity that Tebow had during his time as a quarterback at the University of Florida.

“Think about the number of Tim Tebow jerseys that were sold while he was at Florida, the player receives nothing. They should be compensated for what they are generating” Gumbel said.

Despite his somewhat controversial statements on college sports, the single statement that may have caught the audience’s attention had to do with Lance Armstrong, someone who has made plenty of headlines recently.

Let’s go back to the summer of 2005 for a minute. Armstrong, a native of Plano, TX had just won his seventh consecutive Tour de France and seemingly could do no wrong. He was one of America’s favorite sons and had risen to a level of super stardom that truly very few people achieve. At the time, he symbolized everything that was good about American sports, an All-American guy winning the biggest race in cycling on the sport’s biggest stage.

With that being said, one has to consider the nature of the sport of cycling. Without a doubt, it is one that often times raises the most questions about the use and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs. For roughly the last five years or so, there had been some suspicion regarding Armstrong and his use of PEDs.

Despite the whispers, nothing had been confirmed. However, the worst fears of cycling fans everywhere were confirmed when earlier this year, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, along with all other results dating all the way back to August of 1998 and was handed a lifetime ban from cycling.

When asked about Lance Armstrong and his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Gumbel simply said the following “Lance is a pig whose name I would rather not mention.”

For those that couldn’t attend the talk, that quote alone should give you an idea about the openness of Bryant Gumbel when it comes to certain sports topics.

“I was not at all surprised by Gumbel’s openness. He has a well-earned reputation for speaking his mind, whether or not his opinions will be popular” Marist’s Chief Public Affairs Officer Greg Cannon said. “His bluntness has led some to assume that he’s not friendly or personable, which as the Marist audience saw first-hand, is anything but the case. That, and he also has a great sense of humor.”

As previously mentioned, Gumbel also gave some career advice to those that were in attendance. One of the pieces of advice that he gave was to ask yourself whether or not, this is truly what you want to do while working on your individual communication skills as much as possible. Along those same lines, he also mentioned that it does require a certain amount of luck along the way for things to work out the way that each person envisions them.

“I’m a very fortunate lucky guy, I’ve happened to be in some convenient locations along the way. That’s what it takes in this business” Gumbel said.

As a whole, I thought that the talk was extremely informative for all who attended. Now a days, its rare to have someone of such stature be so open and bland with their opinions while also presenting logical arguments that carry a lot of weight. Athletes will often try to hide their true opinions by using certain words that can allow them to kind of gloss over the question that is being posed to them. That alone is what struck me as the most impressive thing about Gumbel, as Strudler and Cannon stated, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind despite the fact that some of his opinions may not be all too popular.

“Hearing Bryant Gumbel speak was really very exciting. He’s about as high profile as it gets and he doesn’t do public appearances very often so this was great” junior Rob King said.

Comments are closed.