By Alex Norman
For years the question has been raised…
Are there any members of the sports media that are actually… sporty?
I don’t think anyone believes that Chris Berman is very athletic, nor Tony Kornheiser, nor Al Michaels or most of the other folks you see on your television set.
But in Knoxville, there is one way to see first-hand if a sports anchor, or reporter, or writer, or radio host, or blogger can in fact hold their own in athletic competition.
I give you the Knoxville Sports Media Combine.
The idea was born a few years ago by former WATE Sports Anchor Mark Nagi, as a way to get folks together to have a little fun and raise money for a good cause (Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley).
Now in its third year, event organizers have learned that opening things up to other current and former media members helps increase the field, and thus raise more money for charity.
On Saturday, May 4th the event was held at Webb School, and it was a newcomer to sports media that raised the most eyebrows… even if he isn’t new to Knoxville.
Former Tennessee Volunteers basketball player Steven Pearl (2006-2011) is now a talk show host on Tennessee Sports Radio (Saturdays from 10am-12pm). On the court, Pearl might not have looked like the most athletic player you’d ever seen, but it was his willingness to do the little things (set picks, take charges, etc) that earned him playing time, and the ire of opposing fans.
Pearl made KSMC history as the first Division 1 athlete to ever take part in the event. Someday you’ll tell your kids about this moment.
And Pearl proved that has hasn’t lost a step since leaving UT. In the Men’s “Under 35” division, he won the 40 yard dash in 4.84 seconds, and then won the Standing Long Jump in an absurd 9’4.” He placed second in the 20 yard shuttle drill, tied for first in field goal kicking, and won the 60 yard shuttle drill.
When you factor in the performance of Tennessee Sports Radio National Sales Director Matt Veigl, this was a TSR rout of 1990 UNLV proportions. Veigl finished second in four events and placed second overall. Two-time defending KSMC champion Patrick Brown from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press placed third.
In the Men’s “35 and Over” division, it was a three horse race between Nagi, Vinny Hardy from BleacherReport.com, and Jason Yellin, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations at the University of Tennessee.
With last year’s champ, Daryl Hobby from WVLT unable to attend this year, the title was theirs for the taking. Yellin started strong with a winning time of 5.69 in the 40, and then won the obstacle course event. Nagi countered with wins in the Standing Long Jump, the 20 yard shuttle, and in field goal kicking. But it was Hardy’s steady performance and win in the 60 yard shuttle that decided things.
Hardy and Nagi tied for the “35 and Over” title, with Yellin finishing a single point behind them. Should Hobby return in 2014, this could be the most competitive division in… umm… the Sports Media Combine nation.
On the women’s side, WBIR’s Kris Budden knew that as the two-time defending champion, she would get everyone’s best effort. Budden won the 40, and then held off a strong challenge from WATE’s Fallon Smith and Lauren Kittrell from The Daily Beacon for her third straight title.
Special thanks go out to LillyBug Network (the official creative marketing agency and t-shirt designer of the KMSC), JCaroll (the official t-shirt supplier of the KSMC) and the Knoxville Focus (official media partner of the KSMC).
2013 Knoxville Sports Media Combine competitors: WBIR’s Kris Budden, Erin Donovan and Jonathan Jones. WATE’s Steve Coy, Prentice Elliott and Fallon Smith. WVLT’s Hilary Magacs and John Treanor. TSR’s Steven Pearl and Matt Veigl, CTFP’s Patrick Brown, UT’s Jason Yellin, BleacherReport.com’s Vinny Hardy, KSMC Commissioner Mark Nagi, LillyBug Network’s Jennifer Nagi, The Daily Beacon’s Lauren Kittrell, Matt Dixon from The Associated Press, and former WBIR producer Craig Bates.