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ESPN’s Bram Weinstein ’95 Returns to AU

By Mike Unger

Photo: Bram Weinstein

ESPN anchor Bram Weinstein SOC '95 spoke to a School of Communication class on Feb. 2. (Photo: Jeff Watts)

Bram Weinstein, SOC ’95, may have been the only die-hard football fan in America who couldn’t watch the Giants play the Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday because he had to work — and wasn’t (too) ticked off about it.

A native of Silver Spring, Maryland, Weinstein grew up hell-bent on becoming a sports broadcaster. He achieved his dream, and as a result the ESPN anchor spent the evening of February 5 at the “Worldwide Leader’s” studios updating viewers (if there were any of them) about, well—the Super Bowl.

Weinstein's remarkable run began with building his broadcasting foundation at American University. He returned to his alma mater three days before the Big Game as a guest on the Jeff Jones Radio Show, the star of an athletics department-sponsored event, and as a speaker at a School of Communication class, “Introduction to Studio Television.”

“One of the reasons I came here was because of the broadcast school,” Weinstein said. “I knew what the media market was in Washington, and I knew that there would be advantages to going to school here as opposed to a Syracuse or a Northwestern.

“That proved to be true. I had an internship at Channel 9, and an internship—I don’t think I was supposed to have two, but I finagled it somehow—on Sports Talk 980. I felt like that fast-tracked me a little differently than some people coming out of college in a smaller market. Interning I was covering Georgetown games and Redskins games — major sporting events that some other schools couldn’t offer. It left me in a good starting position.”

Throughout his talk, Weinstein stressed the importance of internships.

“It’s a whole different situation, getting used to being around the camera, to what a studio feels like, to interviewing people,” he said. “It’s hard to emulate it until you do it.”

At a tiny station in Hastings, Nebraska, Weinstein got the chance to do just about everything — shooting video, editing tape, writing scripts. He convinced his bosses to let him anchor the weekend sports, which turned into a gig anchoring the entire 30-minute newscast.

Including the weather.

“I don’t know anything about the weather,” he said. “In Nebraska it’s very serious. They were relying on me to tell them when tornadoes were coming. Which was a big mistake. But no one got hurt on my watch.”

His jack-of-all-trades stint in the Cornhusker State was very beneficial, he said.

“You learn a lot through being forced to do it. I had to use my own teleprompter while I was on the air. It was a foot petal. Sometimes I touched it too fast and the words would go off the screen, then you’re making it up. It’s why you should . . . not aim too high too quickly because you want to make mistakes in a place where nobody sees you. Which for me was Hastings, Nebraska.”

Weinstein didn’t remain anonymous for long. He returned home and began covering the Redskins for radio stations. That led to his own show and frequent television appearances on other people’s. Among those watching were brass at ESPN.

“I never actually [expected] to get to ESPN,” said Weinstein, who’s worked for the cable sports giant since 2008. “It just went that way.”

Aisha Henderson, a senior in Professor Sarah Menke-Fish’s class, asked how she can get athletes to open up in interviews, a problem she encountered in a class project.

“I found it challenging when I was interviewing the athlete,” she said. “I was trying to get him to sound animated and energetic, but it was hard to do that.”

Weinstein suggested she ask succinct questions, not very specific ones. “Hopefully it will help,” she said.

For those who hope to follow in his footsteps to the top of the sports media world, Weinstein offered pragmatic advice.

“Your friends will have a different social life than you will, especially when you immediately get out [of school]. If you want to pursue it, especially on air, you have to be willing to move anywhere, accept a salary maybe not to your liking, and probably have very little say in whether you have weekends or holidays [off]. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t work Christmas Day. It goes with the territory and you get used to it. It’s a hard balance.”

But, he added without hesitation, it’s definitely worth it.