June 17, 2010
By Jason Kammerdiener, Colgate '10
Rob Stone '91 makes even the most avid sports fan look ill-informed.
As an announcer and reporter for ESPN, Stone is sports savvy on everything from the World Cup to the annual Fourth of July Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.
"About the only sports I haven't covered," said Stone, "are the NFL, NBA, and baseball." Covering more than 70 events a year for the network, he has made a name for himself as an energetic and lively personality.
Stone started working at ESPN as a production assistant soon after graduation. In 1997, he was asked to host the weekly magazine show Worldwide Soccer.
Although he has since diversified his coverage for the network, Stone maintains his passion for soccer. As an alumnus of Colgate's varsity soccer team and an All-Patriot League performer in 1990, Stone's work covering each of the past three World Cups -- and his coverage of the ongoing World Cup in South Africa -- is particularly noteworthy.
"Soccer is a sport I grew up with, a sport I love, and a sport I readily identify with Colgate, so to remain involved with it at a very high level is really gratifying," he said.
Because he reports on such a wide array of sports, the bulk of Stone's work is actually in preparation for an event rather than in the actual coverage.
"It's good to be diverse," said Stone, "but there are weeks where I am doing three different sports in a six-day window. Sometimes I have to ask, 'Where am I and who am I talking to now?'"
Stone's research and preparation skills were put to the test when he prepared for one of his more unexpected roles at ESPN, as the voice of the Professional Bowlers Association.
"I knew nothing about the sport," Stone recalled about when his bosses first approached him with the opportunity. "I had literally two-and-a-half weeks in the midst of soccer and football season, and my wife set to deliver twins, to learn the sport and its history and its players."
Stone rose to the challenge and quickly established himself as part of the PBA tour, though not without some controversy.
Stone noticed that three strikes in a row were referred to as a "turkey," but there was no comparable term to denote the more difficult feat of four strikes in a row. He therefore deemed it a "hambone."
Initially, according to Stone, "the bowling purists did not take a strong liking to it," and he said he was prepared to drop the term out of respect for the sport.
But within moments of speaking at an event with his producer about discontinuing it, "fans came into the venue with a ton of 'hambone' signs, and people were chanting 'hambone.' I just looked at my producer and said, 'Yeah, that's not going to die this week.'"
Stone brings that creativity and enthusiasm to every sport he covers. "If I'm not excited about the game, why should the audience care?"
Often, Stone's attitude manifests itself in interesting and fun segments that inevitably find their way to YouTube, but he also seriously appreciates the sports he covers and the significance they have beyond the playing field.
"In 1998, I was at the U.S.-Iran World Cup game. Obviously there were a lot of political ramifications, story lines, and undertones associated with that. That was awesome to be around."
Covering so many different events requires a great deal of travel and the management of a difficult schedule, but Stone appreciates the lifestyle.
"I don't understand how my buddies operate in a nine-to-five world, and I'm sure they don't have a clue how I get by. But I like the variety. I'm really fortunate to be involved in something that I love, which is sports."