Fifth Estater

From Love-40 to the Heart of the Matter

Former tennis pro Mary Carillo is a go-to reporter and commentator with Olympian talents 6/11/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Mary Carillo

Title:

Broadcast journalist

Employment Highlights:

USA Network, 1980-1987

PBS, 1981-1986

MSG Network, 1981-1988

CBS Sports, 1986-present

ESPN, 1988-1997; 2003-2010

HBO, Wimbledon host/analyst, 1996-1999; correspondent, Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, 1997-present

NBC Sports, 1996-present

Turner Sports, 2000-2002

Tennis Channel, 2011-present

Coauthor: Tennis My Way, with Martina Navratilova, 1984

Personal:

Born March 15, 1957; son, Anthony, 24; daughter, Rachel, 20

Every August, a group of 200 intrepid Welshmen
don snorkels and flippers, plunge into a thick local
peat bog and swim two consecutive 60-yard
lengths of trench cut through it. The winner is
declared the World Bog Snorkelling Champion. Last year, NBC Olympics commentator
Mary Carillo traveled to Wales, put on a
wet suit and dove into the muck herself.
No, bog snorkelling is not an Olympic
sport, but this is one of 17 feature stories
Carillo has shot over the past year that
will air on NBC next month during the
London Summer Games.

“We didn’t want to show just athlete
profi les and sports profi les,” Carillo explains.
“[NBC] also wanted to show the
whole face of Great Britain.”

It’s the typical go-for-the-lines approach
of Carillo, the former tennis pro-turnedconsummate
broadcast storyteller, whose
fearless event commentary, lively Olympics
coverage and stories for HBO’s Real
Sports With Bryant Gumbel
have won the
acclaim of fans and producers alike, along
with both a Peabody and a Sports Emmy
Award for writing and reporting.

Like many former athletes who have
become sports broadcasters, Carillo
launched her reporting career from the
courts of the pro tennis tour. But the
similarities mostly end there. While a
top player, Carillo was never a superstar.
She actually spent a lot of her time
hanging out in the press rooms, making
her brief tennis career an internship
on the way to the booth.

“I love writing and writers, and would
watch…how they would craft their stories,”
Carillo says. “So even as a player,
that’s where I was at the end of the day.”

And it’s where she has largely remained
since retiring from the tour in 1980. Carillo has a knack for insight
and humor (calling the men’s double
luge “like a bar bet
gone bad” during
the 2002 Salt Lake
City Games earned
her “Best Line of
the Year” from Sports
Illustrated
) and an
openness that draws
out her subjects.

That was evident
on the May 22 episode
of Real Sports.
Carillo’s profile of
U.S. Olympics hurdler
Lolo Jones blew
up the Twitterverse after the two discussed
Jones’ quest to remain a virgin
until she marries. The interview exemplifies Carillo’s “remarkable ability to
connect, to empathize with people and
give them a comfort zone; that’s what
Mary does best,” says Kirby Bradley,
senior producer at Real Sports.

“I’m always intrigued by the athletic
heart—it’s a muscle unlike most,”
Carillo says. “But I would like to find
out how other hearts beat, and I think
there’s some real room for that.”

That unique ability keeps her busy.
Along with Tennis Channel, CBS and
HBO, NBC is one of four networks with
which Carillo is on contract. The network
tapped her as its late-night anchor
for the London Games—this will be her
11th consecutive stint at the Olympics—
and she will also cover women’s tennis
and contribute the pre-taped features.

Those segments will be a “distinctive”
addition to NBC’s Olympics coverage
and, in part, garnered Carillo her first
story for NBC’s Rock Center With Brian
Williams
, says executive producer Rome
Hartman, who worked with Carillo on
the piece, a profile of South African paraathlete
Oscar Pistorius
that aired on June 7.

“Mary stands out
for doing stories with
a human touch, a certain
flair and wit, and
that’s unusual among
sports broadcasters,”
Hartman says. “She’s a
terrific storyteller.”

Storytelling is in
Carillo’s blood. Her
father, Tony, worked
on Madison Avenue
and his passion for
narrative rubbed off on his children;
Carillo’s brother, Charlie, is a news producer
turned novelist.

And it is long-form narrative that Carillo
enjoys most. She has worked on six
documentaries, including the Peabody-winning
Dare to Compete: The Struggle
of Women in Sports
. “I hope that’s where
my future will lie,” she says.

Wherever it takes her, Carillo’s broadcasting
career, unlike her time in tennis,
is destined to be of the five-set match
variety. “I’m low maintenance,” she says.
“Because of my temperament, I end up
doing things most people don’t want to.
Bog snorkelling is not for everyone.”

Email comments to
lesliejayegoff@gmail.com and follow
her on twitter: @lesliejayegoff

Mary Carillo

Title:

Broadcast journalist

Employment Highlights:

USA Network, 1980-1987

PBS, 1981-1986

MSG Network, 1981-1988

CBS Sports, 1986-present

ESPN, 1988-1997; 2003-2010

HBO, Wimbledon host/analyst, 1996-1999; correspondent, Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, 1997-present

NBC Sports, 1996-present

Turner Sports, 2000-2002

Tennis Channel, 2011-present

Coauthor: Tennis My Way, with Martina Navratilova, 1984

Personal:

Born March 15, 1957; son, Anthony, 24; daughter, Rachel, 20

September
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