2022 NFL Thanksgiving Day Picks: Expect close nightcap after early blowouts

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m back in Massachusetts for my first Thanksgiving as a college student, and it’s been great seeing my family and some friends back home. What makes it even better is watching a triple-header of NFL football on my home TV, including the first Patriots Thanksgiving football game in a decade (the last one resulted in the infamous Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble). Below you can read more about what I expect from the day; aside from turkey at least.

We kick off the holiday with the annual early afternoon Lions game, and I’m expecting yet another loss for Detroit. The Lions haven’t won their Thanksgiving Day game since 2016, and the Bills are one of the toughest opponents they’ve had in a while. The Lions may be on a three game win streak, but only the best of the best have been able to complete with Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and this elite Bills offense. The Bills just completely picked apart the Browns defense on this same turf, and the Lions defense has struggled the entire season. The Lions have had some strong offensive weeks and may put up some points, but I don’t expect this game to even be close.

Next up we’ll have a classic Thanksgiving rivalry match-up as the Cowboys host the Giants. New head coach Brian Daboll has led the Giants to success in a number of close games, but they still fell short in their first match-up with Dallas, and I don’t expect this one to even be close. Running back Saquon Barkley won’t be able to bail out Daniel Jones against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Meanwhile, I expect the Cowboys offense to keep the momentum going after dropping 40 on the Vikings last week. The Giants are still likely to make the playoffs, but they’ll head home embarrassed after this one. Meanwhile, the Cowboys seem to have a leg up in the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes, and if this game goes how I expect, that will likely seal the deal.

We end the day with what might be the best matchup of the three. With QB Mac Jones getting into a groove again, the Patriots have won three in a row and brought themselves back into the playoff picture. The Vikings will be eager to rebound after what happened on Sunday, but it’ll require QB Kirk Cousins to make a statement in primetime, something he’s struggled to do his entire career. I’m not expecting an outstanding game from Cousins, and that will allow Jones and the Pats to make this competitive. However, Cousins will have help from both RB Dalvin Cook and WR Justin Jefferson. As much as I’d want to see the Pats pull this off, I feel at least one of them will make some big plays that win the Vikings this game.

That game will cap off an action-packed Thanksgiving day slate. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and no matter what happens, I hope you enjoy these games and have a great Thanksgiving experience.

Career Profile: Feature Producer Josh Vorensky

A shortened version of this article was recently published in The Ithacan. Check out the full version below.

Josh Vorensky ’11 earned an Emmy for his work as an associate producer for a segment on ESPNews along with three other Ithaca College alumni. (Photo via Josh Vorensky)

For many individuals wanting to break into the sports media realm, the dream is to work with the worldwide leader in sports and be recognized for their work. Josh Vorensky ’11 has already reached the pinnacle of the sports media mountain.

Before ESPN, Vorensky had internships with New Jersey Networks, MTV and NBC during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Now, he works as an associate producer and feature producer at ESPN, creating features for shows and programs. In 2020, Vorensky was a part of the production team that won an Emmy for Outstanding Sports News/Feature Anthology for the Sports Center (SC) Featured segment that aired on ESPNews. As a feature producer, Vorensky tells the story of athletes as part of the Sunday and Monday NFL Countdown broadcasts.

I spoke with Vorensky about his experience at ESPN and his career as a producer.

Andrew Roberts: What are some of the things you always do before a production?

Josh Vorensky: Before production day you always have to have a location and crew picked out; you need to know what your story is about and how that location kind of fits what your story’s going to be. Let’s say it’s a story about an artist. You’d want to be in some kind of art studio-esque place, so you’d want to nail down the location. You’d also want to nail down the crew; you want to know what kind of cameras, the specs of what you want to shoot. So there’s basically a checklist of what you want to have before each shoot. You need to have your crew picked out, your location picked out and if you’re doing an interview, your subject as well. A lot of times you’ll have to do some pre-interviewing, get to know the person and kind of know what you’re going into.

AR: How do you organize your production information?

JV: I have to write everything down. I learn better that way and that’s what I usually do. I do things on call sheets (example pictured below) that keep everything organized, especially a shot sheet if it’s kind of a new crew. If it’s crews that I trust, I give general guidelines of what I want. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of figured out the kind of shots I want. When you’re shooting these shots you just shoot what you need but always keep in mind the sequence of what is necessary.

AR: Do you have standard protocols for what you pack when you travel? How many days a month do you travel?

JV: I have a general backpack; I keep a toiletry kit in my backpack. I’ve been traveling a little bit less; it kind of ebbs and flows. One time I’ll travel twice in a week and then I just had a shoot today where I was remote producing. That’s kind of a benefit of the pandemic where you don’t have to travel for every shoot, which provides a better work-life balance.

AR: Tell me about a typical day. If there isn’t one, tell me about a few.

JV: I usually like to get started early depending on what the shoot is and when the subject is available. It’s usually somewhere north of an hour and a half for setup time and then whatever the interview is. During our office time, I’m editing, coming home with ideas and kind of getting everything ready. I’ve been in features formally for at least five to six years; my role at ESPN has kind of changed over time. I started as a project-based production assistant where I was doing things like highlights, rundown and prompter. As I got more experienced, I was working on “Outside the Lines” and doing these things called wraps. When I got promoted, I worked at “Baseball Tonight,” SCEU, which is the SportsCenter Enhancement Unit, and did some writing. Now this is going to be my fifth or sixth season doing features for Sunday and Monday NFL Countdown.

AR: What exactly do feature producers do?

JV: You do documentaries on athletes; you’re a storyteller, producer and documentarian. You help to create content for the network, and it’s a joy to do. There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing the impact the stories had on a wider public. That’s generally what I do; we pitch stuff all the time, I send ideas every week and help to complement our program and broadcast.

AR: What kinds of classes and extracurriculars would you recommend for someone who wants to be a feature producer?

JV: I took some screenwriting classes. I would say learning how to craft stories and craft news elements is very important. Volunteering for “Newswatch” helps, I think that knowing how to edit helps, knowing how to shoot helps and pitching as many ideas as you can, things that are new and creative. Especially in college, you have so much available time to do all this really cool stuff, and I’d just try to push yourself creatively and get a reel together.

AR: What qualities must you possess to be a successful producer?

JV: I think you have to be able to think creatively, be very diligent, but also be able to take a step back, take a few breaths and look at the bigger picture. It’s very easy to walk into an environment and want to shoot everything, but you have to think about what you need for your story. When I was younger, I wanted to get as much b-roll as possible, but how does that fit within the wider story? I think overall, you have to be organized, willing to think creatively, focused, and calm. 

AR: What would you recommend for college students interested in production to do outside of classes and extracurriculars?

JV: Outside of the TV extracurriculars, I would say get yourself into other hobbies. I’m in an orchestra out of work. I like to run. I try to keep myself as well-rounded as possible. It’s nice to step away sometimes. If you find other clubs outside of TV, feel free to join. Personally, I was involved in Hillel during my time at Ithaca.

AR: Is there a typical career path for producers?

JV: I don’t think there is. I think people have gotten here in a number of different ways. Some people have interned here, others have shadowed here. I would get some real world experience if you can and be ready to learn.

AR: What do you like most and least about your job now?

JV: I love my job. I think it’s awesome. I love being able to tell stories and meet people; I find it incredibly gratifying being able to create some cool stories and push myself creatively. I do enjoy traveling. I don’t know if there’s a worst thing, honestly. 

AR: If you could talk to your college self, what would you say to them?

JV: I would say to take a step back sometimes and not overload myself. I loved Ithaca; I did find there was a lot of competitiveness, especially in the Park School. That was good; it made everybody better. I think the most important thing to know is to focus on yourself and how to make yourself better. Don’t look at what other people are doing. I found myself doing that a lot. When I took a step back, just enjoyed myself and made my own TV show, I think I was a lot less stressed, I became more confident and I definitely prepared myself to be in the career that I am in. So focus on yourself, don’t worry about other people, take inspiration from them but don’t feel like ‘I wish I could do X like them’. Just be yourself, just do it. Create your own path. What I loved about Ithaca is that even though I was involved in sports, I did way more than sports. I didn’t isolate myself into just doing sports. I think my first two years, I was way too concerned with what other people were doing. Once I just enjoyed what I was doing and charted a path for myself, it made everything a lot easier and more fun. 

My Take on spending time with Josh

Overall, feature production is not an easy job. It requires a high level of creativity and requires some technical skills. However, Vorensky really enjoys it, and it can be a fun job for many others too. Those interested have great opportunities to gain a wide variety of experience at Ithaca through ICTV as well as classes in areas like TV production, journalism and documentary studies. If you focus on yourself and carve your own path, you have a high chance of success in the industry.

Career Profile: Sports Broadcaster Tom Eschen

A shortened version of this article was recently published in The Ithacan. Check out the full version below.

Since graduating from Ithaca College, Tom Eschen ’11 has held many different positions in broadcasting. Recently, he accepted a job with CBS6-WRGB. (Photo via Brian Purcell)

Ithaca College has alumni that have succeeded in many different careers, and since attending the college, Tom Eschen ’11 has gone on to work in the sports broadcasting field.

Eschen recently accepted a new position as a news anchor and reporter at CBS6-WRGB in Albany, all while he continues to expand upon his broad array of experience in broadcast media since graduating from the Park School.

Before CBS6, Eschen spent the last 11 years of his career showcasing his versatility working at several broadcast networks, including Lax Sports Network (LSN)/For the Fans (FTF). Before joining CBS6, he served as a sports anchor, sports director, host and has also done play-by-play for a wide variety of sports. Eschen’s website says he has done work in all parts of the broadcasting world, including anchoring, reporting, shooting and editing. 

I spoke with Eschen about his career path and advice for students looking to make it in the sports broadcasting world.

Andrew Roberts: What are some of the things you always do before going on the air?

Tom Eschen: It depends on what I’m doing. For a play by play broadcast, I just do a thorough review of my notes. I make sure I understand some of the more important parts of what’s going on for the players: streaks, slumps, things of that nature, … if I’m actually there and not doing it remotely, I get a sense of where everything is on the field, where my sight lines are, and what my noise levels are. I also make sure I know my promotional material. If I’m doing something in the studio, it’s kind of the same. Over the course of the day no matter what studio show you’re doing, you’re reading through script and making sure you look nice. I also try to make sure I’m not too serious, kind of relaxed.

AR: Tell me about a typical day. If there aren’t any, describe a few typical days. 

TE: I think that’s the beauty of the business, that there is no typical day. I’m at a career crossroads. Tomorrow is my last day at the Lax Sports Network and For the Fans. I am moving on to becoming the weekend anchor in Albany, New York [at WRGB CBS 6]. Typical days are very different depending on where you are. Right now, if I was to go and do a studio show or a baseball game, it’s different considering it’s a different network. I go in, review my notes, do play-by-play for a baseball game, and then I turn around, review [the] scripts for a lacrosse show later that day. At the news station in Albany, I’ll get in, check in with everyone and determine what our big story is that day for our 6:00 and 11:00 news. I’ll be talking through that as a team and figure out what some of the other stories are, things to follow-up on or things that are going to be happening in the next couple days. That’s how you kind of fill out the newscast. Studio work kind of mirrors itself no matter what you’re doing. You work together and figure out how you’re going to put your show together and see what’s going on around the world to help dictate that.

AR: How much do you travel for your job on average?

TE: In this next job, I’ll be able to get out of the studio a lot more. Right now, I’m doing a lot of things remotely. In the next job there is more like what I did at the beginning of my career working in news and sports in Syracuse and Michigan. You’re going out, you’re talking to people on a daily basis, finding their stories, giving them a voice and meeting with them to do that. I tried to find different ways to do that, like Zoom interviews and Skype. But going out and actually being able to go to different places in the viewing area allows me to travel from town to town. In my job in Michigan, I would go to playoff games, so that would be the furthest travel I’ve done but on a micro scale you’re getting in the studio and leaving to see what’s going on within the region.

AR: What do sports broadcasters do?

TE: I think the best sports broadcasters succeed in opening up the world of sports to people who don’t necessarily love sports. They try to transcend that gap between sports experts and casual sports fans. I think that’s what the best sports broadcasters do in any role. They could tell the backstory of a player who came from nothing, and now here he is succeeding at the highest level; they tell a story that can relate to a lot of people. I think the sportscasters that are the best are themselves and don’t try to go over the top, or be someone they’re not. That’s the most effective, entertaining, and meaningful way of being able to communicate.

AR: What qualities must you possess to be a successful sports broadcaster?

TE: Speaking from my own experience and from what I’ve seen, a big thing is really immersing yourself in whatever topic, place, sport, or team that you’re covering. To be successful, you have to be an expert at the end of the day. To be able immerse yourself in who people are and what they’re all about is really one of the only ways you can effectively tell their story. If you’re just doing it at an arm’s length, without really doing the work, research, and preparation, you’re not getting the full story and you might not tell the story the right way. I think a thing that I’ve always had success in and I’ve seen others succeed in is immersing themselves in whatever it could be. I had to do Austrian Bundesliga Soccer out of the blue. I hadn’t seen soccer, and wasn’t a huge fan at the time, but I tried to learn everything I possibly could about this sport and this country. The reviews are pretty good, people are pretty happy about it, and at the end of the day I knew more about it than I even thought I would and appreciated it more too. I think once you research [a sport], you start to think it is kind of cool at the end of the day. I think that also comes in the local news aspect, when you go to a city or a town, and have to tell everyone what’s going on in terms of sports there. You have to know where the best high schools are, what teams people like, and immerse yourself in that same way. You have to help yourself relate to them by doing that research. You have to really become a part of that culture.

AR: What kind of classes and extracurricular activities should one focus on if they want to be a sports broadcaster?

TE: I would say as many extracurriculars in communications as possible. They each give you opportunities to explore, be creative, and do your own thing over time. It’s just consistently doing those things. Some people would dip in and then do other things the rest of their college career. I think being really consistent until you know what you want to do is really important. You can really recognize the different facets of media and how stories are told in different ways and I think that makes you stronger at the end of the day.

AR: What would you recommend to someone who wants to be a sports broadcaster on air?

TE: First be yourself, don’t try to be someone that you’ve seen or think is successful. Also recognize that like anyone else, you’re part of a team. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes that help make that product work. If you really want to be successful you have to recognize what everyone brings to the table when it comes to putting something on the air. It makes the product better when you recognize the talent you have around you. You can’t just say you’re the face of this, and you’re the one to thank. The last thing I would say is that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but it’s about how you move on and deal with that failure. You’re never going to know everything. There’s people that have done it longer and better than you but if you try and learn from them you’ll become better. There’s going to be things that you don’t do well and can improve upon.

AR: Is there a typical career path for sports broadcasters?

TE: Ideally, you go from a small market to a medium market to a big market, and then you’ll be set for life. But I don’t think it ever works out like that, at least from what I’ve seen. Some go from a small market straight into a big job like play-by-play for a pro team through their networking, connections, or talent. Then you have others in the business that do some different things, like going from sports to news. I don’t think there’s a typical or a right path to take. There’s a lot of people that I know that did it for 5-8 years then went to the PR side of things, because this is a lifestyle that isn’t exactly ideal. It’s not really a 9 to 5 job. I think people’s priorities change over time. The earlier you can recognize where your priorities lie, the better off you are. There’s always going to be a choice of what your path is going to be. You have to expect the unexpected.

AR: What do you most and least like about your job?

TE: I don’t believe in complaining about things personally, because I think that I’m pretty lucky to be where I am, so I don’t know if there’s a least. It is tougher with the hours at times to have a social life and find a good group of people and friends moving from place to place, so that’s probably the most challenging thing that comes with the job. But I think the fact that you get the opportunity to give people a platform, advocate for them, and help their voices be heard is really powerful. Those moments have meant the most to me, when you can see their appreciation for it. It’s a very unique connection you get that I don’t think many professions offer. I think that makes journalism pretty unique in that aspect.

My Take on spending time with Tom

I really appreciate that Tom took the time to meet with me and provide well thought out answers to help support students that are trying to follow similar career paths that Tom has taken after Ithaca. I may have never met Tom if he did not reach out to me when he decided to interview me to showcase my experiences, and help support my advocacy for the Flutie Foundation for Autism. You can view the story broadcast on the For-The-Fans (FTF) network here.

As seen by Eschen, being a sports broadcaster is not an easy job to get into or persevere at, but it can be a very rewarding one. You have to make sure to do your research and immerse yourself in the content you’re covering. You may have to work long hours and sacrifice your social life. However, you get the opportunity to show your true personality in published media, tell the stories of the people around you, and work in an entertaining industry.

Cortaca Recap: Experience proves valuable as Wingfield outplays Boyes, leads Ithaca to finish undefeated

Quarterback A.J. Wingfield posted one of his best performances of the season to lead Ithaca to finish the regular season undefeated and bring home the Cortaca Jug with a 34-17 win over Cortland at Yankee Stadium.

Wingfield, a senior, completed 18 of 20 pass attempts for 209 yards and 3 TDs. He also added 28 yards on the ground. 

Wingfield was supported on offense by versatile running back Jake Williams, who had 132 total scrimmage yards and 2 TDs. Wingfield targeted him and wide receiver Michael Anderson the most. 

Despite his impressive mobility, Cortland quarterback Zac Boyes, a sophomore, struggled with a completion percentage under 50 and a 1 to 2 TD to interception ratio. Cortland was also nailed by penalties, losing a total of 65 yards on 6 penalties.

The closest the Red Dragons came to victory was within 3 points of Ithaca. With Ithaca leading 20-7 early in the third quarter, Cortland running back Jaden Alfanostjohn ran in for a TD. Cortland followed this up with a strip sack of Wingfield, giving them the chance to take the lead. However, Ithaca’s defense held them to a field goal.

Ithaca regained momentum after this, with Wingfield throwing it deep to wide receiver Julien Deumaga for a 40 yard TD to make it 27-17. When Cortland got the ball back, Boyes underthrew his receiver and was picked off. This allowed Williams to break off for a 43 yard TD of his own and truly secure the lead for Ithaca.

The Red Dragons had several missed opportunities throughout the game. They had the chance to cut Ithaca’s first half lead to 3 points, but standout defender Matt DeSimpliciis picked off Boyes in the end zone just before halftime. When they kicked it off to Ithaca to begin the second half, they let Michael Anderson run 87 yards on the return, setting up an easy scoring opportunity for the Bombers.

While Cortland had put up bigger numbers than Ithaca and gone 9-0 leading up to this game, Ithaca may have given them a reality check. Wingfield’s experience showed as he looked more comfortable than Boyes in front of the Yankee Stadium crowd.

The bracket is not finalized, but both teams have locked up playoff berths by winning their conferences. After this game, Ithaca will likely end up with the higher seed.