Before Jason Romano left a 17-year career with ESPN as an Emmy-Award winning producer and senior manager to join the faith-based sports media Sports Spectrum he wanted to make sure it was the right decision.
When the offer was made to him in December 2016 to work “Where Sports & Faith Connect” it was 40% less than what he was earning at ESPN, Romano told Think Eternity recently.
The potential to go further at ESPN was still there. He created and produced content for ESPN shows such as SportsCenter, Monday Night Football, Mike and Mike in the Morning, Sunday NFL Countdown, College Gameday, MLB’s All Star Game and many more.
“To walk away from a comfortable job I really had to make sure that if this was going to be done we just had to go for it,” said Romano, who prayed with his wife about the decision. “I wanted to make sure that it aligned with what God wanted me to do. Once I walked through this door I just trusted God and the doors blew open.”
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7
He looks back on that decision he made five years ago and views it as a tremendous blessing.
“I’m so glad I left. God is faithful. I’ve had more opportunities and crazy relationships and things that have happened in my life that I thought would never happen,” Romano said.
Faith and ESPN?
Romano’s time at ESPN began on July 18, 2000 and it was just 10 months later, on Mother’s Day 2001, that he became a follower of Jesus. “It is an interesting time when you become a Christian and you are not sure what you’re doing. I was definitely a Christian but I wasn’t living it out.”
He said he didn’t think he could be a “Christian at ESPN.” He explained that, at the time, he thought he would have to keep his job and his faith separate. It was almost a decade later that he realized that he could view his work at ESPN as a place of ministry. “It took awhile to get there,” he said.
Super Bowl in a New Light
Romano’s job for ESPN during Super Bowl week, along with his co-workers, was “to do the best we could in providing the best guests and the best content to our audience.”
He added, “My mindset was just to have the best show.”
After leaving ESPN and joining Sports Spectrum, Super Bowls took on a whole new dimension for Romano.
Would the NFL and other sports leagues accept media whose focus was giving athletes an avenue distinctly for sharing their faith in God?
“Four years ago, I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the Super Bowl and we didn’t know if Sports Spectrum could get credentials. I knew we had established ourselves as a media company but I didn’t know they would say ‘yes’ to giving us credentials. That’s what you needed. If you want to cover a Super Bowl you need credentials because credentials allow you to go to press conferences, have access to basically everything the NFL does during the week.”
Romano said that Sports Spectrum was approved for credentials, however, he and his colleague were “so unprepared.”
“We were flying by the seat of our pants. We had a very last-minute place to stay. We didn’t have a place to stay so we stayed at this pastor’s house. It was crazy, like we legitimately did not know what we were doing. All we knew was that we could go to the Mall of America, where the NFL’s headquarters [for the Super Bowl] was situated.
“We got a bunch of interviews. We probably did 10 to 15 interviews on site with anybody that we could find, whether they were former players or players. We started to share on social media and a few other [NFL related] people said, ‘Hey, we’re here. You want to do an interview?’”
Romano said that during his 17 years at ESPN he was able to build many relationships. That base of relationships helped immensely during that first experience covering the Super Bowl from a Sports Spectrum perspective.
“Those relationships still carry over to this day. Maybe 20 percent were believers and people that I knew who were into the world of what we’re doing with Sports Spectrum,” he said. “I tried to find those people in Minneapolis.”
“I remember interviewing Isaac Bruce, the Rams receiver who loves Christ and was waiting for the opportunity to go into the Hall of Fame. I remember interviewing Eric Dickerson, the Hall of Famer, and Matt Forte, Josh McCowen, and a bunch of players and thinking, okay, let me ask you about Jesus—let me ask you about what it’s like to seek him and what it’s like to serve for Christ.”
Romano was amazed at how God provided during the week leading up to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
“We even went to the press conferences when the players were made available to the media. We talked to the Philadelphia Eagles players Zach Ertz, Frank Reich, and Carson Wentz. We asked questions about Christ. In one of the videos that we took, it was about two minutes long, we asked Zach about his faith in Jesus and the importance of living out his faith.”
“He answered by giving the most amazing answer about making disciples and how that’s pretty much his only job as a follower of Christ. It was pretty awesome to hear that from an All Pro tight end.”
Romano said that the video clip of Ertz sharing “about Jesus Christ” at the press conference before the Super Bowl received millions of views in the first three days.
“It was insane! I thought Wow! I don’t think I ever had so many millions of views from anything we did at ESPN. I recognized that we need to be here (at the Super Bowl) every year if we can. There are questions and topics and discussion points that are happening when we are there that are not happening anywhere else. If I’m with ESPN, there’s no way that I’m asking Zach Ertz about Jesus, but with Sports Spectrum, that’s my job now.
“It’s that intersection of football and faith. [The experience] made me think that this is a unique opportunity for us to use the platform that God has given us and to use the Super Bowl, the biggest sports platform every year, to hear stories of Jesus.”
“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” —1 Peter 3:15
Romano told Think Eternity that he doesn’t know what to expect during the week before the Super Bowl LVI held in Los Angeles on February 13. It’s a week that has (prior to last year) traditionally served as a time and place where several hundred U.S. and international media types descend on the hosting city.
However, Romano does know this:
If it’s God’s will for him to be in in LA, he’ll be asking NFL players who believe in God to tell stories of Jesus.
This article originally appeared on Thinke.org and is reposted here by permission.