A Golden Opportunity
By Matt Morgan
The summer Olympics are back and Jack Benjamin ’18 will be on the call for NBC Sports.
When opportunity called Jack Benjamin ’18 in late May, he didn’t answer. In fact, he let it go to voicemail.
Seeing an unfamiliar area code pop up on his phone—and having fielded a slew of spam calls of late—Benjamin figured the call was a telemarketer. A few seconds later, the number rang again. This time, the person left a message.
It wasn’t spam. It was a producer from NBC Sports who wanted the Nicholls State University play-by-play announcer to work the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“We played a little phone tag but finally when I talked to them, she said, ‘Jack, are you interested in you doing the Olympics for NBC?’” Benjamin recalls. “It was a pretty quick yes for me, as you can imagine.”
This month, Benjamin will travel from his home in Thibodaux, Louisiana to Stamford, Connecticut where he will call events remotely from NBC Sports headquarters. As a member of the swing team, Benjamin doesn’t know for sure which sports he will cover but expects to call Taekwondo, shooting, race walking, and first-time Olympic sport karate over the course of the 16-day Olympics.
Benjamin recently found out his first assignment will be play-by-play the women’s 10M air rifle on July 23, which means he will be on the call for the first gold medal of the Olympics. He’ll also be posting when and where people can catch his broadcasts on his Twitter: @JackBenjaminPxP.
“It’s a dream of mine forever to be able to do the Olympics,” Benjamin says. “Athletes work their whole lives to get there. The whole world is watching. To be one of the people to share those stories is pretty cool.”
At Nicholls, Benjamin is the youngest full-time Division I radio play-by-play voice in the country, where he has called football, men's basketball, and baseball the last two years. In addition to his work as the voice of the Colonels, Benjamin called the 2019 World Water Polo Championships and the 2020 FIS Ski Jumping World Cup for the Olympic Channel, which is how he got on NBC’s radar.
Nicholls fields teams in 15 different sports, though nothing like the array Benjamin will be tasked with this summer. He’s already started studying his anticipated assignments—watching as many of the sports as possible, scouring rule books, asking colleagues for tips, even occasionally using Google Translate to read coverage from other countries.
Fortunately, he won’t be on his own. NBC Sports has a huge research team that provides a sport manual with rules, key athletes to watch, and background information. Benjamin will also be paired with an analyst, often a former Olympic athlete, to provide additional expertise and nuance during the contests.
“I’m excited for the challenge,” Benjamin says, pointing to karate’s debut as something he’s particularly excited about. “People usually tune into (these sports) every four years so you’re giving them the full context and telling stories that maybe they don’t know.”
While COVID-19 precautions will limit crowds at some events, NBC’s decision to have announcers work remotely actually has little to do with the pandemic. Outside of a handful of high profile sports, Olympic announcers typically work out of Stamford, watching the games on a monitor with headphones relaying sound from the arena. The number of announcers on site in the host country is typically a little higher, but the setup for the Tokyo games will be similar to most Olympic years.
Benjamin says he’s looking forward to working alongside the top broadcasters in the field like Jason Benetti (White Sox), Beth Mowins (ESPN), Noah Eagle (Los Angeles Clippers), Matt Winer (NBATV), and Brendan Burke (New York Islanders). Former Santa Clara soccer player Danielle Slaton ’02 will also be calling women’s soccer from Stamford.
“These are all people I really look up to and admire. To have them as teammates, that’s a part that’s not lost on me,” Benjamin says. “I want to meet them, talk to them, learn from them, pick their brains.”
The start of the Olympics also marks a quasi-return to normalcy for Benjamin after the delay of the 2020 games. Following a year when so many lost their lives and others lost their jobs during the pandemic, sports can offer a reprieve for the world from the realities of COVID-19.
While Benjamin says the pandemic is by no means over, he’s looking forward to hearing the iconic “bum-bum-bum” of the NBC Olympics music for the first time in five years. And to hear his voice follow that music? He considers that an honor.
“The Olympics is on the bucket list of a lot of announcers,” Benjamin says. “I don’t take that for granted at all, to be one of the voices of the Olympics and to get to narrate the stories of these countries and tell the stories of these people.”
Jul 2, 2021
Jack Benjamin ’18 is the youngest full-time Division I sports announcer in the country, providing play-by-play for the Nicholls State University football, men's basketball, and baseball teams.