Last January, Dan Fleschner ’01 was preparing to carry his interest in sports journalism to the next level as a reporter for the New Haven Register. Then, the National Broadcasting Corporation came calling.
NBC research manager Joe Gesue wanted to interview Fleschner for the position of Olympic researcher. Over a year after the interview, Fleschner has abandoned a future in journalism in New Haven for a career in television, and is currently an Olympic Researcher for NBC in Salt Lake City. Beginning with the Opening Ceremonies Friday night and ending with the Closing Ceremonies two weeks later, Fleschner’s eight months of 15-hour days will culminate in over 360 hours of Olympic coverage.
“I had resigned myself to the thought that with the job market the way it was I would get a job at a mid-sized daily paper in the Northeast,” Fleschner said. “If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I would be here I would have laughed. I had no idea this was coming.”
As a researcher, Fleschner is working with a team of 19 other researchers to assemble data on athletes, events and Salt Lake City for NBC’s writers and producers. Their first project was a 400-page volume dealing with the history of Salt Lake City. When NBC airs a televised montage on a small-town athlete overcoming adversity to pursue Olympic glory, the facts of the story come from the research department.
Although Fleschner could not have predicted a year ago that he would be working to produce material for Bob Costas and Katie Couric, sports writing and research was an early interest for the Yale graduate.
It was the fall of 1985, and the Mets had just discharged the Expos, 9-1. While the beat reporters of the day recounted the game’s events in their articles, Fleschner was busy recording his own analysis of the contest in his first grade English class at The Foote School.
“Darryl Strawberry only hits home runs when the Mets are winning 9-0,” Fleschner wrote.
So began an interest in sports that would lead Fleschner to summer high school internships with the Yale athletic department, sports beat-reporting for the Yale Daily News and a position as sports director of WYBC.
At the age of 13, Fleschner received a baseball encyclopedia, which he said he memorized from cover to cover. In the fall of his senior year at Amity high school, just outside New Haven, Fleschner was the public address announcer for the Yale field hockey team.
He also developed a talent for retaining sports trivia.
“A lot of the information that passed between my ears just stuck,” Fleschner said.
Upon entering Yale in 1996, Fleschner dove head first into the athletic media outlets that extracurricular groups such as the News as well as WYBC offered.
By second semester sophomore year, however, Fleschner realized he was in over his head and needed a change, so he cut back on his sports writing and focused on WYBC.
“It was a long stretch of time and I was beginning to feel the grind,” said Fleschner of his days as a football and ice hockey beat reporter on the News. “It was more of a job than I wanted it to be while I was in college. There were other things I wanted to do.”
After becoming Sports director at WYBC, Fleschner returned as a columnist to the News before graduating to work at NBC in June of last year.
As Sports Director, Fleschner organized the talk show “Sports Sunday,” which focused on issues relating to intercollegiate athletics.
“Dan was a professional,” said former WYBC sports director Jeff Montez ’02. “Out of all the colleges in the U.S., you probably never heard a better student broadcaster.”
Despite already spending eight months on the job, Fleschner is still getting used to his surroundings and the average 15-hour work days that have been the status quo in the days leading up to the Olympics.
“It is phenomenal,” Fleschner said. “I don’t think I’ve fully comprehended things yet.”
When the Games start, Fleschner will be prepping Pat O’Brien, the co-host of NBC’s “Access Hollywood,” for his interviews with the athletes who have medaled each day.
With three more years remaining on his contract at NBC, Fleschner is unsure of his future in sports journalism.
“The climate is different now in sports business,” he said. “I don’t know what the future holds for me.”