Griffin Epstein (right) interviews players on the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters baseball team as part of his 2021 summer internship as a broadcaster for the Northwoods League.
Griffin Epstein (right) interviews players on the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters baseball team as part of his 2021 summer internship as a broadcaster for the Northwoods League.

Q&A: Reporter heading to Maccabiah Games in Israel sees sports as ‘uniting force’

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Griffin Epstein, 21, grew up in Petaluma and is now a rising senior at Indiana University, studying media with a sports media concentration. The Petaluma native will head to Israel for the first time next month on behalf of Maccabi USA to cover the 21st edition of the quadrennial Maccabiah Games. It is the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition (informally known as the Jewish Olympics), drawing 10,000 athletes from 50 countries. During the games, from July 12 to 26, he will write feature stories, broadcast games, report from the sidelines, produce livestreams, work the cameras and assist with social media.

J.: You’ve been interested in sports broadcasting for many years. What interests you about this specific field of media?

Griffin Epstein: It brings people together, which I think is the most exciting part. Sports are such a powerful, uniting force in a divided world. Broadcasting also brings sports to life, whether you’re watching it on TV or listening on the radio.

There are many ways to unify people. Why sports?

I’ve always been really interested in sports. When I started broadcasting games in high school, I found it exciting, and it raised school spirit. Some people came up to me and said their grandparents were watching from across the country.

How do they teach sports media at Indiana University?

The most benefit comes from applying what we learn inside of the classroom to extracurriculars. I’ve broadcasted sports including volleyball and basketball and have written for many different outlets. This past year, I filled in for Indiana baseball’s play-by-play announcer. The team made it far, so I got to travel with them and be their voice for 14 or so games.

How were you chosen to report at the Maccabiah Games?

I heard about the opportunity through a sports media professor at school, and I thought it was a cool opportunity to mesh my Jewish faith with sports broadcasting, and to travel. I submitted a demo reel with my work, a resume, did an interview, and was one of about 14 people selected.

What will you be covering in Israel?

We’ll be broadcasting some hockey, probably some soccer, basketball, maybe baseball. But I think we’ll have a bit more flexibility with reporting. We might cover more obscure sports, maybe do a story on an athlete on the chess team or something.

Prior to a game, what questions do you ask players, coaches and fans?

There are many resources when I work at college. I attend press conferences, I read articles, I’ll sometimes hop on a Zoom with a coach and talk for 10 to 15 minutes about different players, strategies, big storylines. This summer there will be fewer resources, with athletes coming from all over the world. I’ll start by seeking out the basics: names, numbers, basic biographical information. From there, I’ll seek out key storylines. One thing I think we’ll focus on is what it means for these participants to compete in the Maccabiah Games. How does it connect with their faith? I’m excited to hear what it means to them.

Do you have an ideal assignment in mind?

I’m excited for all of it. It’s such a unique experience to be at the third-largest international sporting event in the world, where I’ll be around sites in Israel, and meet athletes from around the world. I’m especially looking forward to doing some play-by-play for medal games, where there is a lot on the line.

What role has Judaism played in your life?

It has provided community and connection. Petaluma does not have a large number of Jewish people, but having been able to attend synagogue and Jewish school, where I had a group of Jewish friends, allowed me to form valuable connections. I went to Camp Tawonga in Yosemite for five years and made connections there, too.

Do you have a favorite sports broadcaster?

I love Joe Davis on baseball; he’s a Dodgers guy, so maybe not as popular in the Bay Area. I also grew up listening to Jon Miller and Dave Flemming of the Giants. Nationally, [NBA announcers] Kevin Harlan and Ian Eagle are great. These broadcasters are good people, widely respected in the industry. I admire how hard work is required to succeed.

In 20 years, where would you like to be professionally?

As long as I’m broadcasting sports, I think I’ll be happy. A dream job is to be a voice of a Major League Baseball team, or calling college football for a national network. Getting paid to broadcast sports would be living the dream.

Gabe Fisher
Gabe Fisher

Gabe Fisher is a freelance journalist who served as interim editorial assistant at J. in 2022. Follow him on Twitter @ItsGabeFisher.