2011 Year in Review. August 19. (2nd posting). Her ESPN Dream has come true. The Ali Bronson story.
Ali Bronson. The former Torrington High School three-sport standout is now living the dream on ESPN Radio.
NOTE: Since we first ran this story back on May 8, 2011, it has been the top viewed story of the year with over 900 unique views. We run it again today to salute a Torrington native who continues to do what see loves and does it very well.
TORRINGTON: Most people struggle to try and figure out just what they want to do for a living when they are in high school or even mid-way through their college years
Not former Torrington High School track, swimming and gymnastics standout Ali Bronson. She knew early on in middle school what she wanted to do and where she wanted to do it.
A little place is called ESPN in Bristol.
Well today, the 2004 THS graduate is living the dream and it might not be on the side of the media sports world you would think. Bronson loves producing radio.
“When I first started, I thought about the television side,” Bronson said, “But after a while, I figured out I loved radio.”
Bronson has been at ESPN since she inadvertently got a part time job instead of an internship during her junior year at Southern Connecticut State University.
“I had applied for an internship during my junior year but they were giving them out at the time to students from out of state,” Bronson said, “But then they offered me a part time job instead and I jumped at it.”
It has been a labor of love ever since.
Her current title is Production Assistant but don’t let that fool you.
Bronson has done just about everything that goes on behind the scenes in the planning and producing of some of the most popular shows on ESPN Radio.
“I started out on a show called The Pulse with Doug Gottlieb from 4-7 in the afternoon,” Bronson said, “I learned a lot about how things work behind the scenes and what it takes to get it and keep it on the air successfully.”
Booking of guests followed in short order, then a place on the Brian Kenney program from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
One constant thread to this story will be the shear volume of hours Bronson competed throughout high school, college and even today.
In high school, Bronson was the first female competitor in the pole vault for the Raiders but specialized in the High Jump.
Her main competition in those days came from someone she remains close friends with today.
“Haley Kasenetz and I were always going at it in the high jump,” Bronson said, “We were best friends before and after the meet but wouldn’t even talk to each other during the meet. We were both very intense”
She made All-State in the High Jump her last two years at THS and had the distinction of being the first girl to compete for a State Championship in the pole vault.
Her true sports passion pre-ESPN was on the mats in gymnastics where she dominated for four years; earning All-American status four years in a row.
She reached the pinnacle of her self imposed goals when she qualified for Nationals in gymnastics during her senior year, something she had set her sights on at a very early age.
“The five best from each state were chosen,” Bronson said, “We went to compete in Fort Worth, Texas.”
Connecticut would finish sixth, a strong showing for a smaller state.
Of the four routines (floor, vault, bars or beams), floor was always her favorite for reasons other than skill level.
“It may not have been my strongest routine but I loved to show off on the floor,” Bronson said, “I would get the crowd involved and tried to win the judges over with a huge smile and lots of energy.”
During her junior year with the Raiders, Bronson spent some time learning the ropes at a local FM radio station, WZBG, in Litchfield.
“I worked mostly with Jeff Zeiner,” Bronson said, “I would watch how things were done and every once in a while talk about two things I love; the Olympics and the New York Giants on air.”
An avid Big Blue devotee, Bronson recalled one of her finest and funniest moments with one of the many stars that frequent the halls of that little country in Bristol.
“I was working the morning show with Mike (Golic) and Mike (Greenberg),” Bronson said, “I was moving fast around a corner to get where I needed to be when I ran smack into Justin Tuck of the Giants. He was doing the Mike and Mike Show that morning and while we se all kinds of celebrities on a daily basis, I was star struck when I met Justin Tuck. He was such a great guy, like most athletes are when they come to ESPN”
Seems it’s as big a thrill for the pro’s to make it to the “Mother Ship” as well. If you ever get a chance to take a tour of the joint, don’t miss it or the world famous cafeteria with the full length basketball court outside it’s windows.
It’s not your run of the mill place to eat, that’s for sure.
Another “Sports Center Moment” occurred for Bronson when the Big Three (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) showed up to do a commercial.
“They were all just there,” Bronson, an avid Celtics fan said, “All in uniform just joking around. It was real cool.”
Juggling an amazingly busy schedule has been part of Bronson’s success throughout the years, both at THS and Southern but understanding she had a job lined up when she graduated from college in 2008m made the journey easier.
“It was such a relief knowing I had a job when I got out of school,” Bronson said, “I was working anywhere from 16-48 hours with the radio programs at ESPN while going to Southern but I loved it.’
By the end of 2008, it was a full time gig for this Torrington native who now lives in West Hartford.
It was soon after going full time that Bronson found a nitch that has worked ever since.
“I got a spot on the Jason Smith overnight (1 a.m.- 4 a.m.) show and was booking guest and producing the show,” Bronson said, “Jason and I fight like brother and sister but it leads to some great radio.”
By January of 2011, Bronson was splitting her time between the Smith and Gottlieb shows, some shifts would end at 5 a.m. and begin again by 11 a.m. that same day.
After a small period of time off the over-night earlier this spring, Bronson was happy to hear that as of Sunday night, May 8, she would rejoin Smith to the delight of their loyal listeners.
“We got a bunch of e-mails wondering when I was going to come back,” Bronson said, “I really enjoy it.”
While more and more woman are getting into the business of sports, getting some to believe that she knows what she is talking about sometimes takes an extra effort.
On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Bronson made a stop into one of the betting parlors during the NCAA Tournament.
An avid Uconn Huskie fan, Bronson was talking about how the Huskies traditionally started slowly, like they were in the game at hand, the Arizona/Uconn match-up late in the Tournament.
“I told the guys that were there that I knew the Huskies would come back,” Bronson said, “Most thought I was crazy or had no idea what I was talking about but sure enough, Kemba (Walker) got hot and they came back to win.”
On future visits, Bronson was no longer dismissed but asked questions instead.
“It took them a while but I did remind them that I do talk sports for a living,” Bronson said, “I try never to bring out the ESPN card but sometimes it helps.”
During last Sunday’s New York Mets/Philadelphia Phillies game, one that Bronson was producing on the radio side, another moment occurred that will stay ingrained in her memories.
It was the night that news spread of the death of Osama Bin Laden throughout the stands at Citizens Bank Park and around the world.
“We had heard from ABC news that he had been killed,” Bronson said, “We ran something on the bottom line scroll for four consecutive hours. No sports, just the news. The reaction from the fans in the stands and the ‘USA’ chants are something I will never forget.”
Being part of the action has always been this energetic former Raiders forte and she doesn’t appear to be looking to slow down anytime soon.
“I can see myself doing radio behind the scenes the rest of my career,” Bronson said, “There is nothing better than putting it all together and watching it work.”
Behind the scenes folks don’t usually get a lot of air time but if you are a night owl or can’t fall asleep, tune in to ESPN radio overnight and hear a Raider who is living her dream on the biggest stage in the business.