After a month spent working as a “runner” on NBC’s Today Show, Bethlehem native Bob Trosset returns home from the Rio Olympics with new experiences, new relationships and a new appreciation for Brazil
He prepped Michael Phelps for his interview on NBC’s Today Show at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, hiked for four hours up a Brazilian mountain to scout a potential filming location and fetched “huge orders” of coffee from Starbucks in downtown Rio.
“No task is too small when you’re doing what you love,” said 22-year-old Bob Trosset, back home in Bethlehem for a few days before returning for his senior year at Loyola University in Baltimore, MD, where he majors in both Spanish and broadcast journalism. “I was just happy to be there in the moment.”
Trosset readily admits, however, that the moment that he got to meet uber-famous Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps definitely ranked among his favorites. “That was pretty thrilling because he was born and raised in Baltimore,” said Trosset. “He actually did a lot of his training at our fitness and aquatic center on [Loyola] campus, so we all kind of feel attached to him in a way.”
As a runner, Trosset had the opportunity to meet Phelps and dozens of other athletes competing in, or commentating on, the 2016 games while he was setting them up with microphones and prepping them in the set’s green room prior to their interviews. “Most athletes never come back,” he said. “They usually just leave directly from the set.” Trosset, who didn’t have time to chat with Phelps while preparing him for his interview, said he was surprised when the most decorated Olympian of all time returned to the green room and began making himself a cup of coffee. “He came back! And I had my Loyola shirt on and so I went up to him and talked to him about that for a minute or two and took a photo with him.”
Having already completed internships at FOX 45 Sports in Baltimore and Monumental Sports and Entertainment out of Washington, D.C., Trosset had nearly given up hope of ever scoring an internship at the long-coveted NBC. “I’ve been reaching out to them and applied for various programs throughout my time at school,” he said. “They receive a ton of applications, as I’m sure you know, so sometimes I wouldn’t even hear back from them. Then, finally, this opportunity came up around this time last year—the 2016 Rio Olympics.” There were openings at NBC Universal in Connecticut, Trosset said, but he chose to pursue a position on the ground in Rio with NBC Sports. When he was denied, he took it hard.
“Then,” he said, “a few weeks later, The Today Show reached out. Obviously, they’re not usually very focused on sports but of course a big part of the show was going to be focused on sports in Rio, I knew that going in. Even though it wasn’t my number one choice, I jumped at the opportunity to interview.” He was accepted in March and landed in Rio on July 21.
“We just kind of jumped right in,” he said of himself and his fellow runners, a diverse group from Rio, the US, Australia and London. “We were there to make the lives of athletes easier when they were coming on the show, provide support and a lifeline to our on-air talent, whatever that might be, get the green room ready, make sure things ran smoothly. We need to know where everything was, memorize travel routes, know when traffic was going to cause delays so that we could be sure athletes got picked up and delivered on time. It got pretty hectic, even with the designated Olympic lanes, which were incredibly helpful.”
On days off, Trosset explored the country with co-workers and new-found friends. His appreciation of Brazilian culture and the pride of its people, he said, “was just a huge takeaway for me. I was lucky enough to be partnered with seven Brazilians from Rio who were also on our runner team. They had such pride for their city and it was so cool to see. There was so much bad press leading up to the games. Some of it was warranted and some of it wasn’t, in my opinion, but to see such pride in the people there really impressed me.” One week after he arrived in Rio, Trosset’s new Brazilian friends took him out to a bar on the Copacabana beach, near where they were staying, to celebrate his 22nd birthday. Now, he said, he may be returning to attend a wedding in the near future.
During the fall of 2015, Trosset spent time abroad in Madrid as part of an exchange program. “That experience absolutely helped me in terms of adjusting and adapting to foreign culture,” he said. Even though the primary language in Brazil is Portuguese and not his familiar Spanish, he said that he still found he was able to communicate effectively in the South American country. “I love the pace in Rio. The pace is incredible. I tend to live a fast-paced life, as a lot of us do, and I’m a highly active college student and just to be able to kind of slow down and enrich myself in their culture and get to know the Brazilians was really rewarding.
“I’ve been lucky, I really have. But I also feel like I worked for it,” he said. “I spent the entire summer of 2015 saving up for my semester abroad. Then I spent two and a half months prior to Rio busting my hump here and doing a landscaping business.” This is the seventh year that Trosset and a childhood friend have run Pat & Bob’s Lawn Care as a summer business in Delmar.
That work seems to have paid off. During his time in Rio, Trosset was able to gain new experiences, but also had the chance to meet and learn from accomplished industry professionals. “One really cool moment was meeting Mike Tirico,” he said of the well-known sportscaster. “He just recently switched over to NBC, he had been at ESPN for I think the last 20 years and, being that I want to do play-by-play, he’s the guy. I’m a big fan of his and so being able to meet with him and chat for a while was a special moment.”
And, even though he only spent a few short minutes with each, Trosset was able to meet and speak with Jim Bell, the executive producer of NBC Olympics, and former ESPN sportscaster Dan Patrick, host of The Dan Patrick Show. “Those were humbling moments for me because they took the time out of their busy, busy, busy schedules in Rio. I hope to meet those two guys again in the future and I hope sometime during senior year to send them my broadcast reel and see if they’re willing to share some tips or feedback.”
While Trosset would like to find a job as a play-by-play sports announcer after graduation, he also said that he is making sure to remain versatile. When he had the chance to practice reading on-air in Brazil from a teleprompter being operated in New York, he was happy to be given the opportunity. “It was general news,” he said. “I kind of wished I was doing sports, but everyone told me along the way that I should really be able to do it all, I should be able to do news and sports, and so I took it as it was and it was very cool moment.
“Professionally,” said Trosset, “it’s so important to not burn bridges and to connect with anyone at any possible time. You just never know who or what will be the difference going forward.”
For more photos and a more detailed account of his experience in Rio, including the (not Zika) virus that felled him for a week during his trip, check out Trosset’s blog at http://bobtrosset.com/blog/category/2016-rio-olympics/