Via Sports Daily
By John Ourand, Staff Writer
Published April 17, 2017
Gerry Matalon’s phone started ringing in the weeks before ESPN laid off around 100 anchors, reporters and analysts late last month.
Matalon’s phone continued ringing April 26, as ESPNers started to learn their fate. Now, a full week after the layoffs became public, Matalon’s phone continues to ring with people seeking advice on how to move forward with careers that seemed to be forever linked to ESPN.
All told, Matalon, who used to be ESPN’s senior coordinating producer of talent planning and development before he was laid off 18 months earlier, says he has talked or texted with around 100 people, both current and recently laid-off ESPNers.
Many of the affected talent view Matalon as a good person to give advice. Many of them have deep relationships with Matalon, who spent 27 years in Bristol. Plus, Matalon already experienced what they were going through. In October 2015, he was one of more than 300 ESPN colleagues who were let go as part of another cost-cutting purge. He’s now an independent talent consultant.
Matalon described the phone calls of the past week as more sad than angry, an emotion that mimicked how he felt in 2015.
“People are heartbroken,” Matalon said. “Before I was laid off, I thought that I was going to get to retire from ESPN. It’s such a great opportunity. But it’s different. When you work in the big city, there’s so much else going on that it kind of takes you away. When you’re in Bristol, it’s all right there. You’re it. You don’t date ESPN. You marry ESPN when you live in Bristol. Divorces don’t necessarily go that well.”
I heard that many ESPNers were calling Matalon, so I reached out to him last week to hear his advice. It was easy to see why so many people reached out to him — he has a relentlessly upbeat message.
He said he used a lot of the advice that was given to him by others in 2015. It breaks down into six areas.
DON’T GET DOWN ON YOURSELF
Days before Matalon was laid off, he was walking with ESPN NFL analyst Herman Edwards on the Bristol campus. Rumors of pending job cuts had been swirling, and Matalon confided in Edwards that he was concerned that he was going to be let go. Standing right outside of ESPN’s gleaming digital center, Edwards looked at Matalon and said, “No matter what happens, don’t get down on you.”
“There are many times that I’ve gotten down, and I hear Herm’s voice,” Matalon said. “When I would get down, I wouldn’t get down on me as a person. Those circumstances didn’t define me.
“I revisit that day often. What I thought was an incredibly simplistic line, I had no idea how powerfully that was going to speak to me.”
Gerry Matalon’s career at ESPN ended in October 2015. Many of those laid off last month have reached out to him for advice.
‘MAKE THEM PAY’
When NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” executive producer Fred Gaudelli left ESPN in 2005, he had a line that he used with Matalon several times: “Make them pay.” Matalon reflected on that line after he was laid off and said that kind of emotion can be helpful at future jobs.
“I took that in a positive and inspirational way,” Matalon said. “It wasn’t said with resentment and malice. The best way I can move forward is just being me.
“Everyone wants to say to ESPN: ‘I’ll show you’ and ‘You should have found a reason to keep me around.’ That’s what Freddy was saying. Life is filled with these kinds of moments. It’s about getting out of your own way and leaning on others.”
Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.