The anchor of ESPN’s flagship
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN While on vacation last week in sunny Florida, visions of flying snowmobilers and twisting skiers danced in Dana Jacobson’s head.The three-day trip was supposed to be a respite from the daily grind – and recently frigid temperatures – of New York City, where Jacobson co-hosts ESPN’s weekday morning show, “Cold Pizza.”But after ESPN asked her earlier this month to replace Suzy Kolber as the anchor of XCenter during the Winter X Games at Buttermilk, Jacobson has been consistently “cramming” for the assignment. She couldn’t help but delve into some of her homework while soaking up some sun, she said.”I study just like I did in college,” said Jacobson, who anchored X Games 12 last summer from Los Angeles. “Studying makes it sound boring, but it’s really not. You have to familiarize yourself to this stuff, just like anything. It’s learning a lot of names and tricks and terms that I normally wouldn’t use when I’m doing ‘Cold Pizza.'”
The opportunity to cover the Winter X Games was one that Jacobson began eying in August, after she got her first taste of ESPN’s signature action-sports franchise. Long-time X Games host Sal Masakela – who will be back at Buttermilk this week – told her she’d be hooked once she saw the world’s premier action-sports athletes up close. Jacobson was in the Staples Center when Moto X star Travis Pastrana pulled the first double backflip in competition.She said it was one of the more memorable moments of her career as a broadcast journalist.”I think the limit with these sports is the limit of the athletes’ imagination,” she said. “I talked a lot about the double backflip with Travis. After he did it, he said he didn’t want to do it ever again. But if another guy does it and lands it, everybody has to do it. Suddenly a double backflip becomes the standard that a backflip used to be. I think the possibilities are limitless.”
That principle holds true for all the events at Buttermilk this week, Jacobson said. Personally, she said she is stoked to take in some men and women’s snowboard superpipe and some snowmobile freestyle – the newest addition to Winter X’s ever-changing lineup of events.Just don’t expect her to actually say “stoked” or “sick” during ESPN and its affiliates’ 15 hours of live programming from Buttermilk.”The thing that I learned at the X Games is don’t feel like you have to be somebody you’re not,” said Jacobson, who joined ESPN in 2002 after a number of years as a broadcast journalist in Sacramento, Calif. “The thing with me is that I can’t fake being cool or knowing something I don’t know. There’s never been a word uttered out of my mouth that I wouldn’t say some other time.”Jacobson is already personally familiar with a number of Winter X’s biggest names because they’ve appeared on “Cold Pizza.” She has interviewed snowboarders Shaun White, Hannah Teter and local Gretchen Bleiler – who all took medals home from Turin after the Winter Olympics in February.
In addition to seeing those three in the pipe for the first time, Jacobson said she is looking forward to watching mono-skiercross, which debuted as an exhibition sport two years ago.When she working in Sacramento, she did a piece on disabled mono-skiers at a Lake Tahoe resort and actually hopped in a sit-ski. “It was incredibly hard,” she said. “We were taping, and I must have fallen every 4 feet. It was so different and so difficult to me, and gave me such an appreciation for what they do.”Jacobson grew up in Michigan, where she fondly remembers skiing on ice as a young girl. She said she hasn’t skied in five years, and doesn’t plan to take up the sport again this week. She wants to learn how to snowboard, although some of her co-workers have warned her she might think differently once she catches her first edge.”I’ve never been skiing in Colorado, so I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “People have been like, ‘You know when you’re doing this that you can walk out your door and be right on the mountain.'”