Plymouth-based Tom Pelissero covers football for NFL Network.
A question was posed on a display board at Tom Pelissero’s youngest daughter’s daycare: What do my parents do at work? The most common answer was computers. To a 4- or 5-year-old, this makes sense. The pandemic moved many a mommy and daddy from the office to home where they worked on laptops, oftentimes at the kitchen table. Computers? Yep, mommy and/or daddy work computers.
What did the youngest Pelissero think her dad does for work? “She said I do football,” says Tom Pelissero.
She wasn’t wrong.
Plymouth’s Pelissero covers the National Football League (NFL) for the NFL Network. He reports, writes, tweets and breaks stories from his professionally-constructed home studio.
Note: The studio itself arrived in a collection of boxes, shipped from NFL Network headquarters in California.
“It came with everything,” says Pelissero’s wife, Sara. “After the boxes arrived, they had people come out and set it up. This happened before the pandemic, before everyone was working from home.”
The door to the studio, closed when the elder Pelissero is delivering a report to a national audience, is topped with a red on-air light.
“The second that light goes off, the girls are in there,” says Sara, cancer survivor and mom to two young girls.
“My wife is a rock star,” says Pelissero. “She takes on so much. She understands breaking news and really helps. She’s why we can do what we do.”
Pelissero’s first job out of college (Boston College) was as a content writer for KFAN, one of the top sports radio stations in the country.
“I worked there for two years but very part-time,” says Pelissero.
He left KFAN to write for the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. While in Eau Claire, he broke a story that caught the attention of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, which led to an assistant sports editor position with the publication. After Green Bay, he covered the Minnesota Vikings as a senior editor for 1500espn.com and 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. Prior to the NFL Network, he covered the NFL nationally for USA Today.
He doesn’t know what comes next, but he thoroughly enjoys what he’s doing, despite its 24/7 nature.
Why does a nationally-known sports reporter live in Plymouth?
“It’s a great place to live and a fantastic place to raise a family,” says Pelissero.
“I’m in the middle of the country and can get to just about anywhere in four hours,” he says.
As much as Pelissero networks and sources in person, he does much of the legwork on his phone.
That’s how one of his biggest stories played out.
“News of Jon Gruden resigning was played across the entire news sphere. I received the initial text 15 minutes before we went live. Minutes before that, I was lying in bed with my girls reading a story,” says Pelissero.
When Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians announced that he was stepping away from coaching, Pelissero quickly grabbed a shirt and put on a tie. He called Los Angeles, where a producer pushed a button and he appeared on thousands of TVs across the country.
“I was at a girls’-night-out and saw [Pelissero] on every TV in the restaurant,” says Sara. “That was the first I had heard of it. My immediate reaction was to call home and see if everything was OK.” Translation: Were the girls in the studio helping daddy?
“They slip a lot of notes under the door, but they kind of get it,” says Pelissero. “They’ll talk to [Amazon] Alexa like they’re on the radio. They’re definitely performers.”
The Pelissero girls are also wise beyond their years. “After hearing me do an interview, my 7-year-old came up with an interesting follow-up question. It was something I had never considered,” says Pelissero.
Ready for some football?
Professional football used to consist of 32 training camps followed by 16 Sundays. It doesn’t look like that anymore.
“It comes in waves,” says Pelissero. “Free agency used to be five days. This year, it was all of March. Then we’ve got the lead up to the draft and the follow up to the draft. Training camps are 16 hours of live TV per day, but they’re fairly relaxed. The regular season still builds up to Sundays, but there’s Mondays, Thursdays and Sunday nights.
There is a wildcard weekend, divisional playoffs, conference championships and the Super Bowl, which is followed
by the Senior Bowl, which is followed by owners’ meetings.
Sara describes the process as a never-ending chaos. “I was always interested in sports journalism,” says the former KARE 11 producer. “But I’m starting to begrudge the start of the season and football is my favorite sport.”
Note: Significant others of NFL Network reporters communicate on their own chat chain. “We have a lot in common and share a lot of stories,” says Sara.
While Sara isn’t breaking football stories herself, she does her part. “It gets to where [Pelissero] is almost afraid to go to sleep. He doesn’t want to miss anything,” says Sara.
When he does succumb to sleep, which might only last for three hours, Sara instinctively watches Pelissero’s phone. “It might ring or light up while he’s out,” she says. “Certain people only call when something big is about to happen. When they call, I wake him up.”
And no, she didn’t name names.
But Pelissero did drop one.
“I was covering the Super Bowl in Miami,” he says. “When I was on the sideline, I had a chance to meet Paul Rudd, one of my favorite actors. I met him through a friend, and as I was about to introduce myself, he stopped me and said he knew who I was.”
Does Paul Rudd knowing Pelissero mean Pelissero has arrived? “I never feel like I’ve arrived, ever,” he says. “The moment I do that, I’ll get complacent.”
During the pandemic and when locker rooms were either closed to media or had limited access, Pelissero worked mostly from home. His wife liked that—so did his girls and their dog, too.
“There are times when this job became less intrapersonal,” says Pelissero. “When that happens, you return lots of texts.”
Who’s texting and why?
“You’re chasing a tip and chasing a scoop,” he said. “God willing, you’ll break the next big story.”
Having worn almost every media hat one can wear, sans helmet, does Pelissero have a favorite?
“I like the unscripted nature of TV,” he says. “I like it when you’re in the middle of an interview and you can hear a phone ding. I even like the train wrecks.”
Mostly, he likes breaking big stories. “The biggest story is always the next one,” he says.
With news of said story, Pelissero will be at the ready. He’ll be in his home studio. He’ll have a shirt and tie on the top and maybe jammies on the bottom.
Breaking (news) dad in action.