August 10, 2011


Priya Desai is modest about admitting what sets her apart from her peers in sports journalism, even though she’s a certifiable trailblazer in her industry as the first South Asian female sports broadcaster. From a small town outside of St. Louis called Edwardsville, Priya traces her love of sports, particularly football, to the “very Friday Night Lights” community. She attended Indiana University, one of the Big 10 schools where she became an aspiring sports professional. As a journalism major, Priya worked on the IU newspaper, covering the drama when legendary coach Bobby Knight was fired, and then the excitement the following year when the basketball team went to the championship game. She began her career at the bottom and tenaciously worked her way up, scoring an internship in NYC at College Sports Television (CSTV), where her boss suggested she pursue a position at big-time local news station, NY1, “And the rest,” she jokes, “is sports history.”

Now a sports broadcaster at NY1, Priya contributes to breaking all sorts of glass ceilings in a male-dominated industry, and keeps climbing the ladder by playing to her strengths and by being just plain... awesome.
Photo credit: Chad Heird

How did you end up in this career?
By ignoring my mother's pleas to go to law school.

Are you an athlete?
I've played every sport offered to a girl growing up in the suburbs. Jack of all sports master of none. I am a big fan of Zog sports here in the city. Playing softball in Central Park is a really fun experience. Plus the team who wins graciously buys the losers drinks after. It's a win-win.

How do you differ from the average female sports reporter?
I can say all the states and capitals in alphabetical order. That may set me apart.

Best perk of your job:Being able to say obnoxious things in conversations like, “Oh, when I was at the World Series this year....”

How do you get “camera ready”?
In an ideal situation, 8 hours of sleep, but that's wishful thinking. So plan B is lots of concealer and to never underestimate the power of good lighting.

Your secret to projecting confidence on camera:Some of the best advice I ever got was to just pretend I'm talking to a bunch of my friends. It really does work.

Professional you most admire:
I would have to say it's the group of female sports journalists I work alongside. Kim Jones from the Yankees Network, Tara Sullivan of the Bergen Record, ESPN's Jane McManus (to name a few) have all been so supportive from the start. It's very intimidating to be the new girl in a business that is dominated by men, and the assumption is women will be competitive or as some like to say catty (CRINGE) with one another. That just hasn't been the case, and it's an ideal I wish more women would embrace.

Any locker room mishaps?
No not really. I did have a major on the field mishap a few years ago. I was on the sidelines of an NFL game in the Meadowlands and I was walking from one end of the field to the other end. My head was turned the other way as I walked and watched the game, when I ran right into the punter who was warming up on the sidelines. I fall. He falls. I'm MORTIFIED. Everyone is looking at me, the coaches, the players, the fans. It was like one of those dreams where it's the first day in a new school and you forget to wear clothes. Except this time it's not a dream. It's 80,000 people and an entire D-line staring at you, but luckily I was fully clothed. Everyone who saw what happened was actually really nice and after the game in the locker room I kept being asked if I was alright which was actually even more embarrassing. So it was like not being able to wake up from aforementioned dream!

A time you had to be tough on the job:
I would have to say it was the first year on the job. A locker room scrum (that's when all the media surround a locker after a game to get an interview) is intense especially after a big win or worse a bad loss. In the beginning I would get blocked out all the time by some very big guys with even bigger cameras. These guys weren't about to give me a hall pass just because I'm a girl. So I would end up missing interviews all the time. I could have complained and pointed out that it wasn't fair that I was shorter and smaller but I realized I was also quicker. So as soon as I saw who I needed to interview I there first mic in hand. Those big guys with big cameras, now some of my closest friends.

What makes you laugh?
I'm a bit of a humor snob. It takes a lot to make me laugh. The Daily Show literally makes me laugh out loud. I once met Jon Stewart in a parking garage in Chelsea and made a complete fool of myself. "Oh my god—you're Jon Stewart." That's all I could come up with. Not my finest moment.

Your guilty pleasure:Pizza by the slice. No matter what neighborhood I'm in, I know the best place for a slice within a 5 block radius of my location. That includes all of the boroughs as well.

Describe New York sports fans:
Knowledgeable and aggressive. Go to a neighborhood bar and you will be schooled on any team in the city depending on what season it is. Plus if you get to witness a disagreement between two fans (like let's say a Red Sox fan in a Yankee bar), it's double the pleasure and double the fun.

Yankees or Mets/Jets or Giants:I've lived in New York a few years short of a decade. It really is the greatest city in the world. However, I have stayed true to my midwestern sports roots. I am forever a Cardinals and Rams fan and of course a proud IU Hoosier. GO BIG RED!

Favorite NYC sports bar:
My East Village apartment. As a former bartender, I have the drinks covered—and I make a mean spinach and artichoke dip. Unfortunately, I'm usually working the games and not at home enjoying them. I know, I know--poor, little sports girl. See, I said it before you could!

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