Globetrotter: Penn Alum Finds Sports Journalism and Runs With It

Monday, November 21, 2016

By Blake Cole

Gabriele Marcotti, C’95, is a European-based sports journalist, sports author, and radio-television presenter who is regularly featured on the ESPN channel and website and in widely read publications like The Times in London. Marcotti, born in Italy and now based in London, grew up in a diverse collection of countries, spanning the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Marcotti is the author of numerous books and speaks multiple languages. We spoke with him about how his time at Penn influenced his international career.

Gabriele Marcotti, C'95

Q: What made you choose Penn for your undergraduate studies? What was your focus?

I chose Penn not just because it was a great education, but also because it was in a city and it was a big enough school that there would be real diversity. The Daily Pennsylvanian was also a big part of Penn’s appeal as I wanted to become a journalist and I felt the opportunity to work on a paper of such size and quality while studying was invaluable. 

Q: What led you to sports journalism?

Actually, it was a bit of an accident. My dream in college was to become one of those “serious” New Yorker writers with the wood-paneled office and the enormous expense account who could go and spend three months on a story. Now I realize those jobs probably don’t exist anymore, even at The New Yorker, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be published there. But in the summer of 1996, after I finished grad school, the Olympics were in Atlanta and it seemed a good place to go. I harassed various media outlets for a credential, got in, made lots of contacts, and then one thing led to another. 

Q: Did being multilingual open new opportunities for you in your writing career?

Without question, speaking several languages is a huge advantage. I cover mostly soccer, so it was key when I moved to London and began covering the Premier League in 1996. Many foreign players and coaches started coming in. I could speak to them in Italian or Spanish and build relationships that monolingual journalists could not.

What led you to transition into broadcasting? Which do you prefer?

I still consider myself primarily a writer and I write regular columns for and The Times in London. But since joining ESPN I’ve done even more television work. It’s a different experience—television forces you to be concise and clear.

Q: You’ve written multiple books, including, The Italian Job: A Journey to the Heart of Two Great Footballing Cultures. What was that process like?

They have mostly been biographies of living people and that’s been a tricky process because you get varying degrees of collaboration from the subject. You don’t want to do a hatchet job and you don’t want a hagiography either. Most interesting to me—and maybe something that should give us all cause to reflect on more important issues like eyewitness testimony—is how as many as half a dozen people will remember the same exact incident differently. And not just in minor details either. It’s like Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa.

Q: Have you applied your time at Penn to your career?

Without question. Classes like the ones I took with history professor Alan Charles Kors really challenged me intellectually. The experience at the Daily Pennsylvanian was an excellent precursor to my writing career and I met plenty of talented people. I think most of all the richness and diversity of the entire community continues to inform what I write today, possibly because soccer is such a global (and globalized) sport.