Crimson Catch Up: Jim Bell '89

Jim Bell '89 helped Harvard football capture its second outright Ivy League championship in 1987, and was named first team All-Ivy at defensive tackle in 1988.  We caught up with Jim over the summer to reminisce about his time at Harvard and learn more about his role as President, NBC Olympics Production & Programming.
 


Name & Class Year: Jim Bell '89
Current Title & Employer: President, NBC Olympics Production & Programming; Executive Producer, Telemundo World Cup
House: Leverett House
Concentration: Government
Sport(s): Football

When I think about my time at Harvard, the first thing that comes to mind is…

Special people, and special places.

The people -- friends, teammates, professors, and coaches along with Tom Dingman '67 and his family at Leverett House. Chet Stone and Artie Clifford who ran the equipment room. Emo our trainer. Charlie the short-order cook at the Tasty. George the policeman. And many other assorted Harvard Square characters.

The places -- Dillon Fieldhouse. The Piccadilly Filly. Secret rooms in Houghton Library. The River. Bike rides all over town. And some very memorable road trips, including one to Minnesota to cheer on the 1989 NCAA hockey champs. 
 

Away from athletics, I was a member of…

The Spee Club, the Pi Eta Speakers Club (RIP), and I worked at Fenway Park (a paying job but I’d have done it for free). I also had an internship at the FBI, and wrote a senior Gov thesis that meant a lot of time at the Kennedy School with my advisors.

What I’m most proud of during my time at Harvard is…

That I had an awesome range of friendships and experiences that were not limited by playing a sport.

Harvard helped me to…

Learn that I could swim in the deep end of the pool.

Being a student-athlete taught me…

That those 2 things are not mutually exclusive.

My career path has been…

Unusual. I always thought I would go to law school, but went traveling instead, and ended up coaching football in Spain where I later connected with NBC to work on the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Almost 30 years, and 12 Olympics later, I am still holding off on the LSAT. 

Throughout my career I have learned that…

Life Partner Decision > Career Decision.

My most important career move/decision was…

Taking a chance mid-career to become Executive Producer of the TODAY show. Then taking another chance 7 ½ years later to become the Executive Producer of the Olympics.

I enjoy my work because…

The Olympics are a powerful reminder of what the world can be: citizens of the planet, coming together, to experience different cultures devoid of judgment or hatred. It’s deeply rewarding to be around these athletes, and to share their stories and incredible performances on the world’s biggest stage. And it’s a revolutionary time in the media, with new tech and new screens offering a vast array of viewing options and control with each successive Olympics.

What I’m most proud of since Commencement is…

My family – wife Angelique, 4 sons, and 3 dogs.

When my teammates and I get together, we always…

Raise a glass to some teammates who have left us far too early, and, once the sadness passes, we usually end up laughing our asses off, picking right up on a conversation that never ends.

The most important piece of advice I can give current student-athletes is to…
Breathe. It’s ok if you don’t know what you want to do after college. Be curious.

 

-- Your Team for Life --