Posted by Vivek on November 29, 2009 | 3 Comment

Long before the “desi” invasion of Silicon Valley (Northern California, US), the West had already been somewhat “Indianized” by an Indian American reporter and no, he was not talking about Bollywood, or about Technology or for that matter Cricket, he was going right to the heartland….sports and that too as American as they get. The NBA, NHL, MLB, why he was even NBC’s sportscaster for the Olympics in Beijing. That smiling face, never afraid to ask the tough questions of the toughest, yet always positive and who can ignore that humor which can only add a lot more “game” to the sport. Here’s putting the one and only RAJ MATHAI in a spot, where he often puts sports legend after sports legend….in the hot seat! Over to Raj, NBC 11 Sports Director.

A little about what got you into the broadcasting business and also how come sports?

Ever since arriving in US at the age of 7…Like most kids, I was enthralled with Television.  I also come from a family of journalists/writers/poets (TJ Mathew, my father, who ran a few magazines in India in the 60′s + 70′s; TJS George, my uncle, who founded of Asia Week; Jeet Thayil…my cousin, a poet), hence broadcast journalism it was for me.

I loved the excitement and creativity of TV Sports (and still do).

Given that you were one of the pioneering South Asian Americans in the field of broadcasting per se, what were the challenges as you came up the ranks?

I was the first Indian sportscaster for a US network affiliate.  My challenges were similar to everyone else in the industry…how do I advance and get to a bigger market?  Being Indian wasn’t a hindrance.  Though I did get some puzzled looks back then…”are you Mexican, Puerto Rican or Black?”  Pretty funny.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with the South Asians starting out in this line of work?

If journalism is in your blood…go for it.  The industry is going through MAJOR changes, but so are many industries.  It’s not easy, but it can be very rewarding.

I think you did mention that you write your own scripts for your news, how did that come about?

I’m a writer.  I prefer to write my scripts.  Also, sports is much more personality driven than hard news.  I ad-lib much of the material.

With the converging of the worlds, and media and now sports beginning to boom in India, would an event of South Asian origin, lets say a Cricket tournament which is organized in the US, of  a global scale, be something that you might be inclined to cover? Related to that, have you been following the media and specifically the sports broadcast media in India?

I would love to cover cricket, but I better start getting caught up…I’m way behind!
It’s spreading quickly in the US…especially here in the Bay Area.  I do follow the ratings, sponsorships and big money leagues in India and beyond.

What are your future aims and aspirations as far as US Television is concerned?

I’m curious to see how this industry evolves in the next few years.  I’m excited.  My goals are simple.  I want to be creative and valuable whether it’s in sports or news.

When you are not in front of the camera, what are your other interests and what is a typical day like?

This isn’t really a ‘job’.  It’s my interest.  But I do like to unplug and relax by spending time with my newborn son (Maxx) and wife…and dog.  We like to cook and play scrabble.  And sleep…since he wakes us up at all hours of the night!  As for playing sports…I enjoy skiing and basketball…and struggle with golf!

3 Responses
This is a wonderful article.  Enjoyed learning about Raj very much.  I have had the pleasure of meeting him and he is truly a gentleman. Usha December 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm
raj , you inspire more indians in a positive way. niki February 27, 2010 at 6:15 pm
Raj seems like a really cool dude! Thanks for the great read. I like saying his name too. Raj. Shea April 23, 2011 at 11:59 pm
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