During his 25-year tenure with NBC Universal, former Harvard defensive lineman Jim Bell has worked his way to become the executive producer of all things associated to their exclusive Olympics broadcast. When the summer games reach Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Bell will have completed his 11th Olympic circuit and figures to continue his run with NBC as they have solidified broadcasting rights to the world’s games through 2032.
Ironically, his longevity with NBC Universal didn’t start off as formal as most jobs come about; football so-happened to provide Bell with an opportunity to go beyond American borders and into a land of infinite possibilities.
“Through football of all things… I ended up going over to Europe and I knew a guy, who knew a guy,” said Bell. “They called me ‘Americano’ and wanted me to help out a little bit, and before you know it, I was playing American football in Spain.”
And through his playing and coaching involvement with the Barcelona Boxers from 1989 to 1992, Bell began developing relationships, learning a second language and thoroughly enjoying his time in a new, yet unstable location.
After his final year of coaching, Bell was faced with a dilemma. Go back home and continue his original plan of law school or Wall Street, or continue his journey in Spain and find employment abroad. Luckily for Bell, his education, stature and timing gave him the tools that NBC were looking for, in an unconventional way.
“I caught a break,” said Bell. “NBC needed someone to push a guy in a wheelchair. He had snapped his Achilles while playing basketball and disregarded his doctor’s orders to sit out of the preliminary Olympic meetings in Barcelona.”
Jim’s response to NBC’s offer: “Sure! I’d love it,” he said. “I’d have no problem with that.”
His humility, perseverance, and willingness to assist got him another shot with NBC as a runner – activities like retrieving coffee, dropping off equipment, and translating for others were a part of his daily tasks. However, Bell thrived by using some of the tactics he’d learned on the gridiron to become a vital part of the NBC team and to evolve the company into a place with reputable broadcasting quality.
“There’s a ton of full-contact we receive,” Bell said jokingly. “From cable, broadband, satellite, streaming, and even the millennials and how they’re consuming media,” Bell said.
He chooses to look at some of the progressive issues within the media and relate them to his playing days, in order to show how his career and football relate.
“If you’re a defensive tackle you’re going to get knocked over. You have to chase that quarterback the next time they’ve got the ball,” said Bell. “I have always loved the contact of football and try to use those methods of mental toughness and strategy within my job now.”
If there’s a correlation between defensive linemen and iconic media producers, Harvard alumnus Jim Bell is the epitome.
“Well you know, the defensive linemen are always the smartest,” said Bell.