NC State alum Tim Tew will be at tomorrow night’s basketball game against UNC, but he will have a different vantage point than most fans. He will be watching the game through an inch-and-a-half viewfinder. And his view will be in black-and-white.
Tew is a freelance cameraman based in Gastonia, N.C., who frequently works for ESPN. He is a regular on ESPN’s crew for Monday Night Football games in the NFL and has been on the sidelines for several Super Bowls. But his favorite assignments may still be ACC basketball games.
“The NFL is really hard to beat,” he says. “On Monday Night Football, it’s always a good environment. We’re the only game in town, the only game on TV that night. But I was born and raised in North Carolina, and my earliest interest in any sport was ACC basketball. Even as great as the NFL is, ACC basketball is still my favorite sport to cover.”
Tew got his start in television production as a student at NC State in the early 1980s. He had planned to be an agriculture engineer and design tractors for John Deere, but decided after a few weeks of 7 a.m. math classes in Harrelson Hall that he should consider another major. When a friend told Tew that NC State offered a major in television and motion picture production, Tew made the switch.
One of his first jobs came when Tew was still in school. He videotaped lectures at the College of Textiles that were used for distance learning courses around the country. He also did some sports work for Jefferson Pilot, joining them full time in 1987. He did his first work for ESPN in 1988, and has been working with them ever since.
“I think the stuff I enjoy the most is the chance to do something creative, to have a large audience watch what I do,” he says. “Part of it is working with a group of people to put on a show. The fact that it’s live gives it a certain adrenaline rush. There’s something that’s instantly rewarding in doing something on live tv and doing a good job at it.”
Tew says he typically works with hand-held cameras, as opposed to the larger, fixed cameras that provide the primary game action. He can provide slow-motion and close-ups of the game action or reactions by players and coaches. When he works along the sidelines of NFL games, his footage may be used when referees review a penalty or a play.
“I love sports, but I certainly was never good enough to play at any level above rec league,” Tew says. “It’s a good way to be around sports. But the experience I get when I’m at a sporting event is different from a fan. I have to concentrate on my job. When you’re looking in the camera, your world is very limited visually.”
Tew says he doesn’t typically have much interaction with the players or coaches, but he did have a special Wolfpack moment when he worked at the Super Bowl game in 2000 between the St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans. Tew had been a fan of the Rams because of former NC State quarterback Roman Gabriel, and former NC State football star Torry Holt was a rookie wide receiver for the Rams that year. When the game ended, Tew made his way onto the field to get footage of Rams players celebrating their 23-16 win.
As is his custom at Super Bowls, Tew was wearing an NC State hat. At some point, Tew noticed Holt looking at him and his hat. “He had just won the Super Bowl,” Tew says, “and he comes over to me and sticks out his index finger and starts poking the logo on my hat and chanting, ‘NC State, NC State.’ That was really cool.”
Tew won’t be wearing any NC State apparel or cheering for the Wolfpack when he works the game against UNC tomorrow night at PNC Arena. He is a professional with a job to do.
But Tew says it was easier to conceal his passion for NC State (his son’s middle name is Reynolds, a nod to the spot on campus where Tew met his wife when she was a student at NC State) during the years when the basketball team struggled. “They’ve screwed up everything by being good,” he says. “At the tournament last year, in the game against Carolina, it was a feeling I hadn’t had in a long time. You have to do your job first, but you really want to yell at the ref or tell somebody to play defense. It’s nice to have hope for a change.”