You might not remember his name given the news cycle moves faster than Usain Bolt these days. But less than a month ago, a man made one of the most memorable Monday Night Football debuts we’ve ever seen in sports broadcasting.
His name was Sergio Dipp.
Ah, now the name rings a bell. Maybe you just laughed. Dipp garnered national attention on Sept. 11 for his awkward first quarter report on Broncos head coach Vance Joseph "having the time of his life" during a Monday Night Football broadcast between the Broncos and Chargers. His report instantly went viral, with Dipp becoming the top trending topic on Twitter that night and a human meme.
Three weeks later, Dipp is on the phone from Mexico City. It has taken a couple of days to set up an interview given Mexico's magnitude 7.1 earthquake that included more than 200 deaths in Mexico City. Thankfully, Dipp and his loved ones were safe from the damage. ESPN’s building in Mexico City—located in the western part of the city—was also not impacted by the earthquake.
After his Monday Night Football assignment for an English-speaking audience, Dipp flew back to Mexico City and returned to his regular working schedule. He was back on the air two days later co-hosting a Latin American edition of SportsCenter and continues to host that show as well as NFL Live, which he hosts on Sundays. He has worked for ESPN Deportes and ESPN International since 2013 and during his career has covered four Super Bowls (XLVIII, XLIX, 50, LI). He is also one of ESPN Deportes’ regular voices covering the Mexico National Football team. With some perspective, I was curious about how he viewed his brush with Internet notice.
“I have always thought things are supposed to go the way they are supposed to go,” Dipp says. “That has always been my mindset. Everything happens for a reason and God has a plan and knows how to do things. I have always been patient in my career and always tried to be calm. I was sure this happened for a good reason. I have always been positive in all aspects of my life. It is something way more positive than a lot of people initially thought it was.”
Dipp said during a commercial break in the first quarter after his live report, he checked his phone and saw that he had a massive amount of new Twitter followers. So he tweeted out something to let people know he was aware of what was going on. Later that night after the conclusion of the game, he sent out a video, a bit somber, because he wanted people to know more about him.
“People in the States did not know about me and I wanted to let them know a little bit more about me and my background than the chance I had, as well as just in 140 characters,” Dipp said.
Dipp’s sideline work was quickly forgotten amid larger ESPN controversies and news cycles but it remained (at least for me) unclear why we never saw him again after his report. In my opinion had ESPN returned to him during the game, he would have been able to re-shape some of the narrative that we saw on social media. How did Tim Corrigan, the producer for the game as well as the producer of ESPN’s exceptional NBA Finals coverage, view Dipp from his perspective?
“I felt for him because he just wanted to do a great job,” Corrigan said. “Sergio covers the NFL for ESPN Deportes, and he’s done Monday Night Football games on our Spanish-language telecasts. He was in our meetings during the weekend and excited about the opportunity. In live television, anyone can have a difficult moment—reporters, producers, etc. It happens and he handled it with class. Sergio and I met after the game and discussed what went well and where there is opportunity for improvement. He’s a talented guy with a bright future.”
I told Corrigan I thought there was an argument to make that given the immediate attention on Dipp throughout social media, the broadcast should have put him back on in multiple spots, even to give him a chance to do a cleaner report. His response?
“Sergio continued to impact the broadcast like all sideline reporters do when they are not on air—injury reports, updates from what he was hearing and observing from the sidelines to be shared with the talent in the booth,” Corrigan said. “Sergio also did a post-game interview with [Broncos quarterback] Trevor Siemian that was fed down to the studio per normal.”
I asked Dipp if he was not disappointed that he did not get any more airtime that night. He said not at all.
“That Monday was the first time people in America probably saw me but I have been working in sports media for 10 years,” Dipp said. “I have always considered myself a team player and kept on doing my job. After my first hit, my focus was on letting my producer in the truck and Beth and Rex in the booth know, for example, that [Broncos guard] Ron Leary was in concussion protocol and then that he was out of the game. I let them know in each commercial break whatever new information I had. I always felt that I was doing my job and always considered myself a team player. I was letting them know what was happening on the field and I was not upset at all.”
I asked Dipp if he believed any of the reaction to him was related to his ethnicity, something that was suggested to me by his ESPN colleague Marly Rivera on an SI Media podcast I did with Rivera and SI’s Luis Miguel Echegaray on how two Hispanic sports journalists perceived the coverage of Dipp.
“I would go more toward the idea that I was a new face and voice in America,” Dipp said. “Besides being a new face and voice, I knew there could be questions like who is he, where did he come from, how did he get there, what did he do to earn that chance? People have thoughts have on everything and I was a voice out of nowhere on a huge place like Monday Night Football.”
Dipp likes to laugh, including at himself, and self-depreciation is always a winning trait in sports broadcasting, which often has a shortage of it. On Sept. 17, Dipp sent out a photo of a smiling Vance Joseph on his Twitter account, and re-upped his report. “I tried to tell you all... Vance Joseph is having the time of his life.”
As far as second acts, Dipp is going to get one, which is great news. He is assigned to report for English-speaking ESPN for the Patriots-Raiders game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Nov. 19. Look for Dipp’s reports on SportsCenter and Sunday NFL Countdown that day. Said Dipp: “I am definitely appreciative of the opportunity.”