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Stepping off the sidelines

Death of friend causes Bernstein to reevaluate career

Posted: Friday February 17, 2006 1:14PM; Updated: Saturday February 18, 2006 8:04PM
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Getting inside scoops from coaches such as Maryland's Gary Williams may seem a dream job, but didn't satisfy Bonnie Bernstein.
Getting inside scoops from coaches such as Maryland's Gary Williams may seem a dream job, but didn't satisfy Bonnie Bernstein.
Doug Pensinger/ Getty Images

She sat in the hospital room on a warm summer night, sharing her career ambitions with a close friend who was finally acting on his. To the outside world, Bonnie Bernstein had one of the sweetest gigs in sports journalism, serving as a sideline reporter for CBS's top NFL crew. But as she spoke to bedridden Scott Borenstein, one of her closest friends since their days as "geeky jocks" at Land O' Pines Middle School in Howell, N.J., Bernstein spoke of an inner drive that was not being satisfied by her current career.

Borenstein, meanwhile, was doing exactly what he wanted, having honed in on his longtime dream of becoming a lawyer. He had just graduated from Rutgers Law School, was studying for the New Jersey bar exam and already had a job lined up with the Monmouth County District Attorney's office.

There was just the matter of bouncing back from the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, for which the 35-year-old was undergoing chemotherapy.

"We never really talked about mortality," Bernstein recalls. "When he got diagnosed last spring, it was a foregone conclusion he would get better. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is 85 percent curable, so we looked ahead to the future and how exciting it all was."

Sadly, Borenstein never got to taste that future. By mid-October, the cancer had spread to his bone marrow, and he was in a drug-induced coma to keep him from feeling the pain. Shortly thereafter Borenstein died. As Bernstein mourned the impending death of her friend, she began questioning everything about her life and realized that she was delaying her dreams.

"You always hear about people who experience life-changing events and think, I'm not one of those people who has epiphanies," Bernstein says. "But you know what? I was wrong. While the whole 'carpe diem' adage tends to be cliché, when you see someone close to you pass three days after his 36th birthday without having fulfilled his dreams, it makes you reevaluate everything about your life."

The conclusion to which Bernstein came was not a surprise to the colleagues who knew her best. "It was a very emotional time for her, and she expressed that maybe it was time to make a change," says analyst Phil Simms, who worked with Bernstein for the past two seasons. "She is extremely driven and unbelievably disciplined in all aspects of her life, and without question she was very frustrated with the job, because the job has limits."