It’s another NFL Sunday in sunny Florida. The Jacksonville Jaguars are getting set to host the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in a playoff rematch and a highly anticipated early-season matchup.
Kickoff isn’t for another couple hours, but Chris Carrino has been busy all morning. He’s down on the field taking notes, talking to players and coaches, and getting a feel for the gameday atmosphere as he prepares to call the game on radio for eager fans across the country.
All of this is accomplished with the help of a Jazzy Carbon, as Chris navigates his way through another day at the “office”.
“I love what I do, and I want to keep doing it. And it’s hard. It’s a grind for me more than others,” Carrino says. “I just know that I have to be relentless and keep going after what I want and do what I’ve been passionate about since I was 11 years old.
“This Pride equipment that I use, it helps me do just that.”
Originally from Yonkers, New York, Chris says the New York Yankees were part of his DNA growing up. His passion for broadcasting began at an early age.
“Sports has always played a huge part in my life, as far back as I can remember,” Carrino recalls. “When I was 11 years old, my father gave me a tape recorder and said ‘have fun with it.’ I would take it, turn the sound down on the TV, and broadcast games into the tape recorder.”
That childhood passion soon turned into a career, as Chris attended Fordham University to study broadcasting. But it was during his college days that he noticed something wasn’t right physically. His athletic ability rapidly dropped off, prompting Chris to visit a doctor.
Soon after, Chris was diagnosed with Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), a genetic disorder that results in the progressive weakening of the muscles, particularly in the shoulders and upper limbs.
“I didn’t even know I had it until I was an established adult,” Carrino said.
Despite the diagnosis, Chris persevered to become the radio play-by-play voice of the Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets of the NBA in 2002 (he had worked for the team since 1992) and joined Compass Media as a national NFL announcer in 2009. But his condition was worsening. Chris began to find it more difficult to complete basic physical functions.
“It really started to affect things in my life,” Carrino said. “I needed help to do certain things and you start avoiding certain things.”
And for the demands of a national broadcaster, constantly on the move from one city to another, the deterioration was more than physical.
“When it was starting to become a mental struggle for me, [was when] knowing if somebody bumped into me, I could fall down. If I stepped the wrong way, I could fall down. You go to kind of a dark place.”
It was at this point that Chris knew something needed to change. He would need mobility assistance of some kind. Upon researching his options, Chris discovered Pride Mobility.
“I came across the Jazzy Air,” Carrino recalls. “I said this helps me now raise up to a bar level height so I’m actually able to get up from the chair without assistance. In our business, you’re in locker rooms, you’re in practice settings, on the field or court before the game. Being able to be eye level with people was important to me.”
While that chair provided Chris with a new dimension of mobility, he was still searching for one specifically tailored for the needs of a life on the move.
Being a successful NFL or NBA announcer requires extensive travel. During football season, Chris is likely in a different city each weekend. During basketball season, he could visit three to four cities per week, depending on the Nets’ schedule. And for those couple months when the seasons overlap, it’s a constant carousel of airports, flights, rental cars, and hotels. And it doesn’t always go smoothly.
Chris jokes: “You left at Terminal A where you parked, but you land at Terminal C, and now we have to take the AirTrain, but the AirTrain isn’t working right, and it takes an hour to get from the plane to the car, and I’ll turn to [my travel companion] and be like ‘this is the glamorous life of a sportscaster.’”
But this is where the Jazzy Carbon comes in. Chris first learned about the power wheelchair at a mobility expo and was immediately hooked due to its light weight, foldability, and ease of use – perfect for traveling.
“I had tried some other scooters and things, but I saw the Jazzy Carbon at an expo [and realized] this was going to be much easier for me,” Carrino recalls.
“One of the things I love about the Carbon, you can fold it up and put it in the closet of an airplane. It’s light and my travel companion can just put it in the closet. You don’t have to remove the battery or joystick. It saves time, and it’s in your control. It’s easy to get out and just put in the trunk of a rental car. And I can wheel it up to a chair or desk. I can stay comfortable in it for a lot of things that I need to do. It’s [been a] fit for a lot of my travel needs.”
Not all airplanes are the same, of course, and sometimes the situation calls for a different approach. But that’s another reason Chris is adamant about traveling with his Jazzy Carbon – the versatility of the power chair.
“Even if I do have to put it under the plane if there’s no closet, like I did on the way to Minnesota this year [for a Vikings game], the fact that I can remove the joystick was a big part of my decision to want one,” Carrino said. Not worry about that getting damaged is enormous.”
With a renewed confidence, Chris has thrived in his play-by-play roles. He was recently honored with the 2022 NBA Values of the Game Award, presented by commissioner Adam Silver. This award recognizes an individual with an NBA team who exemplifies the values of the league in their community.
Those values are in full focus through the Chris Carrino Foundation for FSHD, which he established in 2011. The foundation raises awareness of this type of muscular dystrophy, and since its founding, has raised more than $1.2 million in grants toward research of the disease.
“In the back of my mind, I always thought about that 14, 15-year-old kid that’s getting diagnosed,” Carrino said. “Maybe they would like to have an example in their life of someone who has achieved the things they want to achieve even if they’re going through something like FSHD. I wanted to have a mechanism in place where we can help people as an example for them while trying to cure the disease. I put my name on a foundation that hadn’t existed with muscular dystrophy in a major way. I wanted there to be a name and face for this condition that people go through. I wanted to be an example for people.”
Chris Carrino is an example of what it means to persevere despite the physical and emotional obstacles he’s endured throughout his life and career. Those challenges continue to this day, but with the support of his family, friends, and professional networks, expect to hear Chris’ voice on the NFL airwaves and Nets’ broadcasts for many years to come.
As for his relationship with Pride Mobility and the products Chris uses to assist him in his personal life and professional endeavors, the 53-year-old leaves these parting words.
“These devices that we use are not there to shame you or separate you from the world. They’re there to connect you to the world again and help restore that pride that maybe you thought you were losing. When you embrace that and you start accepting the help that you need, you’re then more of yourself. You’re back to being comfortable in the world.
“This equipment just helps me be relentless and face the challenges I have every single day.”