Kathryn Tappen has gone to new heights since leaving NESN in July 2011, ending a five-year stay at the regional network where she built a reputation as an amiable and dedicated professional as a studio host, most notably on Bruins telecasts.
She left for a similar if much higher-profile host role with the NHL Network, and her star has only continued to ascend. She joined NBC Sports in July 2014, where her significant assignments have included hosting its NHL studio programs, serving as the sideline reporter for Notre Dame football games, reporting for "Football Night in America," and contributing to coverage at the Sochi Olympics and Super Bowl XLIX.
Yet as Tappen's career has gone to those new heights, she hasn't actually gone anywhere. She will be in Boston Saturday, working in her usual sideline role for NBC Sports Network's coverage of the Notre Dame-Boston College football game at Fenway Park. But her commute will be considerably shorter than usual. Home base for Tappen remains Charlestown, where she has lived since coming to Boston from Providence in 2006 to join NESN.
"I just love the city. It really just resonated with me, pretty much from the beginning,'' said Tappen, who grew up in New Jersey. "My assignments are all over the country, and it helps to be very close to Logan Airport, and to be in Connecticut [where NBC Sports Group headquarters are based in Stamford] for studio shows. I can easily hop down on the Amtrak.
"So there's convenience. But it's more than that. I will always be a Jersey girl too, but this has felt like home in a lot of ways for a long time now. I never felt like an outsider. People just accepted me as a New Englander.
"Even now, in my neighborhood, I go to the post office, I know everybody. I go to the Whole Foods, I know everybody. The guy behind the fish counter, the meat counter. I love that, that feeling of community makes Boston special.
"Once you're here and you've established yourself, even if you're not from Boston, they welcome you with open arms. I go to these enormous cities like New York and LA and Chicago and sometimes they feel like enormous cities. I get a small town feel when I'm in Boston. I love that. You can't put a price on it, you know?"
Though she hasn't had a specific association with the Bruins for more than four years, locals who run into her around town still ask her about the Black and Gold.
"All the time, all the time,'' she says with a laugh. "A lot of the Bruins live in that area too, so I'll run into them a lot. People in the local establishments will say, 'Oh, Patrice Bergeron was in here the other day and I really wanted to ask him about . . .' you know, whatever the specific thing of the moment is with the Bruins. Oh, don't ask him, I'll help you out, ask me. I'll tell you what's going on."
On her day off Tuesday, Tappen headed over to Fenway to get a look at the unfamiliar juxtaposition of a football field on the Fenway turf.
"It's amazing how it's all come together," she said. "I was trying to figure out where the lines we're going to be; I thought it would be headed out toward the Green Monster. I was trying to describe to my dad where the sidelines would be.
"It's amazing how it looks. In a way, it feels like it should have been there the whole time. It just looks so natural.
NBC Sports has become rather skillful at turning Fenway into a venue for sports other than baseball. Tappen was still at NESN when the Winter Classic was played there on New Year's Day 2010.
"I remember when the Bruins and Flyers played at Fenway Park and what an incredible atmosphere it was,'' said Tappen. "That was one of the highlights of my career in terms of events that I've had the opportunity to cover.
"I'm looking forward to being back at Fenway, not hockey, not baseball, but now we've got football. So I'm crossing out the sporting events at Fenway.
"This one is going to be an interesting dynamic, with this being a home game for Notre Dame but Boston College, this is their city.
"I think they're going to come out and defend this as their turf."
UFC bout a big hit
The UFC typically chooses to keep the data on its pay-per-view buys private. But the numbers for UFC 193, which was punctuated by Holly Holm's vicious upset of Ronda Rousey in the women's bantamweight title fight Saturday, are so impressive that UFC officials apparently cannot resist discussing them. UFC chief executive officer Lorenzo Fertitta told Yahoo! Sports Wednesday that Saturday's event is trending toward being the second-most-watched in the sport's 20-year history. Fertitta did not confirm the specific number, but acknowledged the Rousey-Holm fight sold more than 1 million pay-per-view packages at $59.95 for HD and $49.95 for standard definition. Once all the PPV data is compiled, it is expected to finish second only to UFC 100, an especially remarkable development considering Rousey's previous fights had ended so quickly that there may have been a reluctance by some fans to pay the PPV price. Given how it played out, with Holm winning in convincing fashion, a rematch is certain to be a gold mine for UFC. The fight also generated enormous buzz on social media, with more than 85.9 million live impressions on Twitter Saturday night. It peaked at 29,000 tweets per minute, according to Nielsen.