Universal language

Jay Hayes (center) at the Super Bowl.

Three Bengals called last week's Super Bowl, another big day for the team's burgeoning broadcasting tree.

Cris Collinsworth on NBC-TV. Boomer Esiason on Westwood One Radio.


Try defensive line coach Jay Hayes, who on the spur of a Facebook moment ended up analyzing the second quarter for an estimated TV audience of five to 10 million Russians beamed via NTV Plus Russia, a digital satellite service. Not only that, he ended up getting a ringing endorsement from no less than the John Madden of Russia.

"Actually I never expected anyone to leave their seat during the game and come up and join us," says Vitaly Pisetsky. "He was quite accommodating and it's pretty clear he knows what he's talking about. To be able to talk to an NFL assistant coach on the air was great for us."

In the eight previous Super Bowls that Pisetsky analyzed back East, he had only had three in-game guests. Hayes now joins the select group with two Olympic gold medalists, swimmers Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe, and heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko.

All of this may make Hayes the Deacon Jones of Russia for all he knows.

"I wasn't sure who was going to be hearing it or where exactly it would be going," Hayes says. "But those guys were very knowledgeable about the game."

Hayes was minding his own business at around kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium. He was on his phone posting pictures to Facebook so his kids could see Dad and Mom at the Super Bowl with another couple when Pisetsky's posts caught his eye.

"I realized he was at the game and I messaged asking where he was sitting," Hayes says. "He sent me an e-mail and asked me if I'd come up and go on the broadcast. My wife said, 'Bring us,' so we all went up."

She also wanted to see the Mad Madden. After all, she had made more than a few dinners for Pisetsky while Jay coached him at the University of Wisconsin a dozen years ago. With Hayes as the Badgers special teams coach in 1999, Pisetsky became the only player in the country to be a finalist for both the Lou Groza (top kicker) and Mosi Tatupu (top special teams player) awards while breaking school records with 14 straight field goals, four field goals in a game, and 16 kicking points in one game.

After the reunion hugs in one of the makeshift broadcast booths high up the stands behind one of the end zones ("I don't think I'd seen him since he played for me," Hayes says), they quickly got down to the business of the Giants outlasting the Patriots. It pays to keep in touch with "my guys," something the outgoing Hayes always does.

Hayes, who took Spanish in school, knew they were coming at him only when he heard "Jay Hayes" and "Cincinnati Bengals."

"I'm pretty sure there's not a translation for that," Hayes says. "They would ask me a question and Vitaly would translate it for me. Then I would answer and he would paraphrase it back for them in Russian. I'd be talking for what I thought was a pretty good amount of time and I don't know how Vitaly could remember it all."

As Hayes knows, it's because Pisetsky is no dummy. Here's a guy that knew no English when he moved from Moscow to New York City just as he was turning 15 and ended up with 96 percent on an English placement test at Wisconsin.

"It took me a little bit because I think in English now," he says. "For a week or two before the game I have to work on getting back into the Russian state of mind."

His family moved in 1992, a year after the Soviet Union fell. But even as the USSR imploded, Pisetsky's career with the powerful soccer club of the Red Army was progressing. But along with his new country came a new sport and with that the notoriety of the first Russian player to enter NFL circles.

The Ukraine's Igor Olshansky, a defensive tackle, played at Oregon and has had a long career in the NFL. But he's been in the United States since he was seven and didn't take an NFL snap until 2004. Pisetsky was in the Bears 2001 training camp as a college free agent and made a 45-yard field goal against the Bengals that preseason in a game his rival made the winning kick in overtime at Soldier Field. Paul Edinger ended up making the team at the final cut.

When it comes to the NFL, Pisetsky is more Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Olshansky is Alan Shepard, the first American in space that followed Gagarin.

"I actually tried out for the Bengals later that year with four other kickers when (Neil) Rackers was struggling and none of us made it," Pisetsky says. "Here they were going in looking for a kicker and they had one safety working out. They ended up keeping him."

That was Kevin Kaesviharn, who ended up playing six years for the Bengals and started all 17 games of the 2005 AFC North title season. Despite a stint in NFL Europe, Pisetsky never hooked on with a big club but ended up making the connection with NTV while with Barcelona.

"I've done the last nine Super Bowls for them and I love it; hey, it's the Super Bowl," says Pisetsky, who lives in New Jersey and is an underwriting executive. "Sometimes I'll go on the phone with them during the season, but the Super Bowl is the main thing I do for them."

Along with sidekick Dmitri Khaitovski (he must be the Al Michaels of Russia), Pisetsky has helped popularize the game in his native country. Enough so that he gets insightful questions on Twitter during the game. Such as "Why are the Patriots coming out in trips formations?"

The game has taken enough of a hold that one of Russia's  biggest celebrities, Tash Sarkisyan ("the Jay Leno of Russia"), has become such a fan that he has joined the broadcasts.

"They're very well informed. They knew we had made the playoffs and they were asking me about our D-line," Hayes says. "I told them Geno (Atkins) made the Pro Bowl and three of our guys (Atkins, Jon Fanene and Michael Johnson) were all in the top 50 in the NFL in sacks and Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers were almost there."

The audience followed closely enough that someone thought they said four Bengals defensive linemen went to the Pro Bowl instead of just four Bengals. Something must have got lost in translation because Pisetsky was pretty sure he made clear the difference. But it heartens him that the audience is all ears.

"We were only going to ask Coach Hayes a few questions, but it ended up being about six or seven," Pisetsky says. "When the Patriots were coming out from deep in their own territory, I asked him about tendencies teams have with that kind of field position. He talked about how they scout offensive lines and how that plays into things defensively and that gave some good insight."

And Pisetsky was succinct enough that Hayes was back in his seat watching Madonna at the half.

"You hear all the time every year that the Super Bowl is heard in all these different countries and in so many different languages," Hayes says. "It was a great feeling to be a part of all that."

Pisetsky, who just turned 34, had one final message on Facebook for Hayes. It was after Hayes kidded him with "Did you get it in the air?" as he looked at pictures of Pisetsky kicking field goals at the NFL Experience. His NTV crew makes him do it every year.

"Hey, a 42-yarder," Pisetsky jokes. "I told him that was worth one tryout."

But the Russian John Madden is already making plans for the next Super Bowl broadcast.

"Get a Telestrator," he says.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.