On The Couch With Craig: Celeste Sepessy

The 16th in a series of profiles of AZ Coyotes Insider founding members

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Celeste Sepessy teaches journalism at ASU, so I’m putting everyone on notice right now that this piece will be met with nothing but praise or I will sick Cat Silverman on you. Celeste is doing god’s work — especially in this era of misinformation and alternate facts.

Celeste also hangs out with Cat, which may be part of the reason that I have nothing but good things to say about Celeste. I fear getting my ass kicked by Cat, although I should note that their collective taste in alcoholic beverages (see below) and hot dog toppings is deeply disturbing.

Anyway, I like to keep these intros short with the goal of getting out of the way and allowing AZ Coyotes Insider founding members to shine. Besides, Celeste wrote an entertaining piece with incredibly clean copy (very few edits; I’m not talking about her potty mouth).

Celeste is the 16th founding member to be profiled (only 164 to go). These pieces seem to be getting longer as we progress. My apologies to some of you who went earlier (and shorter) but many of you have told me how much you enjoy these pieces and truth be told, I enjoy them, too. As I have said from the beginning, I’m trying to build more than a website and newsletter for Coyotes information. I’m trying to build a community with all of you.

Celeste, you have the floor. Just don’t spill any damn ketchup.

Full name: Celeste Sepessy

Twitter account: @csepessy  

Birthplace: Tampa, Florida

Current city of residence: Phoenix

Arizona history: My dad was an Air Force F-16 pilot, so this is a loaded question! I was born in Tampa, but lived all over the damn place (including Japan!) until we settled in Phoenix in 1996. I've always considered Colorado Springs, where my mom's family is from, my home base. We lived there with my grandparents for a couple years while my dad was stationed in South Korea — and spent every summer there. I moved to the West Valley as an Air Force kid in 1996. After a college stint in Tempe, I ended up in Central Phoenix for good with my husband (Josiah) and two dogs. In spite of my husband's feelings, I hope to never leave. I love Phoenix, full stop.

Age: 34

Occupation: Faculty at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Hobbies: Reading too much, lifting heavy weights, eating delicious food, being terminally angry online

Pandemic adopted hobbies: Gardening! I'm currently growing neon yellow icebox watermelon (and lots of other things) in my backyard.

Little known fact about you: I'm pretty predictably boring, but I have a degree in Italian. My grandfather grew up speaking it, and taught me a little when I was a kid. Those were my fun classes in college, and I also took Latin, Spanish and French to round out my language studies.

Here's a bizarre one: I didn't use spoons for like seven years. It started as a joke New Year's resolution in high school and just never really stopped. I'll use one these days every now and then, but I almost always reach for a fork first.

Editor’s note: The obvious follow-up question here involves soup

Also, I've been known to take 11 a.m. pre-game Pink Whitney shots at Cat Silverman's place.

What is your history with hockey?

My actual fandom is pretty new, but I grew up in a pretty serious hockey household. If you Google "Gambucci" and "hockey" you could have days' worth of reading.

My grandfather, Andy Gambucci, and his brothers all played growing up in Eveleth, Minnesota. I have lots of pictures of him playing with old magazines taped to his legs as pads. It was a typical poor mining town, but they worked with what they had — and talent was aplenty. My grandfather ended up at Colorado College where he was a multi-sport athlete, but he really excelled in hockey. While in college, he played on the 1952 U.S. Olympic team and won a silver medal. Seeing that medal every day as a kid really made an impact on me, but his kind heart and dedication did even more. 

He went on to referee for the NCAA for many years, and their house was a revolving door of hockey players and coaches. We spent many hours at the U.S. Olympic Training Center watching practice and skating, and Herb Brooks was actually staying at our house when I lost my first tooth. (He donated a crisp $5 to my tooth-fairy fund!) I sat at the dinner table with a lot of hockey history's greats, but I really had no clue. 

I didn't care much about the sport while my grandfather was alive, but I'd drain my savings account to have him back for even an hour to talk hockey with him. He died in 2016.

Not long after, I became a fan myself. My best friends have been Penguins fans forever, and I visited them in New York City during the Pens-Sens playoffs series in 2017. It was a pretty instantaneous obsession (a Stanley Cup win that year surely helped), and I couldn't believe I had missed out on 30 years of hockey. I really missed the fuck out, but I'm more than making up for lost time.

How did you become a Coyotes and/or ASU fan?

Well, being a fan of an Eastern Conference team is not convenient. Shocking! I started going to Coyotes games to get the full hockey experience and that was that. Pretty quickly, I was going to every single game, despite that rough rush- hour traffic.

Live hockey is just incomparable. I've found that people who aren't really into sports — like me, previously — can have fun at a hockey game. It's fast, it's cold (important plus in Arizona) and it's entertaining as hell. Cheap tickets help, too!

Beyond that, I'm a big believer in the underdog, so loving the Yotes (and Sun Devils!) came naturally to me. I also think we're incredibly lucky to have a team and players we want to root for. I appreciate that they have visible personalities and it seems like they have fun, which doesn't always seem to be the case. Hockey can feel pretty sterile to me, but the Coyotes don't.

It's also impossible not to root for ASU. I didn't give a shit about ASU sports while I was a student, but I'll holler until I die (and maybe get into some Twitter spats) about Sun Devil hockey. It has been extraordinarily fun to watch the program find success, and watching the team play at Oceanside is such a visceral experience. It was cool as shit to watch Joey D'Accord and Johnny Walker dominate — with my students calling the games, doing Sun Devil social, etc. I'm also a big Coach (Greg) Powers fan — he's a Cronkite grad, too.

Are others in your family or friend circle also fans?

I've roped my husband and sister into joining me at games, but my No. 1s are my best friends Scott and Allie who (re)introduced me to hockey. I've spent countless hours on their couch screaming bloody murder while watching Penguins and Yotes games. They've watched me transform into the real shit-talking fan I was destined to be, and probably helped prevent some disputes with Flyers or Kings fans.

Also, I've got to shout out the online hockey community. I've met a handful of hockey friends through Twitter (hey, Cat) and Discord. They're good people who've provided ample entertainment and distraction when the season's not going well.

Any favorite memories of the Coyotes or ASU?

Oh, man. A couple stand out. One game, my best friend Allie and I played sumo hockey during the intermission — and won, duh. Allie got a signed Brad Richardson stick, and he went on to score four goals. I'm not sure I'll ever experience that again!

I also went to Conor Garland's Fox Sports Arizona Ice Breaker event in 2019. I was second in line for a jersey signature, and creepily proclaimed "This is the best day of my life!" Basically everyone around me knows Garland as my "small son" — except for the guy who asked if I was actually Garland's mom at a game. I was like 32 at the time, come on.

What are some of your other interests?

I have two sides: the meathead powerlifter who consumes too many energy drinks and the nerdy gardener who reads too many books. I live for early mornings when I can enjoy a Rockstar and book in my hammock when everyone else is sleeping. It's a confusing dichotomy.

What led you to Cronkite and what do you like about the job?

I graduated from the Cronkite School (both undergrad and graduate), and started teaching here in 2014 as a side gig. Now, I'm a lecturer at the Cronkite School, where I do a bit of everything, including teaching, overseeing our faculty associates and working at the ASU News Co/Lab.

The Co/Lab is an organization focused on improving media literacy and fighting misinformation. My previous journalism jobs were great, but I definitely didn't feel much purpose. These days, I know I'm doing something legitimately important to the future of our democracy.

As for teaching, being in the classroom is my favorite thing in the world. These kids are absolutely going to change the world. Boomers who are reading this and rolling their eyes: Have a legitimate conversation with a young person and you'll know why. I've never met people brighter or more thoughtful than my students. They've helped me become a better editor and a better person. I don't think many people can say that about their job, and I feel incredibly lucky every single day.

Also, Cronkite has a thriving sports journalism program. It's fun as hell to see your students at Yotes games or tease kids who are opposing fans. Ha! I've also been known to throw games up on the projector during class, but don't tell anyone!

Favorite vacation spots?

My husband's an English professor, so we usually take advantage of his summer breaks to get the hell out of the Arizona heat. Portland, Oregon, is one of our go-to spots. In 2019, we traveled through southern Germany and Austria, and I swear to god I've never seen more beautiful scenery. Why Michael Grabner isn't back there full time is beyond me!

We're also huge fans of Amsterdam and Berlin. My vacation goal is to find a shady spot in a park to read and eat pastries. Luckily, that's pretty easy to do anywhere in Europe.

Our next destination is Tokyo! I haven't been back to Japan since we lived there in the early 1990s, and I'm desperate to go back (mostly to eat, let's be honest).

Why are Scully and Mulder your Twitter banner?

Why aren't they yours? OK, but really: Watching “The X-Files” on Sunday nights was what I lived for as a kid. Aliens, David Duchovny (my first crush, duh), that spooky as hell music… it's the perfect TV show. I've always wanted to be a Mulder, but in reality I'm a Scully — always the rational skeptic. 

The show debuted when I lived in Japan. My aunt would tape episodes of “The X-Files” (and other shows) and mail them to us. Entertainment was slim pickings for a kid on an Air Force base overseas, so naturally I'd rewatch the tapes a shit ton. My favorite episode would have to be "Ice" from season one, but the early seasons can do no wrong in my humble nerdy opinion. That show — and all the Michael Crichton I'd read as a kid — had an unreasonable impact on who I'd be at 34. This tweet really encapsulates me as a human:

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Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter: @CraigSMorgan