Paint the Word Picture

Marty Glickman said it best.
"Paint the word picture."

"Let the listener see the game and feel the game."

"It is not about you, the broadcaster. It is only about the listener and the game. Nobody tunes in to hear the broadcaster."

"The only way to improve at sports play by play is to practice sports play by play."

Marty was the best. Thankfully, his impact can still be heard, through the work of thousands of sportscasters in his broadcast tree.
 
 
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Where Time Stands Still for Baseball

For one weekend per year, time stands still.

This is that weekend.

For most of the year, the Norman Rockwell-esque town of Cooperstown, New York sits in hibernation, preparing to explode for its summer weekend in the national spotlight. Over the past three days - and culminating today - close to 50,000 baseball fans have descended on the quaint town to chat, tweet and post about this year’s honored few, who will be immortalized forever in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


Fans have traveled from all corners of America.  They’ve hunted for autographs and have their pictures taken during this yearly baseball reunion. In fact, 53 of the 73 living Hall of Famers are
Doubleday Field, Cooperstown, NY
scheduled to be here this weekend, making for quite a homecoming.

Saturday included the Hall of Fame awards presentation at Doubleday Field. Among the day’s recipients will be longtime Oakland A’s broadcaster Bill King, who was honored with the Ford C. Frick award for excellence in broadcasting. Rachel Robinson, the wife of Jackie, received the Hall of Fame’s Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement award. Claire Smith was bestowed the J.G. Taylor Spink award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

The highlight of the weekend will come today, with the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions.  The Baseball Writers Association of America has elected Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez as this year’s crop of immortals. (Note the throngs of fans decked out in Astros, Expos and Rangers team gear.) Rounding out the inductions will be Today’s Game Era inductees John Schuerholz and Bud Selig. And yes, I’m sure Mr. Selig is prepared for the boos, which are undoubtedly coming his way.


While baseball may not have been conceived in cozy Cooperstown, New York, as legend asserts, the game has undoubtedly found it’s magical home.

The place where time stands still one weekend per year.
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Keep Your Sportscasting Focus Where it Belongs

"Keep your eye on the ball!"

Anyone who played baseball can probably recall hearing that piece of advice from a parent or Little League coach.
A similar piece of advice can be offered to aspiring play by play broadcasters  as well.
"Keep your focus on the game!"
A listener or viewer tunes in for one thing - and one thing only.
The game.

Minimize your discussion about other sports or other games. Your listener has plenty of places to keep up with those things in seconds.

Check your politics at the door. Sports are the toy department of life, and your viewers may be tuning in specifically to escape the drumbeat of negativity.

You owe it to your listeners and viewers to give them what they came for. The game.

Keep your focus where it belongs.
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A Sure Way To Fail At Sports Broadcasting

There is a sure-fire way to fail at sports broadcasting.  Not a specific technique or lack of skill that will cause your demise, but rather an overall approach.  Learn this lesson, and learn what not to do.

Nearly 20 years ago, while broadcasting minor league baseball, I encountered two truly great guys. This duo was the broadcast team for a division rival, which meant we caught up with each other a dozen times per season.

The two broadcasters shared the same name - Joe. (no, not their real name)  However, they were so different that we gave them each a nickname.  One was Professional Joe and the other was Unprofessional Joe.  Here's why.

Professional Joe would show up to the ballpark hours before the game, diligently preparing himself for the broadcast.  This guy knew what it took to succeed in sports broadcasting.  Unprofessional Joe, meanwhile, would strut in casually shortly before first pitch.

Professional Joe dressed the part - cleanly shaved in neat pants and a collared shirt.  Unprofessional Joe usually hadn't touched a razor in days, and was usually decked out in shorts and a t-shirt.  

Professional Joe would invest time near the dugout and batting cage before the game, curiously asking players questions and gathering valuable information to spice up his broadcast. Unprofessional Joe used to hang out in the dugout before the game too - literally, he used to hang from the top of the dugout and practice quasi-gymnastic moves to draw a laugh.

Both Professional Joe and Unprofessional Joe were terrific guys, the kind you'd enjoy spending an evening at the ballpark with.  Their overall approach, however, was what separated these two friends and broadcast partners.

Unprofessional Joe wasn't part of the team's broadcast crew the following season.  Unprofessional sports broadcasters usually don't stick around very long.
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Related Book: Confessions of a Baseball Purist - Jon Miller discusses sportscasting professionalism. Because he dressed the part as a youngster, he was treated as a professional. (That meant keeping his tie on during long flights!)

Does Your Mother Do This?

While watching Al Michaels call a football game this week, I recalled some wisdom I learned almost 20 years ago from broadcasting legend Marty Glickman. At Fordham, Marty would talk sportscasting for hours. Listening to our tapes and letting us have it – no sugar-coating, just the good and bad. I consider his sage sportscasting advice often, and this week, while listening to Michaels, I reflected on one of his most unambiguous points.

Al Michaels is a terrific play by play announcer in my opinion. Smooth, abundantly prepared and quick on his feet. Michaels has been a mainstay on the national football scene for decades, calling some of the biggest games in NFL history. I am always pleased when I tune in to a game and find Michaels behind the microphone, and I think aspiring sportscasters should take note.

One main thought Marty Glickman constantly drove home - to which Michaels clearly adheres - is that nobody tunes in to hear a broadcaster. We all tune in for the game, not the broadcaster, regardless of how wonderful we think they are. Solid broadcasters certainly add to the action, while lousy ones can detract from it. However, we tune in for the game itself. In fact the way Marty put it, “The only person who tunes in to hear the broadcaster is his mother!”

As play by play broadcasters, this should constantly put our ultimate duties – to inform, enlighten and entertain - in perspective. We should be facilitating the fans’ enjoyment of the game, not trying to become a major part of it. I understand I may have some disagreement around Bristol, Connecticut or some other media outlets that push “attitude” above all else. Sorry, but I agree with Marty Glickman.

And so I leave you with this question. Is there any time you tune in to a game to hear the broadcaster?
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Saying Less Is More In Baseball Play By Play

Remember this post from two seasons ago? How many TV baseball play by play guys would handle this culminating moment the same way, with such control and professionalism?  Give it some thought.....
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Last night during Johan Santana’s remarkable Mets no-hitter, I saw a terrific broadcaster do a terrific job by saying nothing. Hugh? But isn’t a broadcaster supposed to talk? And most DO! They talk, and talk and talk.  And more than a few yell and yell and yell. So how can a broadcaster succeed by saying nothing?

The goal of the play by play broadcaster is to bring the listener into the game, so to speak. The great Marty Glickman used to say he wanted the viewer/listener to “feel” as if they were sitting next to him at the game. Let them experience every emotion along with each fan in the stands.

On last night’s final pitch, Mets TV play by play man Gary Cohen exuberantly declared that Santana had completed the first no-hitter in Mets history…..and then he shut up! For 64 seconds he said nothing. (I timed it with my DVR and iPhone) Also silent were Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, his broadcast partners. Whether it was planned or not, it was masterful broadcasting.

As I watched Santana being mobbed by his teammates, I felt as though I was in the stadium. I didn’t have some obnoxious loudmouth yelling in my ear. It wasn’t about the broadcaster, it was about the moment. Because of the words they didn’t say, it was a wonderful moment for me, the viewer.

When I called the final out of the Hudson Valley Renegades New York Penn League title in 1999, I tried to employ much the same tactic. After an excited description of the game’s final pitch (a strikeout), I let the crowd fill the broadcast air. On radio I didn’t let it go 64 seconds, but surely for 10 or 20 my listeners heard a jubilant crowd and fireworks filling the air. Gary Cohen I’m not, but I’m proud to say I learned a thing or two from Marty Glickman.

How many broadcasters would have let us enjoy that moment by saying nothing?
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10 Tips For Getting Hired In Radio

Jason's 10 Tips
We've had a lot of great interaction over the past few years with aspiring sportscasters who come to our site looking for answers.  Our readers often ask for the real-world steps they need to succeed.  And by succeed, I mean get a real job.  Not learn about a job, or find plenty of jobs.  I mean actually GET that sportscasting job.

Some of our most popular posts are How To Get Started In Sports Broadcasting, and our recent article How To Become A Sports Broadcaster In Five Simple Steps.  I hope you've found these to be awesome resources.

Let me tell you about a fantastic new site that every sports broadcaster and sports fan should follow - Jason Barrett's Media Blog.  Jason is the Program Director for 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and a guy who has worked in every area of this business over the past two decades.   He has actually done the job searching and now does the job hiring. In other words, he's been where you are and can tell you how to get where you want to go. (And yes, he hired me once, almost 15 years ago. Okay, so he's not perfect)

Seriously though, his recent post 10 Tips For Getting Hired In Radio is truly excellent.  As is the entire blog. He shares the real nuts and bolts type stuff we all crave, and you'll see in his bio that he has worked with some of the biggest names in sports radio.  Follow him on Facebook and Twitter too...but only if you want to be truly connected into the sports radio industry.

I hope Sportscasters Club has been a constant source of sports broadcasting information, inspiration and fun. That's why we're here, and we love to find other professionals who share the passion for guiding aspiring sports media professionals.

Now go take Jason's 10 Tips and get hired!
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Watch Out For The P.C. Police!

A sportscaster I know related the following story about the ridiculousness of Political Correctness.....

While calling a college hoops game for the campus radio station, the aspiring broadcast professional made an off-handed joke about the team's star player possibly setting off a metal detector at the airport following the game, due to his mouth full of gold teeth.

Within a week, the broadcaster was called into the station's business offices for a closed-door meeting, where station big wigs expressed their dismay about his "racially charged" comments.

"But I didn't say anything about anyone's race," the young sportscaster explained. "He does have a mouth full of gold teeth, and I made the joke about it.  But I certainly would never even think about a racial joke.  He's a basketball player.  His color is irrelevant."

The station's stuffy braintrust simply could not allow this kind of conduct on their air, and the broadcaster was subsequently passed over for a big station promotion.  In explaining why he had not been chosen to lead the sports department, he was told that his judgement must be questioned for making such "racist" comments.

Later that semester, the sportscaster went searching for advice to an experienced radio professional at the same institution - a black professor whom he, and all others, liked and respected.

In confidence, he told her exactly what he had said on the air, in complete context.

"I didn't hear you mention anything about race," she answered.  "Was there something else I missed?"

"Nope," the broadcaster lamented. "This was the one sentence that they said was racist and insensitive.  And furthermore, I know guys from all different races that wear gold teeth!"

"Again, you didn't say anything about race," she concluded. "I don't see how you can take a joke about gold teeth to mean anything racial.  You never mentioned race, color or ethnicity.  I certainly wouldn't have been offended whatsoever."

The moral of the story?  Sports broadcasters have many challenges to overcome.  Regardless of your intent, the P.C. Police are always lurking just beyond that radio dial, waiting to pounce.  Be ready.
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10 Ways Baseball Broadcasting Has Changed In 20 Years

I started my professional baseball broadcasting career in 1994.  It is amazing to think back and recall how different baseball broadcasting is today - specifically in the minor leagues - compared to two decades ago.  I mean, honestly, I don't feel that old!

A baseball broadcaster's daily life has changed in many ways over the last twenty years.
Here are 10 important and surprising changes that jump to mind:

1.  Riding minor league buses has never been fun, and never will be.  Knees get sore and calves cramp just as they always did.  However, 20 years ago, most players would pass time on long bus rides by playing cards or, if lucky, listening to a portable CD player.  Occasionally you'd hit the jackpot and get to watch a good movie, if the bus had an overhead VCR and someone rented a VHS tape.  (For those under 30, this is a VCR.Now I do feel old.)

I recall many long hours on the bus, reading the Book of Questionswith former broadcast partner, Bill Rogan.We'd ask each other questions, such as "Would you rather stick your hand into a tub of snakes or a bee hive?"  These conversations often got heated, and we passed the hours arguing and contemplating life's deep complexities.

Today, most everyone on the bus carries a portable computer, capable of instantaneous movies, videos, music, maps, conversation and communication.  In other words, smart phones have phased out the Book of Questions.  They contain any question, or answer, you could ever have.

2.  In 1994 we did our pre and post-game interviews on cassette tapes, and carefully rewind and re-cue those tapes for play during the broadcast.  If you were slick, you could make those interviews sound as if they were live.

Today, most interviews are conducted with digital equipment, making recording and playback simple and efficient.

3.  During the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, we had fans constantly coming up to our radio booth, telling us when either of the two hit another home run.  Fans would hear it on another radio broadcast and relay the information to us.

Today, you can watch, hear and read every moment of any sporting event in real time.  The broadcaster truly has all the information at his fingertips in real time.

4.  I had a few ways to supplement my income during the baseball season.  After games, I would find a phone in the press box or in a vacant luxury suite, where I would call in the night's box score to a local newspaper.  The paper would pay me $15 per game to call in and spend 15 minutes giving them all the details of the game, so they could print the recap the next morning.

Today, media can get much of this information digitally or online in real time.  Struggling broadcasters have to find other ways to make a little extra dough.

5.  In years gone by, media members would dine on free meals in press boxes before games,  From a simple hot dog to more gourmet offerings, broadcasters always love a free meal.

Today, many professional ballclubs charge per person for the pregame meal.  The one bright spot is that the offerings are usually more appetizing than a simple dog and soda.

6.  In the past, players' families would often listen in to games on radio networks or, on occasion, on newly-formed internet broadcasting stations.  If a broadcaster was critical of a player, that player's family would hear it and let the player know the next time they talked by phone.  By the time what you said got back to the player, his version was usually much worse than what you actually had said.  Nothing like the good, old-fashioned telephone game to get a player, or many, annoyed with you.

Today, everything is done in real time.  Fans, family and even players can listen live and get the true version of what you say, as you say it.  Pitchers in the bullpen will often listen to game broadcasts, and used to wave their hats to me when I said something they liked.  If I chose to rip on them, they'd show their disgust by kicking up a storm of dirt.  As long as you are fair, you'd always rather have an athlete hear your comments first hand.

7.  Minor league baseball is a traveling freak show circus.  With a game every night, from town to town, the life can be quite crazy.  Players, and the media, have been known to partake in their share of late-night shenanigans.

Today.....ok so not everything has changed.

8.  Broadcasters in the 90's had to proactively market themselves to prospective employers through bulky, mailed packages, containing demo cassette tapes, physical resumes, press clippings and other materials. 

Today, much of the career networking and resume sharing can be done electronically.  You can never replace the human touch that helps you stand out, however today's technology offers immense time-saving advantages.

9.  Radio play by play guys were always headed on a long trip.  At least that was the way it looked, as they lugged huge, overloaded suitcases suitcases containing their radio broadcasting equipment.  It was a workout dragging that 100 pound tub from the press box to the team bus, along with personal bags and belongings.

Today, equipment is much more compact and lightweight.  I'd say that makes today's broadcasters soft compared to the tough guys around a couple decades ago.

10.  Years ago, some broadcasters would chronicle their games and travels into diaries, journals and books.

Today, they simple log on and bang out a post on a super cool, hugely-followed sports broadcasting blog, such as this one!  We hope you sign up to receive our posts, thanks!
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