Tuesday, October 28, 2014

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!)

Monday, September 15, 2014

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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