Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sportscasting Nightmare

All sportscasters have dreams.  Some yearn to make the big leagues.  Others hope to call a Super Bowl game on national TV.
I have a sportscasting nightmare.

For almost 20 years, since I started calling games, I've had a recurring nightmare.  Not often, perhaps a couple times a year.

I'm sitting in the broadcast booth and the game is beginning.  The pitcher fires one in and the batter smacks it into the outfield.  As he whips around the bases, my heart is pounding.
Who is this batter?  What is the pitcher's name?  And beyond that, where am I and who are these two teams?
This is MY sportscasting nightmare - the dreaded fear of being unprepared.

It was this dream that always had me preparing hours before the first pitch.  A few hours of prep for each hour of on-air action.  And it didn't matter the sport.  For Army hoops games, I'd spend time the week prior, during practice, walk-thru's and the day of the game.  Professional baseball was a never-ending prep fest.

For year during Sports Broadcasting classes, I've implored students to over-prepare and plan for all contingencies.  When the mic goes live, its time to improve in your craft and live your dream.

As a fan or professional, what is your sports broadcasting nightmare?
Looking for some great sports books for Christmas?
How bout this one about Marty Glickman
Or this one by John Feinstein
Or this one by 22 Baseball Broadcasters!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Broadcasters Know About PEDs

Baseball broadcasters know a lot.  About the team.  About the players.  About the inner-workings of the baseball club.  Especially in the minor leagues, where you live and travel so closely with the club.  So what is a broadcaster to do if presented with information about steroids, HGH, PEDs and the like?

Let's be honest, in the minor leagues, the team broadcaster can become almost part of the team.  The same age as many of the players, the tendency is for the team's voice to blend in and become one of the guys.  As such, a broadcaster can learn a lot, about A LOT.  Oftentimes too much.

For example, who is doing what after the games.  Who has an opinion about someone else.  And yes, who may be using an illegal substance.  The predicament, then, is what, if anything, to do with that information.

One golden rule of broadcasting, which often proves wise, is to keep your focus on the field.  As a reporter, give the fans an accurate word picture of everything that takes place between the lines.  After all, they tune in to hear the game. You give your listener a great experience and stay far away from that grey line.  If it took place on the bus, in the clubhouse or somewhere other than on the field, it doesn't belong in the broadcast.  Certainly you can make exceptions to add some flavor to the broadcast, but those should be the exception rather than the rule.  This way you protect yourself from controversy, maintain a player's privacy and still give the listener plenty of tidbits and an accurate portrayal of the team and its season.

Broadcasters know a lot, and sometimes more than they want to know.  Defined boundaries help wise broadcasters steer clear of problems and keep the listener focused on the game, between the lines. That is, after all, why the tuned in.

How would you advise a broadcaster to handle these situations?

Friday, May 24, 2013

The One Person You Would Choose To Have Dinner With

Minor league broadcasters find some of the most unique ways to amuse themselves during bus rides and road trips.  This is one reason I've always referred to the minor leagues as a Traveling Freak-Show Circus.

One of my colleagues used to bring his "Book of Questions" on road trips.  We'd sit on the bus and take turns answering questions, such as "Would you rather jump into a pool of snakes or take a bath in a tub of spiders?" Or "Would you run naked through a sell-out baseball stadium if, as a result, you would save ten families from poverty?"  We spent many overnight hours answering these nonsensical questions and then debating the answers.  Oh, the glamour of professional baseball!

One afternoon on the road, a handful of us were catching a leisurely lunch, waiting for the 3:00 bus to the ballpark.  Someone at the table posed the question, "If you could have dinner with one person from history, who would it be?"  You can imagine some of the answers.  Jesus.  Babe Ruth.  George Washington. 

As we cleaned up and prepared to pay the bill, the team clubhouse manager (and current TV actor!) offered his reply. 
     "John Lithgow," he said matter-of-factly.  On that note we paid the bill and headed for the early bus.  That's minor league baseball for you.

Who is the one person YOU would choose?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Free Teleconference - How To Get Started In Sportscasting

How To Get Started In Sportscasting - Wednesday, May 29, 9:00 pm Eastern

Calling all aspiring sportscasters!  High School, college or experienced.
Ever wonder how you can break into sportscasting?  Are you looking to embark on a life's journey, calling games that you love?  Or do you just want a change?
Before you dive into this business, there are a few things you need to know.
Please join us for this free 30-minute teleconference.

You will learn:
- The 7 things you need to do to become a sportscaster
- 3 myths about sportscasting
- The 2 sports broadcasting books that are must-reads for our sportscasting students
- The 2 most highly-rated sports broadcasting universities
- What you can do today to get started in your exciting new sportscasting career

We will offer some special bonuses, and open it up for questions and answers as well! 

The call is free! Please join us!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Aspiring Sportscasters Need Constructive Feedback!

Every sportscaster can improve.  From the first day we pick up a mic to call a game in front of the TV, until we reach the pinnacle of calling the World Series.
Each day is an opportunity to improve and become just a little bit better.

One of the best ways to improve is to constantly seek feedback from competent, experienced professionals.  No, we're not talking about your wise-guy uncle who has an opinion about everything.  What you need is someone to listen to or watch your material and give you an honest, objective third party who's only goal is to help you improve.  You need constructive, actionable feedback. 

Face it, we all need it.  We can get so much better by listening to our own tapes, but there is a huge value in a third set of ears.  Every sports broadcaster needs an objective critique.

Get yours today, by clicking here. 

If you are not an aspiring sportscaster, please forward this message to your friend or family member who is.  We'd be glad to help them too.  This week only we've got a really special offer for anyone who needs a demo tape critique.  In other words, for all sportscasters.

Please click here to check it out.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sportscasters Learn From Getting Fired

Getting fired is part of the sports broadcasting industry.  Sometimes you deserve it, and sometimes you don't.  But most sportscasters get fired - axed, let go, laid off, canned - at some point in their career.  Sometimes we can turn it into a learning opportunity.

Last week Susannah Collins was let go by Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, where she was covering the  Chicago Blackhawks.  Earlier in the week she had made a verbal flub, which was detailed in our last post.  She handled that situation extremely professionally.
Her firing was the culmination of the increased attention she received after last week's episode, when  the public learned of her past performances in a raunchy "sports" web series that can be found on YouTube. 
This is a wonderful teachable moment for aspiring sportscasters.  Everything you do is part of building your reputation and brand.  Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like are all potential focal points of prospective employers or fans.  Use them responsibly, and at your own risk.
Collins' firing shines the light on a myriad of issues - women in sportscasting, the role of social media in sports, sportscasting ethics - to name a few.  They bring forth other questions, such as whether her employer knew of her previous role, and whether she deserved to be fired.  
Our point is simply that sportscasters must do everything in their power to protect their good name and reputation.
Base your sports broadcasting career, and life, on a solid moral compass to prevent your career from being needlessly derailed.
Much more on our full site!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sports Reporter Recovers Quickly

Sports reporters must always roll with the punches. Don't bring attention to your verbal flubs, if possible. Most times viewers and listeners won't even notice!
If you must correct yourself, do so quickly and move on.
I think she does a fine job, moving past an eye-opening verbal mistake....

Much more on our full site!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How Is Your Chemistry?

A tweet this week asked if a specific baseball radio announcer did anything other than check the out of town scoreboard.  I responded that yes, she also contributes by giggling at her broadcast partner.
It's funny how broadcast partners come in all shapes, sizes and variations.  Some teams are the best of friends; others merely tolerate each other.

I was once familiar with a duo calling games in the New York Penn League.  They both had the same first name, Rick.  We referred to one as "Professional Rick," - he showed up to games prepared and dressed for success.  His partner, also named Rick, was "Unprofessional Rick," - he appeared just before the first pitch, unshaven in jeans and a t-shirt.  Both we good guys, and together they complemented each other nicely.

I've heard stories about ambivalent radiocasters, and one who actually spends his time between innings reading novels.  He really couldn't care less about baseball.

Other broadcasters travel the entire season together but can't stand each other.  While I've always worked with broadcasters who were good friends, I once had a time where my broadcast partner and I didn't talk for a few days - other than on the air.  Makes for a unique dynamic when you spend 3 hours in close quarters, plus time together on the bus.

Broadcast teams come in all flavors and on-air chemistry is ultimately all that matters.
How would you rate the chemistry of your favorite broadcast team?

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jackie Robinson: A Special Friendship

"If Jackie Robinson likes me, I can't be that bad." - Tania Grossinger

Want a different look into who Jackie Robinson was?

In 1997 I was lucky enough to conduct a very special interview with Tania Grossinger during a WFUV Radio special.  Below is the brief interview, along with a follow-up chat recently on WFUV.  I haven't listened to this in years until One on One re-released it this week. 

I'm very proud to be involved, please listen.  You'll get a rare look into  what Jackie Robinson was like as a person.  It will make you appreciate him even more, I guarantee.

Please click here to listen to the brief interview with me in 1997

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

Rick discusses the new behind the scenes minor league baseball book on KNUS Radio, Denver....

Jackie Robinson's REAL First Game

In the mid-90's I was part of a wonderful WFUV radio documentary about Jackie Robinson and his impact on baseball and America.  It was a terrific program, during which I had the chance to interview Marty Glickman and Ernie Harwell, among others, about their recollections of Jackie Robinson.  Bob Ahrens did a super job putting that show together, and I still have the cassette tapes!

Today I came across a very intriquing article from an outstanding baseball site, Baseball Past And Present.  This story chronicles Jackie Robinson's first minor league game, as told by one of his opponents. 
Read this, and you'll experience what makes baseball great.
Thanks for the terrific post!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Baseball Fights Are Necessary

A minor league baseball manager (and former big leaguer) once told me, "There's something wrong if you can't fight in this game from time to time."  I ate it up.
A short time later I called my first bench-clearing brawl.  It was ugly, gruesome and violent.  250-pound athletes pounding each other, some with running starts.
After the game, and for the next two weeks, the team's third baseman wore a huge, black shiner - his momento of the fight he began by charging the mound.  The opposing team's center fielder had used his metal cleats to stomp this guy's forhead and face.
Perhaps they do have a rightful place in the game.  Just stay clear of the metal spikes

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Most Influential Sportscasting Book

With last week's passing of longtime writer and columnist Stan Isaacs, I was once again reminded of the book that has formed my broadcast philosophy.  More than a book, it was a man.  And one of Stan Isaacs lasting legacies is that he helped that man tell his story.

In 1996, sports broadcasting pioneer Marty Glickman told his story with Stan Isaacs in The Fastest Kid on the Block: The Marty Glickman Story.  More than just a broadcaster's how-to manual, the book recapped, among many other fascinating aspects of his life, how Glickman overcame devastating  prejudice at the 1936 Nazi Olympics in Berlin.

The second half of The Fastest Kid On The Block indeed deals with the nuts-and-bolts, ins-and-outs of sports broadcasting.  In fact, for six years while teaching at Marist College, this book was a required textbook for my Sports Broadcasting students.  My students needed to learn Marty Glickman's story, and how he transitioned from world-class athlete to broadcast pioneer.  We had weekly quizzes on Marty's life and traditional broadcast philosophy.  (Take the look-at-me, attitude-first philosophy of today and reverse it)

I appreciated Marty Glickman each Tuesday in the mid-90's when we sat with him for hours, critiquing demo tapes in hopes of improving.  When Marty talked, you listened.  That tradition lives on today at Fordham's WFUV under the direction of Bob Ahrens.

Last week I was reminded to appreciate the great Stan Isaacs as well, for helping to tell Marty Glickman's story, and countless others.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Quick-Witted Lefty (Who Couldn't Hit)

Hall of Fame Yankee Lefty Gomez won 20 games four times.  Yet, he often dismissed his abilities as a hitter.

"I was so bad that I never even broke a bat until last year," he said. "Then I was backing out of the garage."

Gomez hit just .147 for his career.

One overcast afternoon, while stepping into the box against a young Bob Feller, Gomez pulled out a lighter and lit it up.  He said he just wanted to make sure the young fireballer could see him ok from 60 feet away.

Lefty Gomez is what baseball is all about.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Don't Throw Out The Floppy Disk Yet!

Sportscasters, writers and media professionals compile an awful lot of stuff.  From rosters, team info, job search materials, education manuals, books, photos, etc. etc. etc.  I find most of this old material is rendered useless over time, however on occasion we need to get at it.  Sometimes years later.

Last year, as I worked on a project related to my first book, A Renegade Championship Summer, I needed to access some materials I had put together a decade ago.  I stared helplessly at the floppy disk, frustrated that it would not fit into my computer's CD drive.  No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't jam that small, hard disk into the thin slot.  (Only exaggerating slightly)  I needed the files but couldn't get to them.

After a brief search, I found Muller Media Conversions.  Within a week, they had retrieved my sports files and emailed them to me in a familiar, savable format.  I could continue with my baseball project and save the file for further use.  Tragedy had been averted.

Sports journalists need old files from time to time, and luckily I was able to get to mine eventually with Muller Media's help.  They were very professional and helpful.  Perhaps this tip can help you too.  Good luck!

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Friday, March 8, 2013

The 2nd Key To Successful Sportscasting.....

The other thing that I think is extremely important is something that was passed down from Red Barber to Vin Scully. I find it to be the best advice when it comes to broadcasting. This piece of advice couldn’t be simpler: Be yourself. You’re probably thinking, what the heck is this guy talking about? Red Barber told Vin a long time ago that only you can bring something into the broadcast booth that no one else can and that’s yourself. We were all created to be unique in our own way. We aren’t robots. Bring that personality of yours into the broadcast booth. You were hired for a reason because you stood out in a certain way that may have been more favorable compared to others. Be who you are and be proud of it. By being you, does that mean we are perfect? No way, no how! We can improve each and every day. Like I told you in the beginning of this post, I’m a young guy in this business. I know I have a lot to improve upon. With that being said, I was hired for a reason and I make sure I bring that to the ballpark each and every day. Make sure you do that as well.

Preparation and be yourself. That is my advice to all of you. Its advice I hope to take with me as far as I can climb in this business. Remember, this business is truly a journey. You will see a whole lot of different things each and every day. Remember to have fun and enjoy it.

Thank you for reading and I hope to write to you all again someday!

Mike Ventola

Director or Radio Broadcasting and Media Relations for the Southern Illinois Miners

Follow Mike on Twitter! @VentingDaily
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Guest Post: Mike Ventola's 2 Keys For Sportscasting Success! Part 1

Good morning, afternoon and evening! My name is Michael Ventola, a minor league radio broadcaster and media relations director for the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League. I would like to thank Rick for allowing me to write to all of his readers in hoping I can share some knowledge to those trying to break into the business and/or trying to learn something new !

Allow me to give you a brief background of myself just so you have an idea where I’m coming from. I’m a New Jersey born, Pennsylvania raised guy living in Easton, Pennsylvania for sixth months of the year (when I’m not in Southern Illinois working for the Miners), where I graduated high school. I graduated from Immaculata University, which is located outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a degree in Communications in 2010. I’m entering my fifth season in minor league baseball, second as a lead broadcaster. I spent prior years working for the Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League, the Reading Phillies of the Eastern League and the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs of the International League.

If there is anything I learned in my short years as a broadcaster are two things that every broadcaster needs to be successful. Now, I have not reached the level of success that I’m looking for but I can’t push away the accomplishments I have made. I’ve been a part of some exciting seasons the past few years that I will most certainly take to the grave with me.

Now, the first thing that is key to doing your job correctly is preparation. One thing I have learned from my mentors who broadcast on the Double-A and Triple-A level, is that it doesn’t matter how great of a voice of you have because if you don’t know what you’re talking about, you won’t sound good either way. In minor league baseball, a lot of broadcasters are media relations directors and have other tasks as well. A lot of broadcasters make sales calls and help out in other departments. How do they find time to prepare? Well believe it or not, they have to make time. Whether that’s earlier in the day or even during lunch, as broadcasters we have to find time to prepare to make sure we deliver a good broadcast each night. That’s making sure you find time to talk with coaches and players, attend batting practice as much as you can. Make sure you pop in the clubhouse to see how the players are doing from time to time. When you’re on the road, it’s the perfect time to talk with guys because it’s who you will be with for that three to six day stretch. The more knowledge you gain, the better off you’ll be.

Once you bring in all that information, then you have to decipher what will be used and what won’t be used. That was one of my biggest hurdles in the beginning. The more you’re on air and the more you continue to call games, it’s then you will be able to adjust accordingly. Its one thing to read stats and throw out numbers, but it’s another thing to share a few stories about the players and coaches. Fans do want to hear the numbers, but don’t be afraid to share a story from time to time. Remember, you are the liaison between the team and the fans. Give them something so they’ll be coming back each night.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Mike's Keys For Sportscasting Success!
Follow Mike on Twitter! @VentingDaily

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Horrendous NBA Broadcasting

Want to see an NBA broadcaster get fooled?  I mean, really fooled. 
This was from the Piston's 96-95 win over the Wizards last week. Comcast SportsNet's Steve Buckhantz was fooled so badly, it's funny.....

I'll give Buckhantz a little credit, though.  He eventually showed a sense of humor.

“The dagger has been retracted,” Buckhantz said with a laugh.

George Blaha and Greg Kelser of Fox Sports Detroit were only slightly better.

Let's give credit to Kelser for quickly realizing what happened, and for making the point without completely embarrassing Blaha.
TV broadcasters have to keep an eye on the monitor, BUT they must not be so focused on the screen that they cannot see what is transpiring right in front of them!

Getting fooled for a split second makes you human. Being thrown off for almost a minute is almost inexcusable for a TV broadcaster.  And if it really was because they are perched "up in the rafters", get the broadcasters a better seat!

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Most Unique New York Yankee

Yankee fans now get to focus on the most unique player on their roster.  In fact, he's one of the most unique in all of baseball.

I'm talking, of course, about backup outfielder Matt Diaz.

When left fielder Curtis Granderson broke his arm last week, the Yankees were suddenly in need of an outfield solution for the next three months.  The reaction of most backup ballplayers would have been, "Awesome, I'm finally gonna get a shot!"

Matt Diaz?  His way of processing the news was to get down on a knee with his son and pray for Granderson's quick recovery.  Now that is amazing!  That is Matt Diaz.

I got to know Matt Diaz in 1999, when he joined the Hudson Valley Renegades after his Florida State Seminoles were nipped by a run in the College World Series finals against Miami.  Diaz had made the all-tournament team, and immediately joined the team on the road to begin his professional career.  He showed up lugging four or five extra bags after travelling straight from Omaha.  

"Some players watched me on TV during the World Series," he joked that day.  "But they said they're not impressed."  Diaz quickly became one of the guys.

Matt Diaz, pronounced DYE-az, was clearly unique, even fourteen years ago.  Within two minutes you could feel his sense of faith and the solid foundation it provided in his life.  As I detail in the book that chronicles that entire season, he was humble and mature beyond his years.  Along with Josh Hamilton and Jorge Cantu, Diaz helped the Renegades win the NYPL Title that season.

Aside from his faith, the thing Yankee fans will grasp immediately about Diaz is his 100%, all-out hustle.  He'll never loaf to first base, never lollygag to back up a base.  He was always solid, but never a sure-fire, can't miss big leaguer.  His effort - every day - has made the difference.  Diaz is all-out, all the time, a David Eckstein-type of player. 

Diaz may win the starting left field job, or he may lose out to Juan Rivera.  Regardless, this is a unique type of player and person.  I'm sure Yankee fans will take notice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

9 Sports Reasons Poughkeepsie Is Not Miserable

My hometown of Poughkeepsie, New York is an absolute dump.  At least if you believe Forbes' recent list of America's 20 Most Miserable Cities, which ranked Poughkeepsie number 18.
Ok, now that I'm done rolling my eyes, I'm here to say that, regardless of Forbes, the Poughkeepsie area is most definitely not a miserable place for a sports fan.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Here are nine reasons why:

1.  The Hudson Valley Renegades - Since 1994, delivering clean minor league baseball fun for the whole family.  An exciting atmosphere rarely matched in all of professional baseball.  The Goldklang Group has it down, and they do it right.  Proud to have called games there from 94-99.

2.    Terrific high school and local sports coverage - Ken McMillan, Dan Pietrafesa, Sean McMann, Kevin Gleason, Rich Thomaselli and others cover local sports with a purpose.

3.  West Point - Historic setting.  Also excellent broadcast voices, such as Dean Darling, John Minko, Rich DeMarco, Tony Morino and the legendary Bob Outer.

4.  Proximity to  three top sports broadcasting and journalism universities - Fordham (obviously number one), Syracuse and Marist. 

5.  Hudson Valley Sports-Talk, the Valley's longest-running sports talk show, hosted by the inimitable Carl Garafolo on WHVW Radio.  Carl's feel for NY sports and passion for community outreach has made the Hudson Valley a better place.  Class act all the way. 

6.  9 major professional teams within a couple hours away.  Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Devils and Islanders.  Plus two premier sports-talk sticks - WFAN and ESPN Radio, NY

7.  Fabulous local golfing at an array of courses.  From The Links at Union Vale to McCann, golfers have quite a choice.  College Hill even has a nicely-manicured 9, although this part of downtown really is miserable.  Forbes was right in this case.

8.  Marist Women's Basketball.  25 years ago, when Rik Smits roamed the court for the Foxes, women's games were the warmup to the night's main event.  These days the role is reversed.  With ten straight MAAC regular season titles, coach Brian Giorgis has built a powerhouse the likes of which the area hasn't seen in decades, if ever.  Unless, of course, you go back to Giorgis' days with Our Lady Of Lourdes.

9.  Amazing number of first-rate, national sportscasters and sportswriters to come through or from the Poughkeepsie area.  Freddie Coleman, J.W. Stewart, Brian Kenny, Jay Reynolds, Kevin Connors, Ryan Ruocco at ESPN.  Bill Rogan dominating Denver.  Jason Barrett running stations first in St. Louis and now in San Francisco.  Mike Vaccaro with the NY Post and Pete Caldera at the Bergen Record.  Oh yeah, Mike Breen is pretty good calling NBA games, after getting his start at Marist.  And these are only some of the successful sports voices from the Poughkeepsie area.  I'm sure I'm forgetting others.

It's no Flint, Michigan or Gary, Indiana, but Poughkeepsie is a pretty great place - at least if you're a sports fan.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Watch Out For The Salty Broadcaster!

They are often quite salty.  And quite often vengeful, spiteful and childish.  No, not politicians.  I'm talking about sportscasters.

I can recall a day years ago, on the final day of the season.  The team was on the road, so we had a few hours to kill during the morning before heading over to the ballpark.

We were all ornery, all three of us that piled unenthusiastically out of the car that day, arriving at the crowded local mall.  We were tired and didn't particularly like malls.  And we really didn't like the season coming to an abrupt end.

As we weaved through the parking lot, walking toward the mall entrance, one of my salty colleagues commented about how this one flashy sportscar was parked across two spots, in a move that would make Larry David cringe.  The lot was full, but this guy apparently thought he was super important.

Well, on the final day of the season, one of us just wasn't going to take it.  He took a final sip from his nearly-untouched Super Big Gulp and launched the soda, splashing it across the windshield of the car.

"I hate when jerks park like that," he said.  As we casually sauntered toward the mall, the dark cola oozed down the windshield and across the shiny hood and doors.

Don't mess with the broadcaster.  Especially on the final day of the season.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

First Spring Training For The Babe

Ah, the wonderful memories from Spring Training 1914.

Sporting News correspondent E.L. Schanberger wrote this about a Baltimore Orioles rookie....

"Reports from this camp indicate that he has some good prospects among his rookies.  For one there is a youngster named Frank Ruth, a Baltimore boy, who has been the pitching mainstay of a local industrial school team for years.  He has shown Dunn so much that the manager makes the bold statement that he will stick with the team this season, both on account of his hitting and his portside flinging."

Yes, the Babe certainly did have him some "portside flinging!"

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Don't I Feel Like A Jerk

Boy, did I feel like a jerk on one particular day at the ballpark in the mid-90's.  (Not that it hasn't happened a few times since)

I was sitting in the broadcast booth, diligently preparing my pre-game notes and scorebook for that night's game.  It was just 3:00 pm, and I had plenty of work to do on this simmering-hot, summer day.
"Hey Rick," my broadcast partner Bill Rogan called, as he entered the booth. "There are some people I'd like you to meet today.  A young boy, Tommy, is coming by today to shadow you for a school project.  He's a really big fan of yours.  He'd like to know what it takes to become a sportscaster, and he has a lot of questions.  He's going to be looking for you around 4:00.  He is really looking forward to meeting you.  Is that ok?"

I felt honored.  Sure I'd share some of my time, especially if I can help make a difference for a young, aspiring broadcaster!  If he was coming especially to pick my brain, I was ready to give him all the information he'd want.

About an hour later, as I sit working alone in the booth, a young boy and his mother approached my window.
"Oh, you must be Tommy," I said as I bounded out of the booth wearing a big, eager smile. "I'm Rick Schultz, great to meet you!  Come on in, let me show you around the park while we talk."
For the next hour I gave young Tommy the lowdown on the baseball broadcasting business.  I went through my pre-game duties, explaining each step to him in detail.  He looked on with mild interest.
Since he was there to see me specifically, I spent a lot of time detailing my background, my experience and how I'd become a professional broadcaster at the young age of 18.  I was pumped to share my story, but both Tommy, and now his mother, seemed distracted and somewhat disinterested.

After a while, Tommy and his mother politely thanked me and said they had to run.  With that, they backed away and quickly left the park.

As gametime approached, Bill returned and we continued preparations for that night's game.  Just then our boss from the radio station popped in.
"Hey guys, how's it going?" he asked. "How did it go with that young student today?  He was really looking forward to meeting you Bill."
I whipped my head around and asked, incredulously, "Did you say he was here to see BILL?"
"Of course," the boss said. "We set it up in advance, he's a big fan of Bill's."

At that moment it hit me.  I had introduced myself to a boy and his mother and told them all about myself and my career.  I had detailed what I do and how I do it.  I had offered my best advice and guidance to this young boy and his mother.  And, as it turns out, they weren't even there to see me!  While I thought they were my fans, in reality they probably didn't have any idea at all who I was!

To steal a quote from "A Few Good Men"......don't I feel like a big, self-centered jerk.

(Don't worry about me too much, I did get Bill back a time or two.  Ask him about the ice in his hotel room bed.  That's minor league baseball.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sideline Reporting In The Dark

Sideline reporting is not easy.  At least doing it well is not easy.

Sure, any flashy former player or former cheerleader can talk for thirty seconds, delivering a prepared bit of information.  And that's what we usually get - a canned piece of news just as easily delivered by the color analyst.

Occasionally, however, we get to see what real sideline reporting is all about.  The ability to bring us something unique, that only a reporter on the sideline could gather.

In my opinion, that is exactly what Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots - both former players - were able to do during this year's Super Bowl.  When the lights went out in the Superdome, these guys were ready.

When the broadcast booth lost power completely, CBS was forced to come back from a commercial to Tasker and Wilcots.  In my opinion, its not as easy as it looks to ad-lib, inform the viewer, and throw it across the field to your colleague.  To do so smoothly, in front of the entire country, is not as simple as it looks.  It truly isn't.  I thought Tasker and Wilcots were stellar and completely up to the task.

Of course there are those who disagree with my take completely.  Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, whom I worked with briefly as an intern at WFAN Radio in NY in 1998, made it very clear that he felt Tasker, Wilcots and the entire CBS crew were caught with their pants down.  He wasn't impressed.  I was.  Especially considering these two guys were professional athletes, rather than career-trained broadcasters. 

No, sideline reporting is not easy.  Especially if you are standing the in the dark with the entire nation hanging on your every word.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spring Training Is A Sham

Let's be honest.  Spring Training is a sham.

I mean, it's six weeks of fluff.  Virtually meaningless, like drinking decaf coffee in the morning.

Don't get me wrong, counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report is something all baseball fans can truly get behind.  The winter thaw is near, the year's dark days stretch longer, and somewhere Dave Magadan is hitting fungos.  Baseball's yearly emergence is a wonderful thing.

I'm just saying that six weeks for well-paid, highly regimented professional athletes is much more than they need to prepare.  After all, with millions riding on each season, players stay in tip-top shape year-round.  Many say they take a couple weeks off and are back to it before Thanksgiving.

Years ago, players needed Spring Training to get back into playing shape.  Those off-seasons earning a living by working retail, painting houses or digging graves like Ritchie Hebner are long gone.  These days, the off-season job is to improve for next season.

Players today are world-class professional athletes.  And, barring injuries, managers have their season's game play in mind well in advance.  The real purpose of Spring Training is to create a couple mini-seasons for fans to buy tickets, merchandise, hotel rooms, restaurant meals and reassert their love for the game.

Spring Training is a terrific time of year.  Even if it is a sham.
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Remember this classic baseball book?

Monday, February 11, 2013

How To Be A Lousy Host

Saw a tweet recently that reminded me of a sage piece of broadcasting wisdom.

The tweet simply read, "Knicks hosting Bucks"

I was reminded of my days at Fordham University, during one of our Tuesday sportscasting sessions with legendary broadcaster/coach Marty Glickman.

If the Knicks are "hosting" the Bucks, are they laying out a decadent spread of tea and crumpets?  Serving wine and cheese, or an Italian feast?  Are they meeting the Bucks at the curb and lugging their luggage into MSG?  Putting them up in the guest room with a fresh set of linens and towels?

Marty was a stickler for the language.  He wanted broadcasters to be genuine and precise.

Last week, after my post nitpicking an Erin Andrews' sideline report, I received a tweet basically calling me a sportscasting stickler.  Agreed.

Good point to think about, though.  Unless you are satisfied being just another broadcaster, doing just another sportscast, and saying the Knicks are "hosting" the Bucks.  Just like every other broadcaster.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Win Two Free Baseball Books!

We are giving away two baseball books!  Today only!

Simply sign up to receive our posts emailed to your inbox. 
You will be automatically entered in the free book contest.
One lucky reader will win a Kindle copy of Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues
Another lucky reader will win a paperback copy of A Renegade Championship Summer.

Click here to register to win, and for our free emailed updates!

Click here for info about both books

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Guest Post: It's All In How You Say It - By Nick Sportscaster

I’m an introvert that plays an extrovert on TV. My biggest fear when I get the “ready” cue from our director is that viewers will be able to hear my heart beating out of my chest.

But, in all honesty, when the red light goes on I couldn’t feel more comfortable.

I love what I do.

My philosophy is that no matter how big or small a story, I know it matters to someone out there and I treat it as such. I’m very passionate about what I do, and I want viewers to know that I care about matters to them.

With that, one of the things I feel that wasn’t emphasized enough during college was the difference “reading” and “delivering.”

I try to review air checks from all the shows I anchor and report in at the end of each week.

It gives me a chance to learn when I missed the mark, where I over emphasized and when I made my point.

Anybody can read. The important thing to remember in sportscasting is that it’s not about reading. It’s about delivery.

Whether for a vo/sot or highlights, there is always a way to amplify and enhance what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be something over the top but you don’t want to jumble it all together and lose the message.

This past week, in reviewing an air check, I realized I completely missed the point in my copy regarding a local basketball team that is off to a 17-0 start, tied for the best start in school history.

My script read: “The last time they were 17-0 was back in 1996.”

I read through it like I was reading “See Spot. See Spot run.”

There wasn’t much to it. It was bland. I was disappointed. I felt like I not only let the team down, but the town that packs into the gym to watch them play.

There’s a hand full of ways to make that statement pop.

The last time they were 17-0 was back in 1996 (with the emphasis obviously on last).

I could have also thrown in a question mark to spike the curiosity of viewers, and emphasized the year to really bring home my point.

The last time they were 17-0? 1-9-9-6 (that’s a bad attempt at me trying to drag out saying 1996, but I hope you get the point).

The thing to remember with vo/sots, readers and packages is not to just plow through copy.

Deliver it.

Nick - Television Sports Anchor

"There is no script to sports and just when you think you know what's going to happen (in the words of John Madden) "BOOM!" You're mind gets blown and your left wondering," did that really just happen?""

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vin Scully nails it!

After last night's game, and with a mere two weeks until Spring Training 2013, a word from the legendary Vin Scully....

"Baseball is to football as blackjack is to bridge.  One is the quick jolt; the other the deliberate, slow-paced game of skill.  But never was a sport more ideally suited to television than baseball.  It's all there in front of you.  It's theatre, really.  The star is in the spotlight on the mound, the supporting cast fanned out around him, the mathmatical precision of the game moving with the kind of inevitability of Greek tragedy.  With the Greek chorus in the bleachers!"
     -L.A. Times, June 20, 1976

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Football vs. Baseball

"In football the object is to march into enemy territory and cross his goal.  In baseball the object is to go home."
-George Carlin

Certainly the sports are quite different, and those differences also stretch up to the broadcast booth.

Some broadcasters excel calling a fast-paced football game, while others thrive weaving anecdotes and tidbits into a leisurely baseball broadcast.   As we see so often, success for the broadcaster in one doesn't necessarily correlate to success in the other. 

In football, the action pretty much dictates your call.  With baseball - especially on radio - your preparation often dictates the quality of your call.  Add to that, we all have our strengths and comfort zones.

Joe Buck is perhaps the best on television at bouncing successfully from baseball to football.  Who else fits this category? 

And by the way, one poll shows a majority of fans feel that football has eclipsed baseball as our national sport.  Good cases to be made for each.  Your thoughts?


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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Baseball Cheat Goes On

The great Dave Ramsey often says that high-income earners can fall prey to “doing stupid with zeros at the end.” In other words, we all make mistakes, but with increased wealth comes the possibility of bigger, more costly mistakes.

I’m reminded of this as we hear yet another round of Performance Enhanced Drug allegations, involving big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Gio Gonzalez and others.

The fact is, baseball players have always cheated. Or should I say, “stretched beyond the written rules to gain an edge.” Take this brief list, for example:

- Pine tar

- Amphetamines

- Scuffing

- Stealing signs

- Petroleum Jelly

- Corked bats

- Steroids


- Synthetic PEDs

Baseball players have always looked for an advantage, and always will. They were cheating 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 1 year ago, last week and today. They will cheat tomorrow and this season too.

The only difference now is that today, through remarkable innovation, the methods of cheating are beyond anything we’ve ever seen. We’ve gone from cork and greenies to labs and synthetics.

I heard all the rumors and stories when broadcasting in the 90’s, and some guys I knew well ended up named in the Mitchell Report.

Players are only human. They’re going to cash in when possible. The big difference, today they are cashing in with zeros at the end.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New York Super Bowl Freeze Out

With next year’s Super Bowl looming for New York, all the talk in the Tri-State area is about the possibility of frigid, near-zero temperatures for the big game.

Will fans stay home? Will they pay exorbitant prices to freeze their pigskins off in early February?

The question may not be aimed so much at the fans as it will be the media.

Fans will come out, they always do. Especially for the Super Bowl. And they will pay – and overpay – a pretty penny for the privilege to do so.

It’s the media and sponsorship world that will voice their disapproval. After all, they do the Super Bowl thing every year, and it’s always in a nice, warm place. The working media deserve the best of the best, right?  How can they go from Bourbon Street to East Rutherford?

Fans, they just yearn to be in the stadium, or within a hundred miles of it. They’ll camp out in the cold, make snow angels in their undies or walk barefoot across an icy Garden State Parkway just to get near a Super Bowl. After all, by noon many of them won’t feel the cold anyway.

Fans will pay to attend, and they’ll have a blast. It will be a day New Yorkers will not forget. Those of us not paying will be the ones yapping about the cold.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Grand Release Interview for Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

When we released the new minor league baseball book, Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues, we launched the book on the popular Denver sports talk show, Artificial Turf.

Listen to the interview here! Time marker 46:30 of the program

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December 23rd, time marker 46:30

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who Wins The Super Bowl?

Who will it be America?
49ers or Ravens?
Vote here today!
(view full web version if you cannot see the poll on the right)

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Guest Post: Who's On First? - By Ricky Cibrano

Who’s on First? - By Ricky Cibrano -  @RickyCibrano

A few weeks ago, I was flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon and came across a college basketball game on ESPN2. It was a game between North Carolina and an opponent I’ve since forgotten (it’s not important), which was being called by a fairly prominent broadcaster who shall remain nameless. I’m not the most avid college basketball fan, meaning I really had no clue who most of the guys running around the court were. But hey, that’s why we have play-by-play guys, right? To tell us what’s going on? Only problem was, this particular broadcaster seemed to be just as clueless as I about who was on the court. A typical possession went something likes this: 5 seconds of color commentary, followed by 20 seconds of silence, followed by (after a made basket) “so-and-so has 6.” These weren’t critical late game possessions, mind you, where a broadcaster might choose to “let the moment breath,” but rather a stretch of play in the middle of the 1st half. Maybe it was a bad day, maybe the play-by-play guy got better as the game went along—I don’t know, because I didn’t stick around to find out. After about 10 minutes of being in the dark and remaining clueless as to what, or more specifically who, I was watching, I got frustrated and changed the channel.

The point of this little anecdote is that it reminded me of the importance of something that I struggled with when I was first trying my hand at broadcasting—memorizing names. Learning the names and numbers of players seems so simple—I mean, how many countless names pop into your head for no reason at all on a given day? In reality, it’s not as easy as it seems—but it is absolutely essential to producing a quality on air product, especially on the radio. I can remember 4 years ago doing my earliest football demos for WFUV while I was at Fordham, and spending all this time putting together boards for the occasion—they were done up in different colors, highlighted, shaded, underlined—you name it, I did it. Only problem was, when the game started, they were utterly useless because other than the two starting QB’s, I had no idea who was on the field (ironically, Fordham’s QB that game was current Arizona Cardinal John Skelton, a source of pride for a football program that has less alumnus in the NFL than the now defunct Hofstra Pride). That bit of history aside, I wasn’t happy with the work I did that day, and it took me a little bit of time (and a few more demos) to realize what the problem was and how I could correct it.

The bad news is, unless you’re one of the privileged few who can watch a couple minutes of warm-ups and immediately know everyone on the court or field (if you are one of those people, I hate you), there is no quick fix, you simply have to take the time to memorize the names and numbers, as dull as that sounds. However, while at Fordham, I did figure out a couple of tricks to speed up the process and maximize my time. For example, I’d keep the opposing teams roster on my phone and periodically drill myself on it during the day—in class (you can guess what type of student I was), at the gym, while watching TV—I’d quiz myself, until I could run through the list of names and numbers without a hitch. Of course, the best way to learn the names is to watch game tape of the team you’re studying up on, but when you’re not always afforded that luxury, sometimes you have to get creative, which is what I tried to do.

Résumé and Reel:

Twitter: @RickyCibrano

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Point Of View

You sick of me yet?  Don't answer that.

Each day we go back and forth about my broadcasting opinions.  We have had some great comments from fans and sportscasters alike.  On Twitter, Facebook and here on the site.

But I'm just one voice in a pool of thousands. 

Why not hear a new point of view from time to time, from another sports broadcaster with an opinion to share?

Tomorrow we will.  Stay tuned......

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is It Really About The Broadcaster?

Why do so many broadcasters make it all about them?

Last week, during the Packers-Niners playoff game, they threw it down to sideline reporter Erin Andrews as the second half was about to begin.

She started, “Well I just talked with coach Jim Harbaugh, who told me….blah blah blah…”

Why is it about her? Why not just say, “Coach Jim Harbaugh just said….”

Fans are watching to see the game and hear about its participants.

Of course you talked to him, but we don’t care. After all, it’s your job.

Some broadcasters just like you to know that they were just talking to an NFL coach.

Many broadcasters, like Andrews, simply fall into the lazy habits of the pack.

Successful, secure sportscasters try to cut to the chase and leave themselves out of it.


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Friday, January 18, 2013

Al Michaels In A Landslide

Your voices were heard loud and clear, and it was a landslide.

In last week’s poll, you voted Al Michaels as the NFL’s best television play by play broadcaster.

The results were as follows:

Al Michaels 61%

Jim Nantz 16%

Mike Tirico 11%

Joe Buck 6%

Gus Johnson 4%

Other 2%

Your reasons for choosing Michaels were enthusiasm and knowledge.

Michaels is always on top of the game, the situation, the rules and the flow of the action. He lets the game come to him. Michaels speaks the fan’s language, with the ability to dissect a situation with great complexity.

Al Michaels’ has a sense of humor, however he doesn’t seem to force it. That was one criticism of Joe Buck.

While the margin was somewhat surprising, it made complete sense why our voters went with Al Michaels in a huge way.

Any attributes I left off?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bobby Knight Overmatched

Bob Knight was overmatched by the shot clock last week.
During his role on Thursday's broadcast between Kentucky and Vanderbilt, Knight either fell asleep or completely forgot what a shot clock was for.
I personally think he may have drifted away from the game, allowing himself to become confused and disoriented.
Not the Knight we've been used to seeing and hearing for so many years.

One of the first rules of sportscasting.  Always, always, always know the rules of the game.
I don't doubt that Bobby Knight knows the rules of the game of basketball.
Even more concerning, I think this example shows him slipping off to a momentary confusion.

Can you explain his on-air behavior?

Monday, January 14, 2013

You Can't Play This Game On Milk & Cookies!

“You can’t play this game on milk and cookies!”

Those were the words of a minor league manager about 20 years ago, hearing about his star player’s late-night exploits the night before.

Baseball is full of colorful characters and colorful quotes. One of the all-time greats came from Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson, who in 1930 set baseball’s all-time single-season RBI record with 191.

Manager Joe McCarthy had become increasingly irritated by Wilson’s late-night debauchery, which was legendary. One morning, he called the slugger into his office and closed the door. On his desk were two clear drinking glasses – one filled with water, the other with whiskey.

McCarthy dropped a live, squirming worm into the water, and watched it squirm. He dropped the second worm into the whiskey, and it immediately went stiff and died.

McCarthy looked up at Wilson and asked, “So what does that tell you?”

“Well,” replied the hung-over slugger, “It means that as long as I keep drinking, I won’t catch worms!”
For another worm story, and 80 more hilarious, untold baseball tales, check out this new book....

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Ballplayer Who Wet The Bed

The following is one of more than 80 stories told in Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

Baseball is famous for its practical jokers and one of the best we’ve had in Salt Lake was one particular relief pitcher. Unfortunately for this pitcher, one his best pranks was an expensive one for him.

The team was in Vancouver and he waited for a couple of his teammates to leave their room. After the coast was clear, he somehow was able to get into it and proceeded to remove the sheets and blanket from one of the beds. He then took the mattress off of the bed and took it into the shower where he completely soaked it. After he was done, he put the mattress back on the box springs and then made the bed as neatly as the maid that worked in the hotel.

A while later, the two teammates made it back to their room for a mid-day nap. Well, when one of them laid down he went “squish”. He sank down into the cold wet mattress and become soaked as well.

This pitcher had a great laugh until the hotel sent him a bill for $400 to replace the ruined bedding.

-Steve Klauke, Voice of the Salt Lake Bees

This and 80 more stories, told by more than 20 professional broadcasters, in this book.  Click for info!