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?
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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?
Just a little pinch

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?
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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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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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Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

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



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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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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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The Most Influential Sportscasting Book

With the 2013 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.

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