When the lights go down…

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Poignant emotion. Vivid remembrance. A culmination of a string of hard work. These are the things we generally associate with endings.

But, what is an “ending” really? Is it a “be-all, end-all” moment after which nothing will ever be the same? Or is it possible that it could represent a beautiful, new beginning?

To me, the beauty of an “ending” shines through with about a minute left on the clock, no timeouts and 80 yards to drive for all the marbles. Or the bases are loaded, 2 out, bottom of the ninth. Or there are 5 seconds left, you’re down a point and waiting to inbound the ball. Or the game has just gone to sudden death, and the next goal decides it all.

Sports has a way of creating these endings for us hundreds and even thousands of times a year. It is one of the few outlets in today’s media-driven culture that almost guarantees real, purified drama. As prospective broadcasters, this is what we live for.

Even though we’re not physically involved in the events and games we cover, the adrenaline that pumps through our veins when gritty competition unfolds before our very eyes is unmatched. That feeling is something we are always chasing, and there is simply nothing else like it.

I hope that all of you out there continue to hold your passions for this business near and dear to your heart. After all, the more of us who care, the more sports broadcasting can only grow in its ability to enhance the presentation of sporting events to the public. Be relentless. Make the magic happen.

And now, for some exit music….

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‘Tis the Season for Sports on TV

[Guest Contributor: This post comes courtesy of Dayvon Williams, author of the “Fourth and Long, Is Football All Done?” blog.]

In sports broadcasting there are a few times of the year when the media coverage just doesn’t stop. This time of the year is one of those times. Yes, I know there’s always some type of media coverage on some sports every day during the year. If there wasn’t, ESPN employees would be out of a job. But this time of the year gets nuts. You have college football, which can be a show in and of itself with the many games being played throughout the week. This is the time where every game really counts. Then you have the NBA, which just opened its season. Some people say that the beginning of an NBA season doesn’t really matter, but that is false because every game matters.

Next is College Basketball, who some say is more electrifying than the NBA. College basketball brings that attitude in the sports medium. NBA players making big plays is kind of expected because they’re professionals now. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still great plays, but just a little sting is taken off because it’s what they do. Now if you saw a crazy amazing play in college basketball, it’s a different story. For one it’s an amazing play, secondly you have the hyped crowd of students in the background intensifying it a little more, then you have to put in the fact that he’s a college student. If you see Aaron Harrison make the same play as LeBron James, you’re probably going to hype Harrison’s play more, because of the fact he’s making plays LeBron James is making.

Next you have the NHL, which is about 24 games into its season. And like the NBA, they’re still kind of in the starting point mode. Lastly, you have the NFL, which is coming down the stretch of its season going into week 13. This time of the season, like college football, is one of the most important. If you’re in a tight division like the AFC North where the Pittsburgh Steelers are only separated by half a game to the Cincinnati Bengals, losing a game could mean losing a home field advantage in the playoffs.

Covering these sports in the broadcasting world is crazy. These are the sports everyone wants to know about now. People want to know how their favorite team, player or school is doing. The host Jemele Hill for Numbers Never Lie (now named His & Hers),  always brings up how her Michigan State Spartans are doing, whether it’s good or bad. Every week during this time of year, the stakes get higher, the plays become more outrageous (the other-worldly  catch Odell Beckham Jr. made last night), and the window for other teams closes a little more.

Odds are, some form of sports television will end up on your screen at this time of year. It’s a great opportunity to recognize and appreciate the massive operations that work tirelessly to bring you the games you want to see and people will be talking about. ‘Tis the season.

When the curtain splits…

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As a broadcaster, I have always felt a unique connection to people who engage in theatre. At first, it may seem odd to compare the role of a dramatic actor to that of a play-by-play broadcaster, but they are actually more relatable than you think. Most plays begin in the same way I envision broadcasts do: the curtain opens, the lights come up and the spotlight is shined on an individual/group of people whose responsibility it is to convey a specific message to an audience. I understand this metaphor may not be 100% applicable in all situations, but play with me here.

Both broadcasters and actors have to put themselves on the line at the beginning of their performances. I liken this to the “red light” coming on when television shows are filmed. No matter how much rehearsal has been done, there is ultimately one moment of pure, unfiltered truth. Either they rise to the challenge or they don’t. It is this moment that can horrify people for nights on end.

In my personal experience, I have felt many sets of nerves rumble throughout my body before going on the air for a game. I would be concerned for myself if I didn’t. Broadcasting is a performing art and the knowledge that someone out there will be listening to every word I say can be, in a word, frightening. I can only imagine the intense feelings broadway actors must feel knowing they are performing in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of onlookers. Yet, when I am not working, I find myself craving this feeling of uncertain nervousness. It’s what makes broadcaster and actors so passionate about what they do.

At the end of the day, I have come to truly appreciate the effort that theatrical artists put into their performing skills. I respect the amount of courage these people possess to be completely fearless about working in front of large crowds. The next time you watch a sporting event, make an effort to listen to what the broadcasters say, especially at the beginning of the telecast (i.e. on-camera opens). They are displaying the same bravery that actors portray through their aspect of the performing arts.

Andy Masur Interview

Great example of a person who has completed a journey to the job of his dreams.

Play by play broadcasting

After a hiatus I am proud to say we are back with another great interview, this time with Andy Masur of the San Diego Padres. You can follow him on twitter: @PadsCast or on his own blog Masur’s Musings here: http://www.andy-masur.blogspot.com/.

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How long have you been in broadcasting?

I have been in professional broadcasting since 1990, doing various things in the industry.  Started out as a top 40 DJ, in Peoria, IL.  I worked the overnight shift from 12midnight-5:30am.  Moved up to night jock, then got out of top 40.  Went home to Chicago and did traffic reports for several different stations in the market.  From there I went on to work for the then One On One sports network, doing updates and hosting a weekend show.  I then became aware of a job opening at WGN radio and I was fortunate to…

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From the lighter side

If you ask me, one of the most important and overlooked parts of being a sports broadcaster is having the ability to not take yourself too seriously. After all, the odds are not every game you do will be ultra-competitive. In these situations, you want to give the viewer/listener something they can still enjoy consuming as entertainment within reason. In the New England area, there are no better examples of this than the tag-team of Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy. You can say what you want about them  in terms of how they express their baseball views, but these guys really know how to have fun.

 

 

 

I really admire the penchant these two have for just letting their guards down and allowing their true personalities to come out on the air. It makes them that much more identifiable to viewers/listeners and helps these people feel a real connection to Don and Jerry, almost as if they know them personally. Since Don and Jerry broadcast nearly every Red Sox game on NESN from April through September, this is very important to them, as viewers and listeners feel inclined to keep turning the game on because they never know what hilarious antic they will see next. As aspiring broadcasters, we can all use Orsillo and Remy as a constant reminder that at the end of the day, a significant portion of our job consists of remembering to have fun.

More Ways to Crash the Party

So, how do you go about getting into sports broadcasting if you just want to get your foot in the door? As fantasy-like as it would be, we can’t just walk into a professional booth, throw a headset on and go. If you’re really passionate about doing this to make your living, you need to be willing to start from the bottom (I hear you Drizzy) and work you way up the proverbial ladder. High school sports are a tremendous outlet from which to get your start. Personally, I wish I had taken the initiative to do high school sports in my hometown. The games are always entertaining, the vast majority of the kids playing them are doing so just because they love the game (i.e. college basketball) and most importantly: there’s virtually no pressure. Often times, high school sports only air on public access television or get streamed over the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, these are still fine outlets with which to get yourself out there, but in reality not many members of the general public are tuning in to these games. As a broadcaster, this provides us with (in a sense) greater freedoms on the mic. We can just un-filter ourselves (minus profanity of course), not worry about who’s listening to us and just call the game in our own natural tones, as if we’re just conversing with a friend. The best part about all of this is that more broadcasting opportunities are popping up now than ever before in high schools across America. Many high school athletic departments have provided their teams with state of the art technological equipment with which to film their games. This should come as great news to all young, aspiring broadcasters, as it shows that the lower levels of athletic competition care about making their sports technologically relevant. Odds are, if a school is willing to spend a significant amount of cash on camera/game film equipment, they will also be willing to buy the equipment necessary to broadcast their games. This would represent the next step in the technological progression of high school sports. So, if you’re in high school right now or want to make your first-in roads into this field, then what are you waiting for?

What am I doing here?

Sometimes, I wish I had a better answer to this question. I’m not pursuing sports broadcasting on a whim. I’m not pursuing sports broadcasting because I know someone who knows someone in the business. I’m not even pursuing it because my gut tells me to. No, I have to give the corny answer that I’m doing this because I love sports. Bet you haven’t heard that anywhere before, huh? I hate to give such a generic answer, but then again “what are you doing here?” is one of the most generic questions any person can ask of us, and they ask it to someone every single day. To me, loving sports holds so much more meaning than just a standard reply. For as long as I can remember, I have had the truest obsession and love affair with just about every sport you can conceive of. As a young child, while other kids were playing N-64 games or skateboarding around town (as riveting as those things still are), I looked forward to nothing more than watching football with my Dad. It was these moments, watching the late ’90s-early 2000’s Patriots (which was an adventure and a half) that I believe shaped the man I am today. And the best part? I know there are thousands more of you out there who had similar experiences to me. Sports just magically drew us in while we were young and will probably never leave us.

For me, my love of sports escalated to a higher level. While watching games on television with my father, I realized that I didn’t just want to continue to watch games with him as I got older. Instead, I wanted to be the guy calling the game my Dad was watching, bringing the sport to him and the rest of my family in the coolest way possible. Currently, I am 20 years old, and throughout my young adult life, I have been doing everything within my power to put myself in line for my dream job. I have broadcasted high-school football in my hometown of Danvers, Massachusetts and now currently hold the position of lead play-by-play man for all sports at Westfield State University. These jobs make it the highlight of my day to go to work, and at the end of the day, what’s better than that? They have also reinforced my prior belief that broadcasting is an art, every word you say means something to the person who is hearing it and your personal voice will always shine through. It is my hope that through this blog, I can share some of the many fortunate experiences I have already had in this field while also detailing my future passions within it. It’s very important to me that this is a public space, as I know there are tons of you out there who also want to pursue this career. As you read this blog, I can only hope that something I write will inspire something in you or allow you to make connections to your own personal lives. Above all, I hope to show how exciting sports broadcasting can truly be in my own unique way as well as chronicle my adventure in pursuing my dream. I am incredibly grateful to have you along for the ride.