Think of yourself as a river, starting as mere rivulets in the mountains, fed by
smaller rivers and streams along the way, getting wider with each mile. Now, think of
yourself, an aspiring sportscaster, in the same terms. You have your own, nascent style.
But along the way you are “fed” or influenced by others, those whom you spent time
admiring or simply grew up listening to or watching.
Athletes, musicians, actors and actresses are invariably influenced by their “idols”
during their formative years and sportscasters are often times no different. As a child,
Marv Albert’s distinctive “Yes” or Chris Berman’s “He could…go…all…the…way” are
some of the signature phrases that are imitated at the dinner table or during certain
moments of every day life.
When trying to find your own “voice,” that is your own, unique broadcasting
style, it is important to delineate between imitate and influence. If you try to imitate
another sportscaster, you are bound to come off as a parody. Chances are, a prospective
employer (let along your audience) will see through it and it will not be to your benefit.
Return to the river metaphor for a moment. If you happen to admire someone’s
on-air style, allow that to be a tributary into your own personal flow. Allow it to be just
one of a substantial number of small streams that you intersect with along the way.
Eventually, it will mix with you, the larger river, to a point where that particular quality
that you like is indiscernibly mixed with an overall style that will eventually be unique to
When I was 11, I was fascinated by the disc jockeys on the old, AM rock ‘n’
roll stations. They would “talk up” a record, pattering over the song’s introduction,
suddenly ending their spiel just as the lyrics were coming in. This tapped into my
very being, unearthing what has turned out to be a career in broadcasting.
If you feel the urge, whether you’re 21 or 41, explore it. If you think you’d be
good at voiceover work, start reading copy into a digital recorder. Use that same
tool if you’d like to be a news or sportscaster. Aspiring play-by-play announcers can
take that same recorder, buy a cheap ticket to a minor league baseball game,
I often tell people that while NBA players have had plenty of organized play
and coaching through high school, college, AAU and other leagues, much of what
they do is rooted in what they did as kids playing in parks and playgrounds.
Recently, I unearthed an old cassette from when I was 14 years old, “announcing” a
baseball game into a tape recorder. Except for being a few octaves higher, it
sounded strangely like the guy who’s been doing 76ers games on Comcast Sportsnet
for the last 18 years.
Leaving yourself open to criticism and suggestions will make you a better broadcaster.
In 1982, I was literally learning about television while working in television– the old PRISM–forerunner to today’s Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia. I was editing a feature on the 1946-47 Philadelphia Warriors, the NBA’s first champions. A gentleman by the name of Roy Hensel suggested the concept of “audio sweetening,” that is, adding crowd noise or other effects to old black-and-white footage that was without a sound track.
It’s common practice of course, but being relatively new to TV, I had no idea. The suggestion—obvious and simple as it was—added depth to the feature, literally bringing the past more alive.
Leaving your ego at the door and being open to feedback from anyone you work with can only help YOU.
So there was this kid in high school. He had pimples and was kind of fat. He
was nervous around girls. He definitely was not one of the cool kids. He didn’t
have a ton of friends and did weird stuff like go home and put his TV on a
channel full of static and make pretend he was announcing sporting events,
using the static as fake crowd noise.
Today, that kid’s high school is holding its graduation ceremony. And almost
40 years after he graduated, they’ve asked him to come back to be the
That kid is me.