My first baseball
broadcast on radio didn't last long. In the second inning of a semipro
game, one of the players fractured an ankle while trying to break up a
double play, and since the team only had nine men in uniform, the game
was called. The forty fans jumped into their cars, Dick Enberg tried to
say good-bye gracefully, and the one-man band unhooked wires, packed equipment
and wondered if Red Barber really started this way.
At that time, I was
working my way through Central Michigan University. The summer radio job
paid one dollar an hour, and my first baseball game netted me a total
of two dollars, including travel time.
All of this is a preface
to the subject: How does on become a sportscaster? I have received hundreds
of letters from young men and women who want to know how they should prepare
themselves for work in broadcasting sports. Obviously, there is no set
formula. And certainly, I can't recommend the exact course that I took
because I had never really planned to make sportscasting my full-time
livelihood (I prepared to become a teacher, and taught and coached for
four years at Cal State University-Northridge before going into full-time
However, here are some
guidelines. These are factors which seem, in retrospect, to have been
most fundamental in my career:
1. I have been an avid
sports fan all my life. I went to games, read books, devoured sports pages,
listened to broadcasts. If you aren't an enthusiastic fan, you should
probably consider another occupation. This job is not particularly easy
or as glamorous as it might appear, and if you don't enjoy sports, you
would not only be unhappy, but you would also probably offend those listeners
who are sports zealots, and who are extremely knowledgeable.
2. I received a college
education - not, admittedly, with the intention of becoming a sportscaster.
But it has proven invaluable. Broadcasting involves writing, informing,
entertaining, and educating, and you can't help but be better qualified
to meet the challenge with four years of college education. An obvious
major is communications, radio-tv, or journalism, but often young people
overlook the importance of a physical education minor. If you wish to
become a well informed sportscaster, the P.E. training offers important
foundations for both major and minor sports.
3. Once involved in
broadcasting, I practiced constantly. A portable tape recorder is an invaluable
asset. Go to a little league game, a high school or college game, and
practice calling the action. You can even practice at a major league game.
Sit in the upper deck (you may feel a bit conspicuous at first) and start
polishing your approach. I used to turn down the TV sound and sharpen
my play-by-play calls in my own living room.
4. I was willing to
start at the bottom. I had no choice, of course, but many people today
seem unwilling to accept the fact that a training program is helpful and
that those experiences are part of growing up. Just as most ball players
need minor league seasoning before coming to the majors, so it is with
broadcasters. This allows a young announcer to make mistakes in front
of the least critical audience, we all make them. It's best to have honed
your talent so as to make fewer and fewer as you ascend toward larger
5. I listened, all
my life, to sportscasters. As my interest in the profession sharpened,
I listened more critically. It doesn't pay to totally copy someone's style,
but being a good listener, you can generally pick up a healthy set of
do's and don'ts. If you hear or see something that fits your style, employ
6. Radio is a true
test of a sportscasters talent. And that's about it. When you analyze
it, the formula is about the same as it would be for any endeavor; there
just aren't many substitutes for education experience, preparation, hard
work, and a real love for what you are doing. If you think sportscasting
might be your thing, I wish you luck. May it be as richly rewarding for
you as it has been for me.