I’m only in my fifth year as a broadcaster and I love what I do. Lord willing I will stay in the business for a long time. I really enjoy talking about the business with other broadcasters, producers, directors and people behind the scenes. I’ve learned so much in my short time behind the microphone through those conversations.
I especially enjoy talking to some of the great voices in the field whenever that opportunity is presented and I usually pepper them with questions about what they have found that works, and what doesn’t, over the course of their careers. I’ve been fortunate to bend the ears of the likes of Dan Schulman, Al Michaels, Chris Myers, Joe Buck, John Sterling, Howie Rose and many, many more. The good guys are always so gracious in answering my questions and paying what they have learned forward.
Through those conversations I compiled a list of things I want to remember when broadcasting, whether it be studio work or a live game. I read this list a few times a year and still add to it if something grabs me that is worth adding. Some of these conclusions I drew on my own and some of them were tips I picked up from others. My list is below with some additional notes for any aspiring broadcaster. This is who I want to be when I am on the job.
- Be prepared. Do your research.
- Seems simple but you would be surprised how many analysts think they can just “show and go.” Prep mattered as a player and it matters as a broadcaster. It’s easy to spot who isn’t prepared and that often makes for a bad listen.
- Be physically ready, sleep and eat well.
- Sounds trivial but it is not. Much like in your playing days physical condition matters. David Wells threw a perfect game hung over. I couldn’t call a perfect game very well hungover. If you can’t bring the energy when it matters most your audience will know it and they’ll be disappointed.
- Don’t talk at your audience, talk to them. Respect them, treat them like a friend.
- Nobody likes to listen to a know-it-all in the booth. Yes, you’re the “expert” and your observations and opinions should carry more weight than the average fan. That doesn’t mean you should sound like you think you’re smartest guy in the room. Humility goes a long way and I think plays well when you combine it with your expert opinion.
- Dig in, be smart and compelling but don’t talk over the average fan’s head.
- In baseball analytics are prominent and I constantly talk to folks in the business about working them into a broadcast. It’s not easy to do. I don’t want to leave any fans behind so the balancing act can be tricky. Some fans don’t know how the infield fly rule works and some fans think you’re archaic for using batting average as a way to evaluate a hitter and they want more. I try to speak to the masses while sprinkling in something for fans who love advanced metrics. Rule of thumb: if you can’t explain it clearly in 10-15 seconds don’t bother.
- One concise solid point is better than three rushed and jumbled points.
- When you do your research and prep for a game or a studio show you may feel may passionate about the depth of information you have for a specific topic. The problem when you try to cram in too much information is that then most of your points are lost. Be clear and strong with one point instead of rushed and a mess with multiple points. If you haven’t gone too long and aren’t talking too fast there may be time for another point. It can take a while to feel out what works and what doesn’t.
- Don’t save your best material.
- Along those same lines whatever you feel is the best point don’t save it. This is especially true for live studio shows. If you have a great nugget or observation than get to it right away.
- Keep a steady, consistent pace. Inflect when the moment calls for it, but don’t overdo it.
- In general I am a soft speaker and can be monotone. That doesn’t work on TV or radio. So I get up for broadcasts and now I actually have to be more aware of not showing too much energy, talking too fast or raising my voice too high during games and shows. That is likely the caffeine. There is a balance in there, save the inflection for the big moment, not for the ground ball to the shortstop in the 8th inning when the score is 8-1. You’ll drive your audience crazy.
- Wardrobe and tie knot must be on point.
- You’re on TV, look sharp. I have become such a tie knot snob since getting into this business. The Fox/FS1 wardrobe crew spoiled me in my years doing studio work in Los Angeles, but they also made me raise my game. Start paying attention, whether it be sports or news, there are a lot of bad tie knots out there. Better effort please. If it’s radio, sweatpants and a dirty T-shirt are allowed.
- Sit up straight.
- I can get lazy and round my shoulders and that’s not a good look on TV. When I do a studio show I actually sit at the end of the chair to keep me propped up. Slouching does not come across well on the screen.
- Avoid “when I played” at all costs, sparingly mix in firsthand experiences.
- It’s annoying, right? As an analyst you are undoubtedly going to refer to experiences you have had over the course of your career and they absolutely can be relevant to the moment. However, I try to pick my spots the best I can and not do it too often. It can be a tough listen when it becomes more about when you played and less about what’s actually happening on the field.
- Listen to your partner(s), respond when it feels right, don’t force it.
- It amazes me when I listen to a TV broadcast or a radio show and hear one of the broadcasters repeat a point the other one just made. That’s an obvious sign that your partner wasn’t listening. It’s going to happen occasionally, your partner might be distracted or maybe a producer is talking in his ear and he didn’t hear you, but be aware, it doesn’t sound good. The same goes for interviews. Listen to the person you are interviewing, there may be a great follow up question you hadn’t thought of if you’re engaged. If you’re just rifling through your pre-determined questions it will be obvious and the interview will really lack authenticity and fall flat.
- Don’t forget how hard the game is to play.
- The game looks really easy from the booth. It’s a lot slower when you’re perched in the broadcast booth or watching on TV. I absolutely abhor when I hear a broadcaster say things like “you just can’t swing at that pitch” or “you can’t throw that pitch in that spot.” No kidding, thanks for that awesome insight. Those are some of the laziest ways an analyst can comment on a play. This game is really, really, hard. When a player makes a mistake it’s because he’s playing a difficult game at the highest level. Give your audience something more than that.
- Balance the three “S’s”: Stories, Stats and Silence.
- I love this piece of advice I got from Brian Anderson (Brewers/TBS). Too many stories are boring, too many stats are more boring and too much silence will put a viewer to sleep. I struggle with the silence the most. When it’s quiet for 3 seconds it feels like 3 minutes and I often think to myself “people are waiting for you to talk, say something!” I purposely take moments in a game where I will not talk in between a pitch or two. That’s usually after I feel like I have been talking too much. I called my very first play-by-play game in September of 2016 and Kevin Burkhardt gave me some great advice that I took. He said, “Write down on a piece of paper ‘Don’t Talk’ and tape it to the desk.” I did, with his initials next to it. Kevin is one of the best play-by-play men and a tremendous studio host. Silence is OK.
- A first guess is always better than a second guess.
- We are all capable of being the Monday morning quarterback. Give your audience more. Take a well thought out, based on your prep and experience, first guess. “He may steal here”…”This is an ideal time for a hit and run”….”I like the fastball up and in for a strikeout in this count.” You sound smart when you get it right and no one cares if you get it wrong, unless it is something outlandish. Which leads me to a good way to finish this up: Don’t make outlandish predictions.
- Don’t be a know-it-all smarmy d-bag.
- Just don’t. Nobody likes that guy.