You eat, sleep, and breathe sports. Your friends marvel at your vast knowledge of obscure statistical trivia. There isn’t a square inch of your bedroom wall space that isn’t covered by some autographed jersey or framed rookie baseball card. You can even appreciate soccer. Unfortunately, your fastest 40-yard dash time just says “yes” on the coach’s scoring card and you can barely get more vertical than a fire hydrant. So you can't be one of these people, which was Plan A; but you can be the first derivative and have a great time pouring coffee for them.
It takes a passion like yours to pursue a career in sportscasting where you know that the best you’ll ever be in your game(s) is second fiddle. However, a love of sports is only one aspect of what it takes to be successful. You’re also a performer and television personality—you’ve got to be camera-friendly, you can’t have any semblance of shyness or timidity, and you must be able to speak with a self-assured and natural ease. You’ve got to be able to find the balance between asking the hard-hitting questions that fans want to hear the answers to, but at the same time not hitting your interviewees so hard with them that they won’t grant you another interview. You have to hit them just right.
You will often not have much time to prepare for a segment, so you’ll have to be quick on your feet, and have the ability to improvise while still sounding intelligent and informed about a breaking story. And there’s a lot of work that has to be done before your face lights up everyone’s television monitor, too. You’ll have to research like the dickens, and likely always be on the move to conduct interviews or to travel across the country to report on sporting events. And, considering most of sportscasters who are out there right now, you may have to either shave your head or grow a moustache.
So who are some of the biggies currently and what’s their deal?
• Bob Costas. He’s been an NBC sportscaster since the '80s (the 1980s, wise guy). He got his start doing a lot of play-by-play announcing, plus doing some in-studio coverage of the Olympics and the NFL. He never played sports professionally (you can pretty much tell just by looking at him), but instead got a degree in Communications. Worked out for him, as he does quite a bit of communicating.
• Al Michaels. Al has been in the business for nearly 40 years, having broadcast the World Series, Monday Night Football, the Olympics, etc. He now also does play-by-play for Sunday Night Football. Al would have been nothing had it not been for the opportunity to announce the “Miracle on Ice” game from the 1980 Winter Olympics—arguably the greatest Olympic moment in our nation’s history. Way to be in the right place at the right time, Al.
• Dick Enberg. Oh my! Dick has been sportscasting baseball, basketball, tennis, and football games for what seems like roughly forever. He shows no signs of slowing down either, and will probably keep going until he drops. But he’ll probably announce that, too.
None of these three were pro athletes themselves, but the fact is that most sportscasters were athletes earlier in their lives. For this reason, it’s pretty tough to break into the biz without that sort of history—otherwise, you’d better have a Communications degree or previous broadcasting experience like these three. Either way, it takes a lot of luck and is a matter of catching the right breaks. Which is a heck of a lot tougher than catching a line drive.