Bob Picozzi finds niche in play-by-play
(February 28, 2011) It didn't take Bob Picozzi long to figure out that his dream of being a major league baseball player wasn't going to pan out. It was the same dream that every one of Picozzi's friends growing up in Trenton, N.J., had. He wanted to be Mickey Mantle. Or Roger Maris. And, as the son of a lifelong Yankees fan, what other baseball players would you aspire to be?
But around the time he was 10, Picozzi pretty much knew that he hadn't been gifted with the greatest of baseball skills. So, the boy started thinking. What could he do to keep himself involved with sports?
As a diehard Yankee fan, Picozzi would spend many summer afternoons listening to games on AM stations WINS, then WHN and finally WCBS. And when he didn't have the transistor radio up to his ear, Picozzi was watching Mel Allen and Red Barber broadcast the games on WPIX-TV.
In the fall, he would turn the dial over to WNEW-AM and listen to Marty Glickman do the football Giants. On Sunday mornings, he'd watch the Notre Dame football highlight show with Lindsey Nelson. And when the idea finally hit him, it hit him hard. Become a play-by-play announcer.
"I tried to think of what I could do for a living that could take advantage of this incredible passion I have for sports and the thought of being a play-by-play announcer first came to me when I was 10," Picozzi said. "It really drove me."
Since 1997, Picozzi has returned to the play-by-play world with a flourish. He does an average of 35 to 40 games a season for ESPN -- broadcasting college games all over the country -- and for CPTV, doing the UConn women. This is Picozzi's 13th season doing UConn women's games for CPTV and in all that time, in games that CPTV has produced, the Huskies have only lost once, to Michigan State in 2005.
"Doing UConn games are so different because so many of the games are one-sided. It's difficult to treat every basket like Armageddon," he said. "The most fun UConn game I ever had a chance to do was when they played at DePaul when Maya Moore was a freshman and Ketia Swanier hit the shot with 1.8 seconds left to win the game after Maya had stolen the ball. That was the only time a game was decided in the final seconds and this is my 13th year doing their games."
Picozzi attended Seton Hall, mainly because of the solid reputation of the campus radio station. Four years later, in 1972, he graduated and started working at a local station on the Jersey shore before getting a better job three months later in Westerly, R.I.
His boss in Westerly was Carl Grande, brother of long-time Cincinnati Reds broadcaster George Grande.
"Carl actually got my resume in New Haven, but he had an opening in Westerly so he hired me for there, but there was an understanding that if I performed well he would move me to a station in New Haven, which I thought was the big leagues at the time," Picozzi said. "So after Westerly, I moved to New Haven and worked at a station in New Haven (WNHC) and did Yale basketball on the radio with George Grande for two years."
Tiny Markle, who was working at WNAB at the time, offered Picozzi a chance to do Fairfield University basketball games, which he did from 1975-78.
"All totaled I worked for four-and-a-half years at the station in New Haven and then the TV opportunity came about and then I made the transition to local TV."
And the play by play all but disappeared.
"There were very few play-by-play opportunities (at Channel 8). To go to WTNH, I had to give up the Fairfield games, which I was sorry to do but at the time it was a no-brainer, it was a much better career opportunity," Picozzi said.
With WTNH securing the rights to televise UConn basketball in 1988, Picozzi did get to broadcast an occasional game but it wouldn't be until 1997 when he finally got a chance to get back into the play-by-play world full-time.
"I missed it because play by play has always been my first love," said Picozzi, who lives in Cheshire. "Play by play was always my first love and when Channel 8 did not renew my contract in 1997, the first thing I thought of was maybe now's the time to make the move. There were so many play-by-play opportunities that existed in 1997 that didn't exist in 1978."
Picozzi's broadcast partner on those CPTV games is Meghan Pattyson Culmo, who has enjoyed her long relationship with Picozzi on television.
"He's really is so easy to work with. He's just such a good guy," Culmo said. "Bob is the most organized person I know. I really respect his work ethic. He prepares incredibly hard for games. I always marvel at his memory because I can't remember anything and he'll remember things that I said, like four years ago. Bob is big into the stats and the numbers, that's his thing and, at first, I would try to emulate that but that's not my strength. You sort of evolve and you grow and I realized that's what he's good at and comfortable with. Our styles are so completely different, maybe that's why it works."
His style is his own, smooth and easy-going.
"I feel I want to stay on top of the play, that's very important. Doing TV play by play is so different than doing radio because you need to learn to `lay out' (TV term). If you talk too much, you'll drive people crazy," Picozzi said. "You don't need to say that the shot is good, the viewer can see that. You try not to spoil the moment by talking over the crowd."
He credits Marv Albert -- to whom he sent a tape of one of his broadcasts during his time at Seton Hall and Albert critiqued it -- helping him with something Picozzi calls "court geography." Painting the picture for the listener, like not just telling him who's passing the ball but where he's passing the ball from and where he's passing it to.
"When it comes to doing play by play, it was a thrill the very first time I did it and it's still a thrill every time I do a game. To me, it's the next best thing to playing," he said. "I still get excited and my heart starts beating a little faster when you're standing out on the floor doing your stand-up before the game and the bands are playing and teams are warming up and the crowd's standing up and cheering."
At age 59, Picozzi should have many more years behind the microphone.
"I know that this is his dream job. He loves to do play by play," Culmo said. "This is what he loves to do. He lives for sports. It's his passion."
Read more at the Stamford Advocate where this story was originally published.
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