Off-the-shelf questions for your postgame interviews


When I was on ESPN Radio, I used to hate when my producer Jason McBride would pop into my headset and say, “We have so-and-so on from the baseball game. They just won 3-1.”

Great. What am I supposed to ask the guy? I didn’t see the game – I was on the air!

Tired of getting caught unprepared, I put together some standard, off-the-shelf questions. Most of them aren’t very insightful, but at least they can get the interview started. From there, you can spontaneously ask more thoughtful questions based upon the answers you receive.
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6 common cover letter mistakes

In the past month, I have read more than 100 cover letters from folks applying for the play-by-play openings at Montana State University and Clemson.


Here are a handful of common mistakes that people are making.

1. Copy and paste

Other than changing the name of the school, some people sent the exact same letter for MSU as they sent for Clemson.

2. Not stating your reason for interest

State in your opening paragraph what is it about that school that is attractive to you. Be sure to make it about them, not about you. Writing, “This would be a good opportunity for me because….” is hurting your letter, not helping.

3. I feel as though I would be a quality candidate for this opportunity.

Of course you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be applying. Omit this throwaway line.

4. Getting this job would be a dream come true.

I probably see this in 20% of cover letters. It is cliche. Have you ever dreamt of being the voice of the Yankees, Lakers or Cowboys? Some people who applied for both MSU and Clemson wrote that both jobs were their “dream come true.”

5. Irrelevant info

Focus on your experience that is relevant to the position. If you are applying for a basketball job, it is counterproductive to spend multiple paragraphs detailing your experience in other sports. Eight years of broadcasting water polo doesn’t make someone a better candidate for a football gig.

6. Too long

Give the employer your elevator pitch. Two-thirds of a page, max. The longer your letter, the less time most employers are going to give to it.

Sportscasting Career Q&A

Here’s some questions I didn’t get a chance to answer during the chat today.

Q: What’s the best way to get considered for single-game assignments, or shorter-term fill-in gigs?

A: When Learfield and IMG fill single-game assignments, they almost always hire locally. Your best bet is to see what teams are going to be visiting your local communities. Contact their broadcasters and let them know you are available in the event of scheduling conflicts. This most often happens during the cross-over between football and basketball season.

Also let your local colleges know you are available to fill-in for visiting teams. This works especially well for sports other than football and men’s basketball. When a visiting team can’t send their broadcaster, they’ll often call the home university to ask for recommendations on local fill-ins.

Q: Any idea, if you can comment, on what a typical college broadcaster (Learfield/IMG – Football/MBB for example) makes a year? (Or per game, really)?

A: It varies dramatically based upon the school. Being the voice of a team generally pays anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 per season across the spectrum of DI universities. There are a small handful that will touch six-figures, but they are rare. Freelance play-by-play at the DI level ranges from $200 to $350 per game for football or men’s basketball. You might make a little more as a fill-in if you can engineer your own broadcast.

Q: My question is how much should you weigh searching for a gig against creating one on your own?

A: If you can sell, then creating your own gig can be much more lucrative. You might net several hundred dollars per game if you can sell advertising, and there are high schools and small colleges across the country who would love to have their games broadcast on the Internet.

Even if you can’t sell, it might be worth putting together your own Internet broadcast package just so you can have the regular reps.

Q: Any idea on what the avg. affiliated MiLB team would pay 4 play by play on per game basis at the full- season A / AA level?

A: A Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations in Class A or AA might earn between $1,000 and $1,800 per month for seasonal work. More for full-time.

My unique opportunity to right a wrong

Joe Fisher, voice of the Commodores
Joe Fisher, voice of the Commodores
Sometimes life offers cool second chances. One of them came for me this week.

In 1989, during my senior year at K-State (The Princeton of the Plains, you know), I spent spring break in Nashville, TN. A mentor had offered to introduce me to several people in the local sports broadcasting industry. One of them was a TV sportscaster named Joe Fisher.

Joe was awesome. He welcomed me to the station, showed me around, and visited with me in his office. He shared advice and patiently answered my questions. He even offered to critique my play-by-play, so I sent him a tape after I returned to school and he gave me a thorough evaluation. I still have his notes. (I was stunned that he didn’t think I was ready to be the voice of the Lakers). In fact, one tip that he offered is something I’ve shared with hundreds of basketball broadcasters since: be clear about which team has the ball.

Anyway, I sent Joe a handwritten note thanking him for his kindness. Then I made the mistake that has bothered me for the past 25 years.

I didn’t stay in touch.

I’ve spent the past 11 years of my life encouraging young sportscasters to stay in contact with people they meet, but I didn’t stay in touch with Joe Fisher. At 22, I didn’t understand why it was important and I didn’t want to be a bother to Joe. It was flawed thinking, but I didn’t know it then.

Joe has gone on to enjoy an outstanding career, first as a TV sportscaster and now entering his 17th season as the voice of Vanderbilt University athletics. This year, he was honored as Tennessee’s Sportscaster of the Year, which is why he was in attendance Monday night at the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association’s awards banquet. I’m on the NSSA board, so I was there, too.

At the banquet, I asked a mutual friend to introduce me to Joe. I started by telling Joe that I knew he wouldn’t remember me, and then proceeded to recount my story. When I was finished, he said, “I do remember you.” He told me that earlier that night, when I was introduced to the crowd to present the Jim Nantz Award, he recognized my name. We spent a few minutes visiting, but it was late and I didn’t want to keep him.

As we said goodbye, I promised to stay in touch. I have already sent him an email.

18 things I wish I had known at 22

An aging pro athlete once said, “Now that I’m old enough to know everything, I’m too old to use it.” Here are some things I have learned over the years that younger readers might still be able to use:

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Networking is the fastest way to build a career.

Be clear about which team has the ball on a play-by-play broadcast.

Good play-by-play is a story, not a narrative.

The same people you meet on the way up are the same ones you’ll see on the way down.

Employers notice attention to detail.

Team players generally go farther, faster.

What’s good for my station is also good for me.

Landing a full-time radio sportscasting job in a major market is HARD.

Play-by-play is largely a part-time industry.

Entry-level sportscasting jobs really DO pay as little as my mentors had warned me.

I thought I knew everything, but I really knew nothing.

Programming small market stations is vastly different than programming in large markets.

Hot chicks weren’t attracted to my $18,000 a year salary.

Being Howard Stern in McPherson, KS ticks off the local listeners.

Winning in the job market requires following up your applications.

Talent alone is not enough for making it to sports broadcasting’s big time.

You’ll forget the frustrations of your first job and one day remember only the great stuff!

What do you wish you’d known at 22?

One major market PD’s pet peeve about job seekers

My parents gave me a lot of advice when I was growing up. Much of it I ignored, thinking they were wrong or that I simply knew more than them. Sometimes, though, when a coach or the parent of a friend gave me the same advice, I ran with it because it came from a different voice. Trying to help our clients at STAA is sometimes the same way.

I have preached ‘til I’m blue in the face that cookie-cutter cover letters – form letters – do not work in the job market.

Alas, not all of our clients at STAA respect the message. I received the following email this week from the Program Director at a one of the nation’s most prominent sports radio stations.
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8 good lessons I learned from bad bosses

My sister is three years older than me. Growing up, I learned a lot from her examples. Yell at my parents? Don’t do that. Punch a hole in a cabinet in a fit of anger? Don’t do that. Stay out all night? Especially don’t do that.

Watch your head

We can learn from bad examples as much as we can from good ones. Sometimes more. The same is true inside radio and TV stations. With that in mind, here are 8 good lessons I learned from bad bosses.

1. Be equals

Great leaders don’t elevate themselves above the people they are trying to lead.
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5 keys to landing a major college play-by-play job

college football crimson tide

There is one question I get asked nearly every day: How do I get a major college play-by-play job?

If you ask 10 guys how they landed their major college broadcasting gigs, you’ll get 10 different answers. However, there are some commonalities. Before I get to them, though, I want to emphasize one critical point:

You have to accept that the process is largely out of your control.

Landing a prime time college gig is overwhelmingly about luck and relationships. If you are willing to accept this reality, then keep reading. You can increase the chance that Lady Luck will smile upon you by controlling these five variables in your career.
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6 tips for building meaningful relationships


I received good news this week that might be good news for you, too. Tony Castricone, a Network Manager at IMG is going to be at STAA’s upcoming One Day Ticket to Sportscasting Success seminar looking to meet talent. Specifically, Tony needs folks to fill as many as 20 studio host positions on IMGs various NCAA football and basketball networks.

When you meet Tony or anyone else in our industry, what are you going to do to make yourself memorable? Success in sports broadcasting is more about who you know than what you know, but how do you take advantage of these opportunities to meet folks who can influence your career?

Here are 6 keys to building meaningful relationships at seminars or conferences:
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Advice for young play-by-play broadcasters

baseball press box

Today’s guest post written by national radio and TV sportscaster, John Fricke.

Free advice is worth what you pay for it, unless it’s passed along from the likes of David Hill. When I was anchoring a Fox Sports Net there was a sign hanging, it had David’s name on it. It read like a sports media version of the Boy Scout motto.

“Be Prepared, Stay Cool, Less is More”.

I would write those initials down on the top page of any game notes I had “BP, SC, LIM”. There are truths in those words (for anyone, not just sportscasters).

Less is More

Nowhere is “Less is More” more critical than in play-by-play. One mistake I made early in my PBP days at Wake Forest was a tendency towards over-calling. The game, no matter how big, slows down for anyone calling it when they cease over-calling.
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