Sportscasting career advice: always arrive early

When I was in my first job in McPherson, KS, I did football play-by-play for a small NAIA school, Bethany College. One October afternoon, the Swedes had a game up the road in Salina at Kansas Wesleyan. As was my habit, I arrived at the stadium two hours early. I liked taking my time to set-up my broadcast location, review my notes, record my pre-game coaches interview, then relax before going on the air. Today, though, was different.

When I plugged in my phone jack (yes – we broadcast using telephone land lines back in the day), I heard the last thing a broadcaster ever wants to hear in that situation.

I heard nothing.

The phone line, which I had tested earlier in the week, was dead. Thank goodness I had arrived so early because I needed every minute of those two hours to drive to Radio Shack, buy several hundred feet of phone line, then plug it in at the coaches office roughly 100 yards away. We broadcast from the top of the bleachers that day. We missed the opening kickoff but were on the air for the first play from scrimmage.

Another time, my analyst and I were driving to a Bethany basketball game in Dodge City, KS. Two hours into the three-hour drive I turned him and said, “You put the equipment in the van, right?” He replied, “No. You’re kidding, right?”

Each of us thought the other guy had done it. In reality, neither of us had. Again, though, we had left home early enough that we had time to drive to different radio stations in Dodge City, borrowing enough equipment to get ourselves on the air.

The moral of these stories is to always arrive to your broadcasts plenty early.

Things go wrong. When they do, you’ll have plenty of time to troubleshoot and still get yourself on air.

By the way, two side notes to the latter story. One, I was one month into my first job out of college. I’m lucky I didn’t get fired. Two – my analyst that day in 1989 was Matt Walters. 23 years later, Matt was named Kansas Sportscaster of the Year. His progress has astonished us all. I have always protected Matt in this story but today, I feel like throwing him in the bus. (He is a great friend, so I do so good-naturedly.)