My favourite podcast right now is Sean Aronson’s The Voice Behind the Voice. It’s pretty much a series of broadcaster biographies in audio form, but it’s presented in such a way that you feel like you’re listening to two buddies talk about their lives and this profession. If you have ANY interest in sports broadcasting, and if you don’t then why are you here, I suggest listening to an episode or two.
Anyway, on Sean’s August 30th’s podcast with Kansas City Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre, prior to the interview Sean ran down the recent happenings with “your new favourite team” the St. Paul Saints. He mentioned that the team was limping towards the end of the regular season, and while they still occupied first place in the league, they were being caught rapidly by Winnipeg and had some work to do to maintain control of their own fate in the post season.
However it wasn’t Sean’s recap of some recent troubles that caught my ear, it was a segment he did on being a sore loser (his words, not mine). Sean relayed a story that after a game where the Saints lost in the bottom of the ninth, he had a conversation with a player who said he looked tired. Sean responded by saying that he was devastated and frustrated.
You should listen to the whole thing, but the overwhelming theme was that Sean doesn’t like to lose, again something that he said directly. The segment got me thinking about passion for a team and balance as a broadcaster. Now before I delve into my thoughts on this, I should preface that this isn’t an attack or anything on Sean…his podcast simply triggered this topic in my mind. I haven’t listened to Sean calling a game, but if it’s anything like his podcast, it’ll be polished, professional and outstanding…I’ve become a big fan.
So the question is can you afford to be “devastated” after a result, or likewise celebratory after a win?
Sean posed a situation on his podcast after relaying the story with the pitcher…it all came down to control. Here’s a quote from Sean: “The players control everything, as broadcasters we control absolutely nothing, which I think is why sometimes you ride the highs higher and the lows lower than the players because it’s something in your life you have no control over.”
On air, I’ve always been very even keel. I try not to get too high and I rarely let myself get too low. Maybe it’s the news background in me. When I was going to school for broadcast television, it was drilled into us during news rotations that our personal feelings must be thrown out and that we had to get the story. You couldn’t let something impact you to the point where you were influenced or biased. And what is a game if nothing other than a long story, a chapter in the book of a season.
That continued not only in my technical coverage of news, but followed me as a reporter later in my career. Fair and balanced isn’t just a (misplaced) Fox News tag line, it’s a creedo that should take centre stage in coverage of a story, or in the case of a sportscaster…a game.
Look, there are high and low moments in any game…that’s why we have jobs, to tell those stories and to convey the emotions behind them. What’s more exciting than a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth, or a last drive touchdown to come from behind. And with every one of those moments, there is an equally devastating moment on the other side. The pitcher who gave up the hit, the defensive back who missed an assignment or the goalie who failed to make the big save. As broadcasters, I believe we’re supposed to stay as much ‘in the middle’ as we can, while conveying the gravity and meaning of any given situation.
Many years ago, I roomed with a guy who was very much like Sean is suggesting…riding the highs and lows. He wasn’t a broadcaster, just another staff member of the team I was covering at the time. This individual would obviously be pretty happy when the team won, but if it was a loss, particularly a close one then he’d be back in the hotel room throwing his bag around, kicking things, swearing.
I was always bewildered by this behaviour because while I obviously enjoy calling wins over losses, I just failed to get too caught up in the result. A loss was disappointing sure but I would never let it get to me the way it did with my room mate, and seemingly Sean by his recount of the story.
Am I alone in this? Is it because I never played at a high level? Is it because of my news background? Is it because I’m apparently devoid of all human emotion and incapable of feeling?
What do you think? How do you handle wins and losses and how does it impact your broadcast?