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So You Want a Job in TV Sports?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:27 AM, under , , , , , , , ,

Athens, GA (Nov 28, 2007) - This is the first in an occasional series of articles for people who have an interest in working in TV Sports. Today, I will talk in general terms. In later articles, I will talk about specific jobs, both permanent and temporary, that people can explore.

IMG_9771"You don't want to work in TV sports full time. You work every weekend and most of the week, and you have no life." Those were the words Pete Macheska, currently the lead producer for baseball on Fox Sports, gave me back in 1986. I was working as a runner for CBS Sports coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Regional Finals in Cincinnati, and we had this conversation as we were driving to a production house for an edit session. At that time, Pete was a Broadcast Associate, the entry level production track job, for CBS. Looking back, I have to chuckle because I never did take on a full-time job in the field, but he stuck with it and still does it because he loves it.

Loving it is the key, because you really have to have a passion to do the job. Back in 1986, sports were only on TV during the weekend for the most part. Now, televised sports are a 24-7, global operation and there really is no down time for the people who do the work full time.

So here are some simple things to think about before pursuing your dream, if this IS your dream:

1. Start young before you have a spouse and children. Once you have kids, the pressure on you will be greater and greater because you will never be home.

2. Do not think you have to go to Broadcast Journalism school to get qualified for the work. What you learn in school bears little resemblance to what you will find in the work day of sports broadcasting. And it will not help you get a job. Legendary CBS Sports Golf Associate Director Chuck Will, in a 1998 Sports Illustrated interview, said, "There are so few jobs in television it's ridiculous. You can go through communications college, or you can come to me. Hang with me for a summer, you learn more than in four years of college." If you do not think this is true, just ask Lance Barrow who is now the producer for CBS Golf Coverage and started out as a runner-type worker for CBS way back when.

AUBUGA2007 0643. Take on any job, no matter how menial. That means if you are hired as a runner to fetch Cokes and hot dogs, that is your job. Sit back, listen, and watch. You will be surprised how much you will learn just doing this. Everything I learned about developing graphics on the Chyron graphics generator I learned from Charlie Carlucci (pictured right). I learned to much in fact, that the senior engineer at one production facility told me his full-time operators hated me because I could do things with the machine they said were impossible.

4. Be patient. As with a fine wine, everything takes time. As you spend more time working with the different crews, you will become a trusted asset. With that will come additional responsibility. You might end up doing research, statistics or more.

5. Don't be shy about approaching people for work. In 1986, I walked up to a production truck outside St. John Arena at The Ohio State University. I had worked exactly two football games in my career to that point as a runner, yet I asked for a job. Next thing you know, I was getting paid $25 to be the graphics coordinator for the game. Not a lot of money, but great experience. And you will be remembered. 10 years later I worked for that producer as the stage manager for the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships played at the University of Georgia. Last year, I worked for the director for a Fox Sports Network broadcast of a UGA football game.

IMG_01506. You are being hired to work, NOT TO BE A FAN. Longtime NFL Spotter Kim Anderson (pictured left) told me a story about his very early years as a spotter. Atlanta was playing New Orleans, and Atlanta scored a miracle touchdown. Kim got so excited he jumped up and spilled hot coffee on play-by-play announcer Bob Neal, who was making the call while in pain from the coffee. When they went to break, Bob grabbed Kim and told him that he was there to work, not to be a fan. From that moment on, Kim stopped being a fan when he worked. If you do not think this is serious, I saw a runner fired on the spot because he asked Terry Bradshaw for an autograph on a football and it was caught on camera.

So that is it for now. Stay tuned for more down the road.

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