There are fine lines, subtleties some might say, between successful sports broadcasters who rapidly climb the market ladder and the myriad of voices and faces that stay put in the small market netherworld.
After 25 years of major market sports broadcasting experience and talent coaching, David Brody can diagnose the difference.
“I can’t tolerate arrogance,” says the former New Jersey Sportscaster of the Year.
“I understand that great sports broadcasters must have strong commanding presence, and you need confidence to give opinions to thousands of people, but don’t sound like your opinion is the only one that matters. This just in, you are an entertainer, a companion, and a friend. You are not curing Ebola. Stop sounding like you are the most important person on the planet.
“I also don’t like listening to the used car salesman. The guy who is trying way too hard. Just talk to me. Stop the performance. Stop talking down to me. Just because you have a microphone doesn’t mean you have the right to talk to me like I’m an idiot.
“And stop the anger. There is a huge difference between anger and passion. Passion fuels talk-radio. Anger fuels my desire to turn you off.”
Passion is something Brody is full of.
After breaking into the sports industry as the second ever intern at ESPN (yep, way back then) Brody has spent the last quarter century refining his personal talents as a sports radio host, play-by-play announcer, sports reporter, professor and talent coach though his company, Broadcaster Marketing Services.
If you feel you are destined for a career either behind the mic or in front of the camera, the following advice from David Brody will get you started down the right path:
You became a sports broadcaster in 1979 and have gone on to an illustrious career, how did you break into the sports radio business back then and how much different/harder is it now?
Brody: The business is completely different.
When I started, ESPN was in its first year of existence. We were nearly ten years away from WFAN becoming the first all sports station. The secret wasn’t out on this phenomenon known as sports radio. That’s not to say there wasn’t competition, but it wasn’t nearly as great as it is today.
My goal was to be prepared for the real world the day I left college. I did everything I could behind a microphone for five years leading up to graduation day. I spent a year broadcasting sports on my high school radio station, and four doing sports, news, and DJ shows in college.
I also took advantage of internships. I was the second ever intern at ESPN, and I turned a news/sports internship at WDRC in Hartford, into a reporting job.
In my senior year of college I was covering the Hartford Whalers and the mayor of Hartford for WDRC. The more you can do the higher your career ceiling becomes.
Let’s dig deeper into becoming a sports broadcaster either in front of the camera or the mic – the theory has always been you start out at a small market like Pocatello, Idaho and work your way up market by market…. is that still the best way?
Brody: No question.
I remember a couple of years ago, a young guy in New York City told me he knew he had to start small in a market like Birmingham, AL. I had to inform this guy that Birmingham is not typically a starting point for people fresh out of college.
More likely, you would looking at a place like Pocatello, Idaho, which is a perfect spot to work on the many flaws every young broadcaster has to correct.
Outside of charisma and natural ability, what do you think makes one sports broadcaster grow into a big market and another top out in the mid-market range?
Brody: Work ethic and the ability to accept constructive criticism are imperative. It’s also vital that the talent is unique.
What separates you from everyone else? And, how comfortable are you in presenting your opinions? Are you willing to let me into your life as you look to entertain and inform me?
The great sportscasters are constantly showing their human side. They aren’t afraid to take chances and they understand the meaning of the term self-deprecating.
I’ve always preached to young sports broadcasters that they need to learn more than just presentation skills to really make it – in your view what are the most important skills aspiring sports reporters and sports radio hosts need to develop?
Brody: The ability to communicate in a one-on-one intimate manner. It’s not about broadcasting. It’s about reaching out to each listener and making an emotional connection with that person.
It’s about being relatable.
You need to have the ability to come across as just a ‘guy’ who is like your next door neighbor or the guy in the stands at the soccer match.
You need to show the listener that you also have problems and you bleed the same color as he does.
You aren’t above the listener, you are speaking to him, not at him.
We appear to be in the golden era of sports broadcasting, more and more sports networks are popping up on TV, and sports radio is growing up from AM to FM at exponential rates, do you feel this is something that can last or is there a down cycle on the horizon?
Brody: I have no doubt that this phenomenon will continue.
As long as we have sports fanatics, sports on radio and television will continue to grow. Play by Play rights fees will continue to climb. If you have a passion for sports broadcasting, there will be opportunities for you.
The question is, are you willing to do what’s necessary to take advantage of the growing opportunities? Too many young people believe they have it all figured out, and this is the perfect recipe for disaster.
No one has it figured out at 22, let alone 32 or 42. Those who work hard and who understand that everyone can get better, are those who succeed.
The know-it-all is the guy who never advances and then complains that he business is cruel and unfair.
Your coaching program is called Broadcaster Marketing Service – why is marketing yourself such an important part of this process?
Brody: Like on-air talent, I need to sell what I offer.
I always considered myself a sales person when I hosted shows. I was selling myself. I believe you sell yourself before you sell your product.
My company offers coaching and representation and my goal in promoting Broadcaster Marketing Services is to market or sell myself as a guy who cares about you and your career.
My coaching clients will tell you that the session doesn’t end when the clock strikes zero. It ends when I finish the material that needs to be addressed in that session.
I have my cell phone with me nearly every minute of the day and I do my best to super serve each client regardless of market size.
I speak to most of my representation clients at least once or twice a week. I market myself as a guy who’s been in this business a very long time, who’s made every mistake there is to make, and who hopefully can help you avoid some the mistakes that hindered my progress when I was young.
There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake. There’s plenty wrong with not addressing or fixing it.
When you first get a client into your coaching program, what are the most important first steps with them?
Brody: Getting the person to understand talent coaching isn’t about breaking the person down, it’s about building the person up.
It’s not my goal to tell you how horrible you sound. It’s my goal to show you how you can sound better.
No one likes being criticized, and coaching will never work if the talent is defensive. So, I need to get the person to trust that I’m all about making him or her better, and once you let the guard down, we can develop you as a personality.
In your talent coaching program for sports broadcasters and in your classroom at Kennesaw State, how do you know when you have been successful with a student?
Brody: There is nothing like hearing the smile in the person’s voice when he or she improves and they begin to ‘get it.’ You know you’ve made great progress when a person says, ‘I’m hearing it. I now understand what you mean by ……” Once the person hears it, they can then apply what you’re teaching.
My favorite line in coaching is ‘do you hear it?” If they don’t hear it, they won’t make the correction. Perhaps the best barometer for measuring progress is when talent informs me their 90 year old grandmother listened to their game and she couldn’t believe the improvement.
Father may know best, but no one is a tougher critic than 90 year old grandma. You know you’re onto something when she’s throwing out compliments.