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Scott Shapiro Wants To Compete On Every Platform

“I just find that fascinating knowing where the media is headed and what different consumption habits are.”

Brian Noe

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Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen once described a teammate of his in a memorable way. Allen said that although former Los Angeles Raiders tight end Todd Christensen was very well read, he also had the ability to come down to a locker room level. That skill is very useful for a sports radio programmer to possess as well. It’s a skill that Scott Shapiro has.

Scott is one of the brightest minds in sports radio, but he doesn’t sound like he’s constantly giving a dissertation on the migrating habits of the Arctic Tern. Scott has the ability to teach and inform while sounding like one of the guys.

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The Minneapolis native eventually landed a gig as Program Director of ESPN Radio in Bristol. Scott worked closely with some of the biggest names in the business including Mike & Mike and Colin Cowherd, and continues to work with Cowherd now as the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio. Other top talent in the industry have also been under Scott’s careful watch at FSR. It isn’t shocking that a man who has presided over some of the sharpest minds in the business sounds like he has one of the sharpest minds himself. The top-shelf insight that Scott offers below is second to none.

One of the best compliments I can give a sports fan is this; the passion they have for their favorite team makes me more passionate about that same team myself. It works the same way in business. The love that Scott displays for sports radio is contagious. His words are inspiring and contain some of the best advice hosts will find anywhere. Scott will be on a panel at the BSM Summit in New York next week. He gets a head start by spreading some knowledge in the interview below. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: Which area did last year’s Summit benefit you the most?

Scott Shapiro: Audio is at such a critical point right now and it’s so fascinating how the industry is changing. To me what was most compelling last year is how the industry is combating all of the new platforms. Not all of the platforms are truly new, but the strategies towards all of the platforms are changing by the day. When you have the smartest minds in radio and audio in one room, the collective brainstorm about how podcasting is changing the game, how streaming is revolutionizing the decisions we make, to me the most useful information is what’s new on the horizon and how we can combat it as an industry.

We’ve all programmed and hosted radio shows for many years so the name of the game hasn’t changed, it’s all about compelling audio, but what’s most fascinating in a conference like that is, there are new technologies and platforms, and new audience members as a result of it. It’s figuring out the right strategies to make sure the audio business continues to grow, which it definitely is.

BN: Which is more challenging; finding the right on-air talent, or combating all of the other competition and platforms?

SS: I’d say the biggest challenge for any media company right now is standing out in the wilderness of so much product. What I mean by that — there’s between 900,000 and a million podcasts for example. So there is way more audio product in the market than ever before. To me the biggest challenge for any content producer, any company, is having your content stand out and be top of mind with the audience. 

What’s great for all of us and what makes it a fantastic challenge is that more people are consuming audio than ever before. Really along those lines more people are listening to sports audio than ever before. By audio I mean terrestrial radio, streaming, podcasting, you name the platform, there are more people listening, so that’s fantastic. There are less people today reading print journalism. That’s a fact. But there are more people listening to sports audio. The biggest challenge is since there are so many people delivering the product, how can you capture the listening, how can your content stand out in a wilderness of so many other takes?

BN: What strategies has FOX Sports Radio used to stand out among so much competition?  

SS: More than anything it’s in the strength of our talent without question. It’s having the most compelling, the most insightful, and the most thought-provoking material. By material I mean takes and opinions. The name of our game is playing hits and giving a very smart opinion on stories to make people smarter, to make people think differently, and to make people react.

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What allows us to stand out, it’s the creative process of our talent and are producers to make what we’re doing the most compelling talk out in the space. Then you use your resources like social media to disseminate it and get it out to the masses. But really the name of the game more than anything is that content creation process where you’re developing a smart, well-researched take. You’re there for making your audience smarter and allowing them to learn something based on having a unique take compared to something that’s cookie-cutter that anybody out in the marketplace could be doing.

BN: If you were trying to build the perfect sports radio host, or as close to perfect as you could get, what would be the three main traits you would pinpoint?

SS: Good question. I’m going to name some things and we’ll see if it ends up being three. Ultimately a host has to live and breathe sports. You have to be so consumed with the content at which you’re presenting. I mean that because you need to have that curiosity for the topics. You need to have a fire burning inside of you for the topics that you’re discussing. I’ve worked with hosts in the past who ehh, they don’t really care about the topics. When you don’t care, you have such a ceiling on how good your take is going to be and how compelling and how passionate you are going to be. But when you are consumed by it, when you’re a fan yourself, you bring a certain level of curiosity and you care more about the topics — it invigorates opinions. It invigorates thought. Therefore there is depth to the topic which allows the audience to be along with you on the journey. To me more than anything you have to have a passion for the material because if not, the audience is going to see right through that and they’re going to tune out and find somebody else who is passionate. 

Number two; it’s the prep work that goes into a great show and the prep work that goes into developing a great topic. Anybody can take a story and give a cookie-cutter opinion and get by, but that’s no longer good enough. There are so many content producers out there where in the past, yeah, there might have been a couple different hosts on at the same time in each market. That was the audience’s choice. While there was competition there, it’s nothing like the competition of today. Now people can stream hosts from out of town. You can listen to content on demand. You can listen to content live. You can listen to all different genres. At this point now anybody can do mediocre audio, but that’s not good enough to win anymore. What prep does is it allows you to go deeper and make the audience smarter. 

Whether I’m listening in my position or just listening casually, I know when people put prep work in because that prep work allows your material to go from mediocre to excellent. Not even good to great, it can be from mediocre to excellent. Frankly the audience’s time in this day and age with all of the distractions, with all the content, with social media, with all the different technology we have for our ears and at our fingertips, people’s time is honestly in many cases more valuable than even their money. If we’re asking people to spend time consuming our content, there’s got to be prep that goes into it to make it great instead of making it mediocre. Mediocre just doesn’t cut it anymore and frankly good often times doesn’t cut it anymore. There are too many options out there.

Okay number three; hosts must have tremendous storytelling ability. At the end of the day no matter what topic you’re discussing, whether it’s sports or anything else, you’re telling stories on the air. Now it might be very topical to the story of the day. It might be an analogy to your life. It might be an analogy to the real world but ultimately the greatest storytellers make for the greatest radio hosts because really that’s what you’re doing. You’re asking for people’s attention and you’re trying to keep their attention in a very interesting and compelling way.

BN: You landed right on three. You stuck the landing.

SS: Hey, what do you know? Three. Boom. Man, if you would have asked me for 14, I might have struggled there.

BN: (Laughs) What are a couple of other traits in a great host?

SS: Being fearless. Having the ability to not be overly concerned with kickback, and not overly concerned by having a potentially unpopular opinion. A radio host who’s willing to be honest in a constructive way and a well-researched way despite it perhaps being uncomfortable or unpopular, that’s a skill that allows people to stand out because it makes for exceptionally interesting radio.

I’m going to also say unpredictability. It could be unpredictability in terms of the presentation, or in terms of the opinion they may have on a story. The more unpredictable a talent is, it leaves open to the audience a level of suspense where they never quite know exactly what they’re getting. That level of intrigue usually makes for a pretty interesting listener/host relationship.

BN: You’ll be one of the speakers at the Summit. Being on the programming side, do you feel comfortable and enjoy being in front of a crowd? 

SS: Personally I love it. There’s just an adrenaline rush. As a kid I was in plays and I’ve always liked being onstage. I’ve never shied away from those moments. I love the pressure that comes along with it. While some people have a hard time with that, I thrive in those types of atmospheres. But I’ve always wanted to be behind the scenes in radio. I love the strategy that goes into it. I love programming. The whole reason I’m in this game is because I would be consuming this product if I wasn’t working in it.

To be able to work behind the scenes and help craft it and help make talent better; to take shows from mediocre to great, or even good to great, I love the role of this position. I love what I do. At the same time in my position, you’re talking to people all day, every day. Whether it’s presenting to one person or having to get up on the stage and present to multiple hundreds, I’m comfortable with it. I think a leader of an organization needs to be comfortable speaking to others because a big part of what they’re doing is leading and inspiring people.

BN: The Summit will provide a lot of networking opportunities. It obviously benefits people that are seeking jobs, but for someone like yourself who already has the job, how important is networking?

SS: It’s important to everyone. Regardless if you’re a college student or you’re a top executive at a big company, it’s always important because you never know when opportunities are created with the people you meet. Frankly every job I’ve had throughout my career has been thanks to networking. Now, it’s also luck. Luck comes into everything. But luck doesn’t just happen; you have to create your luck through the relationships you have and through hard work.

Networking is very important because again no one should ever be content with where they are in life. You never know what doors can open through networking. Whether you’re a college student looking for an internship or you’re 60 years old and you think you’ve made it, there’s no point to shy away from networking because it could close doors that you never knew may open.

BN: What is either the most impactful thing you’ve recently learned about the radio industry or something that you found the most interesting?

SS: Now that’s a good question. Listen, to be an audio homer, it’s something I find fascinating; just in terms of leading and learning, one thing that I find fascinating is listening and viewing habits. What seems pretty remarkable to me is linear television. When you look at millennials, television consumption over the last five years has gone down 40 percent. Amongst millennials, linear television viewing has gone down 50 percent. Now of course that’s because there are so many streaming and on-demand options. But that’s a fact for linear TV.

Then when you look at terrestrial audio, there hasn’t been that drop off. It has not decreased at all over the last five years; to the point that well over 90 percent of people still to this day listen to terrestrial radio on a weekly basis. When you are able to track listening, viewing, and consumer habits, it allows you to better strategize what it is you’re doing and set up your organization to succeed. That’s not a profound life lesson, but it’s something I’ve learned just diving through numbers. I just find that fascinating knowing where the media is headed and what different consumption habits are.

BN: Being born and raised in Minneapolis, I know you bleed for your Minnesota teams. What’s the pecking order of your personal teams of interest?

SS: There are three that are at the top of the list; Vikings, Twins, and Timberwolves. I live and die with all of them. Boy, in terms of the order — mmm mmm mmm.

A Vikings Super Bowl championship would be the most impactful just because of the power of football. For a revolutionary moment, for that fan base, and for the state of Minnesota, the Vikings winning would be monumental. As a personal fan I live and die through these three teams. There’s not even a pecking order because my emotions that go into all of them are peak to begin with. I swear it’s like picking between children. I love them all and I hate them all at the same time.

BN: If a sports host talks about one of your favorite teams, you’re going to be locked in. What are the ingredients of a host that grab your attention the same way even when one of your favorite teams isn’t being discussed?

SS: It’s all about the storytelling and it’s all about the presentation. I’m a pretty broad sports fan in addition to having my favorite teams. If it’s a big story in sports I’m likely going to be interested in that story. But that’s what makes the ability of a host so fascinating; they can take a story that an audience perhaps wouldn’t choose on their own and they can make it compelling. That’s when you know you have a great host. It’s capturing the audience’s attention. It’s building an argument by demonstrating it and by telling a story. Ultimately we’re still playing the hits. We believe that the topics that we’re discussing are what the audience wants to hear. But if you’re able to hold people on a topic they didn’t wake up thinking they needed, it’s a great skill.

BN: You’ve worked with Jason Barrett before. Do you either have a funny story about JB from your working days together or something that stands out in your mind in terms of his work ethic?  

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SS: Other than the wrestling figurines that I see on his Twitter timeline. (Laughs) No here’s what I would say. It’s not a specific story. What I respect about Jason is that he’s relentless. I talk about hosts needing to have a passion on the air to be able to cut through and Jason certainly brings a next-level passion to his business and the business of sports audio. To have the vision to create a Summit like this, to have a vision to create a portal for news and a whole infrastructure around it, it takes guts and it takes a huge heart and a lot of work. I give him credit for having a very attuned sports media audience at the ready whenever he has news or content to share. I do really respect his passion for the industry and his relentless approach to making BSM work.

BSM Writers

What Tom Brady Needs To Know Before His First Fox Broadcast

“Our panel includes a fellow player-turned-analyst, a legendary play-by-play man, and a broadcasting coach.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Tom Brady announced he is retiring from the NFL today. It happened literally a year to the day since the last time he retired.

The last retirement lasted just 40 days. Before the end of March of last year, Tom Brady had decided he was done pretending to be happy about embracing life off of the field and announced he was returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third season.

I guess we cannot rule out that that will happen again. The difference this time around, at least for Tom Brady’s professional life, is that he has a plan for his future. Now that his playing days are over, it is time for him to start his ten-year deal with FOX to be the analyst in the network’s top NFL booth.

Audiences do not know what to expect. No one can deny that Brady brings star power. He is the GOAT after all, but we cannot say for sure if he will be any good.

The pressure is tremendous too. Not only is Tom Brady embarking on a new career, but football fans seem to have taken a liking to the guy he is about to unseat. Whether Greg Olsen gets kicked back down to the number two booth or he is forced to share the spotlight in a three-man booth, plenty of people will look at Brady as the reason we hear less from the guy regarded by many as the best analyst on TV right now.

Brady does not have much room for error here. Since that is the case, I thought I would get some perspectives from people that can help him out. I asked three people to give me their best advice for Tom Brady.

Our panel includes a fellow player-turned-analyst, a legendary play-by-play man, and a broadcasting coach.

THE PLAYER TURNED ANALYST: ANTHONY BECHT

In 2000, the New York Jets used the 27th pick of the NFL Draft to select Anthony Becht. He played for five different teams during his twelve NFL seasons.

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Courtesy USA Today

His broadcasting career began in 2013. Becht worked on ESPN for eight years as an analyst on the network’s college football games. He has since abandoned the booth to return to the sidelines. He will be the head coach of the St. Louis Battlehawks when the XFL starts its third first season this month.

I texted and asked him to look back on his broadcasting career. What does he wish he knew before he started? Here are the three pieces of advice that he had for Tom Brady.

1. Less is more. Folks want to watch the game and just know the “why”. Providing tangible information in a five or six second window is key.

2. Fans want to know about your personal experiences as a player – information and stories they can’t get or wouldn’t even know about because they never did it at the level we did. Share those when the time comes in a game.

3. Have a strong opinion about what you agree or disagree with, but be able to voice it without being demeaning towards players and coaches. It’s an art form and takes time to articulate that in a way that’s done right. I never bash any player or coach because a lot of work goes into be a professional athlete and coach. That needs to be respected but critiqued appropriately.

Anthony Becht via text message

THE PLAY-BY-PLAY LEGEND: TIM BRANDO

Tim Brando has worked with a lot of people. That happens when you have been calling football and basketball action on TV for as long as he has. When I called him on Wednesday to discuss what is ahead for Tom Brady, he drew on his experience with another Brady.

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Courtesy FOX Sports

Brando was working with Jole Klatt in his early days at FOX, but he and Klatt were not going to be an exclusive team. He remembers Brady Quinn coming in to their booth shortly after his NFL career had eneded. Quinn was about to make his debut for FOX. Before they were ready to turn him loose, the network wanted the former quarterback to get a feel for the pace and atmosphere of a broadcast booth.

I do think it’s important that you have a new talent understand what that workplace is like in the booth – the choreography that takes place, because there is choreography. If the ball is deflected, your spotter’s hands are coming together like a bad clap. If there’s a hit, who caused the hit? Who stripped it? So there’s a hand signal for stripping the ball and then recovering the ball with the arms closing together. So who got the recovery? Who caused the fumble? Those things are always helpful.

There are things that are going on frantically in the booth, but you as a broadcaster have to remain calm, understand it, and sound succinct and confident. That just takes time and it takes reps. 

That’s one of the great things I think that Greg (Olsen) probably had an advantage in, as do a lot of analysts that get better over time. They do games of lesser importance that maybe the whole world is not watching. 

Tim Brando via Telephone

Tom Brady won’t have the luxury of time or of reps under the radar. He may get to do a few practice games, but the first time he will be calling a game on live television, it will be one of the biggest of the week.

Brando says in that case, it is really important that Brady use his instincts to his advantage in the booth the way he did on the field.

I don’t know Tom well, but I know him well enough to know that he prides himself on preparation. I don’t doubt for one minute that he will be prepared. He’s obviously an incredible competitor. You know, this is a this is a business of competition too. 

If you’re a great player, just like a coach, you love the ecstasy of victory. You don’t want to admit it, but you love the agony of the defeat as well. That feeling of defeat is something we feed on to motivate you for your next performance. In television and sports television, you don’t get that in terms of winning and losing, but you do get it if you look at it as a great performance, 

I believe that all great broadcasters are performers at heart. It takes a certain level of of a theater. It’s live. It’s not scripted. 

I think some players that get in the booth that are looking to have that same, you know, euphoria that they have after playing and winning a game. Some of them get that and understand that in broadcasting and get out of that the same thing and others don’t.

Tim Brando via Telephone

THE BROADCASTING COACH: GUS RAMSEY

Plenty of broadcasters turn to Gus Ramsey for critiques and advice. The Program Director for the Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting at Full Sail University is also a broadcasting coach working with clients at all levels of the business. They trust his opinion because of his professional experience.

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Courtesy Full Sail University

In a prior life, Ramsey was the producer of SportsCenter on ESPN. He has worked with a number of incredibly talented people and been tasked with taking newbies to new heights, so I asked him what he would be thinking if it were his job to get Tom Brady ready for his first FOX broadcast.

Sometimes great athletes forget that most humans don’t know what the athletes know. Things that are basic or simple or even mundane to the athlete are incredible pieces of wisdom or insight to the average fan.

When I was at ESPN we had Tony Gwynn in for an episode of Baseball Tonight. In our show meeting, Tony was explaining why a hitter was slumping because we was cupping his wrist. He went on explaining it for 30 seconds or so. The room was in total silence, eating up every word. The greatest hitter of our generation was doing a deep-dive on hitting. It was amazing.

Tony suddenly got a little self-conscious, stopped explaining and apologized for “going on too long” and we were all like “No!! Keep going!” Tony thought is was boring. It was just the opposite.

Athletes can think things they’ve learned and repeated their whole lives are common knowledge so sometimes they don’t share that info because they think “everyone knows this.”

I want to walk away from a broadcast feeling like I learned something. Sometimes the ex-athlete doesn’t realize how much educating they can do in a broadcast.

The other thing I always encourage former athletes or coaches to do is to take the viewer where they’ve never been; on the field, in the locker room, in a contract negotiation, etc. If you can get that viewer to fully appreciate the feelings and emotions of what goes on in those places, you enhance the experience for us.

Terrell Davis was an analyst on NFL Network for a bit after his career. He once described Champ Bailey running back an interception 100 yards by saying as Bailey got to the 50 yard line “right here it feels like someone put sandbags on your ankles.” I’ve never run 100 yards in a football uniform in Denver’s altitude, but Terrell’s line helped me better understand what it feels like.

Gus ramsey via text message

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BSM Writers

Mark Packer Loves Reading Your Memories & Tributes to Billy Packer

“I’ve heard from all kinds of coaches. I’ve been blown away. It’s just another reminder of the impact Billy had on so many different people, not just the world of sports.”

Tyler McComas

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It still stands today as one of the most iconic moments in the storied history of Arizona basketball. Three simple words said it all as the Wildcats celebrated an overtime win over Duke to win the 1997 national championship. “Simon says championship.” Those were the words of legendary broadcaster Billy Packer as Miles Simon fell to the floor with the ball in his hands. It’s one of many lines his son, Mark Packer, has been reminded of recently.

It was the perfect three words after the country just watched Simon carry Arizona to college basketball glory. Packer captured the moment perfectly, just like he did during every Final Four for 34 years.

Packer passed away last Thursday at the age of 82 but his legacy and impact in sports broadcasting will never perish. He was heard during every NCAA Tournament from 1975 to 2008 and was on the call for some of college basketball’s most iconic moments, including Michael Jordan’s shot to win the 1982 National Championship, Bird vs Magic in 1979, and even Kansas completing an improbable comeback to win the 2008 championship in his last broadcast. And the best part of it all was that Packer did it his own way, with his own unique style.

“It has really been remarkable,” said Mark Packer. “When Billy passed Thursday night we put it out on Twitter and it took off but I didn’t really know what to expect on Friday and Saturday as far as reaction. But the tributes have been fantastic and our family has loved it.

“I have heard from just about everybody and their brother. Folks I never thought I’d hear from, I’ve heard from them, such as commissioners, whether it be the NBA, whether it be other Power 5 leagues, I’ve heard from all kinds of coaches. I’ve been blown away. It’s just another reminder of the impact Billy had on so many different people, not just the world of sports. To me, that’s been comforting to all of us. It just reinforced all the stuff we knew he was about and brings back special memories.”

Packer’s style of broadcasting has been well-documented over the years. He was honest about what he saw and always spoke his mind. Granted, that didn’t always sit well with college basketball fans, but Packer wasn’t concerned about that. He was honest because he cared. 

“He wanted the game of college basketball to be the best it possibly could be,” said Mark.  “When he saw things he did not like, the one thing he always did was speak his mind. He ruffled feathers and he didn’t care. His intent was to make the game the No. 1 priority. You realize now he didn’t have it out for your team, he was just speaking his mind.”

That style meant fans would often yell at games, ‘You hate Duke! You hate North Carolina!’ Packer’s honesty was often taken by fans as he hated their favorite team. He used to laugh at that, just as Mark does know when he thinks about those moments. That’s because Mark can remember feeling the same way as other fanbases as a kid growing up rooting for NC State. 

“When he was calling an NC State game I thought he was always out to get my team,” laughed Mark. “He’d be doing a game in Raleigh — we grew up in Winston-Salem — and the next morning after the game I would be eating breakfast before school and I would say ‘Man, Billy, you really got on so-and-so last night, what’s your problem with NC State?’

“He used to just laugh, because I thought he had an agenda against my team. Of course the funny thing is, we’d go on trips with him to other games and you’d hear fans say, ‘Billy Packer hates my team!’ It almost became a laughing joke, even amongst the family members, that Billy Packer was out to ruin your team’s day when he does a ballgame.”

Mark has always referred to his dad the same his television partners did. That goes for his two other siblings, as well. “Dad” was rarely, if ever, said in the Packer household. Instead, the legendary broadcaster was called by his first name.

“The fact they called him Billy on television, we never called him dad,” said Mark. “We just called him Billy.”

As you can imagine, ‘Billy’ had a lot of stories. That’s normally the case when you’re around the game’s greatest players and broadcast the legendary games we still talk about today. Packer was always quick to share those stories with his family, which made for an entertaining childhood.

Out of the hundreds of messages Mark has received since his dad’s passing, he says he hasn’t heard any stories he’s never heard before. But that doesn’t mean people haven’t been telling him stories about his father.

“We’ve heard them all, quite frankly,” laughed Mark. “Maybe the thing that was so funny about it was that it reinforced some that we thought were total BS when we heard them the first time.”

Packer will always be synonymous with college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. He was the voice of the sport during its golden era and helped bring the magic to TV sets across the world. If Mark had to guess what his dad is most proud of regarding his broadcasting career, he says it would be just that. 

“From a broadcasting standpoint, probably the Final Fours,” said Mark. “When you, I think the number was 34 I heard, and he did so many of them, for us, we kind of took it for granted. It was just something he did. It was March and Billy is about to go do March Madness. It was just fabric for not only him personally, but also the family. He just loved the sport and wanted it to be good.”

Mark has carved out an incredible broadcasting career of his own. He’s hosted both radio and TV shows with outlets such as the ACC Network, WFNZ in Charlotte, and ESPNU. Having a front row seat to one of the most iconic careers in broadcasting, undoubtedly helped shape his career. Mark is very forthcoming as to what lesson he took from his dad the most. 

“Oh, that’s easy,” Mark said. “That’s prep. He always studied. He was always coming up with notes and angles and facts. I have always done that with the radio and TV shows, that you constantly prep, you constantly read and make notes. You may not use but 10 percent of whatever you’ve been studying, but somewhere down the road you’ll use it again.

“When we were cleaning out his closet I ran into an entire box of old notes that he had from games from yesteryear. I kept every one of them and I can’t wait to look at them and relive those games and see his prep work and point of detail for all those games.”

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy of an Analyst: Doris Burke

“Doris Burke has an ease about her. A quiet confidence if you will.”

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Basketball and Doris Burke have been synonymous for many years. At the age of 7, she started to play the game that would eventually get her to the top of her profession. Along the way she’s recorded many firsts for women in this field which I’ll detail later. Burke has also become an inspiration to other women already in broadcasting and those thinking about a career in media. Pretty impressive. 

Burke was raised in Manasquan, New Jersey. She was the youngest of eight children, and started playing basketball in the second grade. She starred at Providence, where she was the team’s point guard all four of her years there and made an impact immediately. 

During her freshman year, Doris Burke led the Big East in assists. She was a second-team All-Big East player once and twice made the all-tourney team of the Big East Women’s basketball tournament. Burke held seven records upon graduation, including finishing her career as the school and conference’s all-time assists leader, a record that has since been broken. She served as an assistant coach for her alma mater for two years from 1988-90.

From there it was time to embark on a Hall of Fame career.

ROAD TO ESPN/ABC

Burke began her broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for women’s games for Providence on radio. That same year, she began working in the same role on Big East Women’s games on television, and in 1996 she began working Big East men’s games. 

Doris Burke has been working for ESPN covering basketball in different roles since 1991. It has also allowed her to do other things along the way that were unchartered for women in the business. In 2000, Burke became the first woman to be a commentator for a New York Knicks game on radio and on television; she is also the first woman to be a commentator for a Big East men’s game, and the first woman to be the primary commentator on a men’s college basketball conference package.  In 2017, Burke became a regular NBA game analyst for ESPN, becoming the first woman at the national level to be assigned a full regular-season role. 

If that wasn’t enough, from 2009 to 2019 she served as the sideline reporter for the NBA Finals on ABC. I mentioned it was a Hall of Fame career and it was officially deemed as such in 2018. Burke was selected to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame as the Curt Gowdy Media Award winner.

AS AN ANALYST

“Doris Burke has an ease about her. A quiet confidence if you will.” Relying on her past experiences in the game as a player and coach, the information she brings her audience is relatable. Some analysts struggle to bring home a point in a way that a casual fan will understand. Burke has no trouble with this. Her ability to spell it out, concisely and conversationally sets her apart from most analysts, male or female. 

Burke attacks her job, knowing that some will question her authority when it comes to commentary on the NBA. She doesn’t mind steering into the skid.

“I am mindful of the fact that I have not played or coached in the NBA,” Burke said to Sportscasting.com last year. “It doesn’t mean that I can’t do a very competent job. I think I try to do that every single night, and I’m never afraid to ask questions.” 

It’s all about the information to Burke, and has nothing to do with the fact she’s a woman covering the NBA.

“If you enhance a viewer’s experience, it doesn’t matter what your gender is,” she said. “As long as you are competent and put in the work … you’re going to be accepted.”

Doris Burke learned the ropes so to speak from several women that came before her. In an NBA.com piece from January of last year, she outlined how much she enjoyed watching former ESPN SportsCenter anchor Gayle Gardner. Early on in her career at ESPN, Burke got to work with Robin Roberts on WNBA and women’s college basketball broadcasts along with Ann Meyers Drysdale and Nancy Lieberman. Roberts was Burke’s inspiration as she started her career path. She admired the professionalism that each displayed. 

“Working alongside Robin Roberts … the one thing I would tell you is the most powerful means to change or impact somebody is by your actions,” Burke said. “She was the epitome of professionalism and competency and garnered the respect of the people around her because of the work habits she had. Watching Robin early on let me know that the basis for everything is the work you put into something.”

While Roberts may have been influential to Burke, Burke has been a beacon for other woman that are getting opportunities in broadcasting.  When asked about their role model, YES Network analyst Sarah Kustok, 76ers play-by-play broadcaster Kate Scott and former WNBA player and current Miami Heat studio analyst Ruth Riley Hunter all mentioned Burke by name.

“Burke is the best example for anyone — male or female,” Hunter told NBA.com. “I love the way she describes the game. She adds so much to every broadcast, and when I was playing in the WNBA I was always really inspired by her work.”

Burke is popular amongst her colleagues at ESPN/ABC, thanks to a tireless work ethic an ability to adapt to whichever sport she may be calling that day. Count Jeff Van Gundy among her biggest fans.

“She’s the best, most-versatile analyst and commentator at ESPN,” Van Gundy said of Doris Burke in 2017 via Deadspin. “She does it all—great interviewer, commentator, studio analyst—everything. And she is an expert at it all—women’s and men’s college basketball, the NBA and the WNBA. She’s the LeBron James of sportscasters. There’s no better broadcaster out there right now.”

Burke is equally a big fan of Van Gundy and the top broadcast crew for ESPN/ABC’s NBA coverage. That includes Mike Breen and Mark Jackson as well. 

“We are talking about three of the best to ever do it. Mark, Jeff and Mike have held down the NBA Finals for over a decade with commentary that is the best of the best. Hubie Brown is a living legend. All of those men have been nothing but gracious and supportive of me,” Burke told the Athletic. 

Doris Burke is considered one of the best NBA analysts around.  Her bosses at ESPN made sure to re-sign her to a multi-year deal and promised she will be involved in “high profile” NBA games in both the regular season and playoffs. Burke will also call finals games on ESPN Radio and appear on the NBA Sunday Showcase program on ABC.

Good for her and good for fans of the NBA on ESPN/ABC.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2010, she was featured as the new sideline reporter for 2K Sports ‘NBA 2K11’ video game. She has appeared in every version since, including the latest ‘NBA 2K23’.   

As a senior at Providence in 1987 she was the school’s Co-Female Athlete of the Year.  

Her basketball idols growing up were Kyle Macy, Kelly Tripucka and Tom Heinsohn.  

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