I recently received an email from Joe Van Amburg, a sportscaster from Kansas, who had the following question:
What books are in your broadcast library? I don’t just mean the books on sportscasting, but also books about the sports you cover that have material to enhance your broadcast. I am always looking for new sources of information.
My book shelf has many of the usual suspects that you find in most sportscasters collections, such as “The Art of Sportscasting” by Tom Hedrick and “The Call of the Game” by Gary Bender. There are also a few more how-to books that are gathering dust.
They’re mostly review, unless you’re just starting your career, I try to look at the basketball and football sections of each book as a quick refresher before each season begins.
Sportscasting is an art and you can’t perfect art by reading how to books. If you want to be a painter, you paint. If you want to be a baker, you bake. If you want to be a sportscaster, you call games.
That being said, I strongly believe that reading is valuable and any reading is better than none. But to me reading fiction is the most valuable reading you can do to develop as a sportscaster. I personally am a huge nerd and love epic fantasy and sci-fi and am currently re-reading the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, which the TV show “Game of Thrones” is based on. Why is it more valuable to read about dragons and kings than sportscasting? Here are my thoughts:
1) Vocabulary — Reading anything exposes you to words, being exposed to words increases your vocabulary and shows different ways to use words. Generally, works of fiction are longer, which expose you to more vocab. Also, the best writers in the world generally are novelists and not only does reading their work help expand your word bank, but these master wordsmiths show you creative ways to use words and phrasing that you can carry over to your broadcasts.
2) Storytelling — Our job as sportscasters is to make the movements of people and a ball into a story that holds the interest of listeners for hours at a time. Understanding how a novelist uses conflict, develops interesting characters, and builds a plot are all skills that can indirectly be used in a broadcast. If you read enough fiction you can’t help but pick up different storytelling tricks from the best storytellers in the world through osmosis.
3) Keeping Your Mind Sharp — In the book “A Game of Thrones” the character Tyrion Lannister was asked why he reads so much. This is what he said: “My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind. And a mind need books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” In the battle that is the highly competitive job market, you have to keep your mind sharp. Reading regularly does just that.
4) Escape — Sportscasting is a lot of work! Constant chart building, interviews, and research leaves my brain fried by the time I’m done with the actual game. Reading how to books and non-fiction can feel like more work. Reading fiction takes you away to a world where you can decompress and let go of all the things going on in your life and just relax.
What are your thoughts on reading and what books have helped you to develop as a sportscaster? Leave a comment below.
Editors Note: I would add the suggestion of reading longreads (longer feature articles) here as well for those who don’t like reading full novels, since there are many fantastic wordsmiths there too. Or for those less inclined to really go outside of the box: Try Here.
These types of articles are often the nexus for great books.
Also as an aside, I really recommend you read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo if you’re looking for gorgeous prose, storytelling that seems like fiction, until you realize it’s nonfiction reporting.