This weekend was my bachelor party. Instead of writing for this website I was busy jumping out of an airplane and trying to drink Denver out of Coors Lite. That is why this week I’m happy to have James Westling contribute with a guest article. James is an award winning broadcaster from Salina, Kansas. Without further ado…
Ah, summer. It’s the season of play-by-play critiques and improvement. No other window during the 12-month calendar year allows more time for critiquing yourself — and others.
While listening to fellow broadcasters’ play by play demos and grading myself, there are two key notes that I’ve written down for 2017 going forward – 1) Be Yourself. 2) Have Fun.
Growing up, I idolized Mitch Holthus — former Voice of the Kansas State Wildcats and current voice of the Kansas City Chiefs. I remember sitting in our family living room, glued to the radio during some of the most iconic moments of K-State football in the mid 90’s… and in my second year of postgraduate play by play, I had a fan of our local college tell me after a game that I sounded just like Mitch Holthus. At the time, it was THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT OF MY LIFE.
However, I’m not Mitch Holthus. As time went by, I started to understand the value and importance of being myself, developing my own style, finding my own strengths/weaknesses, and striving to let my natural personality come through on the air. We all have idols. We all have mentors. I think it’s easy for a lot of young broadcasters to want to sound like their favorites so badly that they veer away from being themselves.
Find your own style, use the descriptor that fits YOU and let your natural personality shine through.
That leads me to my next note, HAVE FUN — let that come through your broadcast. Play-by-play broadcasters are all in this business for the same reasons — it’s a passion of ours, a service to the community, and a blast. However, I hear a lot of demos where play by play announcers are so worried about the fundamentals (Time/Score, Ball Placement, etc.) and having the “perfect call” (WHAT IF THIS PLAY IS ON SPORTSCENTER?) that they forget to let the enjoyment of being there calling a game come through the broadcast. It’s OK to have a small laugh with your color guy on air. It’s OK to mention a hobby of yours if it’s related to the broadcast. Keep in mind that if people only want Time/Score/Stats, they’ll check their phone. Our job is to keep the listener engaged through entertainment, by telling a story, and providing details that they can’t get elsewhere (including television).
Mick Mixon, the voice of the Carolina Panthers, once told me, “Thousands of cats have good voices and can go “ten…five…touchdown!!” But where are the craftsmen? The storytellers? The artists?”
The next time you grab a mic, remember to be one of those —a craftsman. Be different, be you, and let the audience feel your natural appreciation for that moment and that broadcast.
Enjoy the weekend with family & friends, and Happy 4th of July! … ‘Merica!
James Westling is a manager, regional account rep, and lead play by play announcer for Rocking M. Media, the largest locally-owned media group in the state of Kansas with over 30 radio stations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @jameswestling.