I realize that I have been blogging a lot about my other career (teaching), when this blog is entitled "Thoughts From the Broadcast Booth" This means that I am supposed to be talking about sporting issues of the day. The IceDogs are well into their off season, so there is little to report on there, save for the improved health of Coach/GM Marty Williamson (get well soon Marty!). The Bulldogs of the AHL are Newfoundland bound and there is very little news on the Bulldogs of the OHL, except for the hiring of Hamilton native Troy Smith as an associate coach. I always like when good things happen to Troy as I worked with his mom one summer and Troy and his brothers were regulars at MacNab Recreation Centre's swimming pool. That pretty much covers off sporting news, because I really do not think people care about what I think of the hiring of Mike Babcock as Leafs coach. I will say that my wife has a crush on the craggy looking coach, and is a huge Red Wings fan. She is none to pleased at his departure. The Jays? Next. The Argo's at BMO? Don't get me started, as I thought it was supposed to be the national soccer stadium. The rest of the equation? A rambling, stream of consciousness. Putting things on paper helps me work out things percolating in my mind. It also has the risk of taking on a maudlin, woe is me tone, so I will try and avoid that, if I can.
You know what, I could go on and on about how I am at a crossroads in my teacher career, but I will not go there. You have read enough about teachers, teaching and labour disputes to fill a novel. Safe to say these are difficult times in the profession, and the last time there was such labour turmoil, or disruption it was during the Mike Harris years and a number of people left the profession in droves, and new grads, like myself, were ushered in. Who knows? That might be my fate too, but as teaching pays the mortgage, unlikely that's happening anytime soon,
This one is about crossroads in broadcasting. I seem to write a "crossroads in broadcasting" blog once every year it seems, and I know it drives some people nuts when I talk about it. This one is a little different. I have no intention of leaving broadcasting anytime soon, though I will be cutting back a lot on account of my daughter getting involved in a lot more activities that I want to be a part of. I love broadcasting, and still love the rush of a live game, the thrill of play by play and live TV, and the people I work with. No issues there at all! The real question is whether or not broadcasting loves me. While you are working with a team of people, broadcasting can be something of a lonely call in life. I am not on the road like many full time broadcasters, enduring long bus rides, or the luxury of plane travel and long road trips (not sure you "endure" that). I drive to the game alone, do my thing, and then drive home. This is the fall/winter/early spring routine 1-3 x a week, on top of a full-time job. Getting compliments and being on live TV is awesome, don't get me wrong, and I get the best seat in the house. Personal fulfillment has eluded me. That is more of a personality/character thing with me. Getting compliments is nice, but I do not fully believe them. That's just me, and I'm wired to believe the glass is half-empty. It's something I need to work on, but I am also fighting 42 years of cynacism, and yes I was very cynical even as a baby. I also do not get the perks that others get. I would love to go to the Memorial Cup or the NHL Draft as a media member, but there is no invitation for me. That is reserved for a chosen few. At the end of the season, I am left with an empty feeling, that there could have been more. Again, I know no one is going to feel sorry for me, considering broadcasting is a gig that a lot of people would love to do, and I know that my job would be filled in a nano second, should I chose to leave the booth.
Recently I applied for two jobs. One was to be the play by play announcer for TV and the radio for the Dallas Stars, and the other one was as an sports anchor with Global News in Toronto. Now, I 've been told by some in the industry that I have an NHL calibre voice,, in that I have the chops the elite level, but opportunity is so rare, that just having the voice does not guarantee that you will get to that level. I interviewed last year for the Calgary Flames radio experience, and felt like I had an excellent interview, just not a knock it out of the park interview. At that level, you have got to really rise above and beyond expectations because many apply, and only so many get even a sniff at an interview. I met expectations, but did not rise above those expectations. I did take a lot from that interview and set the bar pretty high for future interviews, and opportunities. At this point, anything short of getting an interview for me is falling short of expectations. Now, its good to have expectations, but maybe not so good to set them so high in an extremely competitive industry because you can get constantly disappointed and that can wear on you. I refer you to the aforementioned comments about my cynical personality and glass half-empty attitude.
With the Stars application, I worked hard to put together a solid demo, following the advice of picking your best and most recent stuff. I tirelessly found good clips, tried to show variety, tried to show my personality and then edited it all together myself. I even got ahead of the curve when it came applying by jumping the queue and getting my name in as soon as it was learned Ralph Strangis, the incumbent play by play man had left. I received acknowledgement and a promise to look at my demo from both the Broadcast Producer and the CEO. I felt I had at least positioned things well. I utilized a contact whom I knew in the Dallas area to help leverage the situation and also put together a very solid list of references. After the initial response, contact stopped. Email enquiries, and requests for phone conversations went unanswered, and it was learned that the Stars were looking at, and negotiating with a national broadcaster. The fact it was a national broadcaster did not bother me. Gotta look for the best guy, with the biggest profile sometimes, especially in a vibrant market like Dallas. What bothered me was how quickly I may have been dispatched from the process. Had my demo not resonated? Had I somehow missed something when putting it together and the demo was not truly represenatative of NHL calibre broadcasting. Who know? This is where the crossroads part comes in. The jump from OHL/AHL to NHL is massive when it comes to broadcasting. There are only approximately 60 positions available at the NHL level, with either a team or the network level. Supply exceeds demand exponentially!
The very real question that I do not want to ask, but will force myself to ask is whether or not this is the end game. Will I ever bridge that massive gap between OHL/AHL to the NHL considering right now I only do it part time? Like any athlete forced to hang them up , or accept that they are not at the top of their game, this is a very real question many broadcasters like myself are forced to confront.
The other job I applied for really gave me pause for thought. Now, I know that I am not trained, or much of my experience comes in terms of being a sports anchor. Live play by play is different from being an anchor. Play by play is fluid and much of the on camera stuff is framed by guidelines and improvised. Being an anchor means being more poised, articulate and smooth within severe time constraints. It is a different skill-set all together, though I feel one complements the other. I applied on the Shaw Media website online in the afternoon and got the rejection letter the very same evening! That was swift, decisive and led me to believe that my resume had not resonated on any level, even to the system that picks out key words and either keeps you or eliminates you. I highly doubt my CV got seen my human eyes. That knocked me for a loop, and even though I joked about not even getting my "days of false hope", that one actually stung a little bit.
To conclude, two job openings, two applications and two very swift , and apparently decisive rejections. It makes me think as to whether to turn to other forms of broadcasting. Maybe radio is my thing, though I do not have the chops or the experience for sports talk radio, even though I think teaching translates well to the medium. Maybe I need to think of channelling my interest in law into something unique, or to return to creating and hosting a TV show. I guess the good news is that the creative mind still is very alert, and thinking of new and hopefully innovative forms of what to do with my broadcasting career. The downside is a true crossroads. I am 42 years old, soon to turn 43 and sports broadcasting has started to become a younger mans game. I cannot think of too many people who a) broke into the NHL level from a freelance, part-time, community channel approach or b) at my age. It gives you pause for thought and that is why my crossroads come into play. Is it time to calibrate my expectations and enjoy the ride that broadcast gives me, or is time to calibrate those expectations and switch gears into another form of broadcasting. Questions, questions, questions but no epiphany here, at least right now.
Hope I haven't wallowed too much.
Until next time, or the next chapter!