MSG Networks Pairing of Sam Rosen, Joe Micheletti Is Music to Rangers Fans Ears
“Mistakes are not acceptable. Not that anybody is standing there and hitting you over the head if you make a mistake, but you have to strive for perfection. You want to bring the best out of yourself and to the broadcast, and I think that’s always been the case.”
The location a hockey broadcast is called from can have an effect on the way the game is presented and subsequently understood by viewers. Newer arenas around the NHL have had a focus on creating premium seating options to increase ticket sales and revenue, putting some broadcast teams at a disadvantage. Perched high above the ice on the Chase Bridge at Madison Square Garden, Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti broadcast New York Rangers hockey on MSG Networks to millions of fans around the world.
Their broadcast booth is situated adjacent to other broadcast locations for home and visiting networks on television and radio and is suspended approximately 50 feet above the playing surface. The Chase Bridge, which runs parallel to the upper level, was created as part of a $1 billion transformation of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” completed in 2014. Most of the bridge’s south side is reserved for members of the media, giving them arguably the best view of the game whether it be basketball or hockey and enabling them to do their jobs well.
“We may have, arguably, the best broadcast location in the league,” Rosen said. “….Our location at The Garden has been moved in. It’s at a good level where you can see the game, see plays develop and feel the game.”
Being able to have clear sightlines of the game is important for both Rosen and Micheletti, both of whom prefer to call games in person rather than off of a monitor. Before the creation of the Chase Bridge, MSG Networks’ broadcast location was in the very back of the arena’s upper level, sometimes making it difficult to see the action and identify the players.
“The old position at the Garden used to be one of the worst because we were way back, high [up] and [did] not [have] good sightlines,” Micheletti said. “That was more difficult and even then I still wouldn’t watch [the game] off the monitor.”
Rosen and Micheletti are in the midst of their 17th season calling New York Rangers games together and have not just become one of the most prominent broadcast duos in the National Hockey League, but in all of professional sports. From their first broadcast together in the 2006-07 season to the present day, they have fostered chemistry and enthralled sports fans, helping spread the appeal of hockey to the masses.
That first broadcast, however, was not the first time Rosen and Michletti shared the booth – as the duo had previous experience calling games together as the secondary team for the NHL on FOX, national coverage of the league that lasted five seasons spanning from 1994 to 1999.
Their previous experience eliminated most of the difficulties that may have otherwise presented themselves due to John Davidson’s departure after 20 years working with Rosen. In essence, it allowed Rosen and Micheletti to be able to maintain the high standards that came with broadcasting games in the media capital of the world, doubling down on presenting a network-type product.
“We have always strived to present the highest-quality broadcast,” Rosen said. “Mistakes are not acceptable. Not that anybody is standing there and hitting you over the head if you make a mistake, but you have to strive for perfection. You want to bring the best out of yourself and to the broadcast, and I think that’s always been the case.”
“It’s like being in a top organization where you expect to win,” Micheletti added. “They do things right; they treat people right; and they provide whatever you need to be successful.”
From a young age, Sam Rosen was infatuated with sports and all they had to offer, listening to radio broadcasts and playing on the streets surrounding the Borough Park neighborhood in Brooklyn. Rosen had been born in 1947 in Ulm, Germany and immigrated to the United States with his parents and brother Stephen two years later.
By the time he was attending Stuyvesant High School, he was not only the captain of the baseball team, but also a track and field athlete and intramural basketball player. If you could not find him at school or around his neighborhood, the next best place to look would have been Madison Square Garden – but not the current structure (Madison Square Garden IV) above the metropolitan transportation hub, Pennsylvania Station, that houses the New York Rangers and New York Knicks.
Madison Square Garden III sat within the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan and was the home of the Rangers for the team’s first 41 years of existence. As a high school student, Rosen and his friends received general organization cards which allowed them to receive discounts around New York City, including for tickets at the arena.
At the time, hockey was generally played on Wednesdays and Sundays – and Rosen and his friends would make sure to board the subway train to arrive at the venue by 4:30 p.m. They wanted to make sure they would be the first ones inside so they could grab the best general admission seating and devised strategies based on which locations would allow them to see the complete sheet of ice.
“The doors would open and we would race up the stairs at the Garden to try to get to either the first two rows of the side balcony because then you could see the entire ice,” Rosen recalled. “Further up, you missed the near side of the ice. Or we went to the end balcony where you could see the entire game but one side was farther down; the other side away from you was pretty far away.”
Rosen has never been able to ice skate without holding on to another person or an object but even so, he found himself attracted to the game of hockey more so than other sports because of its speed and physicality. The unpredictable nature of athletic competition in particular drew him to want to build a career in sports media and is a motivating factor that eliminates the mundane of the long season and sustains his nascent enthusiasm for each and every game.
“You never know when you’re going to see the next great goal; the next great save in hockey; [or] the next great player,” Rosen said. “….You never know when that next great moment is going to happen and that’s what makes live sports as compelling as they are.”
Once he began matriculating at City College of New York, Rosen’s parents wanted him to study to work in a job typically associated with high stature, such as practicing law or working as a doctor or accountant. Yet he realized the subjects and topics within those professions were not of strong appeal to him in his early college years; therefore, he decided to pursue broadcasting by majoring in speech and minoring in journalism. On the side, he was taking weekly classes focused on television production at Brooklyn College where he would rotate studio roles with other students to learn the fundamentals of the industry.
Following the fall semester of his sophomore year, Rosen landed a part-time job as a desk assistant at the all-news station 1010 WINS where he would work with reporters, edit tape and observe how professionals did their jobs both in and out of the newsroom. It was during this time that Rosen met Jim Gordon, a broadcaster who worked a shift at the station by day and worked as a sportscaster by night for various New York teams, including the Knicks, Rangers – and as one of the original television voices of the Islanders on WOR.
Gordon, who Rosen affirms helped him the most throughout the early stages of his career, listened to his tapes and, through inculcation, offered feedback and pointers so he could improve at the craft. Eventually, Gordon hired Rosen to work as his statistician for New York Knicks radio broadcasts beginning in the 1969-70 season and helped him learn more about the industry. Rosen also continued to work in news for WNAB-AM in Bridgeport, giving him additional exposure into media and simultaneously expanding his skillset across different formats.
By 1971, Rosen was continuing working in both radio and television as a news broadcaster on WICC-AM in Bridgeport and weekend sports anchor on WTNH-TV in nearby New Haven. Two years later, he joined the United Press International Radio Network as an on-site reporter, covering sporting events from the venues at which they occurred. Most of Rosen’s responsibilities in that job took place before and after the event leaving him a large gap of time just to watch the game.
Since he aspired to be a sportscaster though, Rosen would use that time to practice his broadcasting skills and effectively compiled a demo reel. In fact, he was promoted to work as the radio network’s sports director in 1979 and reported with his colleague and future ESPN SportsCenter anchor Keith Olbermann from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY at the iconic “Miracle on Ice” game where the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union en route to a gold medal finish.
“I would just go off to a quiet area; a lowly area in the press box, and I would do play-by-play for a period – whether it was hockey that I was covering or basketball,” Rosen said. “Whatever that was going on at the Garden, I would do that and use that. Jim Gordon being my mentor – he was a guy that would listen to my tapes and give me tips on what I needed to do to improve. That was basically my practice work – by being around professional sports, that was a positive.”
Early in his career, Rosen was trying to make connections around sports media and was doing so through his time covering games at Madison Square Garden. Similarly, he was remaining open to external opportunities, including learning about new sports for which he could provide commentary. One of the media executives Rosen had been trying to connect with during his formative years in the industry was Scotty Connell, who had been with NBC Sports. As if it were by chance, Rosen received a call from him one day after covering the U.S. Open Tennis tournament and they spoke about him joining a new all-sports network known as ESPN.
ESPN acquired the rights to NCAA college football games on tape delay and Rosen contributed to the broadcast as its play-by-play announcer. One of his earliest memories working in this capacity was in calling the Whitney Young benefit game between the Grambling State Tigers and Morgan State Bears from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Over his time at ESPN, Rosen went on to call a variety of different sports, including women’s field hockey, Australian rules football and table tennis despite not being familiar with some of them from the onset.
“One day, [Connell] asked me, ‘Is there anything you can’t do?,’ and I said, ‘Maybe, but if there is, I’ll find out how to do it,’” Rosen said. “Basically what I said to him was, ‘You know what? I’ll find out the nuts and bolts; the basics; the fundamentals; and I’ll be able to do the broadcast for you.’ That’s always been my philosophy and I think that helped me because you never know what comes along.”
By remaining versatile and staying ready for each new opportunity, Rosen became even more indispensable to his employers. In February 1977, Jim Gordon was supposed to fill in for Marv Albert to call a New York Knicks game against the rival New York Nets on the radio. However, Gordon fell ill. As a result, Gordon was asked by management if he could recommend another broadcaster to do the game, helping Sam Rosen land the opportunity. From that day on, Rosen officially became a part-time broadcaster for MSG Networks and took a similar approach to what he brought to ESPN.
“I did tennis at the Garden; I did volleyball at the Garden; [I did] boxing for the Garden for over 10 years,” Rosen said. “Whatever it is, I made sure that I could do it, do it well [and] know the sport – and whatever I didn’t know, I tried to learn from the people who did know.”
In 1982, Rosen was hired full-time by MSG Networks as the studio host for New York Rangers telecasts, providing pregame, intermission and postgame coverage with Mike Eruizione and, during the 1983-84 season, John Davidson. Today, John Giannone works in that role and he is regularly joined by analyst and former NHL goaltender Steven Valiquette.
Furthermore, New York Rangers legend and winningest goaltender in franchise history Henrik Lundqvist contributes to the broadcast as a studio analyst during select games while also working in a business operations role at MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment.
“I think they try to get… more expertise involved [and] different viewpoints involved, whether it’s former players who are a little older; some who are a little younger and recently retired; some coaches,” Rosen said. “I think you’re seeing more people to open up discussion [and] have more viewpoints during the course of the broadcast.”
While Rosen was working in the studio and filling in as a play-by-play announcer on the radio as needed, his mentor Jim Gordon was the voice of the Rangers on MSG Network. Gordon worked alongside color commentator and Hockey Hall of Fame member Phil Esposito beginning in the 1981-82 season after a previous stint with former NHL referee Bill Chadwick.
By the end of the 1983-84 season though, MSG Networks wanted to make a change and decided to give Rosen the opportunity to step into the lead play-by-play role. It was the realization of a lifelong dream for him, but the decision to accept the job was genuinely complicated because of his relationship and respect for Gordon.
“You look at it and realize it’s a difficult position to be in,” Rosen explained, “yet the decision was out of my hands and certainly for me and for my future, this was the best thing that had happened for me and the opportunity was the greatest thing that had come my way.”
From the time he landed the job, Rosen aimed to hone his craft and develop chemistry with Esposito, his on-air partner for the first two seasons. During those years, the Rangers were looking to sustain its championship-caliber organization after the team was defeated in the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals by the Montréal Canadiens. Throughout many games, players and fans alike were subjected to chants of “1940” by visiting fanbases, referring to the last time the Rangers had won a Stanley Cup championship.
For seven of Rosen’s first nine seasons as the lead play-by-play announcer, the team made the playoffs but failed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. An essential piece of the 1979-80 Rangers was its goaltender John Davidson and he went on to retire from the sport three years later at the age of 30 due to a variety of injuries he sustained over his career.
When Esposito left the Rangers broadcast booth to become the general manager of the team, Davidson was selected to take over the role. Rosen has a profound amount of respect for Davidson, calling him the “gold standard” of color commentators in sports history, as he pushed him to expand his knowledge about the game of hockey and strive for excellence.
“I used to think that I had a strong work ethic,” Rosen said. “When I watched John’s work ethic, I realized I had to raise mine by at least 50%, if not more, just to keep up with him.”
Over his broadcast career, Davidson worked as a color commentator for games both locally and nationally; in fact, he and Mike “Doc” Emrick were the lead broadcast team for the NHL on FOX, calling various Stanley Cup Finals together. Once FOX lost the NHL rights in 1999, Davidson continued working nationally for the NHL on ABC and later the NHL on NBC before he was hired as president of the St. Louis Blues in June 2006.
“You hired John Davidson because he was a great combination of personality, fun to be around, able to laugh and have enjoyment – yet he was able to relate what was going on on the ice at any level to the fan who didn’t know much about hockey to the experts of the game,” Rosen said. “He had a great rapport with the executives in the sport; the players in the sport; management – at all levels, he had this brilliant rapport and was able to transmit that over the air.”
Before the Stanley Cup Finals were broadcast nationally by FOX starting in 1995, hockey’s championship series had not been televised on network television since 1975. Because of this, it was difficult for hockey fans to watch these crucial games – and the impetus for the creation of NHL Network in 1976, which presented the Finals for the next four seasons.
From 1981 to 1994, Stanley Cup Finals games were broadcast on cable television on channels including USA Network, ESPN, and SportsChannel America. Despite the invigorating, fast-paced action though, hockey was struggling to compete with other sports at the national level, leading local networks to carry the Stanley Cup Finals to serve its psychographic sects of the marketplace.
Rosen and Davidson worked on MSG Networks as the local television broadcast team during the 1993-94 Stanley Cup Finals between the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers, a back-and-forth battle that went to the brink. As the seconds ticked off the clock in Game 7, it became apparent that the Blueshirts would snap their championship drought, which had reached 53 seasons (54 years) – and do it on home ice no less.
The sellout crowd at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” began to celebrate and burst in elation when the final horn sounded, leading Rosen to exclaim to millions watching in the New York metropolitan area: “The waiting is over! The New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup Champions – and this one will last a lifetime!”
Rosen did not compose the words in advance; rather, they came out in the moment amid a pressure-filled Game 7 environment at Madison Square Garden. The fact that he was able to encapsulate and put a script to an indelible moment in New York sports history speaks to his ability to thrive in pressure-filled situations.
Most New York Rangers fans can recite his words by memory, underscoring the power the moment still garners to this day and the moment when, perhaps, Rosen became the poet laureate of the team making arguably the most eminent call in franchise history.
“It had taken so long for the Rangers and there [had] been so many heartbreaks but here it was – this moment where they reached the pinnacle of success and it was perfect,” Rosen said. “….Just to see that [and] to feel it, it just is a moment that at times is unbelievable. It was great and just the singular greatest moment that I’ve had.”
In the years following the Stanley Cup Championship, Rosen continued calling Rangers games with Davidson as the team welcomed new players in its quest to capture another championship. In 1996, Rosen added a role as a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on FOX, demonstrating his versatility in balancing hockey and football roles – although he had previously called preseason football for the New York Jets and New York Giants in the early 1980s.
In that same year, Rosen began calling Stanley Cup Finals nationally for the NHL Radio Network distributed by Westwood One until the operation temporarily ceased in 2008. He worked with various color commentators over that time including Gary Green, Bill Clement and Eddie Olczyk, and his announcing style effectively carried over from television to radio.
Today, Rosen remains dedicated to his job, preparing for each game several days in advance and amassing as much information as possible to be able to convey the story taking place on the ice. He does it all for the benefit of Rangers fans, who hold high expectations for the athletes that call “The Big Apple” home from the moment they arrive on the scene. In this sense, Rosen is not only tasked with putting words to the action, but also serving as a journalist and enterprising stories he can reference or tell on the air.
“For me to help fans understand who these players are, where they’ve come from, how they’ve reached this point and what they’re trying to accomplish is part of my job and part of my role as a play-by-play announcer because I’m around the team most every day,” he said. “I’m able to see these guys and see them off the ice and on the ice. Whatever I can transmit to the fans, I think, is helpful and humanizes these players.”
His longtime partner John Davidson, though, has worked as a hockey executive since leaving the broadcast booth following the 2005-06 season, currently serving as the President of Hockey Operations and alternate governor of the Columbus Blue Jackets. As a result of his departure, MSG Networks needed to add a new color commentator who was capable of maintaining the standard set by Rosen and Davidson. Joe Micheletti has turned out to be the perfect fit.
“It wasn’t a matter of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get to know this guy’ and ‘What is he like?,’” Rosen explained. “No – we already knew each other; we worked together in big games on FOX – playoff games – [so] it was an easy transition from John to Joe.”
Joe Micheletti retired from hockey after representing the United States in the 1982 Ice Hockey World Championship tournament in Helsinki, Finland. Originally from Hibbing, Minn., Micheletti grew up around the game and attended the University of Minnesota where he played under Herb Brooks, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic Team during its gold medal run in 1980.
Although he was drafted by the Montréal Canadiens in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft, Micheletti opted to play in the World Hockey Association. Beginning in 1979, he moved to the National Hockey League where he played for the St. Louis Blues and ended his career with a brief stint on the Colorado Rockies in 1982 – who would subsequently become the New Jersey Devils at the start of the next season.
Once Micheletti retired, he began working in the investment business and one day, received a call from St. Louis Blues broadcaster Dan Kelly. While Kelly opened an account with Micheletti, he also implored him to join him as a color commentator for games on KMOX-AM for the upcoming season, telling him it would be a good way to get back in the game and help his business.
In the 1980s, St. Louis, Mo. had many broadcasters who reached national prominence, including Jack Buck, Bob Costas, Dan Dierdorf and Jay Randolph Jr. Dan Kelly was in this category as well, as he also broadcast hockey games nationally for outlets such as USA Network, CBS and NHL Network – and the fact that he was asking Micheletti to join the radio broadcasts was completely unexpected. After taking some time to think about the opportunity, he agreed to take the job and began his broadcasting career “by accident.”
“At that time, and I didn’t have any experience nor did I necessarily have a want to get in that business, we were fortunate to have these great broadcasters and people,” Micheletti said. “They always made it sound like they show up and have a conversation with you which was the biggest mistake I made thinking that’s all they did.”
Kelly was a pundit when it came to sports broadcasting and sought to help Micheletti learn the industry, which sometimes came from being a tough critic. All of his assessments of Micheletti’s work, though, were intended to help grow the broadcast and help his partner improve as a color commentator so he could display his esoteric knowledge of the sport.
“‘Be a pro and remember there’s always two teams on the ice,’” Micheletti recalls Kelly telling him. “‘There’s always another team and other teams have great players and other teams make great plays. Keep that in mind and be fair.’ I learned that early from Dan and I think even though… fans just want you to be focused on their team, I think that I’ve always felt – and that’s through Dan who was one of the great broadcasters this sport has ever had and seen – to be professional.”
After two seasons working on radio with Kelly, Micheletti moved behind the bench to serve as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues – and helped guide the team during its run of 25 straight playoff appearances. He then signed on work as a color commentator for the Minnesota North Stars in 1991 on television, pairing with play-by-play announcer Dave Hodge – the longtime lead announcer of Hockey Night in Canada from 1971 to 1987. They were joined by former Hockey Night in Canada executive producer and sportscaster John Shannon, who ran the nearly 55 televised broadcasts.
“This was something new in broadcasting that I hadn’t done much of – which was television [and it] was totally different than radio,” Micheletti said. “I was looking at this as, ‘Boy, this is all brand new and now I’ve got a chance to learn from one of the great producers in hockey and I get to… learn it from Dave Hodge.’ It was so new to me and I was trying to learn how to be accepted in the business.”
Micheletti returned to the St. Louis Blues as a color commentator for its television broadcasts, pairing with JP Dellacamera beginning in 1993. At the same time, he continued working for the regional firm A.G. Edwards and received a call one day during work from someone claiming to work at Turner Network Television (TNT). Thinking that he was being deceived, Micheletti hung up the phone – but shortly thereafter, the person called back and immediately urged him to stay on the line.
It turned out that Micheletti’s work had been noticed from afar, leading him to be asked to broadcast the 1994 Winter Olympics from Lillehammer, Norway. Joining Micheletti as the play-by-play announcer was Jiggs McDonald, who was primarily broadcasting New York Islanders games locally on SportsChannel New York. The experience of landing the job was memorable for Micheletti, but determining how to prepare for an assignment of this magnitude initially confounded him.
In an effort to learn about the international players, Micheletti used his connections to compile a list of hockey contacts from countries including Norway, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. He would then set his alarm on the road to wake up at 2 a.m. in order to make calls to gather information and insight about the international game.
“I looked at it as the biggest challenge that I’ve ever had and it turned out to be that way but it turned out to be the most satisfying,” Micheletti expressed. “….I always thought the Olympics was the biggest challenge because of the restrictions you have in talking to people.”
Once he concluded that assignment, Micheletti began receiving calls from other national networks and went on to work four additional Olympic Games with CBS (1998) and NBC Sports (2002, 2006, 2010). Additionally, he worked as a color commentator with Sam Rosen on the NHL on FOX and was both in the booth and in-between the benches for the NHL on NBC. For the last seven seasons, he has been the color commentator for NHL Radio’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals, currently syndicated by Sports USA Media.
Prior to the 1998-99 season, Micheletti made a difficult decision to move from St. Louis to New York to work with Howie Rose as the color commentator for New York Islanders games on Fox Sports Net New York. Micheletti took over duties for Ed Westfall, the first team captain in franchise history who had been broadcasting Islanders games for 19 seasons – largely with Jiggs McDonald. Three years earlier, Rose entered the play-by-play role for the team due to McDonald’s departure to call games for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It really was great because I’ve always viewed this as no different than playing for a team [in] that I’m only just a part of it,” Micheletti said. Everybody’s got a job and everybody should try to get along and work hard and support each other. We really had that with the Islanders.”
In the early years of Micheletti’s tenure with the Islanders, the team was consistently finishing last in the Atlantic Division, making it difficult for some people to stay engaged with the game and the team at large. By the 2001-02 season, the Islanders, led by Alexei Yashin, Mark Parrish and Rick DiPietro, began to qualify for the playoffs but lost in the quarterfinals for three consecutive seasons.
Through these years, Micheletti and Rose worked with producer Kevin Meininger and director Larry Roth, both of whom are involved with New York Rangers broadcasts on the network today. Together with the rest of the broadcast team, they were able to present a product they could be proud of.
“It was tough because they were going through a lot of growing pains,” Micheletti said. “We had to really work to try and make the broadcast interesting and worthwhile while the team was going through their transition. I look back on those days very fondly working with Howie and that group.”
Once John Davidson left sports media to work for the St. Louis Blues in 2006, Micheletti transitioned from calling games on Long Island to doing so in Manhattan. He recalls being eager for the chance to work with Rosen on a local basis when the offer was made to him and was confident in his own knowledge and expertise to engender a seamless transition.
“I always had great respect for J.D. and what he did and I knew that he was such a staple with Sam and with the Rangers and that he had played there [along with] his status in the industry [and] how beloved he was in New York,” Micheletti said. “You either had to ask yourself, ‘No I don’t want to take that challenge because it’s hard to win,’ or you just… said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll do that.’”
Micheletti was familiar with the marketplace since he had been broadcasting Islanders games – but the situation differed from his last move in that he was stepping into a broadcast booth that had been together for 19 seasons (20 years). Nonetheless, he sought to be himself and take stock in what made him unique and appealing to viewers both locally and nationally.
“I know there’s always comparisons,” Micheletti explained. “I just said to myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to be myself. I’m not going to try to be him. I’m not going to try and fill shoes. I’ll leave the shoes over there and go to work and figure it out and deal with whatever I have to deal with.’”
The landscape of sports media has experienced seismic changes since Rosen and Micheletti began working together, specifically in the means of distribution. Today, Rangers fans can watch the game over cable television, by streaming on various platforms or by watching through the MSG App, and there are surely more innovations to come as technology and consumption habits continue to shift. Yet the broadcast itself has stayed relatively consistent sans cosmetic changes, such as alterations in production music and graphics packages, and the addition of content related to sports betting and “wagertainment.”
“I think our approach to the game has been pretty similar and the same for a long time,” Micheletti said. “We’re not tired of doing what we’re doing and we try to have some fun and try to be prepared to do it.”
“From a personal standpoint, I don’t think that I’ve changed much at all,” Rosen added. “My personal approach has always been to try to transmit the excitement of being at the game; of seeing the greatest players in the world; and just some of them, the best that ever lived.”
Both Rosen and Micheletti make it a point to attend morning skate and attempt to talk to the coaches of both teams so they can ask questions about the current state of events. Before this though, they read as much as they can about the opponent and create notes to use during the game – even though much of their commentary comes from naturally reacting to gameplay on the ice.
“Sometimes you don’t need any of the notes that you’re taking because the game is so interesting and there’s things going on [that are] maybe the unexpected events of the game,” Micheletti said. “I’ve always felt [to] make sure you let the game breathe and don’t try to use your briefcase and your notes [to] dictate what you say. Let the game dictate that.”
In order to remind himself of the key components of his job as a color commentator, Micheletti carries a sheet of paper with him in the booth for each broadcast containing reminders. One of the points at the top of his list simply reads, ‘Why?,’ prompting him to consider the reasons for something happening. Another point on his list says ‘Behind the play’ to alert him to watch the action off the puck, as it can be a determinant for concurrent occurrences and supplements Rosen’s description of the game. He has been doing it for the last 17 years as the color commentator for Rangers games and does not figure to stop the practice any time soon.
“When the puck is at the point, I try to watch in front of the net; see who’s doing what and watch the benches,” Micheletti said. “I keep the puck off to the side and I’m trying to watch everything else that’s going on [down] on the ice which the play-by-play guy can’t do. He’s got to focus on where the puck is and who’s doing what. Part of my job is to find things that happen in just watching a game that maybe people don’t see that I can point out.”
As a former assistant coach and professional player, Micheletti knows the importance of being adaptable and collaborative within a team setting. Rosen and Micheletti are parts of the broadcast paradigm, and it takes a cohesive synergy and respect for everyone’s role to steadily augment the end result and consistently raise the bar.
“When you’re with really qualified people that know the business, then to me it’s easy to have a discussion about being better; improving; helping somebody; whatever it might be,” MIcheletti said. “….It’s just like anything else – when you’re with somebody that thinks they have all the answers for everything, that generally doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with me; it doesn’t work with most people that want the team and the group to have success.”
Rosen is in his 38th season and 39th year as the play-by-play voice of the New York Rangers, and continues to bring fans countless numbers of memorable moments including power play goals by Artemi Panarin; highlight-reel saves by Igor Shesterkin; and shrewd defensive plays made by Adam Fox.
“I think that I’ve been able to show the people at Madison Square Garden and the people who I’ve worked alongside with and certainly the fans that I’ve been able to serve and work for and bring my style to how important this job was to me and how important it was to treat it as significant as it was,” Rosen said. “Sometimes words can’t adequately describe how much this job has meant to me and how much I value its importance in entertainment; in television; and to the people who are out there watching and listening.”
Rosen was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as the recipient of the 2016 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding achievements as a hockey broadcaster. Traveling to Toronto, Ontario with his family to see the plaque was an emotional moment for Rosen – indicative of his journey and the strong expectations he placed onto himself.
“The Hall of Fame to me was always about the players,” Rosen articulated. “You think about players – the greatest players of the game – watching them play and then being honored and inducted into the Hall of Fame. For the people in this sport – in hockey – to say you are going to be remembered for all time as one of the best is just an honor that is hard to describe.”
While there has been some speculation over the years regarding when Rosen may retire, he feels he is in a good place and looks to continue calling Rangers games for the years ahead. He cannot pinpoint an exact date as to when his career may end; however, he has advised his family to watch his broadcasts and make him aware if it looks like he is hanging on or losing his ability to be informative and entertaining to the viewers.
“I love what I do and I think as long as I’m healthy and as long as I still can bring that same enthusiasm to the broadcast, I would like to keep doing it,” Rosen said. “Certainly there will reach a point where it’s time to step aside and let the next person take over, [but] I love what I do and that doesn’t change whatsoever.”
Micheletti did not receive a formal education in broadcasting; rather, he learned by working in the business after playing and coaching. Fortunately, he has worked alongside adept broadcasters over the years, including Dan Kelly, Ken Wilson, John Forslund, Mike “Doc” Emrick, Jiggs McDonald, Kenny Albert, Howie Rose and, of course, Sam Rosen.
“With Sam, I want to make sure that I don’t interrupt his call because it’s been so good for so many years and still is,” Micheletti said. “….When you get a chance to work with somebody like Sam, you pinch yourself and I still do. I’ve been so fortunate in my career because I got to start with a Hall of Famer and I’m hoping I finish with a Hall of Famer.”
Younger broadcasters, including Brendan Burke and Bill Spaulding with the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils on MSG Networks, respectively, exude a passion for the game that pervades itself towards the viewing audience. Sports, in essence, are a form of entertainment and excitement – characteristics of which Rosen remains keenly aware – and his portrayal of the event has led him to be thanked on the street by fans. It keeps him cognizant of the impact the broadcasts have in the New York marketplace, penetrating beyond the bounds of the “Rangerstown” community, and further motivates him to be his best each day.
“The fans are passionate,” Rosen said. “You hear it every night at the Garden [and] you see it wherever we go around the league…. I hope that any young broadcaster coming along understands that and appreciates the good fortune that they have to be at these games and to see these great athletes that they’re seeing on a game-by-game basis.”
Even though he has been involved in media for nearly six decades, Rosen keeps up with industry trends and tries to tailor the broadcast to the fans. With the advent of social media and the instant dissemination of information, presenting unrealized perspectives and storylines evinces the responsibilities associated with a beat reporter. Rosen is regularly around the team; the difference in his role from that of a beat reporter is that he publishes his “story” during the game and reports before and after to enrich it in the moment.
During the game, rinkside reporter Michelle Gingras contributes her storylines to the broadcast and interviews players in-between periods and after the game, affording Rosen and Micheletti a chance to see what is going on five floors below them on the event level.
“There’s a constant flow; a constant stream of information out there,” Rosen explained. “[In] my role, what’s changed is not only do I need to provide information that some people may not have known, but also to relate to the players’ approach to things.”
One aspect of broadcasting hockey that he hopes is prioritized though is accommodating the networks and broadcasters to give them the ability to effectively call the game. Part of that comes from the location in each arena from which they are working and Rosen considers himself lucky to have a great sightline at Madison Square Garden.
Moreover, he enjoys broadcasting games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto; Rogers Arena in Vancouver; and especially from the press gondola at Bell Centre in Montréal. Conversely, the broadcast locations in other arenas, including Prudential Center in Newark; UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y.; Rogers Place in Edmonton; and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas are high up and pulled back away from the ice, making them less than ideal.
“We are a ticket-driven sport and they build those suites and they make a lot of money for the individual teams – I understand that,” Rosen said. “….The league has always said to the broadcasters, ‘We need you to call a great game; we need you to be enthusiastic about our sport,’” Rosen expressed. “Well, sometimes it would be great if the league could somehow use its influence a little bit to give us help to make it a little bit easier for us to do the job that they would like to see us do.”
Regardless of the location of the broadcast booth, though, the on-air duo of Rosen and Micheletti is unmistakably distinct and audibly representative of a sound associated with New York Rangers hockey. Whether it is Rosen expressing, “It’s a power play goal!” over the custom-made goal song “Slapshot;” welcoming viewers back from the intermission by saying, “New York Rangers hockey on MSG Network is presented by Chase;” Micheletti breaking down the opponent in the broadcast open; or the duo exchanging answers to the Cadillac Trivia Question each game, their broadcasts have become tradition for fans of the “Original Six” franchise.
Jobs broadcasting professional sporting events are hard to come by in general, and there is surely a long list of aspiring announcers who wish to occupy the broadcast booth at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” in the largest media market in the world. For those setting those goals, it is important to stick to them and shoot towards them with full force, or in Rangers’ hockey terms, as hard as a Mika Zibanejad slapshot – having played professionally notwithstanding. Doing so may create memories sure to “last a lifetime.”
“You might love hockey, but if there’s a football opening and you can do football, go for it,” Rosen said. “Never lose sight of your ultimate goals – it’s great to have ultimate goals – but be versatile and have the ability to change course and go for it where that opening presents itself and do that game and do that sport as well as any other sport.”
“Don’t treat it like just because you played the game that suddenly you’re going to become a good broadcaster and know how to do it because it’s a job,” Micheletti added. “People work awfully hard in the industry to get these jobs so be respectful of it, take advice, ask questions and watch yourself and listen to yourself when you’re doing it because a lot of times I didn’t; I still try to do that. Then rely on people that are really good in the business to help you out.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Ian Rapoport Is Competing Against Everyone
“When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive.”
The 2023 NFL Draft was a weekend filled with speculation, intrigue and musing among football fans and experts alike. After two quarterbacks were selected with the first two picks – C.J. Stroud by the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Bryce Young by the Houston Texans – Ian Rapoport had the inclination that something was about to break at the event in Kansas City.
The third pick of the night was held by the Arizona Cardinals, but through previous intel, Rapoport knew there was a chance the team would trade it. His phone then lit up with a text message from a source that simply read, “Texans trading.” Receiving a message of this magnitude takes years of networking, credibility and immense trust from the people you cover. Rapoport has worked hard to attain all of them.
He replied by asking, “Did the Texans trade up to three?,” as the team was not set to pick again until No. 12 overall. Once he got confirmation of the scenario, he began to visibly shake in excitement and captured the attention of the NFL Network team.
“I sit there with a camera in front of me that’s not always on air – this is during the Draft – and the producer gets in my ear and he goes, ‘Can you go on air with whatever you have?,’ and I just say, ‘Yes.’” Rapoport recalled. “And then I hear Rich Eisen go, ‘Ian, you have news,’ and I was able to break that the Texans have traded up to three to go get Will Anderson.”
This is the craft through which Rapoport has cultivated a successful journalism career, ultimately distinguishing him as NFL Network’s goto insider. He hardly ever separates himself from the job, equipped with an unparalleled work ethic to ensure he can communicate messages accurately and in a timely manner. While some people may argue that he is in direct competition with others in his position, such as Adam Schefter of ESPN, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports, the reality of the situation is that it is Rapoport vs. the world.
“It’s such a small world now and everyone is interconnected – and with Twitter, literally anyone could break a story and have it go viral,” Rapoport said. “Obviously, you want everything first, but really you’re competing against everyone that exists because anyone could get the story at any moment.”
Work-life balance in such a role is usually quite insurmountable in today’s dynamic, interminable breaking news environment. Rapoport strives to find some level of normalcy in his life by playing golf and attending his sons’ sporting events. In the end though, he knows the world of football never sleeps, and it is up to him to remain in the know at all hours of the day, essentially always on standby to break the next big story.
“I do not turn my phone off because that’s actually way more stressful,” Rapoport said. “At least now when my phone’s on and near me, if something crazy happens, I can react rather than having a fake relaxation moment and then being caught off guard with something.”
Rapoport recognized that journalism was the field for him almost immediately after stepping onto the Columbia University campus. He worked his way up at The Dial to ultimately become its associate sports editor. In the summer preceding his senior year, he landed a coveted internship with ESPN where he gained invaluable experience in the world of television production.
By the time he graduated, Rapoport envisioned himself becoming a nationally acclaimed sportswriter, but he knew it was going to require he start small. Three hundred eleven job applications and two interviews later, he landed a part-time role with The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. covering high school sports. It gave him a start in the highly-competitive business – and kept him close to home while trying many new things.
Two years later, he found himself moving from the bright lights of New York City to the quaint town of Starkville, Mississippi for a notable opportunity. He had landed a job covering the Mississippi State Bulldogs for The Clarion-Ledger in the nearby capital city of Jackson and was under the direction of sports editor Rusty Hampton.
“I knew how to write, but I really didn’t know how to report,” Rapoport said. “He was probably the best [at] showing me, ‘This is all about reporting. It’s all about telling people something they don’t know rather than how well you can pen a sentence.’ To be really valuable to society or your newspaper, you really need to inform rather than entertain. I think he was probably the first and best person to teach me that.”
After spending two years in Mississippi, Rapoport became a beat reporter for The Birmingham News tasked with following the Alabama Crimson Tide. Just months into his new role, the program made a coaching change and hired Nick Saban, who has since led the program to six national titles.
Rapoport learned the thoroughness necessary to cover the Southeastern Conference as he rapidly watched the program become a perennial contender. In turn, he became an eminent college football reporter and his work began to be consumed nationally.
Simultaneously, Bill Belichick, another accomplished football head coach in his own right, was in the process of trying to lead the New England Patriots back to championship glory. Known to be stoic and restrained in his press conferences, reporters asking him questions knew extrapolating answers was not the easiest of tasks.
When Rapoport saw a job opening to cover the team with the Boston Herald that required NFL experience, he knew that he was not qualified verbatim per se. Yet he figured the experience he had in covering Saban and Alabama would serve him well in the role, and articulated such in a protracted email to the newspaper’s editors. His strategy worked, proving why Rapoport is considered one of the industry’s best communicators at the micro and macro levels.
“You don’t see a lot of sources within the Patriots or sources within Alabama – there’s not a lot of that,” Rapoport said. “So I learned to report despite that and kind of work the edges and get the information I needed, despite head coaches who weren’t always the most forthcoming with information.”
NFL Network oftentimes has local beat reporters on the air to interact with studio talent and give their perspectives about teams, and it was something Rapoport did while at the Boston Herald. He had no television experience outside of other appearances he made on Comcast New England and certainly no intention to pursue the medium as a career.
In Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants overcame the New England Patriots, who were undefeated for the year entering the game. Rapoport was on hand for the proceedings, and shortly afterwards was called into a meeting with NFL Network executives.
He didn’t know he was interviewing for a job until he asked just why he had been summoned. He expressed his lack of television experience to the executives, who said the network would teach him everything he needed to know.
Once the meeting concluded, Rapoport called his wife, who he had met while living in Starkville, Mississippi, and told her what had just happened. She tempered his expectations, warning him not to get his hopes up as he remained optimistic. One month later, Rapoport received a job offer and found himself moving once again – this time to the Lone Star State.
“I hired an agent and moved to Dallas and basically spent the next year reporting on the Cowboys and some other things being very, very bad at TV, but learning and eventually figuring it out,” Rapoport said. “At the time, this guy, Eric Weinberger, who was our boss, kind of mentioned to me the possibility of transitioning [me] from reporter to insider.”
Rapoport acknowledged that he did not have the contacts necessary to effectively work as a league insider for a national outlet, but through his years of experience, he knew how to network and he was ready and willing to take the challenge.
Once he began the new position, Rapoport, along with reporter Michael Silver, was on the road for Thursday Night Football and contributed to its pregame and halftime coverage. While his television skills improved, Rapoport was hard at work bolstering his contacts and took somewhat of a geographical approach.
Every time he arrived in a new city, he would contact anyone and everyone he could conjure up, including general managers, scouts and head coaches. If he could not schedule a meeting time with them, he would introduce himself by roaming the sidelines at practices and before games. He engaged in a similar practice before the NFL Draft Combine, training camps and the Super Bowl along with other premier events, always staying focused on the task at hand.
“It probably took me five or six years to get a baseline of sources where if something happened, I had someone to call,” Rapoport said. “And then it took me a couple more years to get to the point where I would know before a lot of people when something was about to happen. It’s all a multi-step process, and just [the] layering and layering and layering of sources is really the sort of engine that drives this thing.”
Ian Rapoport always attempts to triangulate his sources to verify information before he releases it publicly. There is no guarantee sources are always truthful or acting in a professional manner. Therefore, it is incumbent on a journalist to ensure the validity of content before publishing it themselves.
“If you’re only right some of the time, then none of it is really worth it,” Rapoport expressed, “because then you say something and they’re like, ‘Well, wow, that’s a big story if this is true.’ The whole point of doing this is when I pop up on TV or when people see my Twitter alerts or whatever, they have to know that it’s true – they have to know.”
One day, Rapoport was having a conversation with a source and discovered through their conversation that Rob Gronkowski had informed the New England Patriots that he would return to the game of football under the stipulation he be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady. There had been much speculation pertaining to Gronkowski’s future after he had worked as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports, and now Rapoport realized he had a monumental scoop – that is, if it was true. Within six minutes, Rapoport verified the story with three sources, contacted his editor and reported to the world Gronkowski’s intentions. The story was picked up virtually everywhere.
“I just think about the job all the time, and I make little lists for myself of things that I need to track down, and I just make a lot of phone calls for it,” Rapoport said. “When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive. It ends up just a brain full of football thoughts, and then I spend the rest of the time trying to figure out what I can learn from it.”
Working for a league-owned entity can sometimes epitomize an inherent conflict of interest. For Rapoport however, he has found working at NFL Network to be hassle-free. He knows, however, the nature of his job means he will not be universally liked.
“Whatever you do, you’re going to report and the people you report on are going to be happy or upset or neutral – or whatever it is,” Rapoport said. “I’m never going to criticize a referee, for instance, because that’s a nuanced thing and people might say, ‘NFL criticizes referees.’ I’m never going to do that, but I wouldn’t do that anyway.”
Rapoport continues to appear on a variety of external media outlets, perhaps most notably The Pat McAfee Show, which recently concluded its “Up to Something Season.” The grand conclusion of the proceedings was McAfee announcing he would be bringing his show to ESPN’s linear and digital platforms starting in the fall.
While McAfee is retaining creative control and has expressed on multiple occasions that his show will not be changing, many have wondered whether insiders employed by other networks will be able to continue making appearances. It is an answer Rapoport himself does not know, nor has he asked about.
“When the news broke, my phone blew up with all sorts of people saying all sorts of different things,” Rapoport said. “I have no idea. I really don’t.”
Even so, Rapoport is elated for McAfee and his team taking the next step in their show’s journey and is genuinely glad to see them succeed. He does not think McAfee’s goal was to reshape sports media, but rather to cultivate a distinctive sports talk program built for fans and today’s generation of consumers.
“You get to know someone and you think they’re a good person and you respect the way they work. Some people have success and some people have a little success and some people don’t. It’s really rare to see someone who has every bit of success that’s essentially possible and deserves every bit of it, and that’s kind of how I thought about Pat. It’s really cool, honestly. He’s built it himself.”
It was on McAfee’s show where another prominent football insider – Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports – said it would be a matter of “when,” not “if” the NFL would have games seven days per week. While devoted football fans like Rapoport are open to such a proposition, he is not sure the league would ever go that far.
“I don’t even know that it would affect my schedule that much,” he said. “It sort of doesn’t matter. I’ll report all year round anyway.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Face-to-Face Sales Meetings Have Never Been More Valuable
“With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F.”
When did you last attend a face-to-face (F2F) in-person sales call? Let’s imagine for a second.
In New York, Sarah, a determined sports radio salesperson, got tired of chasing a major client for months. Despite her calls, emails, and text, she couldn’t break through to get a meeting.
Throwing caution to the wind, Sarah decided to go for it. She loaded her deck and took her burning desire via airplane to Florida to make the pitch. She showed up unannounced at the client’s office and startled the decision-maker. She was given the meeting and won over the client, getting a substantial annual contract and a movie deal in Hollywood.
We have all seen that storyline. F2F meetings used to be the obvious choice over a phone call, and most buyers were open to that idea. We even conducted market trips to meet our buyers in person and create better relationships.
With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F. Lots of us work and listen from home.
Gartner Research points out that live, in person selling is superior to virtual selling in financial services or, as I think, in radio sales. Now, prospecting new clients F2F is much more difficult. You have never met them, you don’t know who you are looking for, and gatekeepers and remote decision-makers make walk-ins more challenging.
How about getting out and seeing your current or former clients F2F? 65% of outside account executives attain quota, 10% more often than inside reps. Here are some simple strategies to get outside and F2F:
STAY IN TOUCH
Turn the sales faucet on ‘drip’ and contact your current clients with whatever works: phone calls, emails, or texts. Tell them you are checking in to see if anything has changed, give them a local business lead, or share your latest insight on their favorite team. When doing so, tell them you want to meet F2F and go deep into the next quarter’s ad plan or a new idea to get them back on the air. They may start looking forward to your communication.
Schedule an annual review ahead of their busiest time of year to review the upcoming messaging in ads. Go over what worked or didn’t last year. Share a success story of a similar advertiser in another market or show them a new opportunity that fits.
Be upfront that with F2F, we can get more specific, work with better feedback, and partner on hitting their goals. Be the person who looks ahead and helps keep your client focused.
Organize workshops for your current clients. Teach that about streaming, OTT, or Google ads. Get your digital person involved. Let them know you are bringing in other local businesspeople they may want to know or network with and meet F2F! A Mortgage broker may want to meet a realtor who wants to meet a wealthy local businessperson interested in meeting the local head coach. Stand out as a leader in the industry and watch clients brag about working with you.
HIT A TRADE SHOW
Attend trade shows where your current clients will be. This will show you are serious about their business and want to stay current so you can learn and earn. Set up a meeting over coffee or a drink. Share what you learned.
Client Appreciation Events held at your town’s most meaningful events or places. Do whatever it takes to get hospitality tents at big games and concert suites to show appreciation and bond with your current clients. Host a luncheon at the hottest new local restaurant. Focus on providing an atmosphere or experience everyone wants, but not many can attend. Be the exclusive person in town.
GET PERSONAL REFERRALS
Leverage your existing client relationships to seek referrals. Do it in person. Tell them you want to see them and ask for help and advice. Ask for introductions to potential new clients they know, and you will be surprised how much they like working with you.
Bring your Digital manager to them and do a free review of their SEO, PPC, whatever. Working off your client’s pc and bringing them an expert at no charge or obligation is much easier. Watch your partnership grow by providing so much expertise at no extra expense.
Don’t forget the value of F2F meetings. It’s a great way to build trust, connect, and unlock new opportunities. We are in a people business doing business with tons of local directs who still make most of their money serving retail customers F2F. Let’s get out and sell!
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
All Jason Timpf Needed Was A Moment of Clarity
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this.”
There was once a time when Jason Timpf always included Colin Cowherd in his commute to work. As he made his morning drive to a sales job at Verizon, The Herd was appointment listening each morning for Timpf. The ex-college basketball player would marvel at Cowherd’s ability to make relatable references and break down all of the same basketball games he would watch the night before.
One of the unique things Timpf can remember from listening to The Herd during that time was Cowherd saying if FOX ever put someone in front of him, he could tell in five seconds if that individual had the skills to be a host. It was far from a hot take on the Lakers, but still a distinct moment that stuck with Timpf for many years. Little did he know at the time but Cowherd would soon give a five-second evaluation of Timpf’s career.
Jason Timpf was a late-bloomer in basketball. He played college hoops at an NAIA school in Utah, but not until his third year, after being a regular student the first two. After graduating, he pursued a basketball career overseas in India. However, after the league folded, he left the game for a normal job in the States.
There was a real desire for Timpf to get into the sports media business, but he was having difficulties finding the right fit. He wanted advice on the best way to start, but the tips he received just didn’t feel like the right initial path.
“I’d hear, hey, go bang on a radio station’s door and ask if you can work the soundboard,” said Timpf. “Or, try to go to a journalism school. Another big one that everyone was doing was the SB Nation blogs and FanSided blogs. I briefly tried to do that a little bit. But none of it was materializing the way that I had hoped.”
But then the lightbulb went off for Timpf and it happened during the middle of a podcast interview. In October of 2020, Jason Maples of Blue Wire reached out to Timpf to talk hoops on his podcast. It was in the middle of that interview when it all made sense. It felt exactly like the camaraderie he enjoyed with his old teammates and friends talking basketball. It was relaxed, fun and what he used to do for enjoyment. The perfect fit had just found Timpf organically.
“It was, ‘this is it,’” said Timpf. “‘This is how I want to do it.’ It was like a moment of clarity. Like, this is the way I want to talk about the game. Fortunately, I was working in real estate at the time, so I was super flexible, so I literally was just trying to fake it until I made it.”
While Timpf was grinding away on his new platform choice, he was constantly putting out his content on social media. For a handful of years, he had used Twitter as an outlet for basketball talk – not because he was trying to build his brand, but because it was his preferred method of sharing his takes during and after basketball games.
“My wife actually played basketball in college but she, like a lot of people, got out of it and was like, ‘actually I’m so sick of basketball, since it’s all I did growing up, that I’d rather not talk about it,’” laughed Timpf.
As Timpf had built up years of basketball takes on Twitter, he also built up followers. Not a crazy amount, but enough to have regular interactions with several basketball fans. He had no idea at the time, though he remembers occasionally interacting with him, but one of his followers in the beginning was Logan Swaim, who just happens to be Head of Content at The Volume.
Being such a huge fan of Cowherd, Timpf was absolutely familiar with The Volume, a company started by the FOX Sports Radio host. In fact, during his first plunge into podcasts, he quickly took note of how much success The Volume was having with instant reaction and video content. He wanted to emulate what they were doing and would host a Twitter Space after each Lakers game.
Swaim kept up with Timpf’s journey and continued to be impressed with what he saw. He was so impressed, in fact, that a video eventually made it in front of Cowherd’s eyes. It was the moment Timpf had always heard about while driving to his job at Verizon. Cowherd was about to make a declaration on Timpf’s abilities.
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this,” Timpf said. “That was a huge boost of confidence for me, because it meant somebody I deeply respected believed I could work in this business.”
Timpf made his dream come true. He was offered a job by The Volume hosting Hoops Tonight. As much of a dream as it was when he was initially hired, the experience since has been nothing but ideal for Timpf. He gets to cover his favorite sport the way he wants to cover it.
“When I first started and Logan and I were structuring out the show, he kinda viewed it as my show would be the slower, more methodical pace, where I work through my thought process of a game. And also that I’d be a guest on other Volume shows for more conversational podcasts. I really wanted to break down pick and roll coverage. It’s just going to take me a while, so trying to do that in a debate show format or conversational format can get hard. It’s a place where I can let more of my crazy depth out. And I can also have a side format where it’s more conversational.”
Timpf has learned prep for podcasts is one of the biggest elements to being successful. As Hoops Tonight continues to draw impressive numbers over audio and YouTube, he’s figured out the best method to prepare for a long-form podcast where he’s hosting solo.
“I digest the game from the simple concept of how the game was won,” said Timpf. “Where was it won? There’s 100-something possessions in this game, there’s seven different storylines and several runs and sequences and sways in momentum, but what’s the one? Usually I’ll target that first in the opening segment of the show.
“While I’m watching the game I’ll take ancillary notes. About five minutes before I record, I sift through everything I’ve written down and limit it down to the things I think are most important. But generally the flow of the show is how the game was won.”
The whole experience has been gratifying and a full-circle moment in many ways for Timpf. Not only has it been vindicating to do things his way and see it become a success, but he’s gotten to do it with someone who he considers an idol.
Sure, Timpf always envisioned growing up he would be talking to Cowherd as a pro athlete, but talking to him as a colleague is certainly the next best thing. So when he got the call to talk with Cowherd during last year’s West Conference Finals, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was so incredibly nervous, as you could imagine,” laughed Timpf. “But I immediately remember him making me feel comfortable and confident. It immediately calmed me down.
“This is probably my favorite part of the entire experience, I think a lot of people think that these networks try to shove people in certain directions and The Volume has given me such freedom to cover the game exactly the way I want to and nobody is telling me to say crazy stuff. Nobody is pushing me in certain directions, it’s like total creative freedom. The way that Logan and Colin have been letting me do me, so to speak, has been so cool. To see my version of what I want it to look like makes me feel vindicated for talking about it the way I want to.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.