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Roberts A Role Model To Many

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When Robin Roberts first appeared on air as a small-market sportscaster in the mid-1980s, she was sure she could “feel beer cans pelting the TV sets.”

The only drinks in the air Monday will be respectful toasts for a pioneer in sports broadcasting. That’s when Arizona State University presents Roberts with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at a downtown Phoenix hotel.

She is an ideal recipient.

To the dismay of curmudgeons who wanted to take the “broad” out of broadcasting, she persevered. To the delight of viewers who took the time to pay attention, she delivered sports news with an approachable style and professional air.

She paved the way for the underrepresented in sports journalism with asphalt made of integrity and concrete shaped by determination.

She is the personification of her ESPN catchphrase, “Go on with your bad self!”

Many know Roberts, 53, as an anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” My female peers and I remember her most for her work in sports. As we navigated challenging moments early in our careers, her poise and voice of authority on national TV was the nudge we needed to forge ahead.

“My earliest memories were (broadcasters) Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy,” Roberts said. “I had great admiration for them, but I didn’t want to be stuck talking to the coaches’ wives. I wanted to be Brent Musburger.”

Amen.

For all the advancements women in sports journalism have made, challenges remain. It took until last week for an all-women sports talk show to appear on TV: “We Need to Talk” on the CBS Sports Network. Intriguing concept, dumb title.

Fingers are still wagging over Fox Sports’ decision to remove respected reporter Pam Oliver, 53, from her NFL sideline gig and replace her with Erin Andrews, who is 17 years younger. Many saw the move as confirmation that ageism is alive and well for women in sports broadcasting.

At least we are a far cry from the pre-Roberts era, when networks gave pageant contestants (George, Kennedy) first crack at sports broadcasting jobs.

Roberts pursued the route because she was crazy about sports.

She grew up in Mississippi, the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman. She passed up a basketball scholarship offer from Louisiana State, preferring the more intimate setting of Southeastern Louisiana. After a standout basketball career, she graduated cum laude and followed the path of her sister, Sally-Ann, who worked as an anchor at a TV station in New Orleans.

In 1983, she landed a job as a sports anchor and reporter in Hattiesburg, Miss., making $5.50 an hour. She was giddy.

No one wanted a woman sports broadcaster in the deep South but news was a four-letter word to me,” she said. “I was just so passionate about sports.”

A year later, she took a job in Biloxi and two years after that in Nashville. She was grateful for the opportunities but admits she tired of the hearing station managers say they were “taking a chance” on her.

“Taking a chance? Really?” she said laughing. “I graduated with honors. I was an athlete. C’mon.”

She also was a woman. An African-American one. Doors weren’t exactly flying open in the sports broadcasting world.

While in Nashville, ESPN courted her. A rumor circulated that a rival Nashville station had sent tape of her work to Bristol to get the talented sportscaster out of the market.

ESPN was just seven years old and still figuring out its identity. Roberts wasn’t sold and said no. It came back three years later with better ideas and she made the jump.

That was good news for all of us. It gave her a bigger stage and helped a skeptical audience warm up to the idea of female sports journalists.

Viewers liked her. She was knowledgeable. Prepared.

“People can sniff out an imposter,” she said.

Roberts never was. That’s why she lasted 15 years with the same company in a business that rarely delivers employee longevity. When ABC News and “Good Morning America” came calling, she said, no, several times.

“I love sports,” she said. “It’s part of my DNA.”

Only when close friend and former tennis great Billie Jean King delivered a “Moonstruck”-like “snap out of it'” moment and pushed her toward the bigger stage did she go.

She made the most of it and was promoted from “Good Morning America” reporter to anchor.

To read the rest of the story visit AZCentral where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”

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Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.

Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.

“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”

La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”

Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.

While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.

“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”

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Sports Radio News

WFAN, WCBS Become New Flagship For Rutgers Football, Men’s Basketball

“The multi-year deal begins with the 2022-23 season.”

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Rutgers University and Audacy have announced an agreement that will make WFAN and WCBS the flagship stations for the school’s football and men’s basketball teams.

The multi-year deal begins with the 2022-23 season.

“Rutgers athletics is on the rise under Greg Schiano and Steve Pikiell in the Big Ten, bringing excitement and anticipation to Tri-State area fans,” said Chris Oliviero, Market President, Audacy New York. “WFAN and WCBS 880 will provide listeners with unmatched coverage of the Scarlet Knights and we are honored to add Rutgers to Audacy’s market-leading play-by-play portfolio.”

A 30-minute pregame and postgame show will air on WFAN for all Rutgers football games, while basketball games on WCBS will get a 15-minute pregame and postgame show.

Games will be able to be streamed locally on the Audacy app, and the company said both stations will promote the partnership on-air and digitally, in addition to on-campus events throughout the school year.

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Sports Radio News

Papa & Lund Make Andy Masur Defend BSM Column

“Masur wrote that Barkley’s personality, and his fit on the Inside the NBA set alongside Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, makes him such a magnet for attention and the most valuable broadcaster in sports.”

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BSM columnist Andy Masur turned some heads with his recent piece on Charles Barkley.

Masur wrote that Barkley’s personality, and his fit on the Inside the NBA set alongside Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, makes him such a magnet for attention and the most valuable broadcaster in sports.

Masur appeared on Papa & Lund on KNBR in San Francisco on Thursday and defended that stance about Barkley.

“He dishes it out and he can take it too, which is a quality that a lot of people don’t possess these days unfortunately in our business and out of our business,” Masur said. “I just think that if he says something completely outlandish and it doesn’t completely come through, he expects that he’s gonna get grief for it the next time they’re on the set together. And they usually deliver to give it to him.”

Hosts Greg Papa and John Lund both said you can’t deny Barkley’s personality is part of what makes him as popular as he is. Their issue lies in the fact that Barkley can be quick to say things that aren’t true.

Masur said it’s on Barkley’s TNT colleagues to correct him, which a lot of times they do.

“It’s a double-edged sword too because I think like you said, what we do as far as play-by-play and what Ernie has to do as a show guy, I don’t think that Ernie is in the same boat as we would be if our color commentator made a mistake,” he said. “But I think that Ernie has the ability to step in there, or Shaq, or even Kenny has the ability to step in there and say, ‘No man you’re wrong and here, look at the facts.’ I think that even is more entertaining sometimes too than just the fact that he’s throwing out things and trying to throw them against the wall and see what sticks.”

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