Professional advice: behind the scenes at Super Bowl LII
February 7, 2018
Media members from across the country flocked to the Twin Cities area for the week of Super Bowl LII. I spoke with multiple members of the media and asked them all the same question: what advice can you give a college student looking to break through into sports media?
During opening night last Monday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, I talked with people working in a variety of mediums within the world of sports media. I spoke with sportscasters in the studio and the booth, sideline reporters, newspaper reporters and behind the scenes producers.
The first person I spoke with was Sports Illustrated writer and author Peter King. On top of his print career, King has appeared on multiple radio shows and the TV show "Monday Morning Quarterback." As a well-rounded journalist, King gave me five pieces of advice. The first piece of advice was to “read every day and read different things." To get a better knowledge of the business, King also said to read different writers.
The second piece of advice is something almost anyone could abide to. “Get off your phone," he said. "There’s too many people now whose lives are lived on their phone.” It won’t be any help when jumping into the job market. “No employer is ever going to say, ‘how many texts did you send today?’” added King.
The third piece of advice was to get as many repetitions as possible for what you want to do. “Whatever your love is, whether you want to be a broadcaster, whether you want to write, do it every day," King said. "Even if it’s not going to be on the air or it’s not going to be published. Just practice your craft."
Piece of advice number four is to become a diverse journalist. “Don’t only do one thing in college,” said King. At Ohio University, King said he only wrote articles, but in “ten years of getting out, there’s people that want me to do TV, there’s people that want me to do talk shows,” said King, who hadn’t practiced broadcasting prior to graduation. Lastly, King said to simply “be curious.”
Former Super Bowl winning quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer’s advice was, “reps and be yourself.” Like King, Dilfer emphasized the importance of getting as many repetitions as possible. He also added not to copy anyone else and to create your own style.
Specifically, when Dilfer was a color commentator in the booth for a game, Dilfer said he aimed “to be a storyteller while you’re watching the game (and) help the audience better understand what’s going on through storytelling.” Dilfer cited Jim Nantz, Miki Tirico and Joe Buck as play-by-play broadcasters to study for aspiring broadcasters.
To coincide with the broadcasters in the booth, there’s the sideline reporter to contribute in his or her own way. The sideline reporter handles more of the interviewing during the game, and for Minnesota resident and NBC Sports sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, she said it's important to always keep the fundamentals in mind.
“You never ask a yes or no question,” said Tafoya. “You gotta stick to the who, what, where, why, when, how."
Finding the right formula for asking questions is essential, too. “Find different ways to open that same door, because you could ask the same question a million different ways,” said Tafoya.
Reporting isn’t all about questions, either, she added. “You’ve got to listen because there is opportunity in that answer that they give you to follow up or to segue you to your next question."
When it comes to getting a job out of college, Tafoya said don’t be picky.
“Don’t expect you’re going to be working in L.A. in two years, because unless you're wunderkind or Al Michaels, you’re not,” said Tafoya.
"Football Night in America" host Dan Patrick also spoke about the path after college.
“I think there’s no direct route,” said Patrick. “You gotta get involved, you have to have something in front of the camera or something on tape if you’re doing radio."
Patrick continued to emphasize the importance of repetition and jumping into the business as soon and as much as possible.
“If you aren’t already in the business by the time you’re in college, then you’re way behind. Get internships. It’s really, really important, because once you’re in you’ll hear about jobs,” said Patrick. “There’s a lot of things that go into this. Everybody thinks if you got a catchphrase, you can be a sportscaster. That has nothing to do with it."
Patrick, like Tafoya and the others, pushed the importance of a journalist’s fundamentals such as writing and interviewing as well.
Although I am not a professional in any sense of the term, my advice for anyone tossed into any form of sports media, or any media for that matter, is to develop some thick skin. Many members of the media were more than willing to talk to a nobody reporter like myself, but there were a select few who had no time for advice questions. My favorite response I received that night was, “how did you get a fake media credential?” Ouch.
Ace Sauerwein is a student at UW-River Falls.