Deitsch Tweet Makes Me Wonder – ‘Why do we work in play-by-play’?

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch recently tweeted a link to a report on that referenced the starting average salary for a Journalism School Graduate was a shade under 41k per year. Here’s the tweet in question:

It started an immediate firestorm. Numerous re-tweets and responses to Deitsch’s tweet followed, with stories of ultra-low salaries, from minimum wage salaries, outrageously low day rates, and claims that they’re not even close to that amount after 10 years in the business. These 140 character stories are easily searchable if you’re on Twitter.
The initial post has since been updated by the author, Andrew Beaujon, who further elaborated on the methodology of the study, which certainly interested me as my main profession is in Market Research. When he explained a couple of interesting points, such as the salary was a Mean Salary vs. a Median Salary, and that the salary was tied to the journalism major, as opposed to those who actually work in journalism. So essentially, if you have a journalism degree, but you’re working in corporate PR, that salary would be counted as part of the study. The article does a great job at explaining the methodology, so I will not elaborate any further on this point.

What I personally found interesting were some of the follow-up tweets from those who are struggling to work in this industry, sports broadcasters in particular. After reading them, and their tales of ultra-low wages, it made me wonder, “Why do we do this?” It’s certainly not for the money-at least not for the vast majority of us. As many of you who follow this blog understand, I work as a freelancer. As far as side income goes, it’s pretty nice if I consider my several side jobs. However, if I attempted to pay my mortgage on my broadcast income, needless to say I would be living in a cardboard box before too long.

My first paid gig after college was a one-week stint calling the 1995 Little League Regionals for three radio stations in Bristol, Connecticut. I made a whopping $250 for the week (I think I called about a dozen or so games). Fortunately, my hotel room was also paid for. The only other memorable moments for me in regards to that gig was that Mickey Mantle passed away during my one off-day, and that Toms River, NJ won the regional (which was aired on WOBM). The team also featured future MLB player Jeff Frazier (his stay in MLB, with Detroit in 2010, was brief). His younger brother Todd however is a pretty good outfielder with the Reds. I also ate a lot of KFC that week, mainly because I could walk there from the hotel. My broadcast partner was a local guy who learned his craft in the military, and I can’t for the life of me remember his name.

Oh yeah, I also remember that the mom of the pitcher from Connecticut was kicked out during one of the games that I called. She was berating the umpire from her seat on the first base side of the bleachers, to the point where I was embarrassed for the poor kid on the mound. The Connecticut State Champ that year happened to be from Shelton, which is minutes away from my home and the town where I work my 9-5 job. Of course, in 1995 I still lived in the Bronx, and was nine years away from moving to Connecticut.

But in a nutshell, the previous two paragraphs is why I work as a play-by-play announcer, certainly not for the money, but rather the enjoyment of calling games and the great memories that I’ve accrued over the years. I certainly have some great memories of the “regular” jobs that I’ve had over the years, but they’re not nearly as interesting or as much fun as working in sports.

The three seasons I worked for the River City Rascals provided a lot of fond memories on and off the field and in the press box, while I’m convinced that my two seasons with the Danbury Trashers would make quite a book (I’ve even been approached to tell my story of the Danbury Trashers, and I’ve resisted—quite frankly because what I’ve been asked to write about really wasn’t my experience with the team. It remains to this day, the best work experience I’ve ever had).

Currently, in my six plus seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, I’ve been able to see numerous players move up to the National Hockey League with the New York Islanders, and it has also allowed me the opportunity to help get other great freelance gigs including the Big East, MSG, the New York Islanders themselves, and even the NHL. And by working in a freelance capacity, I’ve been able to find a full-time career that I enjoy as well and is much more lucrative than many full-time roles in minor league sports.

Like many other play-by-play announcers, I still hope to reach the majors (the NHL in my case) in a full-time role, but regardless of whether that happens, I have enough great work memories to fill several lifetimes—many more than I would have had only sat around in an office from 9-5. For now, that’s more than enough to keep me going.

One Commnet on “Deitsch Tweet Makes Me Wonder – ‘Why do we work in play-by-play’?

  1. Phil great post, I think you\’re spot on with this. We work these jobs because they are fun. Also we all strive to make it to the top. I have to admit when I first saw that 41k figure as an average starting salary for Journalism majors, I was like HOLY S***$$ WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? Finally I would add that when it comes down to it, I really think its more about relationships and stability rather than dollars for most broadcasters who hang up their mics for 9-5 jobs. The moving from town to town, state to state, and sometimes coast to coast gets old, and the inability to have a significant other, or if you do have one, constantly uprooting them causes major issues; financial and otherwise. I am truly blessed and am able to stay in the game thanks to my fiance having a legit and good work from home job. As long as we pay our phone, internet and electric bill each month she has a job. Great post love reading your blog, keep up the great work.

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