My first game – when cassettes were king

Recently I attended an event that during my college days was considered inconceivable, a winning Fordham football game. It was a fun afternoon that I was able to spend with several of my college classmates, as well as my wife, who is from the Midwest and had never visited the lovely Rose Hill campus. It was Parents’ Weekend at the school, and the Rams beat Lafayette thanks to a strong 2nd half. The details to me are irrelevant, other than noticing that the head coach, Joe Moorhead, was one of the Fordham quarterbacks while I was attending school and working for WFUV Sports. Look it up and you’ll soon see that it was a long time ago, indeed.

Moorhead, a big strapping fellow from Pittsburgh, had quite a strong arm and was a three-year starter, but watching him on the sidelines I had noticed that he had aged like the rest of us, and part of me was happy to see that he had way more gray hair than I did (Note to Fordham Athletics: I see a marketing deal with Just For Men brewing, why not?).

But then I realized that it was actually a shade over 20 years since I called my first game as a broadcaster for WFUV. I was a sophomore and I travelled with Joe Patella and Todd Brooks (at least I think it was Todd Brooks – who would have been the producer that day) to the campus of Bucknell University on Halloween, 1992. Since I was the color commentator that afternoon (Joe handled play-by-play), I didn’t receive a copy of the air check (on cassette of course), but I’m sure I was terrible.

Having been cooped up in the studio as the pre-game and halftime reporter for most of the games that season, I had only seen the Rams in person once, the week before in a crushing home loss to Lafayette. I actually remember calling a demo of that game working with another young member of our staff, and I remember being equally terrible. But that wasn’t just my opinion, as I was able to have my demo broadcast reviewed by none other than Marty Glickman, who accurately, and with great detail, let me know just how bad I was on that tape. I will certainly detail my experiences with Marty at some other time, but I can safely say that my three years of studying under him were the most rewarding experiences as a young broadcaster at WFUV.

Over twenty years later though, I remembered one thing about that Halloween afternoon—other than it being my first broadcast. The Rams won. And quite honestly that’s all I remembered. I couldn’t tell you the details about the game itself, but thanks to the Internet I was able to see that the Rams won 21-0. It was also the first ever Patriot League game that Fordham won as a member of the conference. It was also the only game the Rams won that season, as they finished 1-9.

My next two seasons at Fordham calling football games were a great experience—for me. They might not have been as much fun for the team, as they managed to win just one game during that stretch (17-13 over Colgate on 11/6/93). Now I do have these air checks, safely tucked away, and as the Sports Director at WFUV during this time, I saw every single moment, either as the play-by-play announcer, color commentator, or on-site producer.

Now if I was to trek up to my attic and pop out some of those cassettes, I can guarantee that those memories will flow right back to me. I still remember quite a few of them, generally revolving around games that the Rams should have won, but didn’t. There were a few of those. And while Fordham Football wasn’t Division I, I was still able to call some games that featured some future NFL stars like Wayne Chrebet (Hofstra) and Marcellus Wiley (Columbia). The Rams didn’t feature any future NFL stars (or benchwarmers) during my time there.

But in regards to broadcasting and play-by-play in particular, I realized that I was able to learn in an environment where I could make mistakes (and I made plenty for sure), and not have it turn into an immortal YouTube moment. I am fairly confident though that I didn’t do anything on a level that would have gone viral like this one, or this one, and even this one. It does make me think though about what young announcers have to go through today, where one bad call, or something over the top, can potentially stop a career before it has a chance to blossom. There’s little room to hide your mistakes these days, and whether intentional or not, these poor calls now stick with you. While I am a little envious of the opportunities that the Internet now affords young broadcasters (either still in school or just starting out) in all different sports, part of me is happy I was able to hone my craft a little bit more anonymously (as anonymous as you can get on a 50kW FM radio station in NYC) than what many who are just starting out now face.