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Rubbing elbows with the greats

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I recently had the good fortune to attend the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association awards ceremony in Salisbury, North Carolina. Winners from each state and their spouses converged on the southland, along with national honorees Dan Shulman of ESPN and former 'Sports Illustrated' writer Joe Posnanski and Hall of Fame inductees Bob Costas and John Feinstein. The four-day affair included a round-table discussion or two, a seminar, and a seemingly endless supply of food. For us small-town guys, it's an opportunity to not only rub elbows with the big names, but to meet up with peers from around the country, swap stories and share a lot of laughs.

A good deal of time was spent with New England colleagues Joe D'Ambrosio, who has broadcast UConn games for decades, and Jim Jeanotte, who will be inducted into the University of New Hampshire's Hall of Fame this coming Saturday. I also got to talk about northeast baseball's return to the College World Series with The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy. It was fun to connect with Bill Roth, the voice of Virginia Tech, whom I hadn't seen since my last trip to the awards weekend, and make new friends like Gene Deckerhoff, the legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Florida State broadcaster, Pete Weber of the Nashville Predators, the Philadelphia Flyers' Jim Jackson, and Lyn Rollins of LSU. There's a level of camaraderie among play-by-play guys that's always enjoyable, as we share preferences about spotter sheets (the chart of staring players and substitutes) and horror stories about the worst press boxes we've encountered.

This year's event was a particularly star-studded affair, as Dan Shulman brought along his 'Sunday Night Baseball' partners Terry Francona and Orel Hershiser and basketball color analysts Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas. As a Red Sox guy, I made sure to talk briefly with Francona, who looks 10 years younger after a half season away from the Fenway follies. Bob Costas's guests included his former NBC bosses Dick Ebersol and Jeff Zucker, though I was most excited to meet Ebersol's wife, actress Susan Saint James ('McMillan & Wife,' 'Kate & Allie') who talked with my wife Abby and me as if we'd all known each other for years.

Working in the media, you can get a bit jaded about meeting celebrities. You find out quickly that most of them are schlubs like the rest of us, who deal with the same problems we do, plus have that added pressure of being recognized everywhere they go. Most handle it well, some keep their distance and a rare few are complete jerks. I didn't see any of the latter on our trip and found guys like Shulman and Costas to be especially down to earth, generous with their time and cognizant of the fact that their success was the result of a combination of hard work, a little luck and the help of an earlier generation of broadcasters. Both seemed to embrace their opportunity to lend a hand and advice to the up-and-coming men and women in the industry.

You also come to realize during these events that it is a relatively small club we're in, those of us who get to spend our time talking about sports and bringing games into people's homes and cars. From the household names to the guy who broadcasts high school basketball in South Dakota, we all know how very lucky we are to do this job. We all have similar stories of lugging equipment through every kind of weather imaginable, of phone lines that didn't work, uniform changes we found out about late and on-air flubs that still make you cringe, but we also have a shared appreciation of the fact the we spend our time watching the games we've loved since childhood - and that's a gift we're all grateful to have.

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 14:41

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