If you follow hoops, especially the NBA, you’re most likely familiar with Chris Haynes. He has worked for ESPN in the past and currently holds high profile roles as Senior NBA Insider for Yahoo Sports and a sideline reporter for TNT. He breaks some of the biggest stories and interviews the NBA’s brightest stars on a regular basis. His attention to detail and ability to connect with people is apparent in the words he speaks and writes.
What makes Chris’ journey so interesting is that he didn’t experience good fortune initially after graduating from Fresno State. He worked as an NBA writer for SLAMonline without getting paid for a year. To make ends meet, he also worked as a security guard at a high school and an apartment complex during the day. Chris didn’t have an easy path. He grinded. That’s what makes his success so rewarding; not just for himself, but also for the people who love and support him like his wife and four daughters.
As a guy who makes his living finding stories and pointing out things that are interesting, the interview below is no exception. Chris mentions many compelling details about the NBA bubble in Orlando. One of Chris’ best observations is how success has a price.
We didn’t have time to trade stories about our radio days in Fresno — like the time we made an on-air bet while calling a high school football game together — but there is enough space for Chris to describe how he wants to be unique.
Mission accomplished, bud.
Brian Noe: How’s bubble life treating you?
Chris Haynes: Obviously this is a unique experience, something unprecedented. When you’ve got 22 teams all housed in one area, three different locations — the place that I’m staying at is the Coronado Springs Resorts. I’m staying at the same resort that the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Raptors, Jazz, Miami Heat, I’m missing a few other teams, there are eight teams here, so I’m staying at the resort that houses them. It’s a pretty cool experience, man. It’s tough for us, the media. We won’t be allowed to bring family members at all, so you have to endure that. But aside from that, man, it’s okay. It seems like things are getting a little better here. I’ve been here since June 29th. I was one of the first ones that got here before the players and before the rest of the media contingent and I’ll be here till the end.
BN: Are you missing your family?
CH: Aww yeah, I miss them like crazy. FaceTime helps a lot. It doesn’t seem like I haven’t seen them in that long, but obviously just the physical presence of them you miss. FaceTime has helped a ton, man. I’ve been able to have dinner with them via FaceTime. I’ve actually gone to sleep with them. My daughters, they want to fall asleep with me on FaceTime. That’s kind of hard because it’s a three-hour gap. They’re in the Bay Area. They’re going to sleep around 9, so it’s 12 o’clock over here. But it’s been cool, man. But I miss them like hell.
BN: Do you expect the feel of the bubble to be a lot different once guests are allowed to be there after the first round?
CH: I think players will be a lot more relaxed. [Laughs] You know what I mean, Noe? There’s going to be a little less tension.
BN: [Laughs] How much tension would you say there is right now?
CH: Hey man, look, it’s been a long time. It’s been a long time for a lot of people. They want their families. They want their wives. They want their girlfriends. That’s human nature. I don’t think I’m saying anything inappropriate. I think that’ll help just to have some sense of norm around the facility and have a familiar face. That’s going to help the situation for sure.
BN: I don’t know if you caught the story; there was a Seahawks rookie who was trying to sneak in a girl.
CH: Yeah, he got cut.
BN: Yeah, has there been anything along those lines in the bubble?
CH: Nah, man. I think that would have gotten out by now. Didn’t she try to dress up like a player or something like that?
BN: Yeah, I guess she was wearing shoulder pads and a helmet.
CH: [Laughs!] See the difference is it would be hard for someone to infiltrate this bubble. They’ve got security right up front. There’s a wristband that you have to scan in order to get to certain spots. She was trying to get into the team hotel. That place is not as secure as it is over here. She didn’t have to get by a search screen like somebody would here. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to get in, but you have to go through so many hurdles just to move around here. I would be shocked if somebody was able to do it and be successful.
BN: Are Disney employees restricted too?
CH: Yeah, even Disney employees, they don’t have access. There are certain wristbands that we have where they can’t come over here. Those Disney workers can’t come on this side. They’re not getting tested over there, so they can’t come over here. Even though we’re in Disney World, we are miles apart and a whole bunch of security checkpoints in between each other.
BN: What’s the testing like now? Is it non-invasive?
CH: Yeah, if it was that one test that everybody was getting done initially where that needle just goes up your nose and goes into your brain, if that was it, I wouldn’t have signed up for this because I’m not getting that done every single day. It’s just a mouth swab and a nasal swab. That’s it. Every day. You get your results within 10 hours. They send you an e-mail. Then before you leave the room you have to take your temperature and an oximeter read. That’s what you have to do every single day. You have to do your temperature and your oximeter read before you leave the room. If you don’t do those and you try to leave and go to another facility, when they scan your wristband, it’ll come up blue. It’ll say you haven’t done your temperature and you have to go back to your room to do that.
BN: As far as your resume goes, if you give your 60-second rundown, how did you get to where you are right now?
CH: You know what, man, you have a big influence on me. I can’t do 60 seconds. I’m sorry, Brian. You probably won’t remember this. When I was working for you as your producer at the Fresno radio station, first of all I didn’t know how to write. I didn’t know anything about writing. I couldn’t write the different there’s, your, you are, you’re, none of that.
Deep into my working tenure, you called me Straw — you said, “Straw, I need you to take over the blog.” I was like “all right.” You told me just update the online blog, the guests we have, and blah blah blah. I’m like all right. How hard can that be?
I did it and the grammar was bad — misspellings, using the wrong word. You know how you are. You let it be known. You were like, “Dude, what are you doing? Are you proofreading this?” [Laughs] I’m getting offended. I’m like “What are you talkin’ about, man? I’m trying my best.” You were like, “Dude, this cannot fly.”
You are one of the biggest inspirations and why I did start to try to take writing more seriously. I felt like if I was going to move up in this field of journalism — even at that time I didn’t plan on being a writer — but I knew in journalism, I have to at least know how to spell correctly. You were one of the big inspirations of having me try to hone in on that.
About a couple of years later, I started taking writing seriously. I ended up writing for free at SLAMonline in Portland. I did some great work for a year. They couldn’t pay me so I was a security guard during the day. I didn’t want to be a security guard, but I couldn’t find a job. I had just graduated at Fresno State and had a degree in kinesiology. I was trying to get a PE teacher job and I couldn’t get a job. The security job was the only thing I could find at that time.
Thankfully I broke a lot of stories in that year and got some significant interviews. Then after that I got offered the beat job for the Portland Trail Blazers at Comcast SportsNet Northwest. I did that for four years. Then I went to cover LeBron when he moved back to Cleveland. I did that for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Then I went to ESPN from there. I’m at Yahoo Sports now and a TNT sideline reporter as well.
BN: What’s your favorite and your least favorite thing about sideline reporting?
CH: My favorite thing is feeling like I’m adding something to the broadcast. I have to be honest with you, when the job was offered, I was a little bit concerned because I didn’t really think much of the role, if that makes any sense. When they offered it to me I was concerned because I’m a real journalist. I’m a real reporter. I didn’t want my work to be diluted. I want to add value. I want to give you behind-the-scenes nuggets. I want to break news on the broadcast. I want to act like I’m actually contributing to this broadcast. I don’t want to say something that everybody has heard the coach say already. I want to be unique. That’s what I like on the broadcast.
Let me say this too, Brian, the job is much harder than what I would have imagined. People will not fully understand, being in an arena packed with fans screaming, and you’re trying to get your report out succinctly with somebody in your ear communicating with you, while fans are just going crazy.
Just trying to keep the flow of the commentary going, while somebody is giving you directions in your ear, while fans are going crazy, as the game is going on in the back, and you have to hurry up and get off the court. There’s a lot that goes on. I have so much respect for the profession and for the role and the value that it brings to a broadcast now. What I said before was just my thoughts initially on what I thought about the sideline role. Looking at it now I see the value in it. I see what people do and I get more fulfillment now knowing a lot more goes into the role.
I can’t say there’s something that I don’t like about it. I’ll say this; a sideline reporter is like Twitter. That’s what it’s like. As a writer, we have a blank canvas. We can make our point with as many words as we want and get it across. On Twitter, you’ve got 140 characters. If you’ve got one tweet and you’re trying to put everything in, well you’ve got to delete some words, and you’ve got to make sure everything is condensed. But at the same time being that it’s condensed, make sure you’re making your point in that tweet. That’s what sideline reporting is like. It’s like Twitter. You’ve got 25-30 seconds to make your point. It seems easy, but it’s a lot easier said than done.
BN: Do you ever — even right now, this would be a great moment — do you reflect back on your start and think, wow man, it’s crazy that this is what’s going on right now?
CH: At times I do, Noe. [What’s up, D? That was Donovan Mitchell.]
BN: [Laughs] See, good example right there.
CH: At times I do, Brian. You knew me when I was on welfare. You’ve seen me at one of the lowest points as a man just trying to come up and raise a family. At that time I was like 24, 25 when I first met you, when I was a producer for you. I still didn’t know my way in life. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. You gave me a start and put me in this field. I remember, that’s funny; you probably don’t remember — I’m just showing you how out of touch I was with the business side of anything — I sent you a résumé. I remember you promoted the producer job on air. I sent you a resume and I believe the background of the resume was like Dwyane Wade.
CH: It just showed you how out of touch I was. To me it made all the sense in the world. I’m applying for a sports job; let me put this little photo of Dwyane Wade in the background. I didn’t know. I was just trying to find my way. I was in Fresno my whole life and most of the people around me were either in jail, they were dead, or they were selling drugs with gangs.
I didn’t have many — outside of my pops — I didn’t have a lot of male figures that I saw prosper in life. I felt like I made it in life if I had an apartment, a job, and a car. I felt like I made it. That was the extent of survival. I felt like that was the extent for me. I didn’t really have ambition beyond that. There were jobs that I didn’t know about that even existed because I was in Fresno my whole life.
Do I reflect? Yeah, at times I reflect, but in this business it’s on to the next. If I break a big story, I get a high off of it, but tomorrow it’s on to the next. Like what’s the next story? I get a big interview. Okay, tomorrow it’s the next thing. And Brian I’ll tell you this, man, this is my 10th year covering the NBA, which is crazy because it doesn’t seem that long at all, but I’ve been working and grinding so hard, and traveling and doing all these things, that my kids have just grown up. I’m like “Damn. What was I doing?” I look at it from that standpoint as well. It’s like f**k, man.
I was so on a mission to prove myself in this industry, to get my family out of poverty, which I did and I’m thankful for that, but I missed a lot too. I’m still missing a lot. Even right now I’m here for three and a half months. I would have missed my oldest daughter going off to college if classes weren’t suspended. That’s kind of the give and take of it.
I can definitely do a lot better spending time with them with the time that I do get. That’s just part of it, man. You would know, Brian, a lot of people in this business — Hold on, B. [What’s up, Rudy? I’m doing all right, man.] Rudy Gobert. I’m just giving you play-by-play, Brian.
CH: Unfortunately for people in these jobs who are in these positions for a long time whether it’s radio, print, TV or whatever, as you know a lot of them, they’re either single or divorced because it’s hard to hold a relationship down. You’ve got to have somebody that’s just understanding, and that’s just going to let you do what you do, and just be satisfied when you bring a paycheck home, or you must have a good work/life balance. Most people aren’t able to balance that out. I’m not saying I can. It’s a struggle.
BN: How much talk was there about the snitch hotline when that was first a thing?
CH: It was just a funny thing. It was the talk for a little bit. Like who’s going to be snitching? Are guys going to be snitching on LeBron? If they see him jumping the fence trying to leave for a little bit? Are they going to snitch on Bron during the playoffs? It was a little things like that.
It’s really died down. Nobody is really telling on each other for the most part. I did report that some of the guys were calling Adam Silver directly at one point and giving him some incidents and violations that were going on. But for the most part, no, most people aren’t worried about it or concerned about it. It definitely was a funny topic among the players when it first came out.
BN: What would happen to you if players found out you called that number?
CH: [Laughs] It’d be a while before I get my next interview. It would be a while. They have the hotline number placed around the campus. It’s just posted on the wall. They have signs all around. So that number is for anybody. I don’t view it as my place to do that. Even though it’s a safety hazard for everybody that’s on campus if there is a violation, but I just don’t view it as my place.
BN: As far as your future goes, is there any particular goal that you have or anything that you would like to experience or accomplish?
CH: That’s a good question, Brian. I should have an answer to that. I should. My wife gets on me about that; thinking about the next step. I’ve been so blessed to do a lot of things that just came to me; opportunities just came to me. I didn’t dream of being a sideline reporter. That was never my goal or my vision. I’m doing it and I like it. I don’t know — hosting a show. I want to start my own media company.
That’s what I want to do; I want to work on doing documentaries. I want to work on doing some films, being part of a production crew, a director or whatever. I want to tell stories in that way. Those are some of the projects that I want to get off the ground and get a production company started. But as far as other roles, I don’t know. I get intrigued with different opportunities that come around that I might not have even thought of. I’m just open to new things.
When Will NFL Studio Shows See Fresh Faces?
Having a Hall of Fame lineup certainly lends credibility to any group of analysts, that said credibility can’t outweigh entertainment.
It seemed NFL coaches were so old when I was a kid. Don Shula, Marv Levy, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, they all looked so old. Maybe I was just young and all those guys were just in their 40’s (which now, I might add, is quite young). No doubt, NFL coaching seemed like an old man’s game.
No longer is that the trend. The following NFL coaches are in the 40-or-younger crowd: Mike McDaniel, Kevin Stefanski, Brandon Staley, Sean McVay, Kevin O’Connell, ZacTaylor, Nick Sirianni and Arthur Smith. That’s one quarter of the head coaches in the NFL that are 40-years-old or younger. The NFL coaching youth movement is a very real thing.
When will that move to the NFL studio shows? That remains to be seen. Those shows are massive money makers for FOX and CBS but they have also started to trend a bit older. The networks are doing all they can to hook younger viewers to guarantee a long term viewership of games they pay billions to air. Need I remind you of the CBS/Nickelodeon simulcast of NFL Playoff games? The Over 50 crowd doesn’t know what it meant to “get slimed”; shoutout, Marc Summers.
It is startling to look at the cast of each studio show and the last time they were active in the NFL. Start with the desk of The NFL Today on CBS:
Bill Cowher – 2006
Boomer Esaiason – 1997
Phil Simms – 1993
Nate Burleson – 2013
The FOX numbers are even more startling. Look at the last active years of the analysis on FOX NFL Sunday:
Terry Bradshaw- 1983
Howie Long – 1993
Jimmy Johnson – 1999
Michael Strahan – 2007
If you are a 20-year-old NFL viewer, the only person of those eight analysts you can reasonably be expected to remember playing or coaching is Nate Burleson. This is not to say these shows don’t serve their purpose, to entertain and inform, not at all. Those shows can be very entertaining and the combined Hall of Fame knowledge on those two desks is unparalleled. But, in an entertainment world that is trending younger, when does the youth movement start?
Here’s one major issue, that list of players and coaches above have a lot of mustard jackets among them. Having a Hall of Fame lineup certainly lends credibility to any group of analysts, that said credibility can’t outweigh entertainment. If any show isn’t entertaining, it will not last long. These shows have found a way to weave in humor with the Pro Football Hall of Fame level of analysis.
But humor to some generations is not humor to all generations. What is funny to a guy in his 60’s may not reel in the 20-30’s crowd. Don’t tell me FOX and CBS are not interested in that group, they know it is crucial to long term success. FOX is so interested in that group they spent time using Snapchat filters on their hosts during the Thanksgiving studio shows. Make no mistake, that day brings a massive audience for FOX and CBS.
In fact, according to FOX Sports, the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game was watched by 42 Million viewers, the most-watched regular season game on any network on record. This is as big as it gets until the NFL reaches the postseason. It was on that stage FOX chose to use the Snapchat angle, knowing families were gathered across the nation watching that game. That meant an entryway to the younger demographic looking for anything to watch to get away from the conversation with their elderly aunt.
According to Omnicore Agency, Snapchat has 319,000,000 users and 65% of 18-29-year-olds in the United States use Snapchat. This is the audience FOX was trying to reach on their Thanksgiving studio show. It is the audience they would love to reach every Sunday.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have shown even the biggest names will walk straight from the most successful of careers to an NFL telecast. Manning is part of his production company’s Manning Cast during Monday Night Football and Tom Brady is slated for the main FOX booth after his retirement. If those two guys see value in it, you can bet most any player would.
FOX’s hand will soon be forced, Jimmy Johnson is 79 and Terry Bradshaw is 74. Those two can’t work forever and there will need to be a plan in place for the sake of continuity. The difficult thing is identifying which players or coaches have the gravitas to sit on that desk with those Hall of Famers.
Age comes for all of us and there isn’t a Snapchat filter that can change that. If they do invent one, maybe my kids will tell me about it…and show me how to use it.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Can Tom Brady Realistically Be the Critical NFL Broadcaster He Envisions?
If Brady frequently harped on players and the level of performance on the field, would he risk becoming the NFL’s John Smoltz?
Tom Brady and his presumed future as a broadcaster has been viewed with some skepticism. After 23 seasons of playing in the NFL, and considering what this season has apparently cost him personally, will he still want to devote so much time to football calling games each week?
Naturally, this is under the presumption that the 2022-23 NFL season will be his final one as an active player. And it’s easy to draw such a conclusion. Would he really want to put himself through another season like this one?
Ending his brief retirement to play another season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have been the breaking point for his marriage. The Bucs aren’t playing well, compiling a 5-6 record going into Week 13. Yet in an NFC South division in which no team currently has a winning record, Tampa Bay could still make the playoffs.
Joe Buck recently expressed doubt to Jimmy Traina on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast as to whether or not Brady will ever join Fox Sports and the 10-year, $375 million contract reportedly waiting for him. It’s one thing for football fans and sports media observers to speculate on Brady’s future. But it’s quite another for people in the industry — and in this case, someone who still has close ties to decision-makers at Fox Sports — to ask questions.
Last week on his Let’s Go podcast, however, Brady sounded like he’d already put some thought into how he’ll approach broadcasting — or as he put it, his second career. Perhaps he was influenced by having the famously outspoken Charles Barkley as a guest on the show, but Brady believes he would be candid in his analysis and commentary.
“I’m going to be on TV and have the opportunity to be more critical than what I’ve been as a player,” Brady said to Barkley and Let’s Go host Jim Gray.
He then explained that whenever he had a problem with a teammate or coach, he addressed it directly and the issue stayed between them. That would obviously be different on television, where Brady is talking to the viewing audience.
“As I think forward… I’ve had 23 seasons professionally, when I watch football now, the only thing I see — nine out of 10 — is ‘Man, that was a really bad play,'” Brady added. “As opposed to the really spectacular play that [Patrick] Mahomes made or the spectacular play Josh Allen made. Now, it’s like, ‘Man, what a bad defensive play, what a bad play by the quarterback.'”
In Brady’s view, playing with exceptional athletes like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Mike Evans set a standard in his mind. But expecting a high level of play from teammates is quite different than applying such a measure to players he’s watching and scrutinizing as a broadcaster.
As a quarterback and team leader, Brady can directly affect the outcome of events. He can help inspire greater effort and achievement. Or as we’ve seen during Brady’s career with the New England Patriots, he can break a player’s spirit (especially rookie wide receivers) by grinding them against the diamond wheel of expecting perfection.
The first thought is that Brady could be enormously popular with viewers and media if he was critical of players or coaching decisions. That’s often the first flaw fans will point out in a broadcaster. “Ah, he never rips anybody. Protects his buddies.”
It’s why Barkley is so popular. We want to hear what he’s going to say. We don’t know what he’s going to say. But it will likely be sharp and funny. Yet is that too much to expect from a game analyst? Brady cites golf analyst Johnny Miller (“scathing”) as a model. But he also seems to understand that there’s a risk in being too negative.
Barkley warned against that earlier in the conversation with Brady and Gray when sharing advice that he received from Dick Ebersol upon his entry into broadcasting.
“People always tell you they want to hear the truth. They really don’t, Jim,” Barkley said. “[Ebersol] said, ‘Fans want you to tell them two things: Their favorite player is great and their team is great. If you tell them their favorite player isn’t great or their team sucks, they automatically don’t like you.'”
If Brady frequently harped on players and the level of performance on the field, would he risk becoming the NFL’s John Smoltz? Smoltz is frequently criticized for acting as if he does not like baseball in its current form. And viewers get tired of listening to that.
But to be fair, Smoltz was excellent during this year’s National League Championship Series and World Series in explaining how pitchers execute a game plan versus batters. And if Brady had the ability to quickly explain what he was seeing and the reason for his criticism, rather than just heavy sighing or huffing, that could be compelling commentary.
Yet that would have to be balanced with some healthy admiration too. Maybe not Tony Romo-level gushing, but some insight into how spectacular a play is would balance a broadcast out nicely.
It’s encouraging that Brady has some idea of what kind of broadcaster he’d like to be. When news of Fox essentially reserving Brady for his post-playing career was reported, the sentiment was that he was taking an offer that couldn’t be turned down ($375 million!) and might end up as more of a corporate shill (“brand ambassador,” etc.) than a broadcaster of substance.
Judging from his remarks to Barkley, Brady has put some thought into this. Maybe he’s been thinking about it for years. Perhaps it crystallized during his one-month retirement. But is Brady being naive about what’s realistic for a broadcaster? Would a Johnny Miller work in an NFL booth? Players might not clap back at Brady and his seven Super Bowl championships as they do to Barkley and his zero NBA titles.
Ultimately, however, fans would hold Brady to the high standard he’s envisioned for himself in broadcasting. The possibility of a must-watch analyst in an NFL broadcast booth is certainly enticing. Maybe he’s created some anticipation and intrigue for his career after football. Tom Brady has never shied away from expectations as a player. Perhaps the same will apply to him as a broadcaster.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jac Collinsworth Has Learned From The Best
“The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else.”
Jac Collinsworth got his first taste of Notre Dame football while watching his brother Austin play for the Fighting Irish. There was his brother playing on special teams and getting a chance to return kicks.
“I remember sitting in the stands for his first football game inside Notre Dame Stadium thinking this is the coolest thing I’ve been a part of,” said Collinsworth. “The history of this building and my brother is out there in a Notre Dame jersey.”
Not only did Jac eventually go to Notre Dame as well, but he just completed his first season as the play-by-play voice for Notre Dame Football on NBC. As a student, Jac was part of the NBC sideline production team during his four-year education at South Bend from 2013 to 2017 and he was the sideline reporter for the NBC broadcast of the Blue/Gold spring game in 2016 and 2017.
“To work on the broadcasts for four years — as an intern really — with Alex Flanagan and then with Kathryn Tappen for three years down there on the sideline and being in all those production meetings, it was such an invaluable piece of the journey for me.”
And now, the 27-year-old is the television voice of the Fighting Irish.
“To see it all come full circle and be up there in the booth, it was really a special experience every single game,” said Collinsworth.
After graduating from Notre Dame, Collinsworth joined ESPN where he was a correspondent for NFL Live and Sunday NFL Countdown while also hosting the ESPN-owned ACC Network’s football show The Huddle.
Jac then returned to NBC in 2020 and was part of the Notre Dame telecasts during the pregame show and halftime show for two seasons. Collinsworth had the opportunity to learn under veteran play-by-play voice Mike Tirico, especially during the production meetings.
Tirico became a mentor to Collinsworth.
“I felt like I was getting a graduate degree watching him handle those meetings,” said Collinsworth. “The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else. To be able to do that for two years and still have him as a close friend and somebody I can text…I text with him before every single game.”
Another huge mentor to Collinsworth has been the legendary Al Michaels, the former play-by-play voice for Sunday Night Football who is now calling the Thursday night package for Amazon.
“I talk to him all the time,” said Collinsworth. “I’ve had dinner with him. He invites me out to play golf. We just get on the phone and spent 45 minutes just breaking down everything. Every time that phone rings I don’t care what I’m in the middle of, I walk outside and I take that call.”
Collinsworth, the son of former Bengals wide receiver and current NFL Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, first felt the broadcasting itch growing up in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. It goes without saying that his father was a huge influence, but Jac remembers when Highlands High School was being renovated when he was in 7th and 8th grade.
The first part of the renovation was a brand-new broadcast facility.
“It was a studio that had these amazing cameras, a desk, lights and two sets,” recalled Collinsworth. “To this day, I’ve never seen a high school setup…I mean this is better than most college setups…a state of-the-art facility.”
The class was called “Introduction to Filmmaking” and Collinsworth started out wanted to be a cameraman.
“I became obsessed with running around the school and filming all this stuff whatever students were doing,” said Collinsworth.
From there, Jac gained experience in editing and producing but deep down inside he thought he wanted to be a cameraman…that was until his first taste of on-air experience.
“They started a rotation where everybody in the class had to try hosting the announcements live right before the final period of the day,” said Collinsworth.
And the rest is history.
An important part of Jac’s growth as a play-by-play announcer came last spring working NBC’s coverage of the United States Football League. Paired with Jason Garrett, Collinsworth was able to continue the learning process before taking over the Notre Dame duties. He appreciated the fact that these were really good football players that were among the best players on their college teams and could very well be in the NFL.
And just like for the players, the USFL was an opportunity for Jac to get better at his craft.
“Just continuing to learn the art form of calling a game,” said Collinsworth. “The timing and getting out of the way sometimes and letting the broadcast breathe and rising for those big moments.”
An incredibly big moment for Jac would be if the opportunity to work a game with his father ever presented himself. It’s something that he’s thought about and would love to see come to fruition somewhere down the road.
But if that happens, there could be a problem for the viewers.
“Would anybody be able to tell who is talking?” joked Jac.
Jac and his father sound so much alike it’s scary. In fact, during our twenty-minute phone conversation, I really had to pay attention to listen for any discernable difference between Jac and his dad and it was very hard to find any.
But it would still be fascinating to hear them work together.
“I think it would be a very cool experience,” said Jac. “We would have so much chemistry that it would be a crazy experience. I would love to do it. I’d be getting out of his way and let him make points and I wouldn’t be afraid to take a couple of shots at him. I think it would be damn entertaining.”
While their on-air roles are different, Jac has been able to learn a lot about broadcasting from his father. While he does — for the most part — give his son some space when it comes to work, Cris leaves Jac a note prior to each broadcast, mainly has it pertains to a specific aspect of a telecast like coming back from a break or the flow of a telecast.
But there’s one valuable lesson that Jac learned from his dad years ago that he has adopted for himself.
“Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned from him is, he is a worker man,” said Collinsworth. “He just works at this stuff.”
Jac would constantly see his father going through film at various hours during the day, but Cris would still pay close attention to his son’s studies at school and would let Jac know about it if he saw something wasn’t right.
Like when Jac would be having some difficulty with a math assignment.
“I’m like ‘Dad, this is calculus, I can’t figure out how to do this equation’,” said Jac. “He would put that clicker down and come up and he would be deep in the math book going through the chapters learning all this calculus that he hasn’t done in 40 years. I’d come down at six in the morning and he’d still be flipping through the math book while I’m eating breakfast and he’s teaching me the lesson to make sure I got it for the quiz.
“That’s how he was…just the work element is the biggest thing that I still use every day and I definitely got it from him.”
Aside from his football duties, Collinsworth has also been a NASCAR studio analyst for NBC and he’s also been the voice of Atlantic Ten Men’s Basketball and the Atlantic Ten Tournament. There’s something to be said for getting experience in multiple sports because each sport has its own pace and its own flow.
Some play-by-play voices specialize in one sport and some can handle multiple assignments. In Jac’s case, there’s one sport that stand above all the others.
“The rhythm, feel and flow of a football game is my favorite,” said Collinsworth. “Football has always been my first love and grew up around it. Basketball happens fast not to mention you’re on the court and you’re right there in the middle of it. I’ve called baseball games too and that’s a very slow game.”
Jac Collinsworth is still very early in his broadcasting career but he has great talent and he’s been rewarded with some amazing opportunities like Notre Dame Football and being part of NBC’s NFL coverage.
But he knows that he’s had some help along the way and he’s very grateful for it.
“I feel like I’m living out a dream and I feel like I’m standing on a lot of people’s shoulders that helped me get there,” said Collinsworth. “I think about a lot of people who didn’t need to but chose to help me when I was a kid. I feel like I have a great responsibility to take that advice and take it as far as I can and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
And it all started with a high school television studio and his willingness to try all different aspects of the business.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.