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To Tweet or Not To Tweet

“Rather than pummel social media with non-stop postings — and lose a job for an inflammatory comment — media professionals should use Twitter only as a billboard for their work and try what I’ve done: downsizing.”

Jay Mariotti

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The first time a media boss asked me to use Twitter, I said, “What kind of noise can anyone make in 140 characters?’’ Obviously, I underestimated the power of microblogging and the enablement of any idiot to self-publish. That includes idiots in sports media, who derive cheap thrills from trying to be funny when, if they truly were funny, they’d be professional comedians and not sports media people.

When Chicago radio caveman Dan McNeil lost his mind and his job — and, most likely, his career — by comparing the outfit of ESPN’s Maria Taylor to that of a porn awards host, it created a moment of reckoning for the industry. Should executives continue encouraging on-air personalities to splash thoughts across social media because of a presumed formula (followers become listeners who feed ratings)? Or should bosses finally apply common sense: Why risk inflammatory tweets that prompt firings or suspensions and bring damaging corporate publicity when hosts could follow the golden rule of opinion-making?

Save it for the show!

That’s what I decided to do. After years of assuming my every thought about sports and life should be shared immediately, via that bird, I realized the daily churn was juvenile, dumb and counterproductive. Why not simply utilize Twitter as a convenient way to post my best daily work — columns, podcasts, appearances on other platforms — and restrict my observations about the world only to those vehicles? If a company is paying handsome or even homely salaries to broadcasters or writers, they should devote every morsel of creativity and brainpower to their gigs, not saving stuff for 9:52 p.m. after a second glass of red wine. Imagine Aaron Rodgers withholding two or three plays during a game, then running them later in his backyard.

I became the Marie Kondo of social media. I follow only one feed, a Los Angeles radio station that used to give away free tickets to music shows. My batch of followers, once ample, shrunk to the current 8,600 — though I still have the blue checkmark that verifies I have “an account of public interest.’’ To read some of the reactions from the Twitter rabbit hole, my strategic numbers decline reflects some sort of deep personal failure and rapid life deterioration that should cause me to “go kill yourself.’’ In truth, it means I’ve graduated from the kids’ sandbox.

If only McNeil and others in the discharged-by-Twitter club had made the same call. Think about it: Possessed by the same urge to insult Taylor on the air, McNeil likely would have been saved, albeit undeservedly, by a producer with a trusty, seven-second-delay dump button.

Social media is a brain suck. You spend too much time consumed with superfluous b.s. and not enough on integral career requisites: outworking, outthinking, outpreparing, outwriting and outbroadcasting the competition. The people who aren’t capable of beating you, honestly and fairly, resort to outsleazing you, such as those who hide behind burner accounts to criticize rivals. I had a “teammate’’ in Chicago who used such an account to smear me in the industry. I’ve sat in press boxes where reporters, paid to watch the game, are cracking wise in group chats. There’s a freelance baseball reporter in the Midwest who has tweeted 275,700 times; maybe if he spent more time breaking news and improving his writing, he’d land a full-time beat job. These people are wasting more energy trying to impress each other instead of the bosses who pay them and the consumers who read, watch and listen to them.

So, why tweet? I thought it was a way to personally engage with an audience, but when you’ve had a high-powered career of voicing strong opinions via a big-city newspaper column, a daily ESPN debate show and numerous radio hosting roles, many folks don’t want to engage. They want to exact revenge for something you’ve said or written, or perhaps threaten to gouge your eyes. Sure, bosses like social-media numbers, but at what point does it become a zero-sum game? As for a host’s contention that he or she should have freedom of speech, an employer should own the right to protect a brand from erosion or, in McNeil’s case, sabotage.

The entire tweeting exercise is phony, pumping a device with furious thumbs and fingers when being social is best experienced via face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction. Even if you mean well, it often doesn’t end well. Every so often, I’d use Twitter to critique fine sports-media efforts and, occasionally, efforts that reeked. What was I thinking? One day, I wondered why a fledgling site that broke a major story — FanRag Sports — didn’t realize “Rag’’ is a derogatory term in the publishing world; I was attacked by 2,000 Rag-dolls in four hours, which didn’t prevent the site from shutting down two years later. The maulings were nastier when I reminded the Twittersphere that the founder of Barstool Sports launched his career by publishing nude photos of Tom Brady’s then-toddler son; the Stoolies bombed my podcast page with 3,200 poor ratings.

In San Francisco, I hadn’t even started a columnist/editor gig when the editor-in-chief of a rival news outlet, who should have known better, wrote a derogatory (and legally inaccurate) tweet about me. I didn’t respond — and one of her editors expressed regrets to me for her actions. But a year later, when our operation ran out of sufficient resources to continue a competitive sports section and I was heading back to L.A., I decided to tweet what I thought of her general job performance. Naturally, a crap website wrongly assumed I was fired for the posting, but such are the dangers of tweeting; there is no context from even an hour earlier, much less a year earlier. (The editor-in-chief no longer is there.) Later, in the same market, I asked why a grown man would go through life as the “Bay Area Sports Guy’’ when he has a given birth name. So I used Twitter to have him make imaginary tour stops at various towns in the region — such as, “Bay Area Sports Guy spotted in Fremont.’’ Hey, I was bored. These days, he actually goes by his given name at The Athletic, though I can’t recall what it is because I’ll always know him as this Sports Guy.

Then we had Scott Van Pelt Night. I’ve never been a fan of his brown-nosing of sports figures and overgrown-bro-dude act — the man is 54 years old — and during one particular show, he was more into a partying vibe than delivering the news I’d wanted from that day. So I tweeted my dismay, asking why “SportsCenter’’ at the time was missing the sensibilities and gravitas of the “30 For 30’’ documentary series. He Van-pelted me with a low-brow, ignorant tweet, I fired back with a meaty shot or two, and goodness gracious, I was in a Twitter war!

Wheeee!

I’d like to think that episode was partially responsible for the improved, sharper-focused and more professional “SportsCenter’’ we see today. Which leads to my point. Why take to Twitter when the more effective and dignified vehicle would be a site such as, well, Barrett Sports Media, where I mix sports media criticism with sports columns every week?

Since 2018, my Twitter account has consisted primarily of columns, podcasts and show appearances. When I have something to say, my thoughts are confined to those platforms. Under my Twitter avatar, where I’m allowed to briefly describe who I am and what I’ve done, I conclude the word block thusly:

Best Life. Real.

Those descriptions were made possible only by getting out of the Twitter gutter, leaving the ants to march on without me.

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Eavesdropping: Masters Radio on SiriusXM

“And then there is the very best in the business at doing this, who is an even better teammate, the voice of the Masters, Mike Tirico.”

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Graphic for Eavesdropping feature with Masters Radio

A tradition unlike any other, indeed. It was yet another mesmerizing Masters tournament this past weekend when Scottie Scheffler took home his second green jacket. The weekend weather was perfect, and the golf was spectacular. I spent a lot of my weekend eavesdropping in on Masters Radio from SiriusXM.

Listening to golf on the radio is a bit sentimental for me. One of my best friends, Jay Randolph Jr., was a PGA Tour Radio broadcaster, and sadly we lost Jay to liver cancer in November 2022. He had worked with many of the voices I was listening to this weekend and in a weird way I felt very connected to him listening to the Masters on the radio versus hearing the audio from CBS.

I can’t say enough good things about the way the Masters is presented on radio. From tuning in early and hearing David Marr III setting the scene for the day along with Craig Stadler and Scott Simpson to hearing the starter introduce Tiger Woods to hearing the crew throughout the day as the leaders worked their way around the course, it was, in a word, masterful.

There are many voices you hear while listening and it’s obvious none of them would rather be anywhere else. That’s the overall feeling you walk away with when listening to the Masters Radio team – they love golf, they love this tournament, and they’re having the time of their lives painting the picture for the audience.

The knowledge of course, is off the charts. Whether it’s little nuggets of statistical information, historical facts or on-course reporters giving reads of a green, the Masters Radio team knows their golf and you walk away a smarter golf fan when listening to what they have to say.

As the players at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday began to tee off, around 2:15 p.m. CT, host Taylor Zarzour had a terrific introduction before turning things over to one of the best parts of Masters Radio, lead voice Mike Tirico.

As the Masters music played in the background, Zarzour said, “From the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, this is the Masters on SiriusXM. Why is it that we love this place so much? Maybe it’s because of its breathtaking beauty…maybe it’s the fellowship at Augusta National, without any electronic devices, you are your most present here. The conversation seems more meaningful. You are where your feet are.

“Or maybe, ‘YES SIR!’ the man that made that collection of words famous is Verne Lundquist, in one of his many calls we will never forget. Verne made it during what I think we love the most, the second nine on Sunday at Augusta. Today is his final assignment in an illustrious career. Wouldn’t it be fun if he had one more memorable call? If so, we will press play on it during this final round broadcast led by Jeremy Davis and his fabulous production team.

“On the air we have some Masters veterans as analysts. I wish you could see Johnson Wagner’s passion when an eagle was made. And if the Masters had an accent, Steve Melnyk would be speaking it. The best on-course commentators in golf are here with John Maginnes stationed at Amen Corner, Brian Katrek in the middle of holes 15 and 16, and the great Maureen Madill is headed over to 17.

“And then there is the very best in the business at doing this, who is an even better teammate, the voice of the Masters, Mike Tirico.”

I planned to write my own description, but I think Zarzour nailed it. Tirico did as well, saying, “Taylor, that’s awesome man, that sets the scene so perfectly and I think shapes the thoughts of so many of us as we drive into the property here on Sunday.”

While the broadcasters were all on their A-game, so too were the producers and sound engineers. As I said before, they don’t miss anything. Whether it be the sound of the club hitting the ball, the conversations between caddies and players, the atmosphere of the birds and the patrons, it is all blended exceptionally well. And when something big happens, the passion of the announcer’s voice along with the noise from the crowd is mixed perfectly.

The broadcasters gave every player at the top of the leaderboard their just do. The more you listened, the more you learned about Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Ludvig Aberg, Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau as they made their way around the course. You caught every step of their rounds with Maginnes, Katrek, Madill and Johnson Wagner walking the course with them. And nobody is better at giving you the storylines than Mike Tirico.

Tirico is one of those voices where if you hear it, you know the event is a big one. His voice leading the way on Masters Radio makes it sound even bigger than it is, if that is even possible. He not only gives exceptional commentary, but he is terrific bringing in the other broadcasters in and out of the conversation. And, as one can imagine, he is as prepared as possible, a virtual golf and Masters encyclopedia.

As the leaders got past ‘Amen Corner’ and the tournament started to reach its climax, you could feel the emotion through the microphones.

As Scottie Scheffler led by two and then hit his second shot on 14 to within two feet of the hole, Tirico had an excellent play-by-play call, followed by a very subtle response from Steve Melnyk, who simply said, “There’s a reason he’s No. 1.”

As Scheffler putted out and took a three-shot lead, Tirico added, “He’s that close to a second green jacket in three years.”

At that point in the broadcast, Zarzour took over and Tirico moved to a setup next to the 18th green and as he did Zarzour mentioned it was from there Tirico had called Tiger Woods’ win exactly five years prior.

As Tirico and Johnson Wagner take over the call from near the 18th green at around 5:25 CT, the leaders head to the 16th hole with Scheffler leading by three.

As analyst Steve Melnyk wrapped up his time in the booth, he praised Scheffler for his play and made a statement about second place finisher Ludvig Aberg saying, “Ludvig is the new young face of the golf world.”

Maureen Madill doubled down as she told Tirico that some of the younger golfers who challenged Scheffler this weekend were like a zoom call where they are waiting to come into a meeting. “I think Ludvig Aberg and Max Homa are in the major waiting room,” she said.

As Scheffler started to wrap up his second win at Augusta, Brian Katrek had the call of his putt on the 16th hole: “…On the way, up to the cup and in. There are no more questions, Scottie Scheffler can put one arm in the jacket right now. Birdie at 16, he is 11 under par and he leads by four.”

Tirico was bringing it all home as he described Scheffler and his caddie Ted Scott walking up the 18th fairway. “The crescendo builds as Scheffler gets close to the 18th green,” he said and then brilliantly went silent and let the crowd noise takeover.

As Scheffler pitched to within a few feet, Tirico said, “Scottie Scheffler’s gonna do it again.”

As Scheffler’s wrapped up his championship, Tirico said, “Scheffler, over the ball, shuffles the feet, Scottie Scheffler the putter back and in! Scottie, Scottie, he’s done it again. Scottie Scheffer, for the second time in three years is the Masters Champion.” He later added, “Only eighteen men now have won multiple Masters and the latest is Texan Scottie Scheffler.”

Golf on the radio is not easy. It’s made even more difficult when you are trying to blend together a number of voices and sounds to truly maximize the coverage. I can’t imagine it being done any better than the way Masters Radio on SiriusXM did it this weekend.

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Eavesdropping: Busted Open on SiriusXM

“If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers. But what you got because of Cody’s victory last night was tears.”

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Graphic for Eavesdropping: Busted Open Radio

The day after the Super Bowl, it’s always fun to hear sports radio in the two towns which had teams in the game. In that same vein, I tuned into Busted Open on SiriusXM the day after WrestleMania weekend.

Host Dave LaGreca, who plays the role of the fan on the show, was joined live from WWE World by co-hosts Tommy Dreamer, Mark Henry and Bully Ray. The fan exhibit was not open to the public at the start of the show, but fans entered the picture after the first hour.

The first hour of this particular show went about as fast as a radio show can possibly move. As soon as the show started the hosts immediately got into making fun of Bully Ray, who had been a surprise guest-referee in a match during WrestleMania night two, for how he looked in the referee uniform.

“Allow me to be the very first to admit those stripes don’t look the best on me,” the WWE Hall of Famer replied to the jokes.

Mark Henry jumped in to say, “It was kind of just what WrestleMania needed. To have the ECW influence on the show, great representation for the brand and showing respect to Paul Heyman as well.” Heyman had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during the weekend and was celebrated not only for his WWE contributions but as the creator of ECW, which was based in Philadelphia, where he first worked with Bully Ray who was then known as Bubba Ray Dudley.

“I had people backstage in WWE telling me ‘We have never seen you smile that much in life ever,’ said Bully Ray “…I jumped at the opportunity. Too much fun.  Last night was the first WrestleMania that I got to appreciate…the level of stress that came with [when you are performing in the matches] you’re not able to take it all in…it’s really not fun because it’s so stressful.”

Bully Ray said he could feel the pop as he was introduced and really enjoyed getting to “smell the roses for the first time.”

LaGreca could no longer hold it in. He cut off the talk about his co-host participating in WrestleMania and moved on to the heart of the matter. In the main event the night before, Cody Rhodes had ended the run of Roman Reigns as the Undisputed Universal Champion after more than three and a half years. More importantly to the hosts and fans alike, the story of Cody Rhodes building to this moment was one they all agreed was one of the great moments in WrestleMania history.

Of course, WWE loves surprises and on the second night of this year’s WrestleMania, they had plenty in store. The Rock had already come back to be a part of the WrestleMania 40 storyline and then during the Sunday main event, John Cena and The Undertaker came out as surprises.

Bully Ray gave a great description of what he was doing as the main event was happening. He said he was with Damian Priest, who had earlier in the evening won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and while they didn’t plan to watch the main event live, when it started, they thought they needed to see it. “We ran through the halls and go out into the arena,” he said. “Guys, when the gong hit for The Undertaker, the both of us turned into 12-year-olds…we were jumping up and down…lost it, loved it.”

Mark Henry said, “We reacted the same way. I cannot imagine what that must’ve felt like in person.” Bully Ray replied, “When you can hear the pop in a stadium, you know the pop is big.”

LaGreca said, “There wasn’t a lot to get excited about with night number one, but night two was just hit, after hit, after hit. And that main event, with all the stories that played out and had a conclusion during that match…You couldn’t have played that out to a better conclusion than what we saw last night.”

The hosts then listened to an audio clip from the previous year, where the day after WrestleMania some fans, including LaGreca, were extremely disappointed that Cody Rhodes did not beat Roman Reigns and “finish his story” then. At the time, Bully Ray had said there was a bigger picture story WWE would build that would show Cody fighting hard times much like his father, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes had gone through. Mark Henry agreed.

LaGreca said he was “eating some crow” but then admitted it’s all part of it where the emotion gets so high, and he pointed out that people were actually crying when the main event ended.  “If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers.  But what you got because of Codys victory last night was tears,” LaGreca said. “This is an end of one story, but more importantly the beginning of a new story.”

LaGreca came back from a break and reverted immediately back to what the difference was in Rhodes winning the title in 2024 versus having done it in 2023. “It went from a great moment…to maybe one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time last night,” he said.

There was strong insight given out by all of the former wrestlers at different times during the show, and they also pointed to things a casual fan may not have picked up on. One of those happened when you heard ring announcer Samantha Irvin get genuinely emotional in announcing Rhodes as the new champion.

“We’re not used to hearing emotion in a ring announcer’s voice, so Samantha Irvin brought something special and extra to the table in that announcement,” said Bully Ray.

Tommy Dreamer added, “It was the most perfect imperfection ever and it made that moment even more real…it was something that will be remembered through the annals of time.”

As the hosts continued to talk about the emotion of the night, Henry said, “It felt like WE won.” This gave Bully Ray the chance to sum it all up as he said, “The key word that you just said, WE. Cody made you feel like you were a part of his struggle. You were a part of his story.”

Henry went on to say, “I felt like last night, for the first time, that I could almost cry for Cody. I honestly felt emotional seeing him become the face of this new era, the ‘Triple H’ era….Wrestling is a feel business and if you don’t feel it then it’s not worth really putting on television. I felt that [last night] and I know every fan felt that.”

The hosts continued to give insight as they discussed a gift given to Cody Rhodes by WWE executives backstage and a spot where a table broke before it was supposed to and how smoothly the performers pivoted. Having Henry, Dreamer and Bully Ray on the show allows for a lot of this type of discussion where they can give perspective from having been in the ring.

Later LeGreca is asked if he would rank this WrestleMania up there with WrestleMania 17, widely considered the best of all time. LeGreca said if night number two stood on its own he would say it was better, but perhaps not if you consider both nights. The panel as a whole agreed it was definitely up there as one of the best and Henry noted it will be the highest grossing, so that is one way to judge which was the best.

“There were very few holes in that show,” Dreamer said.

While the first hour was rapid fire and had a ton of great reaction to all of the highlights of the night before, the show took a bit of a turn in the second hour. As the crowd became a part of the show it seemed to change the demeanor of the hosts a bit, especially LaGreca who seemed to be playing to the crowd rather than the listening audience. He yelled out “We did it!” talking about Cody Rhodes winning and then led a “Cody! Cody! Cody!” chant that didn’t go over well to those not on site.

Then there was a very strange guest appearance by WWE superstar Liv Morgan which seemed to bring the show to a halt. Later, Kevin Owens was live on the show and his appearance made a lot more sense as he participated in WrestleMania and had thoughts to share about others who performed and the storylines which were created. Owens helped bring the energy of the show back up and you could tell as a listener how passionate he is about wrestling and what took place during WrestleMania 40.

The programmer in me would remind the hosts not to do the show for their hardcore fans only, as they have to assume people are coming in and out of the show. They had incredible content in the first hour with really strong opinions from their experts, but there was never any resetting or going back to what was talked about, which I thought was a bit of a miss.

With that said, if you are a wrestling fan and you didn’t feed off the energy and excitement the hosts had for what they had witnessed the night before, something is wrong with you. Busted Open Radio was an excellent listen as a follow up to what was a memorable WresleMania weekend.

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Andrew Catalon is Prepared to Meet the Moment

“You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Derek Futterman

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Andrew Catalon
Courtesy: John Paul Filo, CBS

The city of Pittsburgh is known for its propensity to build, serving as the point of widespread adoption of steel-making that revolutionized the construction industry for perpetuity. Situated at the conjunction of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, the locale is fixed at the pathway of innovation and splendor where what may seem impossible can expeditiously render itself into reality. Even though Andrew Catalon did not forecast it beforehand, he found himself at the intersection of fantasy and reality at PPG Paints Arena during a game within the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The No. 14 Oakland Golden Grizzlies were closing in on an all-time upset of the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats, and time was waning on the clock.

Catalon has called many upset victories behind the microphone across a variety of sports since starting his work as a play-by-play announcer. Just one year ago, he delivered an enduring call of No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson defeating No. 1 Purdue in the first round of the tournament. Fans can purchase T-shirts with Catalon’s verbiage of “FDU Believe It?!,” commemorating what is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport and demonstrating the impact of his words. The key to it all is to remain focused on the action taking place on the court in order to deliver an accurate and apropos soundtrack to the moment.

“I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned with some of the upsets over the years is not to get ahead of yourself,” Catalon said. “It’s a long game, and there will be time at the end to explain the significance of it, but before that, you’ve got to call the game and stay within that moment.”

Throughout his broadcast career, Catalon has broadcast 300 college basketball games and usually does not think about hypotheticals; however, the FDU-Purdue matchup happened to represent a rare exception in that paradigm. After all, a FDU victory would represent just the second time in tournament history that a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in the bracket. The only other time it had happened was in 2018 when No. 16 UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia, and the moment as delivered by play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz continues to stand the test of time.

“I knew it’d be replayed [and] I wanted to be prepared in that moment, but I also think that being spontaneous and just kind of going with the flow also makes for a good final call,” Catalon said. “Last year I did have that ‘FDU Believe It?!’ kind of in the back of my mind as the game went on, but for Oakland this year, it just kind of came out.”

Once Kentucky guard Antonio Reeves clanked a desperation three-point attempt long off the rim, Catalon exclaimed that Oakland had completed “a March memory of a lifetime.” From there, he let the crowd and marching band tell the story accompanied by a dichotomy of jubilation and despair. Part of what makes that possible is the understanding from color commentator Steve Lappas of how to approach the moment, something that has been built through the countless repetitions he and Catalon have had broadcasting games together. In fact, Catalon estimates he can count the number of college basketball games he has announced without Lappas on his hands.

“I know what he wants to say or when he wants to get in, and he knows when I want to get in and what I want to say, and that just makes it so much better,” Catalon said. “So look, there’s nothing better than having a consistent partner, and I credit CBS for that; they have kept us together.”

Reaching these types of moments requires comprehensive preparation, research and informed observation to understand the teams and accurately report and expound on the surrounding storylines. For a typical March Madness game, Catalon watches the previous matchups for the teams he has coming up on his schedule and reviews his boards from years prior.

“I don’t want to be the guy that just parachutes in having never seen a team before, and I think fans can detect that, so my prep is always to get up to speed so that a viewer of a team doesn’t think that, ‘This guy hasn’t watched us play,’ or, ‘This guy doesn’t know what we’re all about.’ That would be a huge disservice to the viewer and to the fan, and that’s always what I try to accomplish in my prep.”

Catalon has sought to prove that he can come through in the clutch during his time working in sports media, bringing a consistent approach to his craft no matter if it is among the strident crowd at a college basketball arena or the subdued greens of Augusta National. Over the course of the week, he has been on-site to call the 88th edition of The Masters golf tournament from Augusta, Ga., a revered tradition that takes place annually with its coveted green jacket and several other lucrative prizes hanging in the balance. With the inherent spirit of congenial competition subdued yet effervescent, storytelling takes center stage with a keen foresight and cognizance of the moment.

“There’s a lot more teamwork involved,” Catalon said. “You think about a broadcast – we have 7-8 announcers as opposed to two or three for a football or basketball game – and that’s another big part of camaraderie and partnership is spending time with that golf crew so that when I pinch hit for Jim Nantz, it’s seamless. I don’t want them to think that, ‘Okay, we’re in a different broadcast because Jim’s not here.’”

Nantz has been hosting coverage of The Masters since 1989 and has become synonymous with the tournament itself, authoring its slogan, “A tradition unlike any other.” Catalon understands the responsibility he incurs when taking the air from Augusta and is living out a longtime career aspiration of calling golf. Leading up to a pivotal shot or tournament-winning putt, he works to effectively contextualize the situation and let it play out in the environment.

“No one can fill Jim’s shoes and I’m not trying to,” Catalon said, “but I want to make sure that that team knows that I’m doing my homework and that they can count on me to deliver in the big moment.”

From the time he was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University, Catalon knew that he had a penchant for sports media and began gaining repetitions at WAER, the student-run radio station. Calling football, basketball and lacrosse games, he developed professional friendships and gained a broader understanding of the industry itself. Being situated in the broadcast booth, he developed ideas of how to approach a game and an ability to translate the feats of athleticism and achievement into succinct, nuanced phraseology.

“There’s no doubt that all the reps that I got in college at WAER have certainly helped me not only get a job, but also for a lot of the stuff that I do now,” Catalon said. “I still make my boards the same exact way I did in college. I handwrite everything with different colored markers and pens, and I just retain the information better.”

Before Catalon was calling sporting events though, he had not settled on play-by-play announcing as his primary career path. Instead, he applied to work at WVNY, a local news television station in Burlington, Vt. and was later hired over the phone as its sports director. As a result, Catalon moved to the city without ever seeing the station and remembers immediately being part of the regular workflow.

“It was a whole new world of learning how to run a department and kind of how to be mature,” Catalon said. “When you’re that young, you learn a lot of lessons, and it was an unbelievable experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job out of college.”

Three years later, WVNY announced that it was closing its news department and was consequently laying off several of its employees. Catalon was among the job cuts, a devastating outcome that prepared him to move back home. Yet he received assistance from his colleagues, specifically WVNY news director Peter Speciale, and helped him land a new job as a weekend anchor on WNYT in Albany, N.Y. two months later. While he was in the capital city of New York, the outlet allowed him to seize other industry opportunities to augment his versatility, including freelance play-by-play announcing for SportsNet New York (SNY) and CBS Sports Network.

“They were incredible to allow me to do all these opportunities,” Catalon said. “Very rarely did I have to say ‘No.’ They were very accommodating with my schedule, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude because they allowed me to do all those things while I was still a full-time employee.”

Carr-Hughes Productions in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. gave Catalon the chance to voice over a curling show in their studios, and he eventually expanded his portfolio to include luge and equestrian. In 2007, NBC was looking for new curling announcers, leading Catalon to be recommended and calling a curling exhibition in Rockefeller Center. The next year, he contributed to Olympics coverage for the first time, calling handball games remotely from the network’s New York studios.

When the games were in Vancouver, B.C. in 2010, Catalon traveled to the city to call curling matches. It was there where he met award-winning sports anchor Fred Roggin, who was hosting coverage of the sport for NBC. During a dinner they had over the three weeks they were working together, Roggin shared an observation he had made about Catalon with him that fundamentally altered the trajectory of his career.

“He’s like, ‘Hey, I know you love doing the local news,’ and that’s what he did; he said, ‘but I really think that you’ve got what it takes to be a play-by-play guy, and I think that you should focus on that,’” Catalon remembered Roggin telling him. “Hearing that from him – who had been in the business for so long and who was doing what I wanted to do – I really valued his opinion, and I would say after that Olympics, I really turned my attention to focus on play-by-play.”

Catalon officially joined CBS Sports full time as a play-by-play announcer in 2013, but he had been steadily assimilated into the role with several opportunities years earlier. The first National Football League game he broadcast came in 2011 in an AFC matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals when he was asked to fill in for Bill Macatee. As has turned out to be happenstance for Catalon, the game ended in the final seconds when Bengals kicker Mike Nugent struck a 43-yard field goal for the win.

“When you’re in a close game and there’s strategy talk and you have those opportunities, you’ve got to step up and nail it,” Catalon said. “I think that I showed them in that game that I could handle a close game, NFL big stage. And after that, more and more opportunities came, but every one I treated like it was my last, and I knew that I had to do a good job to prove it to them that I could do this on a full-time basis.”

As the years went on, Catalon continued to garner more opportunities and worked to further refine his commentary to appeal to a national audience. While there are differences in the profile of a football game and golf tournament, he understands that it is his job to accentuate and describe the moments over the course of action. Through it all, he seeks to be relatable, informative and entertaining to his audience in disseminating an accurate account to pair with the video.

“I try to be the guy that you’d want to have a beer with if you’re at a restaurant watching the game,” Catalon said. “You want to come across where you’re not overbearing. You get excited like a fan would – you inform – but ultimately the game is the show, and you’re just kind of there to supplement what we’re watching.”

Catalon had been working with James Lofton on NFL games for several seasons, but CBS Sports revealed various changes across its announcing teams ahead of the 2023 regular season. As the play-by-play announcer on a new broadcast team featuring two analysts – former running back and WFAN afternoon host Tiki Barber; and former quarterback Matt Ryan – and reporter AJ Ross, Catalon spent time familiarizing himself with his new colleagues and building rapport applicable to the broadcast. Weekly dinners and several rounds of golf was part of this assimilation process and led to an enjoyable season with the broadcast team.

“I think because of that, we bonded as a group a lot faster than maybe I have with other partners in the past just because we had no choice but to kind of get up to speed quickly,” Catalon said. “Matt did a tremendous job in his first year, and Tiki is phenomenal as well and AJ is one of the best out there, so I feel lucky that I was with this group, and it was definitely one of the more fun seasons I’ve had on CBS.”

In calling three different sports throughout the year that require different preparation and travel, Catalon frequently has a packed schedule. With this heavy workload, he has a vocal coach to ensure he is doing what is necessary to keep his voice strong. Catalon is proactive to safeguard against losing his voice, something that can occur more readily during March Madness because of the volume of games he is calling in short proximity.

There are occurrences where it takes some time for his voice to bounce back, and he remains prudent, so he is able to perform his job. Aside from his role to the fans, Catalon is working hard for his family and wants to make them proud.

“It’s not easy for any announcer who travels like we do to be away from their family and to miss weddings or kids’ soccer games,” Catalon said. “You have to understand when you get into this business that there’s a lot of things that you’re going to miss, and you have to have an understanding family along the way, and I’m lucky that I have one.”

Although there is no guarantee Catalon will be present for another stunning upset or overtime winner, he looks at his assignments and breadth of work with gratitude and awareness of his career windfalls. If such instances do happen in the forthcoming assignments though, viewers can rest assured that they are hearing a veteran who knows how to punctuate the climax and conclude the story unfolding in real time.

Even though he is not the author of the event itself, he is among its documentarians who writes the manuscript within a library that aims to stand the test of time. The final buzzer represents a deadline of sorts as he crafts the parlance in real time, embedded with the vernacular of the moment. 

“NFL, college basketball and golf – three of my favorite things – and CBS has all three,” Catalon said. “So I’m so lucky in this job, and I can’t tell you that there’s something I haven’t done that I want to do. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing now.”

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