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Jamie Hersch Is Breaking News and Glass Ceilings

“In the past few years, I think we’ve all been encouraged to kind of have our own voice.”

Derek Futterman




With every tick of the clock, the NHL trade deadline draws closer as organizations decide whether or not to add pieces to compete for a Stanley Cup championship. Whether teams elect to make deals ahead of deadline day or wait until the final seconds, the landscape of the league is subject to change at a moment’s notice and fans are on edge to learn and react to breaking news. It is adrenaline garnered off the ice, and a feeling that Jamie Hersch and those at NHL Network typically experience as spring nears its bloom.

Hersch grew up as a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but she closely follows the NHL and the evolution of the game working for this league-owned broadcast entity. Throughout each program, she has the freedom to express her opinion, implement analysts as she sees fit and collaborate in segments to present a compelling, on-air product. Much like developing strategy at the trade deadline, Hersch continues to ruminate over her career – filled with relocations, special events and other trials and tribulations – to serve as a role model for women in sports media and catalyze a new normal.

Over the last year, Hersch has experimented working as a play-by-play announcer for select showcase games on NHL Network, something she never thought possible; that is, until someone recommended she try it. The suggestion came after she voiced a desire to hear more women call live sporting events. “Someone kind of called my bluff on that,” Hersch explained pertaining to how she started to think about working at the craft.

Through preparation at home, in the studio and in the studio parking lot before her shift, she has quickly honed her craft, augmented her versatility and set an example for women everywhere.

“No one ever told me you can’t call games because you’re a woman, but I think I never had that example in my mind as an option for me because it hasn’t really been done,” Hersch said. “….I’m having the time of my life.”

In this new wrinkle to her broadcasting career, Hersch has had to spend an immense amount of time preparing for games, which she satisfies by reading articles, reviewing statistics and learning background information about the players and personnel. She calls the games remotely off of a monitor from NHL Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J. and pairs with an analyst to break down the action. The preparation for this type of role, however, is nuanced and intricate, demanding pliability and alacrity to rapidly adjust and tailor the broadcast to the story of the game – all while keeping informed about the movement of the puck.

Within her preparation, Hersch tries not to depend on studying line charts considering forward and defensive units often change over the course of a game. As a result, it is nearly impossible to guarantee consistency unless a line is well-established and invariably productive, giving the coaching staff no reason to alter it. Moreover, it is critical to know information about each of the players whether they are a superstar or a healthy scratch, along with their tendencies – just in case they end up becoming the primary storyline of the contest or a last-minute addition.

“I’ve always believed that the separation is in the preparation,” she added. “….I know that if I’ve put in my time and prepared to my utmost, then I can go into a game confident that I know what I’m talking about.”

With each broadcast, Hersch estimates she spends about 20 hours in total studying, whereas hosting studio programming and reporting takes considerably less time since it comes much more naturally to her. Growing up in Champlain, Minn., Hersch has early memories watching Minnesota Vikings football games with her father, along with keeping score of Minnesota Twins’ baseball under her grandfather’s tutelage. One of the first times she thought about pursuing a career in sports media came from watching Michele Tafoya, former sideline reporter on Monday Night Football, present information to enhance the broadcast from the field.

“[She] really stood out to me as a component, capable woman speaking about football just as eloquently and knowledgeably as any of the guys,” Hersch said. “I remember really being struck by that as a girl and thinking, ‘Oh wow, I could do something like that; I think that would be really fun.’”

In high school, Hersch demonstrated an indefatigable drive to attain her goal and began attending football practices as a student-media member. Accompanied by her friend who desired to work in film, the duo recorded interviews with players and coaches, along with collecting other B-roll to compile into video reports that aired on the school’s morning news program, The Rebel Report.

Shortly thereafter, she submitted her work to the Minnesota State High School League, an organization that offered her a chance to work as a student sideline reporter. Eventually, Hersch found herself reporting from state hockey, football and basketball tournaments as a high school student, her penchant for sports and journalism evident on news networks across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Simultaneously, she was a member of the school’s softball, basketball and volleyball teams, affording her recondite perspectives garnered by athletes.

Captivated by its broadcast journalism program, Hersch attended college at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Once per week, she participated in a newscast resembling professional working conditions, including a morning editorial meeting, shooting stories as a “one-man band” and editing the piece in time for the show. Additionally, she had the chance to anchor some of the programs, sometimes pivoting to breaking news in the process, along with reporting on the esteemed USC Trojans football program.

“I always say it was like a first job because it allowed me to get that experience of actually reporting live and having to work under incredible deadlines and go out there and actually get the story,” Hersch said. “I did that on the news side, but I also always loved sports.”

Out of school, Hersch relocated to Madison, Wis. where she began anchoring a weekend news program and serving as a multimedia journalist with WKOW-TV. Being in the state capital, Hersch was frequently assigned to cover gubernatorial stories, such as those pertaining to the Wisconsin state legislature. While she was grateful to receive chances to go on the air, she desired to tell feature stories that she found excitement in reporting, drawing her back to the world of sports.

“My time in news taught me that I only want to work in sports,” Hersch said. “It takes a really special type of person to be able to handle the grind of a daily news reporter job in terms of the content that you’re covering.”

Hersch transitioned into anchoring and reporting on sports on WKOW-TV where she covered teams including the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers and University of Wisconsin Badgers. Through this work, she was able to attend events including the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, Super Bowl XLV and the National League Championship Series. Additionally, she had the chance to return to Los Angeles, Calif. to cover the Badgers in the Rose Bowl for three consecutive years (2011-2013), creating lifelong memories and building vast on-field reporting experience.

Weeks after the 2013 Rose Bowl, Hersch announced she would return home to cover the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Wild in a dual media role with Fox Sports North (today known as Bally Sports North). During the baseball season, Hersch was a reporter, traveling with the Twins and enterprising stories to present during the broadcast.

Conversely, the start of hockey season was indicative of transitioning into hosting studio coverage, through which she previewed and subsequently recapped Wild games. In addition to staying on the pulse of the team, she was responsible for eliciting comprehensive, succinct analyses from panelists and, when necessary, conducting interviews.

“The person you’re interviewing, I think, can very quickly know if you’re just nodding your head and waiting to ask your next question,” Hersch said. “I think it’s disrespectful almost to not listen to the answer when they’re taking the time to give you an interview. Not only that, but then sometimes they might say something really interesting or really ridiculous and you can ask a follow-up question if you are listening to the answer.”

The two jobs, which are currently held by Audra Martin, have a stark contrast in how they are executed; however, their broader goals align in keeping the fan informed and engaged. Although Hersch preferred her time as a studio host for Wild broadcasts because of the extended time to effectively report a story, being able to maintain a constant presence around the Twins gave her unparalleled access. The tradeoff of having the potential to divulge stories that, without traveling, may have otherwise gone undetected was in the way the information was delivered.

“You have about 20 to 30 seconds that they want you to get all the information you can in that time and then talk back to the action because you don’t want to miss a hit in baseball or a goal in hockey,” Hersch explained. “[The roles] are completely different just in terms of the length of time that you kind of have a voice.”

While baseball has instituted several new roles ahead of the 2023 season to speed up the pace of play – which have largely been successful in spring training – the game of hockey at its core is predicated on dynamic action. Whether it is the addition of a pitch clock, larger bases or limiting defensive shifts, baseball is attempting to modernize tradition and ingratiate itself towards a younger audience. There is a definitive strategy involved in finding ways to innovate and position teams and leagues for success regardless of the varying tempos of different sports.

“I’ve thought about maybe trying baseball in the future, and it couldn’t be more different than hockey,” Hersch said. “Hockey is non-stop action [where] every second, something could happen; whereas baseball is a lot more methodical.”

Hersch affirms that being a woman in sports media evinces heightened expectations and conspicuous misogyny from consumers and some colleagues. Despite many women entering the industry in a variety of different roles, Hersch believes they are held to a higher standard and expected to be flawless. While she knows these expectations are prejudiced, they motivate her to show up informed, alert and ready for each broadcast.

“I think credibility as a woman in sports is so, so hard to build and so easy to lose,” Hersch said. “I feel it’s my responsibility almost not just as a woman, but someone who cares about their job, to make sure I do my homework, do my research and go in prepared as much as possible [for] every single show. One slip-up that may have been easy to overlook if you’re a man can be very easily turned against you as a woman.”

Following her stint with Fox Sports North, along with working as a sideline reporter for the Big Ten Network’s presentations of football and hockey games, Hersch joined NHL Network as a studio host. Leaving home was not an easy decision for Hersch and it disappointed fans of Minneapolis-St. Paul sports; however, it gave her the opportunity to appear on a national stage.


As the host of On The Fly, a nightly recap show with highlights, news, analysis and interviews, Hersch brings fans action from around the league in less than an hour (when factoring in commercials). She has also contributed to Quick Pitch, the baseball recap show on MLB Network, which usually requires summarizing 15 or more games per episode. Certain game days in hockey have considerably fewer matchups on the slate, meaning more time per episode to explore games in detail and focused preparation.

Sometimes, the network pairs Hersch with a studio analyst to break down aspects of contests to be able to dive deeper into the program. She generally does not leave the studio until 2 a.m. EST, coinciding with the completion of games on the West Coast, but finds that working on a show in this format keeps her thoroughly immersed in the sport.

“To be able to tune in and watch a one-hour recap show, you literally see almost every goal [and] every big save, and we try to sprinkle in a lot of relevant information as well,” Hersch said. “It’s exciting; it’s fast-paced; we’re only showing the very best of each and every night.”

During her time at the network, Hersch has also hosted NHL Tonight, a national show featuring hockey analysts and insiders discussing the game in a more protracted format, often centering around the night’s action. As hockey seeks to market its superstars and entice younger demographics, Hersch hopes network programming plays a role in growing the game no matter the viewer.

“I think we do a good job, or at least we try to, of balancing both generating interest from people that really know the game and want to know even more [while] also making it very applicable to people who are just tuning in because they’re trying to learn more about hockey or maybe another team because they only follow one team,” Hersch explained. “We try to do a good job of covering all 32 teams in the league and making it fun in the process.”

Over the years, Hersch’s hosting style has evolved to a place where she is able to let her personality shine through. Moreover, she interacts with her colleagues on the air, fostering compelling conversation surrounding hockey aimed at retaining viewers by imbuing the show with entertainment-value. It took time for Hersch to become comfortable displaying her personality on camera, but she has found a way to gradually grow accustomed to expand her on-air presence and exhibit her versatility.

“In the past few years, I think we’ve all been encouraged to kind of have our own voice,” Hersch said. “….All of us as hosts, I think now we tend to be a little more open and fluid with the more, I guess, traditional style of hosting.”

Amid the continued trend of cutting the cord and consuming content through OTT providers and direct-to-consumer platforms, the future of regional sports networks is very much up in the air. With the expected bankruptcy claim of Diamond Sports Group; the recent news that Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to divest its assets in the business; and NBCUniversal planning to stream its RSNs on Peacock, the business and coverage of teams is changing.

In the near future, it is entirely reasonable to surmise teams may own their own broadcast network, as is the case with Monumental Sports and Entertainment – owners of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the regional sports network, NBC Sports Washington.

In working on a regional sports network prior to joining NHL Network, Hersch enjoyed focusing her coverage on hometown teams. Yet she was unable to go genuinely in-depth with some of the topics around the league, making subpar seasons challenging in terms of retaining interest. 

Now at the national level, Hersch has a plethora of teams to discuss and a roster of expert analysts and contributors to confer information from and instantiate working chemistry. In other words, she is able to examine timely storylines whether they pertain to the Montréal Canadiens, Seattle Kraken or any team in-between – free of the repudiation or suppression from expressing a point of view.

“Having that freedom to criticize teams when they’re not doing as well and maybe some changes should be made… is a much more sensitive topic when you’re working for a regional sports network because you are partners with that team,” Hersch said. “….I think it’s a lot better to just be able to speak your mind and kind of just for our analysts to be able to call it like they see it and they don’t have to sugarcoat it. That’s, I think, liberating from a national perspective.”

Throughout her career in sports media, establishing and maintaining relationships at all levels of the industry has been imperative for collaboration and success. Whether it is members of the crew, on-air colleagues, producers or executives, she is grateful to have a team of people around her assisting in all facets of the production. It reminds Hersch of her formative days in the industry when she was effectively her own production crew, capturing stories in the field while serving all roles from director to production assistant.

Furthermore, Hersch views the hockey community as familial in the sense that there is a predominant sense of professional congeniality around the league. For example, she points to a pattern of fired coaches quickly being hired by other organizations, ensuring they remain part of the game and still lend their expertise.

Even though the game is played with the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup in mind, the action on and around the ice genuinely extends beyond a frigorific clash. It is encapsulated in the proceedings of NHL All-Star Weekend, a gathering of players, personnel and fans where they exude their passion for the game.

“It’s one of my favorite events ever because everyone is just relaxed and everyone knows that they’re just there for fun and to celebrate the game and there’s nothing really on the line,” Hersch said. “It takes the pressure off of everything, and you end up getting to talk to some of the biggest players in the game who would normally be really stressed out.”

On March 8, Hersch will be part of an all-women program on NHL Network on International Women’s Day alongside colleagues Jackie Redmond and Lauren Gardner. The first time the network aired such a broadcast in 2018, Hersch was nervous whether she and the other women would be able to carry it, but her fears were quickly assuaged thanks to their knowledge and abilities as media professionals.

“It’s been so much fun to kind of watch it grow over the years and evolve into kind of just a regular NHL Now that happens to be hosted by all-women and have women contributing in various roles on- and off-camera. It’s no longer this big deal, pressure-cooker show that it [once] was.”

In the past, Hersch was motivated to excel in order to continue improving and satisfy her ego and other self-serving interests. Today, she is a mother of two children and looks to set a positive example for them as both a woman in sports media and a working mother. Being a parent has changed Hersch, and renewed her perspective on the impact she garners in the industry.

“I posted a video that my husband took of me calling a game and my kids watching,” Hersch said. “I’m getting emotional thinking about it because it’s so special to me to have them be able to see that. I think that it’s really cool [for them] to know that women have a voice in sports just as much as men do, and I think they’ll grow up knowing that’s completely normal. That’s a really beautiful thing to me.”

Entering any broadcasting assignment prepared and ready to perform at a high level in any role is a fundamental aspect of durability and productivity. By gaining as many repetitions as possible and possessing an acute awareness of sports and the business world, established and aspiring professionals alike can stay ahead of the curve and avoid mayhem at the last minute. Hersch will host trade deadline coverage on NHL Tonight this Friday at 7 p.m. EST, where she will recap all of the transactions around the league, guiding and contributing to the discussion as the playoffs move closer.

“It’s fun to talk about winning teams,” Hersch said. “Every single night, we’ve got plenty of winning teams to talk about.”

BSM Writers

Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?

“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”

Demetri Ravanos




Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career. 

Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff. 

Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.

Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.

Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country. 

Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.

Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.

Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance. 

Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!

A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.

FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan.  MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team.  I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”

JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions. 

“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).

“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”

MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”

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BSM Writers

Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

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As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.

Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.

But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.

The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.

As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.

Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.


The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.

Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!

But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)

That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?

We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!

The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.

Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.

Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)

Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.

We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.

When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?

If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.

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BSM Writers

There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle

“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”

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Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.

Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark. 

It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.

Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.

Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.

One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.

It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.

It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.

One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.

Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”

There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.

We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.

The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.

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