Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to be analyst for a big time network? At SEC Media Days last week I got to talk to several SEC Network and ESPN analysts, guys such as Greg McElroy and Joe Tessitore, who call football games in the booth.
You might think that being an analyst is easy. It isn’t. It’s more than just talking. You have to write scripts and spend hours and hours preparing — even though you might only spend a few minutes talking about a certain point.
“We prepare days, weeks, months in advance,” says McElroy, a former Alabama quarterback and current SEC Network analyst.
An analyst also has to spend time getting to know the people being covered. “By managing relationships, you gain a rapport with so many of these players and coaches. Then difficult situations happen and you have to ask tough questions,” says former LSU defensive lineman and current SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears.
You probably also think that anyone can be an analyst. Wrong again. “I think to be a good TV broadcaster you have to be a good writer to begin with. If you know how to craft words and how to present things really well then you’ll be good at speaking on TV,” says ESPN’s Tessitore. Peter Burns of the SEC Network agrees. “Writing is so important,” he says. “I use writing every single day in television.”
There are a lot of perks of being an analyst. “Broadcasting a game, on Saturday night, when there are 100,000 people sitting over you and knowing the whole country listening to every word you have to say — you really feel like you're on top of the world,” Tessitore says.
Says McElroy, “It’s the closest thing to playing the game without actually playing the game. We still get to stay very much attuned with what's going on on the football field. So it’s just like playing the game.”
Being an analyst leads to a lot of cool experiences. So I asked all the guys what their favorite experience has been. Peter Burns said, “One time I was doing a game and Brent Musburger said, ‘And let’s go back to Peter Burns in the studio.’ He is one of my favorite analyst of all time, so when I heard one of my heroes in broadcasting say my name on air, I thought of it as a pretty cool moment.”
Marcus Spears said, “Every Saturday morning I do a show called SEC Nation [for which I'm] on campus on Saturday mornings with other college football fans. To see players get off the bus and go get ready to play brings me back to when I played.”
After spending one week at SEC Media Days I know that being a sports broadcaster is exhausting work. But it is definitely something I’d love to do one day.
Photo credit: Cooper Neill/Getty Images for ESPN (McElroy); Jack Ronilo (with Tessitore)