Q&A: Famed broadcasters Steiner, Ley talk about the evolution of the sports activities and sports activities media industries


Charley Steiner and Bob Ley have near 100 years of mixed expertise working in sports activities broadcasting.

The two former ESPN colleagues have been in Peoria on Tuesday because the featured audio system for the sixth annual Steiner Symposium at Bradley University.

The occasion hosted by the eponymous Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication featured discussions on a variety of sports-related matters, resembling inclusion and variety, and the psychological well being of athletes.

In Part One of a prolonged dialog with WCBU reporter Joe Deacon, Steiner and Ley talk about how the sports activities panorama in sports activities media business have advanced over the previous half century.

This transcript has been edited for readability and brevity.

Joe Deacon: Charley, I’ll begin with you. How have you ever seen the sports activities business and the sports activities media panorama evolve because you began within the enterprise?

Ley: How lengthy have we bought?!

Steiner: Where shall we start? As we discuss now, the symposium is occurring. And after I welcomed everyone this morning … I arrived in 1967, and in these days, we have been nonetheless 10-12 years away from cable tv. When I used to be a freshman, cable tv was a idea. And as I ran down the panel matters for immediately, which included Title IX, gender equality, a complete notion of psychological well being, sports activities entrepreneurship — these matters have been unimaginable, even to speak about in 1967.

So merely all the things has modified, and I reminded the scholars this morning that that is the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Fifty years from now, we are going to have a look at the matters of this morning, and they are going to be so antiquated. I do not know what the subsequent 50 years are going to appear to be, but when the earlier 50 years are any indication, we’ll locations that unimaginably we shall be going — and I inform the oldsters on a regular basis, one thing that John Madden used to inform his Oakland Raiders earlier than they went out on the sector: ‘Don’t fear concerning the horse being blind, simply load up the wagon.’ And, the wagon is getting loaded, the horses are blind, and we’re going someplace — however we’ll go there collectively, and that is the most effective half concerning the symposium, this evolutionary strategy of what it’s we’ve finished and what we’ll do.

Similarly, Bob, what do you see as essentially the most important modifications or developments in sports activities and sports activities broadcasting over the previous 30 or 40 years?

Ley: Oh, my Lord. I believe simply the variety of platforms the place you’ll be able to attain individuals, entertain individuals, provide alternative for individuals to exhibit their work. Yes, the web, however inside that panoply of platforms on the web, the chance … I converse to college students at our Center for Sports Media at Seton Hall, and I inform them that ‘You have the power to get your work showcased.’ For instance, should you’re trying to advance your profession as an undergraduate, you’ll be able to turn out to be your personal enterprise; you’ll be able to create your personal identification, your personal voice.

I believe that’s important for individuals trying to work within the business, and on the similar time you have a look at all of the leagues who now — in fact, it is de rigueur to have your personal community, and from there you simply marvel, for instance: when the NFL goes to take all of the playing concerning the NFL in home?

All of which is underneath the tent of how a lot cash has been now created and flows via the world of sports activities. So, I believe that the love affair in American tradition with competitors, with the tales and the figures that we like in sports activities, has by no means been stronger. And it is a progress alternative, particularly for the scholars and Charley’s symposium — which I, by the best way, name ‘Steiner-palooza,’ as a result of it simply goes on 12 months after 12 months and is a wonderful alternative — and so to deliver to those college students (and) showcase, ‘This is all there for you.’

We did not have these alternatives. You have these avenues and you’ll go so far as your expertise and talents and need will go, as a result of the know-how’s there; use it and use it properly.

Steiner: We did not have the chance as a result of it hadn’t been invented. So once more, this evolutionary course of, it is exceptional. I inform the story on a regular basis right here, after I arrived, WRBU (Bradley campus radio) was within the scholar middle, throughout the corridor from The Scout, the newspaper, and WRBU consisted of mainly a brush closet with a glass that divided two rooms, one with the microphone and one with the turntables, and that was it, and someplace down the corridor was a UPI teletype machine — that was it. Now taking a look at WCBU public radio — ours was somewhat service present — once more, how this has grown, mushroomed has been fascinating.

Again, one different matter we’re having immediately: sports activities entrepreneurship. Who may have presumably imagined that 30, 40, 50 years in the past? But final night time at one in all our capabilities, we spent a while with a younger fellow who’s doing simply that, creating mainly his personal mini sports activities community, and it is working and I could not be prouder of him.

You sort of alluded to one in all my future questions, however I’ll ask it now. When you’re right here on campus, may you could have ever even dreamed of the profession path that you’d wind up taking?

Steiner: Well, I knew what I wished to be after I was 5, 6, 7 years outdated: I wished to be the announcer for the Dodgers; the Brooklyn Dodgers, however they moved. So, I at all times knew I wished to be in broadcasting. When I bought right here, my life like hope was perhaps I could make a residing doing this. Did I’ve any concept that the trail that I’d find yourself taking would take me thus far? No! Did I ever assume, ‘Oh, I’ll have a faculty named after me?’ Oh, in fact that is why I got here to Bradley in ’67. No, so — this has been a splendidly serendipitous, Gumpian, Zelig-like journey, and right here we’re immediately.

Bob, you sort of touched on that already, however what sort of message would you give to college students which are pursuing a profession in sports activities journalism?

Ley: Well, a very powerful factor is figuring out find out how to write; all of it begins with that. You can discuss concerning the know-how and the varied platforms, and the talents to promote your self and to have your personal web site and what-not and develop your personal voice. But till you know the way to jot down, write appropriately, categorical your self — if for no different purpose than to promote an concept to somebody, whether or not it is an entree to somebody you need to cowl (or) should you’re working in establishment, to promote a narrative to your boss. Learn find out how to write, learn to talk, after which constructing on accuracy and equity, then develop your personal voice.

I believe one of many alternatives, or nearly risks of the place we’re proper now within the media panorama for those who need to are available, should you need to be an web influencer, OK. But you are not going to observe the identical sort of profession path that Charley’s speaking about with the scholars right here or we speak about at Seton Hall. Get the fundamentals down, then develop your voice.

Stephen A. Smith, for instance — a very good buddy of mine, who everyone knows and all of us have an concept of what Stephen A. appears like, seems like and is; and one of many nice guys (who) would do something for you. But earlier than Stephen A. Smith was ‘Stephen A. Smith’ as we all know him, Stephen was a beat author at small newspapers, popping out of faculty in North Carolina. He lined the Sixers, then had a column of the (Philadelphia) Enquirer. You discuss to him and he had the hell edited out of him to make him a greater author and communicator, and from then began doing somewhat little bit of digital media. It all was constructed on the fundamentals.

So even somebody is presented and as properly referred to as Stephen, discovered find out how to write, discovered find out how to talk. And then when you find yourself feeling you could have your personal voice, transfer out into {the marketplace} and say the belongings you need to say. But it is based mostly on equity, and accuracy.

Steiner: Whatever Bob and I’ve finished in our careers, it is all predicated on our capability to jot down. And then, it begins within the head, it flows via your coronary heart and comes out of your fingertips. That was the one purpose I used to be employed at ESPN in 1988, as a result of I had no tv expertise in any respect. But I used to be a radio man and I may write a bit. And Bob, clearly, may write a bit and theoretically, then we have been in a position to switch these ideas and feelings out of our heads onto the — it was typing paper.

Ley: Five-ply carbon paper, from a typewriter no much less. What are these?

Steiner: Yeah, after which we used to place all that stuff collectively on the teleprompter, then a few of these fellows who ran the teleprompter weren’t superb. But we bought via it anyway.

Ley: We may inform a few of these tales, if you would like.

Steiner: But writing. Writing is the important thing, I believe.

As it was talked about earlier, one of many symposium matters immediately, the primary one, was relating the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. This is for both or each of you, however perhaps Bob take it first. Do you assume ladies’s sports activities will get an acceptable quantity of consideration in media, and if not what might be finished to vary that?

Ley: Oh, boy. The reply might be not.

Steiner: That was precisely what I used to be going to say.

Ley: Probably not, however there’s a lot media now that when you’ve got — to not slough off the problem — however ladies’s sports activities, you could have the power as an activist on this space now to take this in your hand and do one thing about it via producing and distributing occasions and what-not. You’re nonetheless up in opposition to {the marketplace}.

The panel at Charley’s symposium immediately was speaking concerning the concept of placing the boys’s and ladies’s Final Four in the identical metropolis on the similar week. We have a selected affinity for the ladies’s event; I lived in Connecticut for 40 years, and naturally, there’s the nice (UConn) program there. So I’ll have an atypical view of girls’s sports activities. But , there ought to be one thing separate and completely different and distinctive concerning the ladies’s event that ought to stand by itself. You get to {the marketplace} although, how do you dictate that sponsor curiosity be the identical? You want stars, you want promotion, you want storytelling to create that kind of curiosity.

It’s gotten higher, however the reply is it must — I’ve bought two daughters and 4 granddaughters, and , I’m not a raving feminist however I believe I’ve bought some — my eyes are open on this matter. You cannot dictate to {the marketplace}, however you’ll be able to put issues in place that can transfer in direction of that aim. So the reply to your query, most likely not.

But what? NIL (identify, picture and likeness compensation) goes to make a distinction, and as we heard immediately on the panel — and I’d seen that quantity — 6 of the highest 10 NIL groups and/or athletes (in) that new system that permits athletes to capitalize on are ladies, which then instantly will get flipped to ‘Well, is that as a result of the ladies are engaging by some requirements and what-not?’ So it is a corridor of mirrors, however there’s a capability now via NIL and all these platforms to do one thing about it. Don’t go railing at ‘the person,’ mockingly, to vary it. Change it your self. You have a voice in it.

Steiner: Going again to your preliminary query about how the panorama has modified so dramatically, I mentioned this morning after I welcomed everyone in that that is the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. When I bought right here there was no ‘title,’ a lot much less Title IX. So watching our — I hate to make use of the phrase, however — watching our society evolve and the way we work together, and you have {the marketplace} (and) the appropriate factor to do, the financially proper factor to do typically will not be one and the identical. So I’m with Bob: yeah, most likely.

You guys additionally talked about playing earlier –

Ley: I’m shocked that there is playing!

We’re seeing now clearly extra betting strains mentioned throughout broadcasts. Do you see this as a optimistic or a detrimental improvement for sports activities broadcasting?

Ley: Hell, it’s detrimental, however there’s nothing you are able to do about it. It’s one of many nice hypocrisies on each degree in sports activities. Start with Pete Rose. Let’s put apart his private conduct, which is abhorrent, and simply consider the truth that he was banned for playing on baseball — mendacity about it, however what-not. And in fact he is written his enchantment to (MLB commissioner) Rob Manfred. But he is now banned from the sport that all over the place you go is plastered with playing adverts in baseball parks.

Start with the truth that the NFL — up till about three years in the past, till the Supreme Court determination—– handled playing like a mortal sin, like a deadly illness, like one thing to be stored at bay like leprosy. Now they’ve embraced it, and like I mentioned earlier, I do not know why they have not taken all of it in-house. It’s not good, however it’s what it’s, and so it is out in entrance on the desk.

I’d by no means positioned a sports activities guess in my life outdoors of Las Vegas, and now I’ve bought a Caesars’ (Palace) app on my cellphone — one in all our houses is in New York, so it is geo-blocked. I put $100 down this 12 months (and) I’ll let you know how corrosive it’s. I had like a $20 parlay occurring the Mets this 12 months, my boys, and one in all it needed to do with run totals. One half of the parlay had come — I’m speaking about successful 50 bucks right here — and for the opposite half to return in, we wanted one other run to be scored the sport. The Mets have been main by three runs within the high of the ninth inning and in comes (nearer Edwin) Diaz, and I felt good as a result of he gave up a solo house run. That’s mistaken. That’s mistaken, and I mentioned, ‘Boy, that is, that is,’ — now it gave me a window onto the lure, onto the motion, onto that boiling within the blood. So it is right here and (there’s) nothing you are able to do about it, and but it is nonetheless state by state. California simply voted it down — what the heck, Charley, was your own home state fascinated with?

Steiner: What I used to be. I voted in opposition to it.

Ley: I can see you voting in opposition to it, however I believe popularly I could not perceive — it wasn’t even shut, proper?

Steiner: No, they bought like 42%; it was it was a shellacking.

I hate it. I completely hate it. I do not recall ever having a bet — oh, I did make a guess in 1960 after I was 11 years outdated and I assumed the Yankees have been going to beat the Pirates within the World Series. I used to be having a piano lesson on the seventh sport of the World Series, and I used to be taking part in ‘On Top of Old Smokey’ as a result of my piano trainer wouldn’t give me the time off for the seventh sport.

(NOTE: Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski hit a house run within the backside of the ninth inning to present the Pirates the World Series championship).

I’m working towards ‘On Top of Old Smokey,’ and the child who lived down the road from me who was rooting for the Pirates: “Mazeroski just hit a home run!” — this was years earlier than it was known as a ‘walk-off’ — and I misplaced a greenback, and it was additionally my final piano lesson as a result of I unleashed each curse phrases that I used to be conscious of at my piano trainer and that was the primary and final guess of my life.

Charley, and Bob sort of touched on it somewhat bit, with the rise of the web and social media and the leagues having their very own networks and issues getting so unfold out, it looks as if the sports activities fan viewers is much less reliant on a present like SportsCenter than they have been perhaps within the ’80s and ’90s if you guys hosted. How do you assume that is impacted sports activities programming typically?

Steiner: Well, again within the halcyon days once we have been doing it, there was no (sensible) cellphone. So they might activate Bob and Robin (Roberts) and me at 6 o’clock, and Keith (Olbermann) and Dan (Patrick) at 11 o’clock to seek out out what occurred in the course of the day. We have been the sports activities information of file, and for lack of a greater time period, appointment tv for sports activities followers.

As the years went on and the evolution of the Internet, social media, the cellphone SportsCenter has by no means been in a position to — and I’m undecided they will — work out find out how to program the immediacy of a cellphone. Suddenly, you could have a notification; now who has received, or now who has been traded, or who has been damage. We used to, theoretically, break that information to the viewer across the nation. By the time they get on the air now, it is already outdated information.

Ley: That’s simply raises the coin, although, of writing. So should you’re doing SportsCenter now, and it is delivered, sure, on cable if you have not lower the twine, or direct to shopper streaming or no matter, why would you watch? Well, there are numerous good causes. People our age will say to us — and I’m certain you get this, Charley — ahh, it isn’t the present it was. Well, it may well’t be the present it was. It cannot be the community or the corporate it was; it has needed to evolve.

But should you’re showing on SportsCenter now, here is the chance to make your writing based mostly on factual accuracy and well-grounded opinions. Make it matter, that is what you’ll be able to provide. You’re not providing the highlights; the highlights are in your cellphone, the information is in your cellphone, that commerce notification is in your cellphone. But considerate dialogue, good interviewing and nice observations, that again might be distinctive and that is what you’ll be able to provide.

But it’s an evolving market, and it is one thing — I imply, I let you know, now I’ve been away from the corporate for 4 years, and I nonetheless proceed to tip my hat and marvel on the means it adapts, continues to adapt, and it has to. This complete dialog is concerning the modifications, they usually have finished a very good job however it’s a persevering with problem. But I’ll let you know this, there is not an organization on the planet in communications that would not need ESPN’s challenges due to they’re the challenges of being a pacesetter and persevering with on high.

Steiner: When we have been doing SportsCenter, it was a each day information present. I assume taking a look at SportsCenter now, if I had any vote in any of it — and Lord is aware of I do not; I’m 20 years eliminated — I’d make it a each day journal present, so increase the tales based mostly on the written abilities of the varied anchors as a result of, once more, the scores are fairly well-known by the point they flip it on; the accidents, no matter, the information of the day is already identified. So that is the place writing within the distinctive abilities of the presenters is so essential.

Ley: So a lot of what SportsCenter does, particularly in the course of the soccer season — as a result of the NFL is the lava that flows via the sports activities tradition and the American tradition; you are not going to cease it, and ESPN invests closely, and rightfully so, as a result of it is the one factor that may deliver (an) viewers collectively. But SportsCenter particularly on Mondays with Monday Night Football primarily is an 11-hour pregame present, and from a enterprise sense, it is completely the proper determination as a result of you could have an funding and some huge cash in that broadcast arising tonight and all of the shoulder and ancillary programming must be round that and supporting that. And when the video games are good — and up till this final weekend, no one was actually having good video games, however we have (had) some entertaining ones.

You know, it comes all the way down to — I’d at all times ask individuals (when) I’d converse with college students or teams, ‘Why can we open the doorways within the morning at ESPN? Is it to place our youngsters via school? Is it to place groceries on the desk?’ No. It’s to construct worth for the shareholders of the Walt Disney Corporation, and the minute you understand that all the things was circulate from that, and that is the character of American capitalism. Last I checked, it’s a capitalist economic system and we’re there to create worth, and in so doing produce good programming.

Steiner: On the day it was introduced that Cap Cities was promoting ESPN to Disney (NOTE: In July 1995, the Walt Disney Co. introduced plans to accumulate Capital Cities/ABC in a $19 billion merger), Bob and I have been sitting subsequent to 1 one other — after they have been rebuilding the newsroom and we had these cubicles — and Mike Eisner, Michael Eisner, who was then president of Disney, he mentioned — and I’ll always remember this — he mentioned, ‘The crown jewel on this merger acquisition was ESPN.’ Bob and I are sitting as shut as we at the moment are to 1 one other … when was that, 19–

Ley: 1995, he was on Good Morning America when he mentioned that. It’s like, since you hear you are being bought, it’s like, oh, geez. We have been within the strategy of transferring, and I used to be like, ‘Oh, I simply purchased a brand new home, what the heck is occurring?’

Steiner: And we’re sitting subsequent to 1 one other in cubicles, and I have a look at Bob and he seems at me, and I mentioned, we’re in Bristol, Connecticut, in a concrete bunker sitting in cubicles subsequent to 1 one other and we’re now the crown jewel on this buy. I’ll always remember, it was staggering and only a huge image concerning the huge progress of ESPN in a brief time frame. We have been the final ones to understand that it was changing into as huge because it was as a result of we have been sequestered in a small city in central Connecticut doing TV daily.

Ley: See, that was I believe the center of our success, as a result of there was a lot work to do. You did not preen or go — there was actually not numerous locations to exit at night time and be acknowledged or see the fruits of the movie star or the success. We stored our head down and did the enterprise, and the tradition — which primarily actually has by no means modified — the tradition that has organically grown over 40-plus years, which is we have been the ‘please and thanks’ community.

I keep in mind once we needed to clarify who we have been once we would name out for credentials. We bought greater than that, we bought extra profitable than that, however primarily everyone — when individuals would are available and say, ‘Well, I need to do that, I need to try this, the place am I going to be assigned?’ I mentioned, ‘Relax. There’s a lot rattling work right here, you should have loads of time to be on the air and get higher and be featured,’ and that is true. So that work ethic, that tradition that also exists. I believe George Bodenheimer, our former president, beloved throughout his management time period and a very good buddy, coined the phrase it is ‘the key sauce.’ The secret sauce of ESPN success is the tradition.

Steiner: Yeah.

Watch for Part 2 of this prolonged dialog coming Thursday WCBU.org.

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