It’s a natural progression for athletes coaches now – finish your playing career, then begin a career in the media. Some have done it seamlessly, while others have fallen flat on their face. Michael Strahan has perhaps gone the furthest, transcending the sports broadcast realm as the a co-host of a morning show with an audience that consists of 90% women.
Every major sports network is chock full of ex-sports figures posing as experts on their studio shows. Strahan’s is a success story. Tiki Barber’s is not. The road has been spotty, but it’s much smoother than it was years ago in the infancy of sports broadcasting.
The NFL even prepares players for careers in the media by providing a program called NFL Broadcast Bootcamp. The program includes: “sessions on tape study, editing, show preparation, radio production, control room operation, studio preparation, production meetings, field reporting and game preparation.”
Pioneers such as Pat Summerall and Frank Gifford didn’t have that advantage when they embarked on their careers. They basically had to do whatever the network needed them to do: At CBS, Summerall did football, tennis and golf. Gifford did Olympic coverage and other events. There was little training. You either had it, or you didn’t.
Summerall told me that John Madden, his football broadcasting partner and the model for the modern-day TV football analyst, was so nervous in his first broadcast, he sweated right though his shirt. He said he wasn’t sure if Madden was cut out for the job. Slowly, Madden settled in. Three decades later, he is an international superstar.
Frank began at CBS, but his post-football stardom came on Monday Night Football as part of the legendary trio with Don Meredith and Howard Cosell. Gifford was not the color analyst on that team, however. He was the play-by-play man. He would eventually return to an analyst role in the 1980’s when Al Michaels was made the face of the franchise.
Gifford joined the Tim Brando Show to discuss how he made the transition from playing football to broadcasting and what his early days of broadcasting were like.