Commentators, engineers, directors, producers, executives and other personnel from around the world in sports media gathered in New York on Tuesday night to celebrate the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame induction class of 2022.
Created by Sports Video Group, the mission of the Hall of Fame is to honor those who have made an indelible impact across the world of sports broadcasting, whether or not they are behind the microphone. In 2007, the museum inducted its first class with some of the honorees including former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, the founder of NFL Films Ed Sabol and legendary play-by-play announcer Howard Cosell.
Past and present inductees of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame attended Tuesday night’s ceremony held at the New York Hilton Midtown and shared their thoughts on the event with Barrett Sports Media before the proceedings began. Chris Berman, who has worked in different capacities with ESPN since the year of the network’s launch in 1979, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
“You look at the names that are in ahead of you and you think, ‘What am I doing on this list? Somebody made a mistake,’” Berman expressed. “Tonight, I will look back at not my name, but the names of the people I, if not idolized, really respected and some after me.”
Berman’s unique on-air delivery and style helped grow his career and ESPN into the sports institution it has become today. By staying true to himself and accepting that not everyone would take a liking towards him, he has been able to appeal and draw a level of respect across key demographics.
While he has been on the network for many years, Troy Aikman is a rookie – hardly so, however, in the world of sports broadcasting. Working alongside Joe Buck throughout his entire sports broadcasting career, which began in the 2001-02 season with Fox Sports, he was on hand to celebrate his partner’s achievement.
“He’s the best to do it,” Aikman told Barrett Sports Media regarding his colleague Joe Buck. “I’ve had a front row seat watching him for the last 21 years. He’s incredible and it’s well-deserved [and] long, probably, overdue based on what he’s been able to accomplish.”
Aikman’s contract with Fox Sports expired following the 2021-22 season – leading him to negotiate with various other networks to bring him in as a football analyst. Once he signed with ESPN, Buck followed him shortly thereafter to continue their partnership on Monday Night Football.
“Once he went, it was kind of a next step for me and fortunately it worked out,” Buck told Barrett Sports Media. “We’re closer now probably than we’ve ever been; our families are close and that’s a big part of a happy work life.”
“The companies are obviously a little bit different, but other than that what we do in the booth is what we’ve always done,” Aikman added. “We have the same people up there. It’s been a pretty smooth transition for him and I.”
Working with Buck and Aikman for the first time is Lisa Salters, who is the longest-tenured sideline reporter in Monday Night Football history. Although their first season together is not yet complete, she feels a connection towards the duo and was excited to be present for Buck to receive this extraordinary pillar of honor and respect in sports media.
“I feel like I’ve been working with him for the last 20 years,” Salters told Barrett Sports Media. “It’s just so cool to think that somebody that you work with is that so highly regarded, which we knew already, but it’s just really cool and I’m happy for him.”
Buck expressed gratitude towards those at Fox Sports; in fact, the company honored him with a full-page advertisement in the event program. For 28 years, he called baseball and football games for the network, including many memorable World Series and Super Bowl finishes. Although the company and primary day of the week on which he calls primetime games differs, the goal of bringing viewers an informative, compelling and entertaining broadcast remains the same.
“It’s just different, philosophically, because when you’re at a network whether it’s CBS or Fox, you can kind of ride the hot team,” he said. “We’ve known our schedule since whenever that comes out… [and it is] broken weird. Some of the games have been kind of ‘Eh,’ but I’ve loved every minute of being [at ESPN].”
Buck grew up around the industry and observed the work ethic, preparation and commentating of longtime St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster – his father and Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame member Jack Buck. Joe attended this ceremony 11 years ago to accept the honor on behalf of his father, who passed away in 2002, and while he admires his father he has tried to craft his own voice in this industry.
“Don’t get into this business trying to sound like anybody else,” Buck said. “I got in trying not to sound like my dad. I think I still kind of sound like my dad in many ways. Forge your own path; do your work and let your personality come out and see what comes of it.”
Buck made it a point to visit his father as he was ailing for seven months in a St. Louis hospital – and while they spoke about broadcasting and sports media at large, the conversations gradually turned towards personal topics, including taking advantage of every day one is alive.
“When we got to his final weeks on this earth, our conversations were not about home run calls; they weren’t about critics; they weren’t about work. They were about our family,” Buck said in his induction speech. “….It was about me living my life because as he said, ‘When you get here laying in this bed, you realize it’s too late. Have fun.’”
Longtime sports broadcaster with ESPN and now voice of Sunday Night Football and primetime Olympics host for NBC Sports Mike Tirico was the event host, celebrating the institution’s 15th year of honoring those across the landscape of sports media. It also happened to be Tirico’s birthday and a night where many professionals he has worked with over throughout his career were being inducted into the Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame, making the day extra special.
“Personally, it’s a very special night for me,” Tirico said. “I’m proud to call these people not only friends but colleagues…. Week-in, week-out, you know the people in this room… are the stars and the MVPs of television.”
Tirico works directly with Drew Esocoff, longtime director of Sunday Night Football on NBC, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame Tuesday night as well. For many years, Esocoff and executive producer Fred Gaudelli were a tandem that helped lead the show to an unprecedented 11 straight seasons as primetime’s most-watched television program. Gaudelli, along with longtime play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, moved over to work on the inaugural season of Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football slate of games. As a result, NBC Sports leadership elevated Rob Hyland to the role of coordinating producer and Tirico into the play-by-play chair.
“In 2000, Howard Katz and Dan Ohlmeyer gave me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Esocoff reminisced in his induction speech. “They named me the director of ABC’s Monday Night Football. I would actually be the one to call for a tape to roll and the next words you would hear would be, ‘Are you ready for some football?’. Just getting to work with the Monday Night Football crew [was] amazing, and that year marked the beginning of an amazing run.”
In addition to directing a myriad of primetime football games, Esocoff also sits in the director’s chair for NBC broadcasts of the Triple Crown. He previously worked with ESPN as the director of several NBA Finals matchups and Monday Night Football featuring Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf.
Salters had the opportunity to work with Esocoff during her first season doing football sideline reporting in 2005 and was honored to be among the large contingent honoring him at the ceremony. Aside from Esocoff, there were many prominent names in sports media present for the event including CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, Fox Sports Senior Vice President of Talent and Production Development Jacob Ullman and NBC Sports analyst Cris Collinsworth.
“You’re around sports royalty; sports broadcasting royalty anyway,” she said. “You’re just kind of starstruck – you’re just like, ‘Oh my gosh. There’s such and such. There’s such and such.’”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame on Tuesday night for his leadership in the ongoing advancement of multiplatform league coverage. While he was unable to attend the ceremony in person because of league meetings taking place in Dallas, he submitted a pre-recorded message thanking those who paved the way to effectuate the league’s success.
“My predecessors – Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue – gave the NFL a running head start in this business and impressed on all the importance of ensuring the game was strong and you could never be complacent,” Goodell said. “You always have to pursue innovation and excellence. Exciting, competitive games lead to appointment viewing.”
Manolo Romero, who recently retired as Olympic Broadcast Services chief, was honored with a spot in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame thanks to his leadership in implementing new technology to present the Olympic Games to a worldwide audience. He expressed his gratitude in a pre-recorded message for the broadcasters that helped advance coverage.
“This award together with American broadcasters who shared with me their experience; their knowledge in the technical and creative fields,” Romero said in his message. “I’m indebted to all of them for their help. I think there are too many to name them here. Some of them are already in the Hall of Fame.”
Camera operator Deena Sheldon has worked in the industry for over four decades and during that time has worked many Super Bowls, Triple Crown races and Olympic Games. As a fixture on both ABC’s Monday Night Football and NBC’s Sunday Night Football, she is grateful for the professional relationships she fostered with Esocoff, Gaudelli, Madden, along with NBC Sports play-by-play announcer Bob Costas.
“My goal was to find the shot that the announcers were talking about in under three seconds or find them something interesting to talk about,” Sheldon said. “I love the sense of team in creating something together in the show behind the show on the headsets.”
Part of Sheldon’s job requires her to memorize, or at the very least quickly identify, the players, coaches and team personnel serving as a visual component in telling the story of the game. Through her work, she looks for patterns and tries to anticipate where the next big play may be located or how to best capture the shot to effectively complement the broadcasters’ evocation of imagery.
“I love what I do – all of it – except for the sleet and the downpours,” she said. “….I just love the process of getting ready and then to be able to react to the game and the intensity of a live event.”
Terry Adams was the vice president of IBC engineering for the Olympic Games at NBC and was honored to be among the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Class of 2022. He spoke about the importance of education and making sure the progeny of the industry are able to maintain the standard set and subsequently exceed it.
“A new generation of smart and passionate individuals have begun to leave their impact on how we generate the stories that we all tell,” Adams said. “I think the future is in very good hands. SVG has always been a valuable education resource, and many of the people in this room tonight are involved in those efforts. I would challenge anyone who isn’t to make a concerted effort to do so. You may have to look hard but the opportunities are there.”
Darrell Wenhardt currently works as principal consultant at CBT West and has been in the broadcast industry for over five decades. Through his work, he has had major contributions related to design and equipment installation at major facilities hosting events such as the Olympic Games and the World Cup, and is also a critical part of the ongoing development for the new PGA Tour Digital Media Center.
As he received his place in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, he recognized that he worked with 36 inductees over his career and thanked them for their contributions, adding that something must have rubbed off on him.
“I’m so honored to receive this acknowledgement of my body of work, but mostly I’m humbled,” Wenhardt said. “To be chosen to stand [with] 132 past and current inductees is really quite amazing – and as I mentioned, very humbling.”
Ross Greenburg worked at ABC Sports as a non-staff, freelance employee to begin his sports broadcasting career after graduating from Brown University in 1977. While there, he learned the aspects of effective storytelling but recognized he needed to make a vertical movement in the industry. As a result, he wrote a letter to HBO resulting in his landing a job in the production department where he would help create, produce and oversee shows including Sports of the 20th Century and Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
Over the years, he worked hard to earn the role of president of HBO Sports – during which he launched On the Record with Bob Costas and, for his work, accumulated 54 Sports Emmy Awards. Following his departure from HBO in the summer of 2011, he has worked as the president of Ross Greenburg Productions, a venture that has helped create television programming for networks including ESPN, Fox, NBC and Showtime.
“We are all incredibly lucky to be in the form of entertainment that we all love with friendships and people who are so incredibly talented,” Greenburg said during his induction speech. “The people being honored tonight and many of the people in this room have given the American and worldwide audiences many, many memories of moments in sports history that will last a lifetime.”
Rounding out the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Class of 2022 is football studio analyst Terry Bradshaw who has spent nearly four decades on television. Prior to joining CBS Sports as a live game analyst in 1984, Bradshaw had a storied career in professional football as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After working in the broadcast booth for several years, he became a studio analyst for The NFL Today and stood out among others as a captivating personality enamored with the game of football. Bradshaw’s liveliness and fervor for the game of football resulted in his being recruited by both NBC and Fox to join their coverage of the National Football League. Since 1994, he has been with Fox Sports on Fox NFL Sunday, working alongside analysts Michael Strahan, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson, along with reporter Jay Glazer and studio host Curt Menefee.
“When I got the word, I was shocked because I had no idea of what I had done to deserve to be in the Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame,” Bradshaw told Barrett Sports Media. “I have yet to get an answer and I don’t think I’m going to get one tonight. I’m absolutely honored.”
Working in studio coverage, Bradshaw is grateful for all of the memories he has crafted with his colleagues over the years, several which he shared during his induction speech at Tuesday night’s ceremony. He never thought he would begin to work in broadcasting and was compelled to do so when he received a note from Brent Musburger, who traveled to his home in Grand Cayman, La. in a limousine, to hand Bradshaw a note with a phone number to call.
Five days later, he looked at the note as he was clearing out his pockets to do laundry and is thankful he decided to call the number Musburger had given him – as it led to his first contract in broadcasting, starting what has turned out to be an illustrious career influencing football coverage forever.
“I live each day to its fullest. I have more fun than anybody, and I truly am so honored tonight to be inducted into this Class of 2022. This is something; I have no idea why I’m in it – but I will take it and use it to my best benefit to make more money,” Bradshaw quipped to close out his speech.
Terry Adams, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Buck, Drew Esocoff, Roger Goodell, Ross Greenburg, Manolo Romero, Deena Sheldon, Darrell Wenhardt. They are the nine inductees within the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 – pioneers at their craft who have made monumental contributions to sports media. Their legacies will live on in sports media history as the professionals of tomorrow aspire to build careers in the industry and continue to keep the craft of storytelling alive.
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