SBJ/Nov. 11-17, 2013/Opinion

Applying legendary broadcaster’s lessons to sports business

Like Lee Strasberg, who developed the “method” in acting and left indelible fingerprints on the careers of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman, Marty Glickman shaped the styles of some of America’s top sports broadcasters.

Marty’s warm and impassioned mentoring inspired a long list of accomplished disciples. At the top of the class was star protégé Marv Albert, who was interviewed extensively in Jim Freedman’s recently acclaimed HBO documentary “Glickman.” Nationally, he also influenced Bob Costas, Dick Enberg, Bob Griese, Mike Breen, Joe Namath, Frank Gifford and dozens of others.

A trailblazing and popular basketball and football broadcaster in his own right, Glickman instructed hundreds of announcers encouragingly and delicately. The New York area, where he was an on-air mainstay for half a century, is still chock-full of talent whose broadcasts are redolent of Glickman-taught fundamentals. Spencer Ross, Bob Papa, Sal Marchiano, Spero Dedes, Chris Carrino and Len Berman are some who come to mind.

Glickman in the booth at a N.Y. Giants game
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Glickman’s messages often transcended broadcasting. There were helpful tidbits for life off the air, too. Like UCLA’s John Wooden, who shared his wisdom with his many disciples deep into his 90s, Glickman spent his golden years molding careers and sharing advice on a range of topics that spanned life. Like Wooden, Glickman was a life-coach before it became a profession for-hire.

There are many valuable nuggets of advice that I gleaned from him through the years. Here are 10 that those on the business side of sports can heed:

> Pick yourself up off the mat

In 1936 in Berlin at age 19, Glickman was denied a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete for an Olympic gold medal. Allegedly, U.S. Olympic head Avery Brundage didn’t want to discomfit Adolf Hitler by potentially having a Jew excel on German soil. Crestfallen, Glickman bounced back resiliently, resuming his football career at Syracuse, serving his country in World War II and launching a glittering broadcast career.

A setback is not a disaster. Use it to strengthen character. Keep pursuing goals.

> Execution is the result of preparation

Glickman learned this painfully early in his announcing career when he didn’t completely do his homework for a track broadcast hosted by Ted Husing, then the nation’s No. 1 sports announcer. The lesson was lasting.

Study and be ready for your assignment.

> Volunteer

Marty took blind children to the circus, put headsets on their ears and richly described for them the colorful festivities: the high-wire acts, the animals and the clowns. It brought him great joy watching sightless kids laugh and smile.

Share your expertise by giving of yourself to the unprivileged.

> Mentor and inspire the young

As a budding broadcaster, I was introduced to Marty shortly before he was to broadcast a Giants football game. He not only let me tag along, but he also invited me to join him in the press dining room and sit with him in the broadcast booth. It stimulated my career. He was equally as generous with many dozens of other aspiring broadcasters.

Nurture those inspiring to get into the sports business.

> Enjoy life

As I got to know Marty through the years, I asked him about his approach financially. He told me that if he could plan it, he would spend his last dime on his dying day.

Have a thirst for life.

> You’ll be convincing when you sound passionate and genuine

Marty did commercials cogently for a haberdashery in New York, Buddy Lee’s. When future announcer Spencer Ross turned 13, he was so convinced of Buddy Lee’s that he asked his father to buy him his bar-mitzvah suit there.

Galvanize your audience when you present.

> Whether it’s the technician or the doorman, treat people with respect. Don’t be haughty.

Marty addressed many in all walks of life by name and with an engaging smile, from the security person at the stadium to the clerk at the newsstand.

Treat the little guy right.

> Don’t whine

When the team he covered was being outplayed, Marty didn’t denigrate the team or its players; he usually praised the performance of the opponent.

Win or lose, up or down, exude a positive experience.

> Have an end-game. Your career won’t go on forever. Don’t retire from, retire to!

As his on-air career wound down, Glickman became a broadcast coach, sailor and world traveler. He never retired per se.

Broaden your interests. It will help you get up every day with a mission the rest of your life.

> Beef up your descriptive powers

Marty suggested two helpful exercises to sharpen communication skills. Try to describe for yourself what you’re seeing when walking down the street. What do the buildings looks like? How do the people on the street dress? What’s the weather like? Doing so builds vocabulary and the ability to articulate points. Marty also suggested talking into a mirror to feel more comfortable speaking in public.

Learn to paint a powerful word picture.

Twelve years after his death, Marty Glickman’s legacy is vibrant and alive.

David J. Halberstam (david.halberstam@cumulus.com) is vice president of sports sales at Cumulus Media Networks/CBS Sports Radio Network.

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