Catching Up With Seth Abraham, Part 4: The Secret To Preparation

In a final post, former HBO Sports President Seth Abraham remembers how Billie Jean King “worked” herself into a top broadcaster, and discusses the secret to preparation and his advice to young people looking to get into sports today:

“When Billie Jean King retired from active tennis, HBO went to her and wanted to match her up with Arthur Ashe for our coverage at Wimbledon. And Billie had done no broadcasting, none. She had done nothing. So HBO hires her and she worked so hard to become a good broadcaster. She took lessons. She took elocution lessons. She spoke to dozens of people about what does it take to be a good broadcaster. She was the furthest thing from a natural. Mary Carillo is a natural, John McEnroe is a natural. Billie was the furthest thing from a natural, and yet within two years, maybe three, she turned herself into a first-rate tennis analyst by sheer hard work. I so admired that. She didn’t phone it in because her name was Billie Jean King. I so admired that in her. So she is way up there in my mind.”
“When I give advice to young people about getting a start in sports business, I tell them the best ways in are in startups.”
Photo by: PATRICK E. MCCARTHY
“When I left my office at night, my secretary gave me index cards, I don’t trust my memory anymore. So, my secretary would give me an index card with all my phone calls that I had not returned. And either on the way home or that night I would start returning phone calls. Just as a courtesy. I want my calls returned. You don’t have to return my call, but your office has to. The secretary or assistant, I don’t have to talk to you. But I want my called returned. So if I want my call returned, I’m going to return everyone’s call to me. Standing practice.

“I went to the University of Toledo and I majored in baseball and fraternity. In my senior year, I actually started going to class and started paying attention to getting an education. Very rarely in my career, very rarely, was I the smartest person in the room. But I was always the most prepared person in the room. I would come into a meeting totally prepared. I wouldn’t wing it. I knew what people wanted, if they were selling something, I knew about them. If they were first-timers, people who I had not met before. And I say this to my daughter today, in your life you may not be the smartest person in the room, but you can always be the most prepared person by getting ready for the meeting.”

“When I give advice to young people about getting a start in sports business, I tell them the best ways in are in startups. Startups and companies, teams and leagues, that are in expansion. It’s not so easy to get a job with the NFL right now unless you are related to Roger Goodell. Well-established, pick of the litter. When I was at HBO, young people who couldn’t get a job at HBO went to ESPN. It was a startup. So now you have CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network and so many others. You have to look for the startups and don’t think to yourself, ‘I’m going to get a job with the Yankees. I’m going to get a job with the Mets.’ Those jobs are awfully hard to come by. So I tell people, look at companies, look at leagues that are in some kind of growth mode and that’s where I would concentrate their efforts. And I also tell them, if you can sell, that is a great skill to have. A great skill to have.”

Click here to read:
Part 1: Trusting The People You Hire
Part 2: A Job Interview To Remember
Part 3: Pursuing Bill Russell

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Related Topics:

HBO, HBO Sports, DC, Tennis, Wimbledon

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