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Volume 21 No. 48
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Words of wisdom: Sean McManus shares experiences

When he was in high school in the early 1970s, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, the son of famed broadcaster Jim McKay, knew he wanted to work in sports TV.


His path to the top of CBS Sports, though, was not always glamorous. During a graduation speech to Millwood School in Connecticut, where his daughter was a senior, McManus painted a picture of how those early years in the business looked.


CBS Sports chairman spoke to graduates.
Photo: cbs sports

As the father of three teenagers, McManus’ speech hit home with me. I shared it with them because his advice is applicable to young people getting started in the work force, regardless of career.


In this excerpt, McManus speaks about his first job in sports TV during the late ’70s. He was a production assistant at ABC Sports, a position he called “the absolute lowest man on the totem pole.”


“A PA is responsible for everything from booking the hotel rooms, picking out the music for the broadcast, coordinating all of the on-screen graphics, setting up interviews with the players and a thousand other tasks.


“The job forced me to be totally organized, creative and to always be anticipating the next pitfall. During the live broadcasts I was yelled at constantly, and as the lowest member on the team took the brunt of the verbal abuse from the volatile producers, directors and all the others. To say that it was a trial by fire is a vast understatement.


“But it taught me to really think on my feet, to react well under pressure and to be always thinking three steps ahead. As an example, when I picked up executives at the airport I would have already checked them into the hotel so they could go right to their room.


“It also taught me to work harder than anyone else, and if that meant sweeping out the studio or getting coffee for the producer, I would do that. From the early days of my career I was always the first person in the office to turn on the lights in the morning and the last one to leave at the end of the day. Although now that I have a family, I leave at a more reasonable hour.”

— John Ourand