Behind the microphone, athletes dropping the ball

One of the occasions college students look forward to most – aside from Thirsty Thursdays – is the day they can hang their degrees on a wall and say, “Yes, I graduated from college.” And

One of the occasions college students look forward to most – aside from Thirsty Thursdays – is the day they can hang their degrees on a wall and say, “Yes, I graduated from college.”

And what better place to hang those degrees
than in their offices? But these days, getting an office, or even a cubicle, is becoming increasingly harder as college grads who studied sports broadcasting are forced to compete with former professional athletes.

ESPN recently hired former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski to replace Joe Theismann,also a former NFL star, as a “Monday Night Football” analyst. Theismann will continue to broadcast for ESPN in another position.

Congrats to Jaworski, who is, I’m sure, hard-up for cash following his 17-year career in the NFL. After all, nothing says, “I need a job,” more than a decade’s worth of contracts. In the meantime, college grads with dreams of becoming sports broadcasters will have to find jobs elsewhere – perhaps announcing Little League games at their local fields.

All joking aside, this is a serious issue. Imagine investing years of time and money into earning a degree and then continuously being denied jobs because someone without a degree, and possibly without an education, got the job. Adding insult to injury, that person got the job because he was a professional athlete years ago.

It happens more often than most people
realize. Just tune into ESPN or Comcast SportsNet and see for yourself. Whether it’s game commentary or a post-game show, at least one of the broadcasters is usually a former professional athlete. That’s not to say professional athletes should be banned entirely from broadcasting. Nor do I mean to imply that a college degree automatically makes a person better at his or her job.

In the midst of unknown guys in suits talking about touchdowns and fumbles, it’s often nice to see a former pro athlete on the set, especially if he has a large fan base. Someone who is on the show simply because of his intimate knowledge of and passion for the game is a refreshing change from the no-namers who enjoy seeing themselves on TV.

However, broadcasting requires a college degree for a reason; it takes more than an old jersey and a winning smile to make it as a professional broadcaster. It takes more than just knowledge of the game to qualify as a good broadcaster. Or at least it should. The sports channels most likely hire so many former pro athletes to boost ratings. They care little about the quality of the broadcast so long as sports fans are watching. While the sports stations don’t place much emphasis on interviews, while watching one, any viewer can tell the college grad from the pro athlete (and not just by seeing a Super Bowl ring).

Unfortunately for those in the broadcasting
field, a room filled with old jerseys and trophies seems to make someone more qualified for sports announcing than a closet full of college hoodies and a framed degree. Unless your resume lists “MVP” as a qualification and Andy Reid as a reference, your interview will be a huge fumble … er, flop.

Kudos to those who continue to pursue careers in sports broadcasting, despite the sometimes bleak outlook. In a time when the importance of a college degree is being stressed almost daily, the broadcasting industry makes college degrees seem like a waste of time and money. As longtime former pro athletes continue to boost the ratings for channels like ESPN and Comcast SportsNet, there seems to be no respite from the unemployment those with dreams of sportscasting are facing. So as Jaworski, Theismann and many other almost-forgotten former pro athletes grace us with their less-than eloquent commentary, recent college grads may find themselves settling
for jobs they may not be thrilled with. Not all is fair in love, war and broadcasting.

Shannon McDonald can be reached at

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