Kenny Albert’s New Book – Taking You Behind-the-Scenes of An Amazing Sports Broadcasting Career
Look up the phrase “versatile sports broadcaster” and odds are you will find a picture of Kenny Albert. The son of the legendary Marv Albert, Kenny has continued the Albert Broadcasting Legacy with a 30-plus year career that has seen him cover all four major sports.
Kenny’s new book A Mic For All Seasons is a terrific collection of behind-the-scenes moments and recollections beginning with the moment he was first given a tape recorder and starting doing his own play-by-play as a child, up to some of the biggest events in sports history.
Here are some excerpts from the full interview.
The sports broadcasting bug bites early
JIM MONAGHAN – Hey, early on, you tell some wonderful stories in the book, first of all, but early on, you talk about getting a tape recorder from your parents as a gift. You go in and you start doing play by play, as a lot of kids did. But when did you really know? Yeah, I think this is what I want to do.
KENNY ALBERT – I knew Jim at a pretty young age, growing up in a sportscasting family with my father and uncles. We always had games on in the house, and I received that tape recorder when I was five and set up my bedroom like a radio or TV studio with the desk and then the bed in the middle, the TV on the other side, and started calling games off the television. And when I was old enough, I would bring it to Madison Square Garden, Shea Stadium, and it’s really all that I ever wanted to do. I did a lot of sports writing in high school and college, so was involved in another side of journalism and communications, but always wanted to do play by play.
JM – You’ve worked with some amazing people over the course of your career, both as ex-players and other media people. Who was the one who you said, “I really have to bring my A game today?”
KA – Definitely. Tim McCarver. I worked with over 225 color analysts. Love them all. But the first time I ever worked with Tim McCarver, I had watched him growing up doing Mets games and then Yankees and national games, and he was just so sharp. He was a first guesser. He would predict what would happen before it happened constantly. And I felt more so than with any other analyst that I’ve worked with, that I really had to be on my toes when working with Tim because you never knew what he was going to throw out there and probably worked about 25 to 30 games with him. We became good friends. Unfortunately, he passed away over the last year. But such a great man and one of the greatest broadcasters of all time.
The advantages/disadvantages of the family legacy
JM – You mentioned, you know, a media family, your dad, your uncles and what have you. Obviously there are advantages. You talk about your dad helping you get an internship at the NHL, but what about the disadvantages to know such famous family members as you’re trying to make your own way through this industry?
KA – There were definite advantages. He did open some doors, the internship you mentioned, but also learned so much by watching him via osmosis, watching the preparation. That was the number one thing that I learned was all of the hard work that goes into each and every broadcast. Disadvantages – I wouldn’t really say there are any. There might have been some people when Fox, for example, hired Joe Buck, Thom Brennaman, Kevin Harlan and I back in ’94 who all had fathers in the business. I’m sure there was some chatter about that, but you don’t keep the job unless you can get the job done. And I’m so proud to say that it’s now Year 30 at Fox. I was also fortunate when I was hired by the Baltimore Skipjacks minor league hockey team. My first full time job in 1990. I was there for two years, wouldn’t trade that experience in for anything, then worked three more years in the DC market. So I was able to sort of create and establish my own identity away from home, away from the New York market for those five years, wound up moving back when I was hired by MSG in ’95.
JM – Kenny, on a typical NFL broadcast, there are three voices. There’s you, there’s the color analyst, and then we get to see and hear the sideline reporter as well. But behind the scenes, and you tell a ton of great behind-the-scenes stories (in the book), who’s the glue to an NFL broadcast?
KA – I think it’s the core group that travels together every week, and it’s a team effort. You’re right. You only hear or see the three announcers. But we have our producer with our crew. It’s Fran Morrison, our director, Brian Lilly, our associate director, Kaden Pfeiffer, broadcast associate Cody Novak, and so many others that travel with us during the weekend each and every week. Jonathan Vilma is my analyst, Shannon Spake, the sideline reporter. In the booth we have statistician Dave Chorus, the spotter, Ben Boma. It’s really a group effort. It’s hard to say that there’s one person who’s the glue, and we have the men and women who travel with us, the camera people, the folks who handle the replays, the graphics. And then there are probably 50 people hired locally every week who are part of that production and technical crew as well. It’s an amazing stuff that goes on behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t realize.
The hardest sport to broadcast
JM – I would think hockey has to be the most difficult of them because of the pace of the game. Am I correct in that?
KA – I get this question all the time and you’ll be surprised to hear that to me, hockey is the easiest. Maybe because I’ve done it the longest. It’s like riding a bike. It’s 60 minutes of continuous action. Now I bounce back and forth between radio and TV. Hockey radio is so much fun. The fundamentals. Growing up as a radio broadcaster and then working with Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher on the TV side, called the Stanley Cup Final with Eddie and Keith Jones last year. So a tremendous crew with the NHL on TNT. Basketball, similar to hockey, but a little slower pace, but the ball is in action for 48 minutes. More stoppages with fouls and the ball out of bounds. Football is the most rhythmic. It’s one play and then it’s 20 or 25 seconds, another play, 20 or 25 seconds. Baseball, I only do about ten games a year, so that’s probably the most challenging. There’s so much downtime between pitches and batters, although that’s been condensed with the pitch clock, which broadcasters are pretty happy with over the last year. I’ve done some boxing, some track and field, volleyball, always great challenges, but enjoy working some of those other sports as well.
JM – And you can read all about it in Kenny’s new book, A Mic For All Seasons. Follow him on Twitter/x at KennyAlbert. A Mic For All Seasons, Kenny Albert, thank you for joining us here on WDHA. Best of luck with the book.
KA – And the book has its own Instagram account at AMicForAllSeasons. You can follow its travels and my travels there, but thanks, Jim. Really appreciate you having me on.