I wanted to be a sportscaster from the time I was a teenager. And that is exactly what I eventually got to do. But back in those nascent days, I thought I understood the requirements of the job. However, I would learn that I did not.
While sportscasting requires the skills one might expect – being able to ask concise, relevant questions, having a good eye for B-roll, the ability to tell a good story, and the adept application of make-up – Yes, I’m a chick, so that too mattered! – there were other obligations about which no one informed me.
Take, for example, the day I was called to my boss’s office when I was working for a station in Rochester, New York.
“Go to the race track.” My news director – a man of few words, many of which were loud and angry – directed.
I considered whether I should ask why, but just said, “Sure!”
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the horse track, where I generally expected to see horses, only to find a flock of ostriches. I noted that all the other local sportscasters were there, as well.
“What are we doing?” I asked the assemblage of on-camera sports folks.
“Racing ostriches,” someone called out.
“What?” I was flummoxed. Then I saw a harness and sulky being attached to a giant bird. I’d spent some time around standard bred race horses, so I was familiar with the get up and had, in fact, previously had the opportunity to warm up a racehorse on a track. But now I was looking at a nine-foot bird that looked none to happy about being strapped to the two-wheeled cart.
Still, after donning a helmet and easing myself into the seat, I, along with my sportscasting brethren, did indeed race those big, feathered beasts and lived to tell about it.
At a station in Phoenix, I received another summons. “Go to the state fair!”
“Aye Aye, Cap’n.” That was in my head. I did not address the news director in such fashion. It was probably more like, “Yes, Great Leader!”
My cameraman and I arrived at the state fairgrounds where we walked past myriad stands selling all things fried. Oreos, Twinkies, Bananas, Corn Dogs, and Indian Fry Bread. (Mercifully, this was before they started serving fried butter, a “delicacy” I have never been able to wrap my head around.)
We were escorted to a barn-like shed, which was, in fact, I big-ass barn. Farm animals bleated and squealed and mooed, as we walked by. We stopped in front of a pen filled with goats. I stared at the multi-colored beasts and they stared back. “Are we here to watch them race,” I asked, wondering how such an event might play on my evening sportscast.
As it turned out, there would be no goat racing, because I was there to milk a goat, a competitive event that pitted me against others of my ilk. Now, I don’t like milk unless it comes in the form of cheese or ice cream, so the idea of eliciting warm milk from a goat udder made me a bit queasy. And, the fact that I was supposed to perform said act on camera – looking fabulous, makeup perfect, hair in place – was something else entirely.
Did I milk the goat? Yes. Do I have any desire to touch those velvety teats ever again? Not in the slightest.
Another time I was directed to a drag strip. There, I was positioned in the front seat of a fast car and told to drive … fast. “Put the pedal to the metal when the green light flashes.” I was instructed.
My cameraman in the backseat looked dubious. I’m not really into speed, but I did as I was told and was shocked at how quickly the end of the track came into view. Terrified, I slammed on the brakes, a little too early perhaps. But we didn’t die. And no, like milking the goat, I never want to do that again either.
Over the course of my sportscasting career, as one might expect, I reported on sports. But I also took a horse through a jumping course, ice danced, and played an awkward match of polo. I guess all those extracurriculars are just part of the playbook. Still, I wish someone had told me ahead of time.
Perhaps I might have been more prepared.
Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group
Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.