February 1, 1990. Remember where you were and what you were doing on the day? I certainly do. And so do many others who were part of sports broadcast history.
That's the day "Sports News Network" went on the air, a new cable channel promising something we were told at the time would never seriously fly. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, presenting complete 30 to 60 minute sportscasts, live press conferences, satellite interviews, you name it and we did it.
I was fortunate to be one of the original anchors on that initial team. Wally Brucker and I were dubbed the "evil twins" for what were competing mustaches. John Fricke, Terry Chick, Kevin Christopher and Karrie Ross were all cable sports network veterans. Bill Pidto and Amy Nick were the youngsters in the group with wonderful promise. Steve Mayer, Charlie Neal, Curt Menefee and other wonderful talents all filled our anchor chairs along the way.
We huddled together in Rosslyn, Virginia, right across the Potomac Rover from Georgetown. There we inhabited what at the time were the production studios of USA Today's own broadcast effort that had gone the way of the dinosaur. From high atop their building, in studios and offices that were much too cramped and much too ill-equipped for such a daunting venture, we went on the air. And had absolutely no idea the ride we were in for.
The stories that went on the air, and what went on behind the scenes, would make for one hell of a book and are just too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say we worked our hind-quarters to the point of exhaustion.
But even with all the flaws, the tapes that didn't roll on cue because the machines kept jamming, the live shots that went awry due to nothing more than a passion to get it on the air and get it right, and more than a few interesting moments that went out live, we made broadcast history. Because much more went right, and much more made people sit up and take notice.
It's a shame more people didn't get to see SNN. Those were the beginning days of cable wars and battles for space on the cable dial. The network folded on December 17th of 1990, and not because of a lack of quality from every person who ever worked a single second getting it on the air.
SNN wasn't seen on most cable systems, thanks to reasons and decisions beyond the control of those who dug and worked in those trenches. But it made no difference to us. We were too dedicated to making our bones and proving it could not only be done, but done in an exceptional manner.
Now, of course, 24/7 news and sports is simply a daily part of life. When SNN folded, others such as ESPN and FOX were there to pick up the mantle and make it work.
But we were the first. And we were the best there was at what we did.
We who launched SNN and made that broadcast history have all gone our separate ways. And if you were to look closely at the roster of established networks today, you would find more than a few SNN veterans making their products something to be proud of.
I am proud to have been a part of Sports News Network. Proud to have been given the opportunity to work with and befriend so many talented people who took a chance and literally gave blood, sweat and tears to the effort. Proud to be a part of broadcast history thanks in large part to their efforts behind the scenes.
For without those Producers, Directors, TD's, AP's, Assignment Desk workers, men and women jamming those tapes into playback decks with seconds to spare, audio engineers, stage hands, lighting technicians, technical engineers, writers, interns, the people who made sure the food delivery people know exactly where to go and how to get past security, those historic scenes and captivating moments on screen you often take for granted would never see the light of electronic day.
Every single second of every single broadcast day, these are the real stars of our industry.
So then, a tip of the time worn SNN baseball cap to my former colleagues and current friends. The kid with the TV hair and the mustache thanks you all for what still is the greatest year of my broadcast life.
One day we'll gather and have those drinks. We'll tell those stories. And hopefully there are still a few people out there who saw our work and appreciate what we did and how we did it.
Oh, and as for that book?
I've got about six chapters done. You think anyone will believe it when they read it?
Damn, we were good.
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