10 Questions with ... Ross Porter
August 23, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Began radio career at the age of 14 on 250-watt hometown station, KGFF, in Shawnee. Had a nightly sports show and did limited play-by-play of minor league baseball. At 15, became sports director and announced high school football, basketball, and minor league baseball. Graduated from University of Oklahoma, and worked as a radio newsman and television sports anchor at WKY and WKY-TV in Oklahoma City. Voted Oklahoma Sportscaster of the Year when 24 and 25. Came to Los Angeles at age 27 and became a TV sports anchor on KNBC for 10 years. Joined the Dodgers as a radio-TV play-by-play announcer in 1977 and spent 28 seasons with the team. Also aired UNLV basketball and football games for 15 years. Started "Real Sports Heroes" radio program in 2007 which was heard on 70 stations. Joined iBN Sports Network in 2011.
1. You started very early as a play-by-play broadcaster, what was the impetus for you to go into play-by-play? Was calling sports your career goal from the start or did you get into it in another way?
My father would put me in his lap at the breakfast table and read the sports page when I was four years old. He was a Pirates fan, having gone to college in Pittsburgh, and so they were my favorite team. They had some disappointing seasons, but in 1960, Dad and I watched on TV together when they beat the Yankees in game 7 of the World Series. By the time I was eight years old, I had decided to become a sportscaster and never changed my mind. My father had opened the Shawnee radio station in 1930, and ran it for seven years. That helped open the door for me later.
2. You've called games on practically every level and in several sports; is the prep work you do different or the same depending on what the sport or level is? Describe your preparations for a typical game----what do you do to get ready?
If there is one facet of my job in which I take the most pride, it's homework. I have always taken the attitude that there are listeners or viewers hearing me who are as knowledgeable as I am. Therefore, it is mandatory that I know what I am talking about on the air. I keep a file on every team which may be on my broadcast schedule. In those files are newspaper, internet and magazine articles, and any other information gathered. I am a champion "note taker." Sometimes, I'll write a note, put it in the proper file, and forget I did it until it's time to prepare for that team. When my next game is about a week away, I begin to sift through my files, and start writing on my computer the data that I want to use on the broadcast. That is my pre-game ritual regardless of the sport.
3. You've called games for baseball world champions, an NCAA basketball champion, and countless other memorable moments; what stands out as the most memorable moment of your play-by-play career?
Of course, the victorious 1981 and 1988 World Series games were fun as was calling Shawn Green's fourth home run in a game at Milwaukee in 2002, and announcing UNLV's 30-point rout of Duke in the 1990 NCAA basketball final. But, number one is likely my solo 22-inning radio broadcast of a Dodgers-Expos game in 1989. That is a major league baseball record for the most innings by one announcer. My colleagues Vin Scully and Don Drysdale were not in Montreal that night. The Dodgers won, 1 to 0, in a game which lasted six hours and 14 minutes.
4. You're known for your knowledge of statistics interwoven into your play-by-play; what's your opinion of the sabermetrics movement, the addition of new statistical analyses to try and quantify performance, like, in baseball, WHIP, WAR, VORP, BABIP, and OPS? Do you see them gaining favor in the way that play-by-play always includes the traditional numbers like batting average and ERA?
While I agree with the person who once said, "Statistics are the soul of baseball," I'm not sure we need more multiple-capital letter categories. If I added one, it would probably be RISP. How batters are hitting with Runners In Scoring Position is an interesting stat.
5. You've been doing a segment for radio, "Real Sports Heroes with Ross Porter," for the last several years, highlighting the good community work of athletes. Who among the athletes you've been featuring in the segment stands out as a particularly good example of the positive work athletes can do?
Former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo has been called the "most generous athlete in the world." He donated $ 18 million of his own money to help construct a hospital and research center in the Congo in memory of his mother. It was the first hospital built in his country in 45 years. Dikembe has also worked with Rotary in immunizing children against polio and 95 percent of the world has eradicated the disease.
Drew Brees of the Saints, through his foundation, has raised millions of dollars to help rebuild numerous New Orleans athletic facilities after Hurricane Katrina.
Albert Pujols of the Cardinals flies American doctors and dentists to the Dominican Republic at his expense and accompanies them when they examine and treat youngsters in the villages.
6. How did the new venture with iBN Sports come about? What appealed to you about what the company is doing and what opportunities you see in creating an online network to carry coverage of sports events unavailable elsewhere?
One of my co-managers, Josh Cooperman, had been telling me that internet coverage of sports was going to be the next major frontier in my profession. When our other partner, Toi Cook, had a discussion with Jacob Ullman of Fox at a seminar and was told about iBN, I contacted Briggs Porter (no relation) at iBN, several meetings followed, and we reached agreement. I have been blessed with a remarkable career, and now have the exciting opportunity to call high school and college football and basketball games in a truly unique format. Online distribution of the content is exploding, and iBN is at the forefront. I'll also be hosting studio programming, including my "Real Sports Heroes," feature which will be expanded and become a visual concept.
7. Of all the things that have changed since you started calling games, what are the changes you find most striking? What about the daily routine of calling a game has changed the most over the decades, and what's changed the least?
I have not noticed that many changes. On radio, you must strive for accuracy and credibility in your play-by-play and remember your listeners are counting on you to provide the "word picture" for them. Many are in their cars on the freeway. Television play-by-play means less talking because viewers are seeing the same game you are.
8. Of what are you most proud?
From a professional standpoint, being inducted into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame ranks at the top along with the fact that I was on the air on Los Angeles radio and television stations for 38 uninterrupted years.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ____________.
...my wife, Lin. We have been married 50 years, and she has been an incredible partner in many ways.
10. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?
Never underestimate your listeners and never think you can get by without preparing.