At a time when journalists are losing their jobs with alarming frequency, WNBC-TV sports anchor Bruce Beck and Ian Eagle, play-by-play voice for the NJ Nets, NCAA basketball, and numerous other events, are actually giving their potential replacements a leg up.
The two sports personalities — both of whom have roots in the MetroWest community have hosted the Bruce Beck & Ian Eagle Sports Broadcasting Camp since 2002. The program, for boys and girls 13-18 years old, is based at the Yogi Berra Museum and Education Center in Little Falls on the campus of Montclair State University. This year’s session will be held July 26-30.
Eagle spoke to NJ Jewish News earlier this month from Miami, where he was preparing to broadcast the Nets’ season finale. The team, which will play their next two seasons at the Prudential Center in Newark, suffered one of the worst campaigns in pro sports, finishing with a record of 12-70. But dealing with adversity — and even occasional boredom — comes with the territory, he said.
Eagle, who attends Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell, said he wishes there had been this type of opportunity when he was a kid.
“I grew up wanting to do this from a very young age and didn’t have an outlet until I got to college,” said the Syracuse University graduate. “Bruce and I felt this would be a nice venue for some people who have a natural aptitude for this and a place where they can find out if this is something they really want to pursue.”
The intensive program is “soup to nuts,” said Eagle, and covers interview techniques, research, and, most important, preparation. “Probably the biggest key is both Bruce and I relating our personal and professional experiences and trying to put a human side to this job. And that’s probably where we’ve done our best work: in being able to make kids understand that it is a job, but you can have a lot of fun doing it…. This isn’t some far-fetched dream; this is something that could really happen.”
Beck grew up in Livingston in an environment where service to the community wasn’t a matter of “if,” but “when” and “how much.” He learned that from his mother, Doris, who served as the town’s mayor for six years, and his father, Felix.
Beck, who attended Ithaca College, said he relishes the opportunity to help young aspirants “build a foundation” for a possible career in sports. “We think that the camp is like an accelerated course that will put you ahead as you go on to either do some stuff in high school or college and then the real world,” he said.
“That’s been the most gratifying part of this experience,” Eagle said: “to see many of these kids move on, not only at the collegiate level but professionally. We’ve got former campers doing minor league baseball, Division One broadcasts, sports reporting in various cities.
“That part when we started didn’t even dawn on me — that we would be hatching potentially our future replacements.”
Beck is already noticing some familiar faces on the job. “We see the fruits of our labor now because there are a lot of kids out there in the real world who are doing this. It’s fun for me because I’m there in a big scrum [doing an interview], and I look over to my left and I see a kid who was at camp who went to Boston University, and I look to my right and I see a kid who went to Syracuse. More so than the guys who might be replacing me, I’m dealing with guys who are competing with me right now.”
Beck recalled his childhood days at summer camp when he put on mock sports broadcasts for counselors and campers and “called” sporting events. As ninth-grade class president at Mount Pleasant Middle School in Livingston, he was responsible for making morning announcements. Once he got his hands on a microphone, he said, he was hooked.
Eagle and Beck have learned a lot from their experience at their camp. “What you realize after doing it, is as much fun as it is, teaching is really hard,” Beck said. “You have to be so focused, so zoned in every minute…. You have to be interactive, you can’t just lecture.”
“It’s been more for the pure enjoyment of seeing kids who have an interest in this and watch them develop and planting some seeds for the future,” Eagle said.
Beck agreed with his colleague. “It’s sharing knowledge, it’s sharing experience,” he said. “The greater value is you have a chance to shape some lives with a career path that they all want to do. Hopefully you can teach them a thing or two.”
Beck also appreciates their working relationship. “I’m the over-top-top, rah-rah guy, and he’s the guy who calmly cracks the jokes. It’s an unbelievably good dynamic. He’s just such a mensch,” he said.
For more information, visit www.Sportsbroadcastingcamp.com or call 908-233-1113.