Guest Column: After 20 years, returning to the broadcast booth
In May 1992, when Bart Kalkstein ’92 and I announced Princeton’s dramatic overtime win over Syracuse on WPRB, giving Princeton its first national championship in lacrosse, we assumed that would be our final Princeton sports broadcast. Our time as Princeton broadcasters from 1988 to 1992 coincided with four Ivy League basketball championships and NCAA tournament appearances, two Ivy League football championships and the aforementioned national championship in lacrosse, which was Princeton’s first.
Bart and I met early during our freshman year and decided to join the roster of WPRB broadcasters as a team. Bart was the color man, and I did play-by-play. Our first broadcast together was on Dec. 11, 1988, when the Tigers played St. Joseph’s in basketball. St. Joe’s freshman Craig Amos hit a 40-foot shot at the end of regulation to tie the game, which Princeton eventually came back to win in overtime, 59-53. From what I recall, my call of Amos’ game-tying shot was some incomprehensible screaming that likely left listeners confused about what actually happened. Over time, Bart and I improved our broadcasts and had the opportunity to call some memorable Princeton basketball games, including one against the defending national champion UNLV in Las Vegas, Texas in the preseason NIT and Cleveland State in the North Coast Tournament. Princeton’s participation in the now-defunct North Coast Tournament in 1990 marked the last time the Tigers played in the Cleveland area.
Fast forward 22 years. I now live in Cleveland, where I run a venture capital fund and teach at Case Western Reserve University’s business school. Bart, a Harvard Business School graduate who now works at the Cabot Corporation as vice president of business operations in the performance segment in Boston, had also “hung up his headset” after graduation. A few weeks ago, I was reading the local newspaper and was surprised to discover that Princeton was returning to the Cleveland area to play against Kent State, a perennial powerhouse in the Mid-American conference. Since we graduated from Princeton 20 years ago, Bart and I had often talked wistfully about the possibility of broadcasting another game together. Here was our chance!
I found the contact information of the WPRB sports director online and emailed him asking if, by chance, the station was not sending out student broadcasters to cover the Kent State game. If this was the case, I inquired if Bart and I might be given the opportunity to broadcast the game. WPRB Sports Director Pete Kunze ’14 took pity on a couple of alumni wanting to recreate the fun we had in college and graciously responded that, indeed, the station was not sending out a student team, and we could go if we could procure the necessary equipment. A couple of emails later and Princeton’s sports information office had agreed to bring the necessary equipment out to Kent for us. We were in business.
Bart booked a flight from Boston, and we began our preparations with research on Princeton and Kent State just as we had as student broadcasters at Princeton. Of course, we did not have Internet access when we were students, so the process of researching statistics, trends and history on the teams was much less painless. However, when we were at school we did not have the distraction of jobs and children (between us we have seven!) distracting us during our preparation.
Lots of emails and calls were exchanged in the days before the game, and we were ready for our return to the booth at Kent State.
We arrived at Kent State’s arena two hours before the start, dressed in our blazers and stat sheets in hand. Immediately, we were confronted with some very unfortunate news, that the broadcasting equipment that was supposed to be brought to us from Princeton had been accidentally left behind. A panicked scramble to find other equipment ensued. Luckily, the Kent State broadcast team had extra equipment — which seemed to date back to when Bart and I were students — that they were willing to lend us.
We then ran into our next unexpected hiccup. The dial pad on the equipment that we needed to use to connect to WPRB was not working. We could receive incoming calls on the equipment but could not call out. In addition, the engineer at WPRB informed us (via Facebook message) that he also did not have the ability to dial out from the Princeton studio to us. With all of the technological advances over the past 20 years, here we were, stuck 10 minutes before tip-off with two pieces of equipment that could not speak with one another. Bart came up with the genius idea to call his wife Andrea (also Class of 1992, and stuck at home in Boston babysitting for their four children) and have her connect us with Princeton via a conference call. Andrea saved the day — the connection worked, and we made it on the air just before tip-off!
We could not have picked a better game to broadcast. Princeton, after coming off a disappointing overtime loss to Wagner last Wednesday, came out on fire, opening up a 16-2 lead. Kent State battled back, cutting the lead to six in the second half, but the Tigers continued to make clutch shots late and prevailed 62-50. Princeton shot 55 percent from the floor and 47 percent from behind the three-point arc, with the scoring well-distributed across the team. Kent State came into the game 5-2 with a quality win on the road against Big Ten opponent Nebraska, so it was a tough opponent. Hopefully, this game gives the Tigers the type of momentum they need going into league play so the team can bring another Ivy League championship back to Old Nassau.
I was very sorry to miss my 20th Princeton Reunions this year, as I was in Hanoi in May on a Fulbright fellowship teaching entrepreneurship at a Vietnamese business school. My wife asked me after the game if this made up for missing Reunions. While it is always tough to miss a big Princeton Reunions, Bart and I thoroughly enjoyed recreating for just a few hours some of the best memories of our Princeton years.