I’m writing this piece while flying back from the FOX SPORTS Regional Broadcast meetings in Los Angeles, and before the memory joins the jangled and bursting hard drive in my head, I wanted to share some information and offer some observations.
The seminar consists of large-room open discussions featuring broadcast and production panel members kicking around a variety of relevant topics. The NHL shows up to give us what’s what with rule changes, and there are short presentations on audience feedback, new technologies and graphics.
A large block of time at the very end yesterday was dedicated to what our chief Mike Connelly slated “Unexpected Moments”, and the discussion and subsequent debate centered mostly around Dallas Stars’ Center Rich Peverly’s cardiac episode on the bench last season, and specifically, how both our show and the visiting (Columbus) show covered the incident.
So Razor, Jason K. Walsh (our VP of Broadcast) and I, joined by our Columbus counterparts took the stage, and watched, with a few hundred other colleagues (including FOX’s NBA regions) our broadcast, and Columbus’ broadcast from that night and then we answered questions and had productive conversations.
Here’s the thing. What I do – what I’ve done for my whole life – is something the rest of the world is just learning about. When you boil it down – when I actually think about it – I – repeatedly – – – “press send” for a living. What I say – goes out there. Can’t take it back. And I’ve been doing it for a long time. So – I’m experienced with it.
The rest of the world – not so much. This is the first time in human history pretty much every person on the planet has access to the airwaves and can publish words or pictures or videos of everything they or those around them are experiencing the instant it happens, or anytime thereafter, and can reach a world-wide audience.
That should be mind-blowing and should give everyone pause, but I don’t think enough minds are blown, and I believe almost nobody gives pause.
About a minute after Rich collapsed and was ripped down the tunnel by team emergency medical personnel who gave him life saving treatment, my phone started blowing up. Some concerned friends and family yes, but some from people I know in local news looking for info – because they – wanted to “press send” – and wanted to “press send” very badly before anybody else, or before thinking about what it was they were doing. There was no pause at all from them.
I was proud of our broadcast. We all had the same view and same feelings as it was happening; be calm, be measured, and be sensitive to the fact that Rich’s family and friends are watching, that everyone connected with all our players and coaches and staff are watching, and that the fans are watching. None of us, at any time during the 37 minutes we were on the air following Rich’s collapse was in a hurry to “press send”. We waited until we could confirm what we knew and even suspected, we waited for our organization to make sure they had contacted Rich’s family and gave us official statements and at all times we described for our fans only what we knew. Not what we thought we knew, not what might be true, and not idle chatter or anything off-topic.
There were long periods of silence with our cameras wide and no breaks for commercials of – well – who knows what. And it was uncomfortable and in some respects frustrating for a guy who is supposed to be talking pretty much all the time when the headset is on. We stayed at the arena to help guide all concerned viewers and listeners through what was happening with Rich, his teammates, and our organization.
We wanted to be right. We wanted to be sensitive. We gave the matter pause.
It’s impossible to prepare yourself for something like that. FOX SPORTS gets huge points for opening up the discussions which will certainly help the next time around when something like this happens. And I learned things through our discussions that I’ll integrate into my daily work and life. But I’ll tell ya – until you’re in it – until you’re watching a guy you know pretty well collapse, and hear screams from the bench in your headset one moment, and then an instant later hear the building go stone silent as you’re watching strong young men visibly shaken and in tears – you won’t fully understand.
Which brings us back to what I do and the business we now share – “pressing send…” Almost 25 years in an NHL booth, going on 40 years on the air, I got practice. I still horse things up – and I still “press send” a little too quickly on emails or texts or twitters – and even on the air – but I’m learning. Wish there was a class I could take, wish there was a school requirement for all kids to take “press send” before graduation.
It’s been said – “… one of the great tragedies in life is having the experience and missing the message.”
So I think about that, and I generally read and re-read and re-read again every email and text and tweet I’m about to send – and when I’m really on my game – I wait 5 or 10 minutes or even overnight before I hit the button. You know – measure twice, cut once.
My experience “pressing send” prepared me, prepared all of us for that night. And the continuing message I get from every experience like this is – once I “press send” it’s over – it’s out there – and it ain’t coming back – and then I gotta live with it – good or bad.
So do me a favor right now. Take out your phone and just look at the “send” button and don’t press it. Might be the first time in your life you’ve ever done that.
And then – wonder about whether or not you’ve put enough thought into what that little button represents – and the impact that the simple act of pressing it can have.