Comcast Sportsnet Chicago anchor Pat Boyle won the Midwest Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement for his piece “Individual Excellence on Camera” in 2006.
Boyle graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in telecommunications. He worked at ESPN for 4 years until he moved to the Windy City, where he has spent the last 11 years as an anchor for Comcast Sportsnet.
In this interview Boyle talks about his career path and his favorite experiences as a sports broadcaster.
The first step forward in your career path was graduating from Michigan State University, what were some opportunities you took advantage of in college?
I say this to pretty much everybody who wants to get in the business: to me, ‘hands-on’ was a big part of what got me going down this road in journalism.
It started at Michigan State by not only taking internships during the summer, but also partaking in the schools television program. Additionally, I produced the Michigan State basketball show. Basically, I did everything I could to get a quality hands-on experience.
You mentioned internships over the summer early on in your career, what were some internships you worked on?
I worked at a place that would be the equivalent of Comcast Sportsnet in Detroit. It was called PASS Sports. Sports teams I covered were the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Pistons, and the Detroit Red Wings. So, one summer I worked on Tigers’ baseball and sat in the media booth. I came up with statistics, helped the announcers out in the booth, and came up with features between innings. It was things of that nature.
As well, I worked at the CBS affiliate in Detroit. I helped produce the sportscast for the 6, 10, and 11 p.m. shows. I did that my first year out of school because it took me a year to find my first “real” job.
Your experience with Comcast Sportsnet has been quite the ride. Being a part of the team for what has been a plentiful 11 years now, is it safe to say you have found your home here in Chicago?
It is. Coming from ESPN, which many would say is the ‘gold standard’ in our business, I had an offer on the table to stay there, but I couldn’t take it; I’m a Midwest guy at heart. I wanted to get closer to my family.
Coming to Chicago 11 years ago, they said they knew my work from CSN in Philadelphia and ESPN, and they wanted me to be one of their lead people here. That was a superb honor to have.
To come here and experience championships like the White Sox in ‘05, go to the Super Bowl with the Bears in ‘06, and cover the 3-time Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, to be a sportscaster during those times, nothing beats it. Also, I’ve raised my family here in Chicago. Another asset is I get to work with guys I went to school with and having friends here in the city. To have that Big Ten connection, it’s been an incredible ride and I have really enjoyed it. The 11 years I’ve had here are by far the best I’ve ever had in my career.
You have covered pregame and postgame shows for the Blackhawks. It must be amazing to cover a team that really wasn’t at their greatest point a couple of years ago. How does it feel to cover such a prominent high-rising team in the Chicago Blackhawks?
It’s an honor, David. It really is. I remember I went to a game in 2004 with my daughter and there were only 4,000 people. I could hear the conversation of the opposing coach on the bench. You could yell at Tommy Hawk and have him come over to talk to your kid like you were at Chuck E. Cheese’s. It didn’t feel like professional sports.
Now, to see this current renaissance, there is nothing in sports that can compare to the turnaround that the Blackhawks had. They were rated in 2007 as the worst professional franchise in all of sports. And now they’re not only the ‘gold standard’ in the NHL, but I see other coaches mimicking the Blackhawks Style. I hear Pat Fitzgerald, the Northwestern football coach, saying that his team is going to perform the “Blackhawks way” in their matchup this week. Mainly, for them to win 3 in 6 years and to have a front row seat and be able to cover these guys, it’s a privilege.
Out of all the athletes or coaches you have interviewed, who has been your favorite person to cover?
I’ve met a lot of athletes over my 20 years in the business. I did a show with Lance Briggs for 6 years, that’s unheard of in the NFL. He played 10 great seasons here and has a shot to go to the Hall of Fame.
So, to pick one guy, I’d say I’d never forget being around Jordan, I’ll never forget the year he went to baseball I was down in Florida, where I started off in this business, and I covered it as a 24-year-old and I just couldn’t believe that the greatest basketball player in the world was trying to play baseball. I had a great time doing that. Also, I interviewed Wayne Gretzky in his final week in the NHL in between periods in Philadelphia. I’ve also interviewed Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson.
The core group of the Blackhawks would be the thing I hold my hat on, that’s been the coolest thing to watch. They’re at the top of the mountain. Financially, they are. Some have won gold medals. They’re at the highest level of their profession. Duncan Keith has won two Norris Trophies, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane won MVP Conn Smythe trophies. What more could they do? They still come back the following year hungry and I don’t see enough of that in sports. With this group, there is a core group and there’s an internal drive that you don’t see a lot of in sports. If I could pick over 20 years of covering sports who had the most positive impact on me, it would be Toews, Kane, Keith Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson. Those five have been the most impressive for me.
Lastly, for an aspiring sports broadcaster like me, what can I do to get involved in the ‘game’ early and really, in a way, get my foot in the door?
‘Hands-on’ experience. You can’t substitute for getting behind the mic, producing a show, being a technical director for a show, running an audio board, or using a camera. It’s like an athlete that’s only good at one thing. If you want to last, you have to know how to do it all. That’s how it is. If I’m running a show and I know everyone’s craft, I can add personal emphasis to my show. My suggestion is ‘hands-on’ experience. Don’t turn anything down.
Also, be willing to sacrifice. Sports are not going to follow a 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily schedule like most jobs do. If that’s not what you want to hear, don’t get into this business. If you want to get home at night and sleep at 9:30 – which is very admirable – this job isn’t for you.
But, if you want to do this, you have to be willing to make a change in your lifestyle as far as the time you work. It’s a random schedule. That would be my suggestion to aspiring journalists.
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