Q&A: Brendan Burke's Astounding Year

Many have had years full of changes, but not many have experienced one like Brendan Burke has. Now the TV voice of the New York Islanders, Brendan has quickly risen the ranks in the world of broadcasting. Prior to the Islanders, he worked a 10-year career in minor league hockey, calling games on the radio for the Utica Comets. He also serves as a play-by-play announcer for FOX Sports’ college football coverage. We caught up with Brendan to discuss all the transitions he’s gone through over the last year, what it was like calling playoff games in his first NHL season, and much more.

Q: So you have gone through a lot of transitions in a short period of time. AHL to NHL, radio to TV, Utica to New York City, and you did it all in a year. What has that adjustment been like?

A: It's been a whirlwind year since the first week in August and it's really just been non-stop. It started with football season in the beginning of September and then rolling right into moving my entire life and family from Utica to Brooklyn and getting acclimated to a new job and city. To get through it all and then do an entire season and then being able to continue that on and do a few playoff games… it's been an incredible year. A lot of changes but they've all been good. And I had a baby in February! So literally everything that could have happened, happened, and all of it was good. 

Q: How did calling games on television for FOX help prepare you for calling Islanders game?

A: I think that TV is its own entity. You can do play-by-play, but doing television is something completely different than doing the radio. So without that TV experience that I had doing football, I really didn't have much, it was mostly radio. Obviously I had the 10 years of minor league hockey, that prepared me for the play calling aspect but the business of television is something completely new. I had really good producers working with FOX and because of that they were able to kind of hold my hand and walk me through a lot of what it takes to make television. So, when I was able to get that first crack with the Islanders at the NHL level, it didn't feel new to me even though it was completely new and I had never done the NHL before. But the business of TV combined with my experience calling hockey...those two together prepared me perfectly for what I was about to do.

Q: What was it like getting the call from NBC about the NHL playoffs and how was the experience callings the games?

A: You know, when you land your dream job you kind of think to yourself, "Well now what do I do?". So that was kind of what I went through when I got the Islanders job. Spending my whole life really trying to get an NHL television job and then I got one. So where does my attention turn? Kind of internally, my plan was a few years down the line to maybe get the attention of NBC and start working in some national games and then eventually I would hopefully get into their playoff rotation. That was my long-term plan, so to have that come true my first season was beyond words. It was the cherry on top of what was already an incredible year. It started with the first four games and then it turned into the whole first round. Then I thought I was done and I came home and then they asked me to do two more. 

I got a call that said it was a possibility, and then from there obviously, if the Islanders had made the playoffs then I would've been doing the Islanders and it wouldn't have come true. So I knew I was in the plan but I didn't know what for. Then all of a sudden when it all came to be and I got the call that said they wanted me to go to Anaheim and do the first four games of that series, and to work with a guy like Mike Johnson, and Joe Micheletti the second round, when I'm calling a game it's normally just a normal game for me because it’s me. But hearing Joe Michelleti and hearing the music for NBC it reminded me that this was a big deal. 

Q: How do you feel that the Islanders fan base and New York City accepted and embraced you?

A: With New York City, the bar is set so incredibly high because the market is just saturated with the best broadcasters in the world. You don't have to look much further than my counterpart at MSG, Sam Rosen, calling Rangers games...When the bar is set that high you have to be worried coming in that you could do it, and that you can hold up that standard. So, to be able to get here and get my feet wet and have the fans accept me, I think that means, and at least I feel that it means, that I was doing a good job. Because they have been spoiled for so long with such great broadcasters, that as long as I didn't upset them and could just keep them happy... that's all I was trying to do. 

Q: What’s the most valuable thing that you think you have learned from your experience, especially within this past year?

A: I learned that there is a big difference between radio and television and how to be comfortable with that. I learned that there are a lot of different ways to get ready for your shot. You never know when it's going to come. Kind of like I said, without my football experience, I probably wouldn't have gotten my hockey job. You don't necessarily realize when you're going through it, but I had a lot of different experiences over the past 10 years and I needed all of them to land the job that I got. So, I guess that when you're going through it and preparing, it might feel like forever away and it may be, but all of it eventually adds up to where you want to go. That’s the lesson I learned and I was happy to learn it. 

Q: Do you have any advice for young aspiring broadcasters or play-by-play announcers that you wish you could have known? Or what advice would you give someone now?

A: I would probably say take every opportunity that you can get. The wonderful thing about play-by-play is that there is only one way to get better at it and that's to continue to do it. So it doesn't necessarily matter how many people are watching or listening or how important the game is. It's a matter of getting those repetitions and getting the practice. I would say not to turn down any opportunity that you can and to make the most out of it. Because like I said, you never know what experience you're going to need to get where you want to go. 

Be sure to tune into Islander's games next season and follow Brendan on twitter @brendanmburke !

Yallof Making an Impact: Partners with National Stroke Association

After suffering from a life changing stroke in July 2016, Matt Yallof has decided to dedicate his comeback toward living in the moment. The MLB Network studio show host has partnered with the National Stroke Association (NSA), and is giving back by participating in their initiatives to spread awareness and raise money. Check out the video below to hear from Matt himself on not only why he feels lucky to be alive, but why he has chosen to partner with the National Stroke Association.  

Speaking to Matt about his experience, it is easy to sense the passion and appreciation he has for National Stroke Association. As he explained himself:

 "After I was coherent enough to truly understand what had happened to me, it was shortly after that, that I saw other people in the clinic I was in-- people that were younger and in much worse shape then I was in. And it really affected me that there are people who are so impacted by this, that if I have any reach whatsoever, that I want to use that to help just like I had a ton of help. I'm lucky...I had my family, my extended family, I had incredible doctors and therapists and not everyone is that fortunate. And I don't know what they would do if they didn't have some kind of help with an organization that is in their corner.

The NSA has been incredible in my conversations with them and with the work that they do to help anyone involved in a stroke- whether it's family, people who are care-taking or the people who had the stroke themselves. But my hope down the line is that ultimately I would like to raise money for those who can not afford the care that they have to have. It's a very difficult thing to see, people in the shape they are in. Before I went into the rehabilitation clinic, I was in the ICU for about 8 days, and I wasn't down on my luck because I understood quickly how lucky I was compared to other people. And when I got to the clinic it was obviously people who were recovering and it just hit me all over again that I won the lottery compared to some people." 

In addition to partnering with the National Stroke Association, Yallof has also decided to give back to the same first organization that saved his life nearly nine months ago. He recently participated in the Heels & Wheels 5K with his three children to raise money for the Burke Rehabilitation and Research Center, where Matt was treated after his stroke. In addition to his recent work, Matt sat down with Ken Rosenthal to talk about his comeback and his involvement with the NSA. You can watch the full sit down by viewing below or by clicking here

To learn more about Matt’s journey, read Awful Announcing’s feature story on him by clicking here, and to support Matt, you can donate to his YouCaring fund here.

Clarissa Ward Wins Peabody Award Award

CNN senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is already a multi-award winning journalist and has now added another award to that list. Venturing where few Western journalist have ever gone before, her brave coverage going undercover in rebel-held Syria was honored as a Peabody Award winner in the News category.

The awards seek to recognize stories that represent true excellence in broadcasting across a wide range of electronic media. CNN, one of the 11 winners, won in multiple areas for their exceptional coverage of the raging conflict in the Middle East.

See the entire "Undercover in Syria" series and watch Clarissa's exclusive coverage from behind rebel lines by clicking here


Q&A: Jane McManus on Roller Derby

Starting April 21st, WFTDA kicks off the Roller Derby World Summit and IF Client, Jane McManus, will be a keynote speaker. Held in Manchester, UK, this public and international event will "curate sessions focused on business resources for leagues, organize panels discussing important topics, and provide networking opportunities for those involved in roller derby." Before heading off to the event, we got the chance to catch up with Jane to discuss roller derby and women in sports media! 

Q: First off, can you provide a little bit of context on what the Roller Derby is? 

A: Roller Derby is kind of an old time sport that a lot of people might remember from the 50's and 60's played on a big track. But in the 2000's in Texas, it was reborn as a women's contact sport. I played for 7 years for a team in Yonkers, New York called Suburbia Roller Derby, and I played under the name Lesley E. Visserate. You have a special roller derby name. So mine is an homage to the sportscaster Lesley Visser, who was a pioneer in our industry. I played for 7 years and I loved it, and I miss it but I got a little busy. So I keep in touch with the great friends I made when I was playing and this was an opportunity for me to go and speak on women's sports and on roller derby, which is something I'm obviously super familiar with and very passionate about so it seemed like a natural fit. 

Q: So how did you get into roller derby yourself?

A: Well, I did a story on it when I was a reporter at a newspaper in Westchester County called the Journal News. At that time, there was a league in Connecticut and two local women playing in it so I thought, 'well this sounds like an interesting sport, I can pin this story to the two local women we have.' And I'd been a basketball player and played sports growing up. I walked in the door and saw them practicing and hitting each other and the contact and the fun that they were having, and I just knew this was my next sport and that it was for me. It felt completely at home. So I did the story, and I said to the two women, 'look if you ever start a league in Westchester, let me know and I'd love to play.' So sure enough, they started a league in Yonkers and they gave me a call, so I got a pair of skates and went down and tried out for the team...At the time and about a year in to playing roller derby, I was assigned to the NFL Jets beat, so I was kind of playing a contact sport while I was also covering this other contact sport. So it ended up being really good experience for me because I learned a lot from a first person view point. 

Q: In terms of you being a keynote speaker this weekend at the World Summit, can you provide a little insight about what you are going to be speaking about as it relates to women and sports media?

A: I work for espnW, which is a part of ESPN that focuses on women and sports, and we look a lot at women as athletes, and women as fans and how sports plays a role in our lives. So for me when I think about the women I know that play roller derby, we all consider ourselves athletes. And at the same time, there is a power that comes from that. I want to talk about how playing sports changes us and changes our lives. I've seen that first hand so much, not only in the professional athletes I cover but also the amateur athletes that I know. 

Q: Looking at the bigger picture, what do you think some of the progress is that has been made with women in sports media in general? 

A: Well, there's been a ton of progress. Part of that is you have a place like espnW where it can be talked about and these issues are discussed. We care about them. You also have something like the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, where the games are on television and they can be seen. You are allowing that fan base to develop because you are providing coverage of that sport. So to me, part of it is just visibility and that is something that has changed. For example, women's tennis and women's basketball. These are sports that people care about and watch because they are available to them. I think more and more we see coverage of individual women as athletes really elevated. There are a lot of different women that come into public consciousness because there is more coverage of women's sports. With my network, we really care about hiring women and covering women, and I think that makes a difference in how women's sports are covered. 

To read more about the World Summit, click here. Be sure to keep up with Jane and follow her upcoming activity. She has multiple in-depth features that will be coming up before the draft as she takes part in some of the draft coverage at ESPN. Also catch her every Saturday on her radio show, "The Trifecta."