Bob Miller (Part 2…of 3)
In part 2, Bob talks about some memorable speaker’s from the SCSB luncheons…some tech innovations over the years…taped vs. live broadcasts…things he used to worry about and why he never developed any shtick?
JF: I know it’s always tough to pick just one, but are there any memorable speeches from the luncheons or an awards banquet?
Bob Miller: Yeah let’s see, we’ve had some really good speakers, Jim Harrick, the former basketball coach at UCLA is always good, he’s upbeat, he would come and talk about the basketball tournament in March, we’d call it March Madness, let’s see who else do we have as a really good speaker you know one of the luncheons we honored Louis Zamperini, the book Unbroken was about him–he was a track athlete at USC and an Olympic athlete and then was stranded at sea during World War II, survived 47 days at sea in a rubber raft and then in a Japanese prison camp and he came back and he was a speaker at the luncheon at 94 years of age and he was just outstanding so you know we get some really good people to come and tell of their experiences and talk about what they’ve done in sports and usually pretty good speakers all the time.
JF: You’ve been involved in sports for over 50 years as a broadcaster—can you talk about the technical innovations that make your job easier or maybe more difficult–technology that stands out over the last 50 years?
Bob Miller: I’ll tell you when I started out, we didn’t have any videotape, we were shooting film and so you had to shoot film and go back to the station and develop the film and then edit the film, splice it together–looking back at it now it’s kind of primitive but that’s what we had to work with until portable video tape was available so that’s been a big change. Probably the biggest change has been the fact that you have remote trucks now, where the station sends the remote truck out to the venue, they put up the antenna and they can do live shots all night long from out there–that has really made a huge difference, especially for the guys doing nightly sports shows where you can have them reporting right from the scene of the game either before a game starts or after a game, interviewing players right away without having to get back to the station. Years ago when they were doing film, they’d have a helicopter, a guy would run out and give the film to the helicopter pilot and he’d fly it back to channel four or channel two and somebody would start editing the film so that’s been a major difference and of course now with the social media and the immediacy of sports and things that happen, you almost have to change the way you approach results in a game because it’s instantaneous where people know what went on, as far as what I think, a magazine that does a tremendous job of writing a story that’s interesting to you, even a week after an event happens is Sports Illustrated. Those writers can take, when you know what happened in a game and write an article that you still want to read and you learn things that you didn’t know before–four or five days after the fact.
I think from a preparation standpoint–for me it’s almost harder to and takes longer to prepare for our telecast now then it ever did 35 or 40 years ago and I think the difference is the volume of material that is out there and available either on computers or Twitter or Facebook or whatever, whereas when I started with the Kings, we got stats from the league once a week on Monday and if you had other games, you had to update those stats by yourself and you got vey limited notes, you didn’t see any other newspaper articles around the league and now, you’ve got all those available to you on the computer and I think it’s always in the back of my mind that a lot of that material is also available to fans and they are super fans in that they read and digest everything that’s out there and I think sometimes it’s hard to say–I hope I’m keeping up to date as much as the fans are on what we’re talking about and I think that has been a tremendously major difference between now and when I started 40 years ago with the Kings.
JF: I think many people don’t think a lot about it–I’ve started to think about it since I’ve become a broadcaster–can you talk about some of the differences between doing a studio taped broadcast interview versus live?
Bob Miller: Well I think live is so much better because, first of all, in the announcer’s mind you realize, ok we’re live, that we’re not on tape and say ‘I didn’t like that’ or somebody says lets stop the tape and do it again, it’s always much better in your mind to say ‘okay we’re live, we’re going to do this’–I think you’re more keyed up and you’re sharper when you’re doing it live than if you’re doing it on tape and I always said to people, even after all these years, I still get excited about doing live television because sports and news are just about the only live telecasts now anywhere and it’s a thrill for me to realize that we’re going to go on live T, for two-and-a-half maybe three hours and hope we can do a good job with a minimum of mistakes and see how it turns out. The other thing is also to have a half hour interview is so much easier than two-and-a-half minutes because with the half hour you just explore things that might come up and not worry about the time. When you got two-and-a-half minutes, you really got to put in, prioritize the important questions you want at the top of the interview just in case you run out of time.
JF: When you started, what were some of the things that you used to worry about a lot and now they don’t even bother you because maybe you’ve been through it so many times before?
Bob Miller: Well when I started I used to worry if every word out of my mouth would satisfy Jack Kent Cooke, who owned of the team and that it was hampering me a little bit in doing this game and I remember about a month or two into my first year with the Kings, I thought I’m going to do the games tonight the way I know best and if that’s not good enough for Mr. Cooke, he can fire me and get someone else and it worked out all right but yeah I still think you worry about identification of players, which I know you spend and I spend a lot of time on memorizing names and numbers so that you won’t have to look down at charts and you can just look at the game and describe it that way. Sometimes years ago, if things would go wrong technically–I used to let it bother me, soon I just decided I’m not in the technical end of this broadcast or telecast and I know nothing about this so I’ll just sit here and wait until they tell me everything’s been fixed and we’re on the air but it used to bother me if we had trouble getting on the air and things like that and finally I just decided that we do so many games, not every night is going to be perfect, you just kind of go with the flow and do the best you can and usually it works out.
JF: This next one is tough because when asking it I realize there’s been some people who’ve been very successful with shtick or have a style or something like that–a catchphrase. I know I’ve talked about it before, you’ve heard me talk about it before, how I think it’s amazing that you just do the game. Did you ever think about developing shtick, catchphrase, something like tha?
Bob Miller: If I think about it, it’s the fact that I never really came up with anything good…you know what I mean. I think some people still like that ‘he shoots, he scores,’ but that was Foster Hewitt and that was not original. You know a lot of guys use that to describe goals which I think the reason a lot of us use it is it really is about the best way to describe it and gets fans excited, you know you’ve got other guys like Mike Lange in Pittsburgh, he’s got all of his sayings and they’re good…
…but I think I judged the audience out here that they were satisfied without having what you call a shtick and going over board in your description of the game and the more I did that, the more I thought well that’s the way people want it because I was getting positive feedback. I didn’t try to come up with things–I tried to rack my mind and try to telecast interesting and if you can put some humor once in a while you can do that but I tried that once when Mr. Cooke owned the team and that day he said to me, ‘dear boy do you know who my next door neighbor is?’ and I said ‘no, I don’t Mr. Cooke.’ He said, ‘Well it’s Jerry Lewis. He’s got fourteen writers, you don’t have any, don’t’ try to be funny.’…
…So that kind of shot me down right there, trying to do much humor but you and I on the air we can try some things some nights without going overboard with crazy sayings that people are trying to figure out what the heck is he saying. I think most of the other announcers you know Chick Hearn did come up with some great sayings for basketball but then Vin on baseball–plays it pretty straight, as I’ve learned, usually do it that way too–so I just went along with what I thought was successful.