What my ‘television debut’ was like


Esteban Serrano, Lead Editor

For those of you who know me, Esteban Serrano, you will know this is my third year and final year as Lead Editor for The Pep. I have definitely enjoyed what I do in all things writing and covering numerous events around the school in the past few years, because as I like to say- There’s always something going on around here. However, my media work with with Central and The Pep does not stop there. I found joy this year with another opportunity I never thought I would receive.

In a feature previously published on our site, our Creative Director James Peterson and I talked with David Cuccio at KSAT 12 about their work with Texas Sports Productions to enhance their Big Game Coverage App. If you read further, you would know that Central Catholic students are getting the opportunity to be a part of these broadcasts with a Sports Broadcasting Club run by Eric Enriquez and Bobby Stautzenberger of TSP. A few weeks ago on Friday, September 17, you may have also heard me call the Buttons’ fight against Laredo United South in the BGC app with Don Glynn, who regularly calls games with Shawn Morris, the typical play-by-play broadcaster for Central Catholic games. I was scheduled to replace Morris for the week, and it was all a last minute throw-together.

To fully explain the entire scenario, you have to go back to the summer, roughly a week before school would start. The announcement had just been put out that the club would actually be a thing and they needed guys to fill roles such as camera operators, directors, and even commentators. My dad encouraged me heavily to do it since he knows what I want my major in college to be, and I said, Why not?- Let’s give this a try. In that first meeting, it sounded really interesting to me and it was definitely something I couldn’t miss out on, especially because this is my senior year and it would help me with broadcast experience. My only fear was that this would get in the way of my work at the Pep, which I value.

I ultimately decided to get my feet wet and just take in the experiences of getting to technically learn crucial aspects of broadcast journalism. I really wanted to be a commentator, and I stuck with that thought ever since the announcement came out. During the first week of school, there was a scrimmage between the Holmes Huskies and The Buttons. Now, these scrimmages were not to be on the air as a promoted feature in Big Game Coverage. Scrimmages were simply to not only have the KSAT streaming service be tested with pushing the games to channels in the app, but also to test all the equipment that TSP, and the broadcast crews had.

Sure enough, I got to the press box that night and the whole crew was there waiting until game time. I quickly introduced myself, explained what I would be training for, and started helping set up the sound boards and any other equipment needed in the press box. If it simply wasn’t for one missing part that the crew needed, and I can’t recall what exactly it was, one of the interns in the booth with me would have never called Stautzenberger to the campus. He had already planned to be at another game, but left immediately when he got the call. He arrived around twenty minutes before game time and shook my hand. He had brought the part up to the box and agreed to give me some pointers and even let me practice a little bit of color commentary, which is essentially what Tony Romo does on CBS- analyzing deeply into what went on after the play is over. Bobby had to cut his training short and he let me call play-by-play for the first time.

The night was soon over and I had never done radio or television in a professional environment of any sort, until then. There were no statistic sheets or player charts and I was simply saying numbers of players on air. However, the employees from TSP had nothing but positive things to say and I was really appreciative of that.

Over the next few weeks, I got calls from Stautzenberger inviting me for training to do color commentary at other games around the city. I got plenty of second-quarter slots to train doing color commentary with Stautzenberger, who was doing play-by-play. I agreed to do so, and did three games with him over the course of three weeks. Week one was Laredo LBJ vs John Jay at Gustafson Stadium, in which I met Jay Riley who is the radio color analyst for UTSA football games. He actually let me commentate the fourth quarter as well, simply because of a bad blowout by the Jay Mustangs. He gave me some brief but helpful pointers after that game, and I took them with me to the next game in week two, which was SA Veterans Memorial vs Taft at Farris Stadium. The following week, I called O’Connor vs John Jay, back at Gus Stadium.

By that following Tuesday, when the weekly production meeting inside the school took place, I had to skip due to prior commitments planned weeks in advance. I contacted Bobby and explained to him how I hadn’t been a part of a real broadcast for a Central game. He agreed to let me do it, and I initially thought I would be doing the same old second-quarter color commentary routine for the game. This would be the first time I was involved in a Central Catholic football broadcast.

It wasn’t until Wednesday of that week, when other play-by-play announcer Mark Kusenberger, who I had also previously met at another production meeting, contacted me and asked if I was doing anything that Thursday. He invited me to Farris Stadium where I would likely call the second quarter, this time doing play-by-play for the Brandeis vs Clark game. He also mentioned to me that TSP needed me to do play-by-play for the Central Catholic vs Laredo United South game on Friday, September 17, because Shawn Morris would be out. This meant instead of just one quarter, I would be doing all four. So now, the pressure was on to get me experienced for Friday, which was less than 48 hours away.

I got to Farris on Thursday and was actually really nervous. Kusenberger had forgotten to email me the rosters and depth charts which would be useful for the game. I got a chance to glance at a printed copy he gave me beforehand in the booth, but the first twelve minutes of the game flew by with the blink of an eye. Kusenberger’s colleague that night, Alberto Munoz, who was doing color that game, stepped aside. Kusenberger was now doing color, and I was introduced as the “guest” play-by-play commentator.

I’m going to be honest, the game could have been better in terms of commentary. There were a few hiccups I had here and there in that quarter simply because I wasn’t prepared, and it was my very first time on actual television doing play-by-play commentary. Kusenberger owned up to some of the mistakes, but in reality, the nervous stuttering and constant lack of football lingo (due to my nervousness) made me really sound like a student learning how to do this on the fly. It was like a baby being thrown into the water, forced to learn how to swim. Given all my public speaking experience in the past three years, the pressure was never as intense as it was here.

Munoz was watching from a distance and said he was rather impressed. I took it as a sign that the following day would be promising. Kusenberger had then told me a brief story of a commentator who got called up because the regular commentator couldn’t do it, and that guy who filled in had his “big break” that night. This would technically be my television debut and I would get close to have a “big break” myself, so I didn’t want it to sound like it did at Farris that previous night.

Friday, the 17th arrived. I woke up excited but also nervous. A number of feelings and emotions were grasping my body like a tight hug. I got to school and immediately went to print out the rosters I had requested from Coach Santiago, and the Laredo rosters sent to me that morning by Kusenberger. I was thinking about it all day- I really couldn’t concentrate in school because of how much pressure there was.

Some of my Central Catholic Brothers during the day were trying to hype me up by telling me I would be just fine. Although, some did say they would be listening to critique me and try and get me to feel even more pressured- that was mostly just banter between all of us.

School was out, and I helped set up the equipment. About an hour before the broadcast would start, I had gone down once more simply to say hello to my mother who was helping at one of the tailgate booths in the parking lot. When I told her I had to go, she wished me the best of luck and said I would do great. Cuccio from across the street had also emailed me saying he was supporting me that night and would be watching in his own BGC app.

About fifteen minutes before the broadcast, Don Glynn showed up to the booth and introduced himself. I had never met him before, simply because I never worked on a Central game. We got along fairly easily, which would be important for communication throughout the broadcast.

I had always watched professional commentators like Joe Buck, Jim Nantz, Kevin Harlan, Brad Nessler, Bill Land… (just to name a few) do play-by-play for numerous of my favorite professional and college sports teams. I kind of took that into consideration when getting ready to talk on air, and tried to create my own rhythm and personality for the on-air audience. I was so nervous that I knew it wouldn’t come naturally right away.

Then, the director, Andres Garcia (Central Class of ’23), gave the countdown signal- I was locked in, hoping not to mess up. Sure enough, it was time for me to introduce myself and open the first segment of the show. “And good evening from Bob Benson ’66 Stadium,” I opened. I continued on and stuttered at times in the beginning, but it was mostly my nerves starting to settle off. Some incorrect terms came out that people might have caught on to, but I didn’t realize that until after the fact. I must have pressed my mute button at least forty times that night because we were trying to figure out what to say at some dead moments, and at some times I just tried to clear up my throat, hoping not to have a voice crack.

For the rest of the broadcast, it was just constant communication with Don and the director on what we would get to and say during numerous blank segments. It was the end of the third quarter, and we were on a two-minute commercial break. I picked up my phone and looked at my texts and Instagram messages, and I had gotten two texts from people I knew who had tuned in to the game. These are people I hadn’t really talked to in a while. They were already telling me I sounded good and I had to thank them. I was just happy at that moment that people didn’t think I sounded unprofessional or really bad over the air.

When the game was over, the stands were empty and the booth was getting cleaned up, so I started making my way to where my mother was  and when I got down there, I was greeted with positive comments from people and parents. Some of whom, I didn’t even know. Some alumni down there even had a huge flat-screen television where they were watching the game. It just felt good to not only represent the school in a very unique way, but know that my “television debut” wasn’t exactly a bust. I had a lot of fun with the crew and Don in the booth, as we cracked jokes on air during the game, and even planning what to say in blank segments. From there, I got nothing but positive things said by other people who tuned in that night and saw the Buttons beat the Panthers of Laredo United South.

A lot of people think commentating is easy, but it’s actually not. It’s important to know that commentators do more than just talk about a game on TV through a microphone. There are stats and other things involved that need to be understood to be on air. It’s also important in other aspects such as audience approval and how you conduct yourself in the booth during the game. Given that these are livestreamed games, people still tune in and KSAT expects at least 4,000 viewers a week to watch the Button football team.

My experience has happened rather quickly, and I thank Stautzenberger, Enriquez, and Kusenberger for working with me so far and giving me the chance with the skills I already had prior to the 17th. What really helped me was watching a lot of sports on TV, and simply listening to how other presenters call games themselves. But most importantly, I had people in the community who have been so supportive.

Case in point- I had a really fun and interesting experience being on a full broadcast for the first time. It made it even more special that it was for the high school that I love and that has already provided me with a lot of blessings. If you want to go into a certain field, and an opportunity comes up for you to get your feet wet in that field, do it. You may not know how good you can be unless you try. Just know that there is always room for improvement, just as there is always room for failure. You can’t succeed without failing. Don’t ever forget that.

I also had the opportunity to call the Homecoming fight on the 24th of September against San Antonio Christian, and will call the next two games with James Peterson, as the Buttons travel to the Houston area to take on two 5A district teams. As always, you can watch every live game in the BGC app and KSAT TV on a smart streaming device.

Below is the link to the full archived broadcast from September 17th on the Texas Sports Productions website: