Truly Prepared for Being Used (November 14, 2015)

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Updated: November 14, 2015

I got to meet and interview my broadcasting idol this past weekend. And shake the hand of the winningest coach in Colorado High School Volleyball history. And witness a state championship for a coach who was coaching her youngest daughter’s final game. Like waking up on automatic deposit day, it was a good day.

Diving into why each of these meant so much to me might take up an entire column on each of them. While I may do that in future writings, I had a thought while driving back from Boulder after interviewing Larry Zimmer on Friday night. And that’s what’s consumed my mind.

As I sat in the press box after interviewing Larry Zimmer, I was surrounded by over 100 other members of the media. From photogs for a variety of news and internet outlets, to writers for what few newspapers remain on the Front Range, and a myriad of radio folk incessantly tweeting about a game they were barely watching, I realized something.

Maybe it was my starry-eyed experience of taking in a game at Folsom Field as a member of the press for the first time. Maybe it was the fact I’d had the privilege of interviewing someone I’ve looked up to for the past quarter century plus. But nobody seemed to understand the magnitude of what was going on.

Sure it’s just another football game in a better-than-expected-yet-still-sorely-disappointing season for the CU Buffs. When you’ve seen one dismal “we came so close but just couldn’t finish it off” CU Football loss, you desensitize in order to prevent further emotional scarring from a repeat of the same result the next week.

The stands weren’t quite full, partially because it was Friday night and partially because people know the outcome before the game is played with this year’s team. And with all the media attention given to the Pac-12, having a nationally-televised game doesn’t have the same luster it used to.

But in spite of all of that, while other members of the press had their noses buried in their laptops, tablets and other internet-connected devices, and photogs with their noses buried in their cameras occasionally cracking their media guides to see who they’d just taken a picture of, largely doing the job they were paid to be there for, I was privy to observing the interaction.

I asked Larry Zimmer as my final question in the interview what he’d learned from being a broadcaster for the last 60-plus years. And he said he’d learned to be prepared. No matter the situation, if you go in prepared you’re giving yourself the opportunity to succeed.

While sitting in the press box, members of the media were barely looking at the field.  The PA guy would recite who had just touched the ball in the previous play and they’d type it out. Occasionally they’d flip open the 50-plus page media guide to get an interesting “tidbit of knowledge” they could pass along to their followers.  But rarely would they look at the field.

About midway through the second quarter a fellow radio guy came into the box and sat down next to me. He’d been on air until 7pm and after navigating traffic on a Friday in the Denver-Boulder area he’d finally made it to the field. He was clearly not there in the same capacity as many of the others.

Given I was the “new guy,” he turned to the media member on his other side and asked him why the freshman was at QB for the Buffs. The guy muttered something not even close to what had happened, and went about his social media barrage.

After about 3 or 4 minutes of observing me take in the game, he finally asked me the same question he’d asked the guy to his right. And I was able to tell him what had happened. We then conversed about our lives in radio, the game that was going on in front of us, while others continued about their work.

Have we taken our lives in the direction we have as a misinterpretation of “preparation”? The definition of preparation is “the action or process of making ready or being made ready for use.” Does a media guide prepare the members of the media? Yes. Do the tweets you read from your favorite sports source prepare you as a fan of the team? Yes.

But at what point did we lose the ability to prepare ourselves? All of the preparation I witnessed in the press box and that I witness in everyday life is relying on other people’s ability to give us information. What we read on social media, what we see on the news, what we do because other people who are successful do it.

It’s not wrong preparation. But it’s completely a completely codependent relationship that is only the tip of the preparation iceberg.  Larry Zimmer doesn’t just open the media guide and gameday notes and broadcast solely off of that. He gets to know the subjects he’s covering. He knows trends that can’t be tracked by the deluge of statistics coating the world of sports that is 2015.

Just like Larry Zimmer, I didn’t go through sports broadcasting school. Unlike Larry Zimmer, I did get my degree in broadcasting. But I didn’t get any formal training on how to broadcast sports. I just sat down and talked. I’m still learning, and I will always be learning, just like he is.

That’s true preparation – readying yourself for use. And truly using that preparation is being entirely open to first being used in the chance right in front of you before moving on to the “greater things.” Whatever opportunity is in front of you will use you in ways you’ve never been used before if you let it. But only if you’re truly prepared, not nose in the technology, entirely reliant on others opinions stated as fact.  That’s true greatness, being truly prepared to be used.