The nature of sportscasting

by Jaden Constant

September 25, 2017

ESPN play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti '05 shares his experience

Jason Benetti '05 (r) speaks to a group ot students while Professor John Nicholson moderates. Photo by Saniya More.

A thunderous round of applause welcomed Jason Benetti ‘05 as he sat down to discuss his career in sportscasting. Benetti, who is a play-by-play announcer for ESPN covering the Chicago White Sox, graduated from Syracuse with three bachelor’s degrees: broadcast journalism, economics, and psychology.

At an early age, Benetti was diagnosed with cerebral palsy—a neurological disorder which affects the muscles. As an adolescent, however, this did not deter him from pursuing his ultimate goal (i.e. being a play announcer). In high school, Benetti served as an announcer for his high school’s radio station, providing him experience as a commentator.

“I was very fortunate to have it,” said Benetti, in reference to the station.

Benetti delved into the nuances of sportscasting, comparing it to acting.

“It’s really a performance industry,” Benetti said. “It’s close to acting: in some regards. It’s also close to improv comedy.”

Benetti bolstered his point by speaking about the dynamic between on-air partners. According to Benetti, he and Steve Stone (his play-by-play partner) “got along immediately.” This was crucial given the fact sportscasters should have a strong, positive relationship to avoid on-air conflicts. Benetti believed that one has to be a “guidebook” for a broadcasting partner as a way to navigate problems along the way. In the event that the relationship was strained, it would become obvious to viewers.

“If you’re doing a full baseball season with someone you loathe,” said Benetti, “it comes through. It just seeps through the television screen.”

Benetti also pointed out that play-by-play announcing is a concerted effort; it involves numerous people, not just on-screen announcers.

“On a TV crew, you’re part of a group,” said Benetti. “You’re part of a team atmosphere. You sometimes have to subordinate your interests in momentary storytelling to go along with the group.”

As the night came to a close, the question and answer portion of the program began. A sophomore asked a question regarding career mobility.

“What steps did you take to keep climbing the ladder vocationally?” the sophomore asked.

Benetti replied with a smile, “I’m not good at ladders.”

Benetti went on to add that there is always room for improvement.

“I think with anybody who sits up here, and I think the real good ones will tell you this, they’re always working at it. They’re always trying to find the next thing—the thing that makes you even better. And that’s where I try to immerse myself.”

Jaden Constant is a first-year television, radio, and film major student at the Newhouse School.