ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
So you want to be a sportscaster? Can you imagine getting paid to attend games and report on sporting events?
On the flip side, if you like late hours, traveling hither and yon, talking to egotistical professional athletes, and don’t care about job security, you may have what it takes to be a TV sports broadcaster.
Clark Schafer has reported sports for KSN TV-3 in Wichita for more than 12 years. In addition to being a sports reporter, he happens to be a genuinely nice guy.
Clark, a Brookfield, Wis., native, played football, baseball and gymnastics in high school, and football and baseball in college. How did Clark get into gymnastics? He got involved in junior high after being cut from the basketball squad.
He developed an interest in TV sports announcing while in college, “after I figured there was not a lot of need for short, nominal speed and gloved, singles-hitting baseball players,” Clark said.
Being close to the action has its moments.
Clark said, “It’s a lot more fun being out at the games than being in the studio. I also love getting to meet people. That’s why I really like doing ‘Backyard Sports’ and things like that.”
Covering major events, such as the NCAA Final Four in 1988, 1991 and 1993 “was a blast, but also difficult,” Clark said. He was on the road for four out of five weeks and each step of the way more reporters showed up. The Final Four was just a mass of reporters trying to talk with a handful of players.
He said, “Of course, everybody wanted to talk with Danny Manning, which was easy in Lincoln, but nearly impossible in K.C. at the Final Four.”
Perhaps Clark is best known for producing ‘Sports Lite,’ a Sunday night segment featuring sports bloopers.
“It’s been one of the longest running features in the Wichita market and has been very successful,” he said. “I hear from a lot of folks who say they love ‘Sports Lite’ or better yet, I don’t like sports, but I don’t go to sleep on Sunday nights until I watch ‘Sports Lite.’
“A few years ago, I met a woman who said she had taped every one. I’m not sure that’ll be as valuable as the complete “M*A*S*H” series.”
Of course, athletes aren’t the only ones who commit bloopers. Sports announcers do as well. While working in Chattanooga, Tenn., Jack Tucker, the president of a company that made Arnold Palmer’s golf clubs, invited Clark to come over for an exclusive one-on-one interview with Palmer.
“It was great,” Clark said. “We talked for about 15 minutes and afterward I shook his hand and said, ‘Thanks, Jack.’ Oops. I was thinking of Jack Tucker, but of course I think Arnie thought I was talking about that other Jack, the Golden Bear (Nicklaus). Embarrassing.”
In addition to Palmer, Clark has interviewed such pro stars as Joe Montana, Barry Sanders, Bo Jackson, George Brett, Michael Jordan and Bart Starr. However, he enjoys talking with regular folks the most.
“There are a lot of amazing stories out there and some great people,” he said.
He admits he’s a little more cynical about sports than he was 15 years ago.
“I guess I’ve seen the money get so out of hand in pro sports,” He said. “If you think about it, average Joes in the NBA are getting million-dollar contracts. Some sign their name and make the same amount of money that it takes you and me 30 years to earn to pay off our home mortgages.
“I think it’s hard to relate to the athletes sometime. Then when you add to that the athletes’ and coaches’ behavior, it certainly makes it difficult to look at them as you did as a kid. Many times it’s a business on a pro and college level. That’s why I enjoy high school and amateur sports a lot.”
Clark isn’t just a broadcaster. He’s also a fan. In fact the Green Bay Packers are his passion.
OK, I didn’t say he was perfect.