NetWorks Spotlight Interview with Charles Davis

NetWorks Spotlight Interview withCharles Davis, Sports Analyst, Fox Sports & NFL Network

By Tracey Savell Reavis

Charles Davis

The voice you hear when Charles Davis calls football games on TV sounds equally energetic when you speak with him one-on-one. The 13-year veteran announcer has covered college football, basketball and baseball, the NFL, NBA, PGA, Arena Football and has worked on both radio and TV. And he’s just been partnered with Gus Johnson, as the two become the lead team for Fox Sports College Football games this coming season.

Charles grew up in the small town of New Paltz, New York, but his roots are anchored in Tennessee. Partly because he was born there, and partly because it’s where both of his parents are from, he’d always wanted to return to college in the Volunteer State. Back when he was eight-years old he saw Condredge Holloway, the first African American quarterback to start at an SEC school, playing in a University of Tennessee game, and knew from that moment exactly where he wanted to play football. After four years as defensive back for the Vols, Charles left Knoxville armed with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Masters in History.

Since football season hasn’t started yet, you can’t tune in to hear the sportscaster’s voice. But you can read the story of how he achieved success, in his own words. It will have to do for now, while we all wait for the first Saturday in September.

In your career, you’ve had a number of different sports-related jobs. How did you end up in broadcasting?
I found out a friend told a TV exec that he thought I’d be good on TV. I never knew he’d had this conversation. Then two years later the TV exec called me, asked me to try out and I got my first assignment as an analyst with Fox Sports South.

Do you remember the first game you covered, and what the experience like?
Yes, it was August 1997, Memphis State at Mississippi State. I may have been awful, but I remember I had a lot of fun and that I thought I wanted to do more of it. Now I’m working on the craft.

What was the transition like for you going from playing college sports to not being able to play as a professional athlete?
My goal was always to be in the NFL. Fortunately to prepare for life after football, I did have a Plan B. I started grad school in my red-shirt year. Then I thought about politics, I thought about law school. But I knew I wanted to stay in sports. Sports has always had its tug on me.

What would you say to people who think it’s a given that a former athlete would be able to get a job in sports broadcasting?
Yeah, I say it takes 20 years to become an overnight success. It’s like that with actors. Someone will have a breakout movie and people will think they are new and say, ‘Where did they come from?’ When they’ve been there all the time, putting in
10, 15 years, getting better. And it happens not just in movies, but in all walks of life. If it were a given, I would have started right after school. I fought my you-know-what off to prove that I am capable. I’d say very few people will outwork me. And I’ve never taken it for granted that I’ve arrived.

Can you give us an idea how much preparation and work you put into a game week? Or is it just a 3-hour game broadcast and you’re done?
Wouldn’t that be nice? I don’t typically count the number of hours I prepare, but it depends on the game. I know the teams, but there’s extensive research. The number one thing is to know the players’ names and numbers. And I look at game tape to watch for a teams’ strength, for nuances, and to learn things about players. We’re looking to tell interesting stories. We’re ‘Taking off the helmet’ figuratively of the players, to tell you something different.

What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry?
I’d say be prepared. Everyone always wants the answer that eliminates the hard work. But it’s the work that keeps you there. And probably not to take no for an answer. If one company doesn’t want you, try others. Go through the stages – anger, grief – then move on. Opportunity could be at the supermarket, or on the seat next to you on a plane. It could be anywhere. If something is your passion, figure out how to make it happen. There are other ways to get through, get over and get by it. Be a fighter.

Let’s talk about your new assignment and partner at FOX Sports. Are you friends with Gus Johnson, and are you looking forward to working with him?
No, we’ve never met. But we’ve already spoken on the phone a little before the announcement and chatted after as well. It is exciting and I am looking forward to it.

Do you think this is historic or worth mentioning the pairing of two African-American broadcasters calling a Division I College Football game?
I think it would be disingenuous not to notice. But it’s not the principle focus. We’ve both worked hard to get to where we are, and we’ve gotten there because we’ve merited it. The bottom line is it’s the work.

Do you think there will ever be a College Football playoff system with a championship game?
I don’t know. I don’t think it would necessarily be good or bad. I think the bowl experience is great for many kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Each one that I went to was distinctive. I don’t think you can put bowl games into a playoff system. I’d say if we ever go with a championship game, to know what you’re giving up – it could change everything.

Get to Know Charles

Sport he’d love to broadcast but hasn’t yet: Hockey

Favorite sport after football: Basketball

On his nightstand: The latest Harlan Coben thriller

All-time favorite film: Say Anything

Most influential book: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

In his music library: Old school, sounds of Motown

Tune in to FOX and the NFL Network as Charles offers his expert analysis on college football and the NFL.

Follow Charles on Twitter @CFD22 and find out more about him at www.charlesdavissports.com


NetWorks Spotlight Interview with Reneé Brown

NetWorks Spotlight Interview withReneé Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, WNBA

By Tracey Savell Reavis

Renee Brown announces players selected in the 2011 WNBA Draft in April (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser)

The calendar indicates that the WNBA season officially spans approximately 4 months. The work, however, especially for Reneé Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations for the league, is in reality more of a 12-month, all-inclusive, lifestyle. So it helps that Reneé, a Henderson, Nevada native, a former UNLV player, an ex-college basketball coach, and a former US Olympic team assistant coach, loves her job.

As Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, Reneé directs scouting for all players and manages personnel policies and programs.  She joined the WNBA in September 1996, right after winning a Gold Medal at the Centennial Olympic Games as an assistant coach of the US Women’s Basketball team.

We caught up with Reneé, during a late lunch hour, from her New York office, talking everything WNBA, dishing success tips for women looking to get into the sports industry and letting on that’s she’s a really big fan of a certain ‘Funny Girl.’

The league has just announced a new president, Laurel Richie, and is about to tip off Season 15.  What can you tell us about the expectations for this season?
I think things will go well. Val [Ackerman] and Donna [Orender] worked hard so that we are going in the right direction. With Laurel, I think we have a chance to take things to another level. The game is in good shape. We have great players, who are fine citizens. The games are full of versatility, precision and great execution. We are 15 years young and I think we’ll do great.

WNBA.com recently ran a piece when the writer listed 15 things he was looking forward to in the WNBA this year. How would you finish this sentence: The thing I’m looking forward to in the WNBA’s 15th season is ___________.
The competition. There’s not a team out there that can take a night off. Everyone has to come ready to play. There’s a lot of parity in the league and the competition is going to be great.

What are you most proud of in your role at the league?
Probably that if any of our players has an issue, that they know they can call me, and I will help them to the best of my ability. That I have a good, working relationship with the players.

What challenges do you face in your work?
I can’t think of any challenges. When you have a passion for what you do, you wake up every day, ready to go. I’m grateful to be able to do this. The WNBA has given me an opportunity of a lifetime and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.

When you look back over the past 15 seasons, what stands out as your most cherished moment?
Oh, wow, there are so many. I’d have to say, the Opening Tip-Off. The very first game, it was the Liberty vs. the Sparks. I just remember looking at Val [Ackerman] and we both were like we couldn’t believe, after all the work, it was finally happening. And we cried. I’ll never forget it.

It’s no surprise there are not many African American women in decision-making positions within the sports industry. Do you see that improving?
I think it’s getting better. I think women of color have to raise their hands and say, this is what I want to do, then go after it. If you’ve got the knowledge, put yourself out there. Gone are the days where you wait for someone to notice your talents. You have to step up and make it happen.

Your career has been mostly teaching and leadership roles. Has there been the secret to your success, examples that you could pass on?
It starts with confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself, know what you want and be willing to do the hard work to get it. Dawn Staley used to say, you have to do the things you don’t want to do to get to where you want to be.

I believe it’s important to have mentors. I stand on a lot of people’s shoulders. Find a mentor who is willing to tell you the truth, and who’s willing to help you as you develop.

And in my career, I learned something at every step along the way. It is important when you enter any field to learn as much as you can. Learn the business side. Open yourself up to learning about every area. Learn as much as you can. Be hungry.

Are you comfortable being labeled a role model?
It is the ultimate compliment. I embrace being a teacher. I take it very seriously. I believe each one should teach one, and that it is my responsibility to give back.

What do you think will be the legacy of the WNBA?
That young girls can have their dream of playing professional basketball, with elite players, here in their own home. Before young girls would say, ‘I want to be like Mike, or Magic, or Larry.’ And they were forced to play overseas.

Now they can say, ‘I want to be like Diana Taurasi’ Now they have the same opportunity as the men. They have female role models. Knowing that they’ve been watching since they were 5, or 6, or 7, and that they can have their dreams come true, to play the game they love, at home, in front of their family and friends, just makes me so happy. It warms my heart.

Get to Know Reneé

In her music library: Barbra Streisand; Gospel tunes

On her nightstand: The poetry of Maya Angelou

In her Netflix queue: Black and White classics – especially films starring Katharine Hepburn or Dorothy Dandridge

Her top travel destination: Anywhere in Italy

Workout: The elliptical machine

Favorite Quote: Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding

Find out more about the WNBA at www.wnba.com