1 on 1 with
You never know how a game is going to turn out, so you must make sure you prepare for the expected so you can be ready for the unexpected.
Manager of Communications
Toronto Argonauts Football Club
A lot different working from home, though the amount of work hasn’t really subsided. In the off-season, I can work on bigger projects, for instance, the media guide, or right now I’m going through the Argo record book to try and make sure it’s as accurate as possible. The Argos are the oldest pro sports franchise in North America, celebrating 150 years in 2023, so there’s a lot of history.
I’ll try to speak in terms of a “typical day” under normal circumstances. In season, I arrive at our office at around 9:00am and set up the day with Chris Balenovich, our Manager of Football Media. He deals more directly with the media on a day-to-day basis, while I represent us in Senior Staff meetings to keep everyone abreast of what’s going on.
Some days I can make it to practice, other days I can’t. I work on game notes, as well as providing written, audio, and video content to Argonauts.ca, so I’m constantly trying to come up with story ideas, podcast guests, etc., trying to give our athletes maximum exposure.
I also try to help our ticketing department whenever I can, whether it be making a call to a season ticket holder who may have some questions or discussing marketing ideas. I’ve become sort of a jack of all trades and love every minute of it.
I’ll help Chris round up players after practice to talk to media members. It’s not like the Leafs or Raptors where every day is a media circus, but the last practice before a game there can be several requests for several different players.
I also do radio play-by-play for the team, so there is that preparation to do as well. I’m constantly talking to players and coaches, whether it be in the locker room, or the lunchroom, trying to get any information that helps the broadcast.
The days are long at times, but I’m doing something I love, so it often doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.
I think my main job is to try and get as much positive media play as we can. Again, not being the Raps, Leafs or Blue Jays means we’re fighting for as much airtime and content space as we can get. Sometimes it’s not easy, but I like the challenge.
The other thing I’ve learned from being on the other side of the media fence is that many members of the media are lazy. They don’t like to do the research, but if a good story is dropped in their lap they’ll jump all over it. It’s trying to get the right story to the right person – especially if they’re not particularly CFL friendly – that becomes the challenge.
The other thing I think is important is to feed writers or broadcasters background information on the story they’re covering. I write the player bios for our website, so I have a pretty good idea of what tidbits can help a media member add colour, or pertinent information to their story or interview.
Preparation is the key. I spend probably 8 hours of pure prep before each game making notes that I may or may not need. If I use 25% of my prep I’ve probably used too much of it. I’d rather do that than not have enough. I’ve listened to broadcasters who haven’t done the prep and it shows.
That’s just the written prep…I’m constantly talking to people around the team to gain any insight that may be used on a broadcast.
I had a lengthy discussion about prep with Chris Cuthbert several years ago. He preps even more than I do. His theory is that a broadcast is like an open-book exam, so why not take advantage of as many materials as you may need.
The ONLY way to ensure a broadcast goes smoothly from my own perspective is to make sure I’m prepared. You never know how a game is going to turn out, so you must make sure you prepare for the expected so you can be ready for the unexpected.
It depends on which media. When I worked in radio or TV news it was 100% scripted. When I read sports updates it was 100% scripted.
Play-by-play is 99% unscripted because you don’t know what’s happening. You can write your opening to a game, but once the ball is kicked off all scripting goes out the window.
Hosting a talk show is different. Again, I was always super prepared for an interview or segment. I’d arrive as many hours before a show as there were hours in that show, so if I was on the air 7:00am-11:00am I would arrive four hours before air time. I would write down potential questions for a guest, sometimes I’d use them, sometimes I wouldn’t, depending on how the conversation was going.
Doing 4 hours of radio talk is mentally draining. If I didn’t have to think about anything other than execution during the show it made things go much, much easier.
It’s a tough question. Play-by-play will always be around because people want to see the games. People want to read about the games, so there will always be reporters, but obviously print isn’t in a good place right now and the internet is the present and the future.
Radio is also not as glamourous as it once was. More people are becoming more selective with the advent of podcasting, but now everyone on the planet either hosts or appears on a podcast. It’s a tough industry to crack. Talented people will always find a job; it’s just getting tougher to separate yourself from an ever-expanding pack.
Mike Hogan has the ultimate sport communications job as the Toronto Argos play-by-play announcer and manager of communications. While others may become lazy in media as Mike mentioned, Mike continues to seek out story ideas to sharpen his craft. It’s incredible that throughout the years, Mike has grown as a professional. Although he is a master at sports media, Mike has become a jack of all trades in all aspects of the sports industry. Now, what I loved about this feature was the insight Mike shared about how he prepares to call a game. I’ve listened to Mike’s broadcasts time and time again and they’ve always been nothing short of informing, engaging and interesting. Play-by-play is definitely unscripted but Mike Hogan makes commentating look like a breeze!