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Q&A; with Troy Oppie, Sportscaster & Sports Reporter

KBOI-TV Boise, Idaho

An Inside Look at the Path to Becoming a Sportscaster & Reporter

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“There are two things the general public should not see get made from scratch: sausages and live TV," opines Troy Oppie, weekend Sportscaster at KBOI-TV in Boise, Idaho. “Young Sports Reporters can get burned out very quickly. This is a business which takes a high motor, good time management and lots of patience."

The path to television notoriety is littered with stops in small town USA, perseverance and single-minded focus towards your personal goals are often your only solace.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career as a Sportscaster?

I’ve always loved the power of television as an entertainment tool. I actually have a low opinion of TV news (most of it) because the format naturally forces information to be left out of stories. Sports TV is different because you can offer people something they can’t get by the column inch: video. I don’t want to read about the game, I don’t want to hear about it – I want to SEE it! In an age of skyrocketing ticket prices, more and more people turn to Sports TV to see what happened to their favorite team.

Troy Oppie’s Sports TV “Stats”

Education: Pacific Lutheran University

Production Jobs held: Broadcast Associate, Video Editor, Sportscaster, Sports Reporter, Sports Director

Stations: Fox Sports Northwest, KECI-TV (Missoula, MT), KBOI-TV (Boise, ID)

Best piece of advice:.  Find an outlet for stress immediately, because you’ll have a lot of it.

Did you initially have fears it would be hard to get your first job in Sports TV?

Absolutely. I was told by everyone I worked with and looked up to not to expect overnight success. It took two years from sending my first tape to get hired for an on-camera position. I was selective about where I applied based on location and what there was to cover, so I think I only sent six or seven applications in that time period.

Once in the media business, a whole new set of doors are placed in front of you. Long-time Sports TV directors are being laid off because stations don’t want to pay veteran salaries – and that’s a real danger to a long-term career in local Sports TV right now. You’d think that would open up more jobs for younger people, but that’s only partially true. Many times, the remaining sports department simply shrinks and the workload is absorbed.  

Where did you go to school and how much did it help you in your Sports TV career?

Pacific Lutheran University – PLU was small, but that meant opportunity. I started with student TV as a sophomore and was able to get my hands as dirty as I wanted at the pace I wanted. I ran the station my senior year, in addition to being the main tech person for student radio and the school newspaper, and working at the campus NPR affiliate part-time. I was stretched about as thin as you can get but I was able to learn by doing.
College is only what you make of it – and I feel I got a leg up on many of my peers because I was able to take advantage of learning opportunities at a smaller school. Knowing how to handle a camera and how to help a live truck operator set up equipment against a tight deadline can do nothing but help you in your sports tv career.

sports reporter at baseball gameWhat is the hardest thing about working in Sports TV?

The pace of the job and the lack of appropriate compensation for how hard you have to work. I have many sayings about a career in Sports TV, one is: "television is not conducive to wives, girlfriends, pets, or any other sense of normalcy enjoyed by the rest of the world."

I’ve been lucky enough to cover two championship-caliber football teams in the two markets I’ve worked as a reporter in: Missoula and Boise. The public appetite for information in both places is insatiable, and we treat it as such which means the work never stops. Add that to a career which already demands evenings (and many weekends during football season) plus added responsibilities with web stories/video and you can get burned out very quickly becoming a Sports Reporter.

Has working in television exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?

It’s fallen short so far. Not because of the money, instead because of the lack of time and resources to implement ideas we’ve had to improve our programming. Local News and weather get all the promos – and it’s been a struggle to get adequate resources. I’m lucky enough right now to have an amazing News Director who fights for travel budgets and has gotten us more of what we’ve needed in the last 12 months than any place I’ve worked in the last 4 years. It’s a tough pill to swallow some days – thinking about all the ways to make the product better and only being able (or allowed) to do very few.

Do you have any advice for someone considering a career as a Sportscaster?sports cameraman

Be humble. Have thick skin; try not to take things too personally. Some viewers can be downright nasty – and few of them realize the big picture when they rip you for something. Plan to get the short end of the stick for a while, because it takes time to earn your stripes and credibility. Budget your money and learn to live without or negotiate extras into your second contract somewhere. The station might say it can’t give you more money – but it can probably trade out a gym membership, ski pass or something else you might be interested in.

Do you have a memorable story – whether funny, sad or just interesting – that you’d like to share?

I was visiting my then girlfriend’s (now wife) family five hours away from Missoula over the weekend. Extended relatives from far away were in town, and my news director called me at 5 a.m. and said ‘get your butt down here, we need to get the live truck to Bozeman for an Obama campaign stop.’ He didn’t realize I was five hours away, and he didn’t care. I had to grab my girlfriend, crying because she didn’t know when she’d see her grandmother again, and rush out the door to meet the truck on its way so I could get there in time to setup and be clear of the arena for security check.

Not only that, my girlfriend had to give our station engineer a ride back to Missoula (big guy, tiny car – picture that) after he drove the truck out to meet me. I made it in time, did the setup of a three-person job by myself, and got us on the air for our own newscasts as well as hits for MSNBC and several of the Montana NBC affiliates.
Later that week, still trying to reconcile my relationship, I realized I’d sold my soul to this business – but wasn’t sure I wanted to buy it back. Being a part of good television, knowing how it can rivet an audience, is an infrequent but wonderful feeling comparable to a good shot by a hack golfer – it makes you want to keep coming back.

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