Never will I utter the words "talking heads" again. Nor will I knock sports TV anchors for just being pretty people with pea-sized brains who can read a prompter.
The big easy: Legendary NFL coach turned seasoned sportscaster John Madden makes being in front of the camera seem like a cinch.
Two weeks ago a nice lady named Christine from Comcast’s "Washington Post Live" called about having me on their TV show:
Her: Look forward to having you on next week to talk about the Cavaliers upcoming football season.
Me: Great, be happy to do it.
Her: Ever do live TV before?…(without waiting for an answer). Well, Russ Thaler is a terrific guy, it will be a great show, see you next week….click.
Then it hit me like Jose Offerman cracking a Minor League catcher in the head with a bat. …Live?
Sure, I do live radio every day but this is a beast of a different breed. People can see me. What if I mess up? What if I sweat? What should I wear? What happens if a light bulb explodes on the set and ignites my hair?
Uncontrollable sweating and panic sets in.
Live? She didn’t say anything about live. That’s when my producer, Kevin, piped in, "Uh, the name of the show is ‘Washington Post LIVE.’" (Writer’s note: Kevin was a good producer. If you would like to apply for his position, my e-mail is below.)
After calming myself down with a wet towel and four consecutive shots of Jack Daniels, it dawns on me that some of my closest friends are TV sports anchors. Their advice can only be warranted. I know sports and they know TV and sports.
Some of their e-mails follow:
Kris Budden of ABC 16 instantly demanded: "Makeup! Lots of makeup (still don’t know if I should feel insulted over this) and wear a solid suit because pinstripes don’t show up on television and did I mention makeup?"
Chuck Wade at NBC 29: "Everybody will be wearing blue or gray on the set. Wear that sweet brown pinstripe suit and you need to wear cover up…keep the shine down on your face." Chuck obviously forgot what I look like, as sometimes my hair tends to appear as if the Exxon Valdez had its second spill all over it.
Dave "Yogi Berra" Strumph at CBS 19 gave me some useful advice: "Look at the panel and the host 80 percent of the time and the camera 10 percent of the time." Where to look the other 10 percent still remains a mystery.
So here I sit a week later in the Green Room. Makeup done by Donna, the Comcast makeup lady, who added some positive reinforcement by declaring my skin was terrific for a 28-year-old, so nervous that Pepto Bismol would upset my stomach, and beginning to sweat so obnoxiously I believe the pinstripes in my suit are running together.
And then the dreaded voice of the loudspeaker: "Wes McElroy to the studio!"
The segment is 12 minutes long but it feels like two. The host is all class and the panel sticks to the topic that I know—Virginia football. My voice doesn’t crack like I’m 13. Nothing I say sounded stupid or can get me sued in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mike Wise of The Washington Post even offers a handshake at the end of the segment and it is official: I’ve survived my live TV debut.
For the record, though, there is no other medium that I love more then writing. Not radio, not TV. Just a laptop, a couple of thoughts…and some cover up.
Hey, what can I say? It makes me feel pretty.
Wes McElroy hosts "The Final Round" on ESPN AM840. M-F 4pm-6pm.