May 9, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
There's no question that lacrosse is America's fastest growing sport, and each year, it seems the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship reaches new heights in terms of attendance and media coverage, as buzz for the sport continues to build.
Monogram winner Eamon McAnaney ('91) has witnessed this evolution firsthand for the past six years as a veteran lacrosse play-by-play announcer for ESPN. During his time with the World Wide Leader, McAnaney has also served as a reporter for college football and men's basketball telecasts, and worked the sideline during three bowl games in 2011-12.
A four-year lacrosse Monogram winner and standout defenseman, McAnaney was part of the first class of student-athletes to play for current Fighting Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan. The New York City native led the Irish as a team captain during his senior season and still ranks 13th all-time at Notre Dame with 170 career ground balls.
Following graduation, McAnaney worked as a production assistant for ESPN before taking on producer duties for the network in Bristol and New York in 1994. He transitioned to on-camera work in 2001 with News 12 (N.Y., N.J., Conn.) before rejoining ESPN in 2006. In addition to his current work with the network, McAnaney also hosts several studio shows on SportsNet New York.
McAnaney took a few minutes to sit down with the Monogram Club before NCAA Championship play begins to discuss his time at Notre Dame, career in the booth and predictions for this year's men's lacrosse tournament.
Talk about your time as an undergrad at Notre Dame. What did you enjoy most and what did you take away from it?
"I don't think I was ready for the challenge that comes with being a student-athlete at Notre Dame as a freshman. Even though I went to a good high school, this was an extremely competitive environment. I looked around and realized how much academic accomplishment meant to everyone in our class. You had to get going and get going fast to succeed. I think that was the most rewarding part because I realized how much it meant when I graduated and the effort I put into it."
What did it mean to you to be a captain of the lacrosse team as a senior? What are some of your favorite memories from your playing career?
"It meant a lot because you were voted on by your teammates, so you knew they felt strongly enough about your leadership abilities to be entrusted with that role. I think my favorite memories were off the field - just that bond you make with your teammates going to practice and games. It's where you make your best friends of your life. When I get together with my former teammates, I don't think we talk about that Michigan State or Denison game from a specific season, just the relationships we made over those four years."
I was a sophomore during Coach Corrigan's first year, so that was certainly a wake up call. He came in and was determined to shake things up and make you decide how much you wanted to be a part of Notre Dame lacrosse. We soon found out that 6:00 a.m. did exist and learned how it felt to run around campus in the dark during an Indiana winter. "
How did you decide to pursue a career in broadcasting and how did you get into the field?
"It was always something I thought I could do, but I probably didn't get enough experience during my four years at Notre Dame. I didn't realize the opportunities I had with the radio station [WVFI] and The Observer. But I knew I wanted to get into broadcasting, so I pursued it initially from a production standpoint. Out of college, I was able to land an interview with ESPN in January 1992 and was hired as a production assistant working behind-the-scenes on `SportsCenter.'"
Was it difficult to transition from the production room to the broadcast booth?
"It was extremely helpful starting my career as a producer, because you have to do things that will ultimately help you develop an on-air presence - broadcast preparation, writing skills and envisioning the whole show rather than just your role on the show. Certainly, all the contacts I made through the production aspect made a big difference in terms of being taken seriously as a new on-air talent. You really have to pay your dues before they take a shot and put you on the air somewhere like ESPN."
I got lucky when I returned to New York to work for Classic Sports Network, which was a Monday through Friday job. A friend of mine was the sports director at a small cable station in northern New Jersey and he needed help covering high school sports on the weekends. So I was able to gain valuable live experience and ultimately develop a tape to send to other stations. From that tape, I was able to get a job in Bangor, Maine, and then make my way back to New Jersey."
As a reporter for basketball and football with ESPN, how did you become well versed in sports that you didn't have as much experience with growing up?
"You have to prove that you can do the job. In New York, I was given the opportunity to be a sideline reporter for MSG's high school network game of the week, which was great football experience. The Bergen County, Northern County and Westchester areas have some high-profile football programs. So when ESPN asked if I had sideline football experience, I knew I had three years of it at the high school level. Although a different challenge, it's still the same job in terms of getting information out of coaches and finding out what's going on down on the field. So through my local jobs in the New York/New Jersey area, I was able to make contacts at MSG, which helped me get to ESPN.
At ESPN, they were very impressed that I played lacrosse, because it was just starting to be televised and they didn't have a lot of guys on the play-by-play side who knew the sport. It was a huge opportunity in my career."
How has the game of lacrosse changed since you graduated in the early 90s?
"There are a lot more good players and more quality teams. The commitment by the players and the coaching staffs has certainly changed. Lacrosse has become much more of a revenue-type sport in terms of the time and effort that's put into recruiting. You can see it on game day - the teams are well coached and well prepared, which can hurt the entertainment value of the game at times because the defenses are so good, it can limit scoring. Certainly, there is a higher amount of quality athletes than in the early 90s. There are more of those Division I-AA football types playing lacrosse now instead of football. "
As a play-by-play guy that played lacrosse, is it difficult to just call the action and not do some analysis as well? Do you have to pull yourself back to not step on your analyst's toes?
"At the beginning of my career it might've been, but now I have enough experience where I know the play-by-play role well. I think my time as a student-athlete helps me set up my analyst to comment on a play and leads me to ask my partner better questions when I see something on the field. My partner Quint [Kessenich] and I have been together for almost three years now, so we know each other well and have developed a good on-air rapport."
This will be the first year that you call the NCAA men's lacrosse national championship game for ESPN. What will that mean to you?
"It's a tremendous responsibility, a great opportunity and I'm very excited about it. It's an honor, because Sean McDonough is a great announcer and he's done the game the past few years. As a kid playing in high school, the lacrosse final on Memorial Day was always the big thing and it still is. Fans mark the date down on the calendar and either make the pilgrimage to the Final Four site or make sure to watch it on TV. I know how big of a deal the game is for the lacrosse community and I'm pumped to do it."
What has been your favorite lacrosse game to call during your broadcasting career?
"That's an interesting question. I think last year's Syracuse-Maryland game in the NCAA quarterfinals was pretty special because it was an upset with Maryland winning. Plus, it was a close game and it went into overtime. You never want to blow an overtime game as a broadcaster, but you also don't want to make it about yourself. There was so much riding on that game, so I think it stands out."
The Notre Dame-Maryland NCAA quarterfinal game in 2010 was certainly a lot of fun, too, getting to call the game that sent Notre Dame back to the Final Four."
We've heard through the grapevine you're doing three first round NCAA games - Syracuse-Duke in Durham, Denver-North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Princeton-Virginia in Charlottesville - within 24 hours. How do you prepare for each game with such a quick turnaround?
"The fortunate thing for me is that I've seen all six teams during the year, so I won't have to spend as much time going through all the numbers and figuring out who has the ball, like I would have to with UMass-Colgate. Nothing against those teams, I just haven't had a chance to really prepare for them. I know those other six teams well enough that I don't have to look at my chart to see who has the ball. I should be able to recognize student-athletes by running form or body type, in addition to their jersey numbers.
The hardest part of the process will be judging the intricacies of the matchups and who's playing well now. For example, I haven't seen Princeton since March, so I'll have to get a refresher on them and study who's doing well, who isn't playing well and who hasn't seen as much of time of late."
As a Notre Dame lacrosse alumnus, how do you approach calling games that feature your alma mater? Is it difficult to remain impartial?
"It's not difficult to remain impartial - if I'm not, I won't be doing this next year [laughs]. I got nervous calling Notre Dame's BIG EAST semifinal game against St. John's last weekend, because when Westy Hopkins scored to make it a one-goal game, I said, "That brings us to within one goal." I completely meant that in the perspective of the viewer, but I could see people at home, knowing my background, thinking that I was saying "us" to mean Notre Dame. So I have to be careful of that."
Also late in that game, Coach Corrigan wasn't happy about a call made by the official. I have to point that out, but I also have to find a way to not come across as a fan looking for a call. So it's a little tricky, but at this point, I've called Notre Dame games enough that I'm in the mindset it's just the team in navy or white going up against another team."
What does Notre Dame need to do well to have success in the NCAA Tournament?
"I think the key to success for Notre Dame is putting together a whole 60 minutes of lacrosse. I was talking to Coach Corrigan before the BIG EAST Championship and that's what they're waiting for. They're looking to play a complete and consistent game, and they'll have their hands full with a very confident and hot Yale team on Sunday. Notre Dame, with the way the team plays, keeps every team close to its vest, so the players are battle tested, which is important during the tournament."
-- ND --