John Steigerwald, Sportscaster and Author “Just Watch the Game” :
In your book, you detail how you started and how you got to the level of prominence you are at today. How hard was that initial struggle to “make it” and did you ever see yourself finding this level of success then, and did you even want it?
The chapter in the book is called “Look out, Curt Gowdy.” I started out with the intention of becoming Curt Gowdy, who was the top guy at NBC at the time and doing all the major events –World Series, Super Bowls, Rose Bowl etc. I wanted to do play-by-play because, for me, it’s always been about going to the games.
It was a struggle in the beginning but I was thrilled to have every job that I had, including my first one at a Cable TV station in Sharon, Pa. that paid me two bucks and hour. I didn’t make much money doing play-by-play in the minor leagues but I loved every second of it.
People often look back at their struggles to “make it” as some of the best times of their career. Is that the case for you –why/why not and what experiences really helped to motivate you and shape your career?
I can’t think of any specific experiences that motivated me. I was always confident in my ability and – justifiably or not–always felt that I could be good at anything that I put effort into.
In the same vein – what people motivated and inspired you most, and how so?
I was motivated by Bob Prince. Listening to him doing Pirates games beginning when I was five or six years old, made me want to be a baseball announcer…as soon as I realized I wasn’t going to be a Major League Baseball player.
Your book reflects your “no pulling punches” style of broadcasting. How has that helped you over the years and have you ever experienced regret at any point for potentially going “too far”? If so, when?
I think being willing to “tell it like it is” sets you part…especially now when there are so many generic people working in radio and TV. I haven’t really expressed at going to far, but I’ve had several episodes when I had to defend myself against viewers, listeners or readers who thought I went too far. I really can’t think of any one example when I went farther than I wanted to.
In your two-plus decades with the Steelers, who were the people –players, coaches, front office people – that really symbolized for you how the game should be played, and what made them so?
Chuck Noll is the most impressive person associated with the Steelers that I met. He exuded authority, toughness, intelligence and class. There aren’t a lot of people in sports who have as much of all those qualities as Noll had.
The Chief, Art Rooney, was one of the nicest, most unassuming guys I’ve met in sports. No player on the Steelers impressed me more than Joe Greene.
Of all the sports media people you’ve worked with, who were some of the most –and least –enjoyable – and what made them so?
There are too many people who I worked with still working in the media now for me to answer that question.
What do you think Bob Prince would think of today’s Pittsburgh Pirates-and would you agree with him?
Bob Prince would think that this year’s Pirates team was exciting.
He would have become disillusioned and fed up with Major League Baseball a long time ago. I can’t imagine him having any patience for the economic disparity and what it has done to the Pirates.
In your book you discuss the pleasure – and sometimes displeasure –of the hundreds of interviews you’ve gotten to do over the years. Who were some of the most and least enjoyable Pittsburgh sports figures to interview – and what made them so?
Most enjoyable interviews: Terry Bradshaw, Bubby Brister, Chuck Tanner, Kevin Stevens, Joe Greene, Phil Garner, Dwight White, Jerome Bettis
Least enjoyable: Tom Barrasso, Tom Barasso, Tom Barrasso, Barry Bonds, Greg Lloyd, Tom Barrasso, Bill Cowher.
What’s wrong with professional sports today?
The biggest problem in professional sports today is a lack of perspective. Fans and media have assigned way too much importance to sports.
There’s no better example than the violence between grown men wearing opposite replica game jerseys.
In your book, you discuss the “Demise of the pick-up game”. What’s to blame for this –and can it be turned around, in your opinion?
The pickup game is dead. Air conditioning was one of the early reasons for its demise. Overprotective parents and too many kids whose fathers are either not around or too busy to teach them how to play ball and the overemphasis on organized sports at a young age are also major contributing factors.
Video games haven’t helped.
I don’t think it can be turned around. Parents have become convinced that their kids can’t play sports unless they’re involved. It’s sad and pathetic.
What’s the one thing you would like most for readers to take from your book – and why?
I would just hope that people would get a laugh from some of the stories and maybe some insight into the behind the scenes aspects of sports and the media. It’s not exactly ” The Brothers Karamazov.”
How has the venture with Trib Total Media/TribLive Radio going? What have been some of the successes and frustrations so far of being part of Pittsburgh’s first internet radio station?
I’m having fun doing internet radio. It’s a new venture and I’m just glad someone is still willing to pay me to spew my BS. So far, no frustrations.