Brooke Wyckoff Diary
The minute I found out I had torn my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) at the beginning of this season, I was devastated. It seemed impossible to imagine spending the entire summer on the sidelines. Every day I watch my teammates at practice and in games, and I want nothing more than to be out there with them. But being on the sidelines hasn’t been as terrible as I first thought it would be. Like the old saying goes, ‘When one door in your life is closed, somewhere you’ll find an open window.’ My window opened when I was given the opportunity to fill in for Rebecca Lobo as the color analyst for our game in Houston, which was televised regionally by WB20, as well as on NBATV. For someone who’s never done anything like this before, it was a huge deal.
When I was first approached with the opportunity, I was a little nervous about it for a number of reasons. Having zero experience in television was obviously my main concern. Diving headfirst into something for the first time is scary. Doing so on live television is terrifying.
It doesn’t help that I was filling in for Rebecca Lobo, who had a scheduling conflict. Those are big shoes to fill. Rebecca has been doing TV for a long time, and she’s excellent. There was no way I could hope to measure up to her. Another concern I had was that I wouldn’t be prepared with enough information on both teams. Looking back, it’s funny that I was worried about that. I’ve been with this team for four years now, and have played against Houston close to 10 times in my career. I did spend a lot of time reading stats and game notes on both teams, but needless to say, I didn’t look at any of that during the game. I was too busy commenting on what was going on in the game at the time.
I received a ton of good advice from friends who had worked in broadcasting. Our radio commentators, Leah Secondo and Bob Heussler, let me listen in to their broadcast in Minnesota. They also gave me lots of ideas about what kinds of things to say, and how things would run.
My good friend and teammate, Debbie Black – who’s done a lot of color analysis in the offseason – also had a lot of encouraging words for me. There were plenty of others who provided some much-needed direction, but the one common theme I heard from everyone was, “Just be yourself.” I think that was the best advice I could have received. In the days leading up to the broadcast, I truly felt sorry for the person I would be working with. I was sure he was going to be annoyed that I was a rookie, and that I would only make his job harder. But everyone I talked to assured me I couldn’t have been paired up with a better guy than Mike Gorman. From what I was told, Mike was a true professional who would make it easy for me by leading me through the entire thing. Mike and I met about 2½ hours before the game, and I immediately realized that everyone was absolutely right about him. He made me feel comfortable right away, and offered as much advice and guidance as he could give. He was the real reason why the experience went so smoothly, and why I had such a good time doing the broadcast. The crew I worked with were all wonderful, and never made me feel like the clueless rookie I was. Probably the most challenging part of the broadcast was the beginning, when I had to be on camera with Mike for a few minutes before tipoff. Luckily, it was pre-taped, so if I messed up, we could do it again. Still, talking off the cuff with the camera rolling was a little intimidating.
While we were waiting for the crew to make their last minute adjustments, Mike leaned over me and said, ‘Don’t worry, sweaty palms are a good thing.’ I had to laugh because for the past 10 minutes, I had been wiping my palms on my pants. I hoped that was the only outward sign of butterflies I was feeling.
Once we got started, it really was a breeze. I felt like I was having a two-hour conversation with Mike about basketball. What’s easier than that?
When the game ended, I felt pretty good about the whole experience. The only downside was that my team had lost. I hadn’t quite been able to reach the place of being a neutral observer. I found myself really trying not to yell out loud when someone on our team made a great play, or when the refs made what I thought was a bad call against the Sun. But hopefully, nobody will fault me too much for being biased. After all, those are my girls out there, and I’m one of the biggest Sun fans around. Regardless of whether I proved myself worthy of a seat under the lights in an ESPN studio, I had an absolute blast doing this broadcast, and I would jump at the chance to do it again.
Thanks to all the people who helped me along, especially Mike Gorman. Being on the sidelines this time wasn’t bad at all. And who knows? Maybe this window will turn into an open door sometime down the road.