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Make It Part of the Dance: My journey conquering impostor syndrome as a pro sports announcer

While I certainly learned terminology and rules in my first year as an NHL announcer, I learned more about myself.

“Too long.”


Scene set: it’s mid-April 2023. I walked into the TJ Maxx in Seekonk, Massachusetts, looking for a golf shirt for a tournament I was playing in the next weekend. You probably know how that goes: you never walk out with just the item you came for. A scan of the store later - “just to see if there were any good deals,” I told myself - and I had a pile of potential wardrobe additions in my hand.


I decided to condense my haul down to three items: the blue Callaway golf shirt that I came for, a pair of black dress shorts for the upcoming summer nights, and a dark brown pair of Lucky Brand pants. The shirt fit perfectly. The shorts were a tiny bit loose, but nothing a belt can’t fix.


Then came the pants.


“Too long” was my original thought, and truth be told, I damn near walked out of the store without them.


I don’t know what it was about the pants that attracted me. I have at least 6-7 dress pants in my rotation, so to say I was in the market wasn’t right. Maybe they were just too comfortable to resist. Maybe it was because a good 80% of what I own could be considered athleisure, and it was time to switch it up. Maybe it was the laugh I got from the “Lucky You” that’s revealed once you pull down the zipper. Maybe it was because it was on sale. Regardless of what did me in, a few minutes later, I was at the checkout counter with all three items. Into my trunk they went, and homeward bound to Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island I was.

 

A couple of days later, it was April 17, 2023. Marathon Monday in Boston.


This would be my 35th Bruins game on the Public Address microphone; Tuuka Rask’s retirement ceremony game from last season, 3 in the 2022 preseason, and 30 regular season games spanning back to last October 17th.


I get goosebumps every time I walk into TD Garden. Hell, they start when I get to my day job’s office at One Boston Place. While it’s only about a 10 minute walk, I usually jet downstairs once the clock hits 5:30, walk across the street, and hop on the Orange Line two stops to North Station, where I take a hard-right off the escalator and back outside to the Boston Bruins media entrance on Legends Way. It doesn’t matter what I’m listening to, but when I’m walking into the building on game days, you won’t find me without my AirPods in. Last year, it was plenty of hard rock, Surfaces, Drake, and everything in between. I anticipate it’ll be more of the same this year.

Here's the long, back-alley ramp of Legends Way, leading to the media entrance at TD Garden. Mostly, you'll see pregame performers and game-day concessions staff. Occasionally, you'll see an A-lister or national TV broadcaster. And then there's me.


There was no music, podcast, or spoken word that did the trick that day. Something just didn’t feel right on Monday the 17th.


I chalked it up to the weather. It was foggy to the point that I couldn’t make out more than a few blocks away from our 27th-floor office. The day had its bout with sputtering rain for hours; maybe it was that, I thought. Maybe it was the amounting work I knew was waiting for me. Maybe it was the impending stress of my upcoming move to Boston from Rhode Island, knowing I’d have to pack my life into boxes over the next few weeks.


Maybe it was all of it, or none of it, but the thoughts creeped in as day turned to night, and even longer after that.

 

I had been announcing sports in some way, shape, or form, for about 6 years, when the trajectory of my career changed forever. In August 2021, was selected to be the next PA Announcer for the Premier Lacrosse League, which tours throughout the nation. Their existing PA person had taken another gig with an NFL team, and it conflicted with the late stages of the PLL regular season & playoffs - so when I got the call to show the league what I could do, I said “yes” and opted to figure out the rest later.


With about a week’s notice, I got my affairs in order, took off work that Friday, and drove from Rhode Island to Albany in all its long, boring glory. That weekend, I was to observe the existing PA announcer on Friday to get a feel for the shows, and call the first leg of a double-header on Saturday. The rest of the time would be just shadowing.


To make a long story short, I ended up earning the trust of the league brass to call multiple games that weekend. To this date, I don’t know what specific reason they had to abandon the plan and trust me to do more. “They don’t even know me yet,” I thought. “I could’ve been anybody!” But it was that moment that I realized I had a place in this business - I attribute that to the moment my mindset shifted to being a “pro” rather than announcing just to do it. It was really the first time that I saw what my path in this business could be.


I went on to call the Semifinals and Championship of that year’s PLL season, checking off key boxes for me: announcing at Major League Soccer stadiums. I remember Subaru Park, home of the Philadelphia Union, having this booming sound system that I thought was better than anything I’d ever touched. DC United’s Audi Field had similar vibes; it was the first time I had seen a control room with more than 10 employees working in it. The feelings of pure bliss, the excited nervousness, the “pinch me” moments.


As it turns out, there’d be many more of those over the next year. I filled in for Steve Forni, who called Bruins games on the PA mic for about 4 years, on March 31, 2022. Again, a call to which you simply say “yes,” and figure out details later. Walking into TD Garden for the first time for “work” is breathtaking. The view of the rink from the Zamboni tunnel, the elevator ride up the (admittedly less-than-appealing) freight elevator to the Rafters level, and the view you get when you turn the corner on the ninth floor are all moments that truly just never get old.

This is - without question - my favorite view of TD Garden. Right off the 9th floor freight elevator, you take a right towards press row, and voila - beauty in its purest form.


March 31st was a great night. We sent off Tuukka Rask in his retirement ceremony, we called 8 goals (pour ‘em out for the New Jersey Devils), and I did my first NHL game. Sure, I screwed a few things up - the 110+ page script and exhaustive run-of-show can be daunting for a rookie, but they're things you must learn to succeed at in this business.


Steve made the tough decision to leave the gig after the 2022 season, and the Bruins brought me on for a few preseason games - which became the first few regular season games - which became the whole dang thing. I couldn’t help but think for a brief moment how much the five-year-old kid - the same kid who imitated PA announcing trailblazer Bob Sheppard, or looked up to Michael Kay & Kevin Harlan, or even just looked across to press row at a college basketball game wanting that mic so badly - would react. To be honest, I’m not sure I really had time to bask in that self-actualization; it was time to get to work. To paraphrase David Krejci, “maybe it’s something you appreciate more once you’re done with it.” I think that’s how I’m aligned.


We had really good moments at TD Garden in 2022-23. From setting the record in regular season wins, to celebrating 1,000 points for Patrice Bergeron and 1,000 games for David Krejci, to giving Zdeno Chara his swan song in front of the home fans, there were so many moments that I was lucky enough to voice over; forever etched in the archived histories of the Boston Bruins.


And somehow, on April 17, 2023 - Game 1 of the NHL Playoffs - it just felt different.

 

In a word, NHL Playoff games are nothing short of raucous. The rally towels wave with more passion than any sport on earth, the music seems like it’s turned up a few extra notches, and the crowd brings an energy that is more palpable than anything the regular season could bring.


I’m not sure which moment was the exact one that triggered the feeling. Mere minutes before I was about to announce the starting lineups, there was a sense of unfamiliarity with everything around me. My body’s “fight-or-flight” sense took over; everything about that moment was telling me “you don’t belong here.” Just about all of the self-doubt I had - and even then some I didn’t know even existed in me - presented itself.


Ironically enough, the fans in the stands, on social media, and back home told me that was one of the best starting lineups I’d ever delivered in the building. But what they couldn’t see was the dissatisfaction I had for myself that night; Why did I feel like that? Am I taking this for granted? Do I even deserve to be here?


The drive home to Providence that night was a rare hour that I sat in silence. I couldn’t tell if it was frustration, sadness, doubt, anxiety, or a combination of everything. But when I stepped in my apartment that night, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought nothing other than shame.


Stumbling to the bedroom after the drive, I reached into my pants pocket to make sure I hadn’t left a spare coin, chapstick, or receipt in the commotion. And the moment my hand hit the inside of my left pocket, I knew something was there that wasn’t supposed to be.


Or, as I went on to learn from my inner circle, a fantastic duo of mental health counselors (therapy is cool, people!), and my own reflections, maybe it was supposed to happen exactly that way.

“If you stumble, make it part of the dance.”


It sure took me some time to process, but that fortune was there for a reason. Lucky Brand places a fortune in the pocket of every pair of pants they create. That one was meant to find me that day. It set off a journey that I had to take for myself - getting deep into the root of that feeling and creating ways to overcome it.


I came to understand those feelings boiled down to impostor syndrome. The textbook definition certainly seems harsh: “a psychological occurrence in which people doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as frauds.” However, in many ways, it exactly described what I felt in that moment.


I also went on to find out that there are a lot of people in similar situations that are set back by impostor syndrome. Actors, public speakers, and performers are the most common examples; they’re relied upon to deliver a version of themselves that they might not always find authentic for countless strangers every night. It’s also found commonly in Corporate America; do I really deserve this promotion or raise? Do I really know what I’m talking about? Do I belong at this level, working with this team, or at this company?


Zooming out from positions of power or influence, what’s to stop people in everyday life from wondering the same thing? Can anyone have doubts as to whether or not they’re a good enough parent, spouse, friend, aunt/uncle, or person?


I dug pretty deep after that night - throughout the rest of the playoffs and well into the summer - and I declared I’m making a choice: I can let it simmer and eat away my confidence, or I can take matters into my own hands. So far, putting it into practice has been difficult, but rewarding. I can’t entirely remove the nagging voices on my shoulder, telling me that I’m not good enough or that I don’t belong - but I can surely silence them.

 

Tuesday marks my first time this season on the TD Garden microphone. I am totally giddy yet again, just like the kid who stayed up late listening to Jon Sterling & Suzyn Waldman on WCBS 880 radio, or dreamed of announcing the Yankee games he went to rather than actually playing in them. It’s the same giddy feeling that I walked into Gillette Stadium, Subaru Park, and other venues this summer with.


Just as importantly, I also recognize that while the impostor syndrome might always be there, I have the ability - and the right - to shut it down. I’ll manifest a heart of passion, free from doubt, and eager to take on the responsibility and privilege of being a pro sports announcer.


You’ll find me back on the ninth floor this year as the Public Address Announcer for the Boston Bruins. We’ll do some cool stuff in the Bruins’ Centennial Season - we’ll honor some of the greatest teams to ever wear the spoked-B, we’ll bring back Bruins icons (and Milan Lucic, who signed a one-year deal in free agency), and we’ll create some new moments to last forever.


And, make no mistake: if I stumble, I’ll just make it part of the dance.

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