As she prepares to fulfill “a dream of mine” by calling basketball for NBC during the Tokyo Olympics next month, Kate Scott thinks back to all the people who helped get her to this place.
A 2005 Cal graduate, she recalls sitting in front of SportsCenter mornings as a kid while eating her breakfast. “I wasn’t watching Saturday morning cartoons. I was watching Linda Cohn and Robin Roberts,” she says.
There weren’t many women calling sports in those days, but Scott was drawn to those she saw. Hannah Storm and Suzy Kolber. Bonnie Bernstein, Michele Tafoya, Andrea Kremer and Leslie Visser.
Still, Scott never really made the connection that this was something she could do. At Clovis High School, she played four sports, wrote about sports for the student newspaper, delivered scores in the mornings via the campus PA system, and served as game announcer for the boys soccer team.
Now 38, Scott dreamed of the Olympics, but as a participant. It didn’t take too long for her to realize that wasn’t likely.
As a high school junior, while applying to colleges, Scott was approached by Ed Schmalzel, the school’s activities director. He asked her what she hoped to do as a career.
When Scott said she wanted to follow her mother’s footsteps and become teacher, Schmalzel smiled and asked if she’d ever considered becoming some sort of sports reporter.
“I said, not really just because there were so few examples of it,” Scott recalls. “It takes a crazy person, apparently like me, to think that you can be the first to do something that nobody else has done. Thankfully I had that interaction.”
Scott enrolled at Cal and majored in communications, intent on pursuing the idea Mr. Schmalzel planted in her head. She remained in the Bay Area after graduating and was working as a radio traffic reporter in San Francisco when she arrived at next turning point on her career path.
Paul Aldridge, who was producing high school football games for the Comcast Hometown network, asked Scott to do play-by-play for De La Salle vs. Monte Vista.
“Paul, you’re freaking crazy,” she responded. “I’ve never called anything in my life. Why do you think I can do this?”
“I know you, Kate,” he said. “You know football. Just do it. You’re going to be as unqualified as every other guy I would ask to do this, so try it.”
Scott had no clue how to prepare for the game, so she called respected Bay Area broadcaster Barry Tompkins, who agreed to get together for lunch. “I’d never met him.” she says. But he spent three hours, giving her strategies and encouragement.
On game night, one moment changed everything.
“I had no idea what I was doing, but I called my first big-time touchdown in the second half and it didn’t suck,” she recalls. “I got the players right and nailed it. `Going deep, touchdown De La Salle.’ “
On her drive home, Scott reflected on her experiences as a writer, anchor and reporter. She enjoyed each one of them. “But the rush I got from calling a live game reminded me of when I played high school sports. Wow, if I can figure out a way to do this, this is going to be it for me.”
She also thought about how thankful she was that Paul Aldridge pushed toward something initially uncomfortable. Just as she appreciates a sideline pep talk she later got from Bay Area sports broadcaster Mindy Bach.
Part of “The Morning Roast” team on 95.7 The Game, Scott’s career as a woman play-by-play announcer has blossomed nicely.
In addition to being the first woman to call football games for the Pac-12 Network, Scott’s resume includes these highlights:
— The first woman to call an NFL game on the radio
— The first to call a Golden State Warriors game
— The play-by-play announcer for the first all-female NHL broadcast in the U.S.
And now the Olympics, the No. 1 item on her broadcast bucket list but something she wasn't expecting quite yet..
“I’m pretty sure my reaction was PG . . . I don’t think it was PG-13,” she said of getting the call from NBC confirming the assignment in February. “It was something to the effect of, `Are you freaking serious? Really? This year? The Tokyo Olympics?' Because an Olympics, any Olympics, any sport at any Olympics, has been a dream of mine since I was a young athlete in the Central Valley.”
Scott’s assignment will be to provide play-by-play on men’s and women’s games on TV for NBC’s international feed. Bob Fitzgerald, voice of the Warriors, will call the U.S. team’s games.
Fitzgerald will be on site in Tokyo, but Scott — like many of NBC’s broadcasters — will work from an Olympic broadcast city the network has built in Stamford, Connecticut.
She will shift her clock to Tokyo time — 13 hours ahead of the East Coast — and will be up all night for as many as four games each night. “Nigeria-Croatia at 3 in the morning local time, I’m your girl,” she says cheerfully.
Scott will work in front of a video monitor from a small plexiglass cubicle she describes as a phone booth. Analyst Fran Fraschilla, an expert on international basketball, will be in the next booth over.
For the next month, Scott will do the prep work Barry Tompkins first explained to her. Job 1 is nailing the pronunciations of names of athletes from around the world.
“That has always been the most important thing to me. That’s where the respect starts,” Scott says. “I’m concerned, but it’s always been a point of pride for me since I started years ago in broadcasting.”
Not being in Tokyo — the result of COVID precautions — is a disappointment, but perhaps only a temporary one.
“It’s a dream,” Scott says. “Even though I’m not going to Tokyo, hopefully this will be the first experience. And there’ll be many more experiences, hopefully on site, to come.”
Cover photo of Kate Scott with Sabrina Ionescu courtesy of the Pac-12 Networks
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo