1. Tony Romo was a smash hit with viewers as soon as he called his first game, Raiders at Titans, as CBS’s lead NFL analyst on Sept. 10, 2017.
What appealed to viewers was that Romo sounded unlike any of the other analysts in the game and also had an uncanny knack for predicting plays.
Romo was and is unique, and his style and popularity led to his signing a monster 10-year contract for $17.5 million per year with CBS in early 2020.
However, as the former Cowboys quarterback tells it, it took a ton of practice for him to find his voice.
When he appeared on this week’s SI Media Podcast, I asked Romo when he knew he was a good broadcaster.
While he didn’t give a direct answer, he explained how he finally got to a place that made him satisfied with his performance and what his secret was to finding his voice.
“I did so many practice games on my own,” Romo said on the podcast. “I give CBS credit. We put together a plan as we went through it because usually you get hired, you do one game and they see you and you’re out there and it’s like, ‘go ahead.’
“And we had this almost boot camp, training camp deal. I was like, ‘I’m not going out there randomly guessing.’ Like, I wanna feel how this is gonna go. A thousand reps kinda thing.
“But you can’t do that because you need a live game, you need everything. I’ll give CBS credit, [chairman] Sean [McManus] and [president] David [Berson] got together and they came up with a plan. Jim Nantz and [director] Jim Rickoff came down and we did all these practice games, and I sounded like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the teacher. ‘Bueller, Buller.’ ”
“I watched myself. It was so boring, Jimmy. You would’ve been like, ‘This guy needs to stop doing this right now.’ That was the start of me listening to myself.
“It was just trial and error and gaining an understanding of what I would want to hear. When I listened to it, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I am the worst announcer ever. I am so boring.’ I cringe already listening to myself, but that, I was like, ugh, disgusting.
“But then I started to just say O.K., do what I would do with anything else. Let’s mimic. So it’s like trying to throw a football when you’re young. You’re trying to copy John Elway, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, whoever. You go through the whole process and you try and mimic them and you find something that works.
“So I tried being Jon Gruden, John Madden, Phil Simms, Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth. I went through the whole gamut.
“And what I found was one day, 50 times in doing games, it clicked for me, and not to say that everyone loves it, but I found my voice and the sound and the way I was saying it, I actually was like, ‘Oh, that was O.K.,’ and that’s a big deal for me to say that, and you know what it was?
“I am at dinner with my family and friends, and everyone has their phones out and they’re just reading their websites and I’m gonna tell a story. How do I keep their attention? And very quickly I found out there’s a certain tone, there’s a certain empathic nature to it and there’s a certain look ‘em in the face, tap them on the shoulder, hit ‘em a little bit. Move them around a little bit.
“Did you see this? Did you see what happened here? I gotta keep your attention. So the only way to do it was like, this is what I do at dinner. I’m gonna tell a story and make it good. So I feel like I’m at dinner, trying to tell a story and keep your attention.”
Clearly, it’s worked out pretty well for Tony.
During the podcast, Romo also talked about when he knew he wanted to get into broadcasting, how long he wants to call NFL games, whether he considers Aikman and Collinsworth rivals, his role as Corona's Romotivational speaker, what drunk Tony Romo is like and much more.
2. Speaking of announcers going from the field to a major broadcasting gig, if you’re a sports media nerd, you'll want to catch some of Sunday’s Eagles-Falcons game.
Former All Pro tight end Greg Olsen will make his debut on Fox’s No. 2 team with excellent play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt.
3. If you appreciate a return to normalcy, Thursday night was a good night for you.
The NFL season opened. Tom Brady did the same stuff he's done for 17 seasons. And after a year off because of COVID-19, THE COLLINSWORTH SLIDE RETURNED!
4. This was an outstanding John Madden flashback pulled by NBC for Thursday night’s game.
5. Stephen A. Smith has confirmed that he wanted Max Kellerman removed as First Take cohost.
6. This is the problem that occurs when everyone knows you’re now making $112 million.
7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: I have posted David Letterman’s monologue from his first show back after the Sept. 11 attacks every year since I began writing a daily column for Sports Illustrated back in the Hot Clicks days. It’s as powerful and raw and heartbreaking today as it was 20 years ago.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.