Scott Bradford: The Voice of the Muskegon LumberjacksDecember 12, 2018
Most people who’ve ever listened to sports radio broadcasts could probably pick out their favorite “voices.” There are always those broadcasters that you can interpret their voice inflections, favorite sayings like Mickey Redmond’s “Holy jumpin,” or general style. Every league has them. Everyone is different. Everyone has a story. Such is the case for the voice of the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Scott Bradford.
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Often referred to as “Radio” around the LC Walker Arena, Scott has become a part of the team. Though, by his own admission, beer league is as close as he gets to actually playing hockey and is by no means suited to suiting up against the Lumberjacks.
Scott is what you’d expect a broadcaster to be. Quirky, full of expression and knowledgeable. Never too serious, there’s always time for a joke and a few songs. If anyone is in need of a karaoke partner, Scott’s your man. I’ve often joked that I’d love to be able to plug into his brain and download the information he knows about the game. Beyond the general statistics of height and weight, Scott can repeat at a moment’s notice things about the players that perhaps their teammates don’t even know.
Scott just decided one day, he wanted to be in broadcasting. At the time, he was living at home, balancing college and a job as a Senior Editor for iSportsweb. “After correcting the same mistakes over and over again,” Scott told Access Hockey MI, “…I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There was a lot of monotony to my days.” So Scott decided to jump head first into broadcasting.
He began making phone calls. Calling local high schools asking if they needed broadcasters is a little unorthodox, but that is exactly what Scott is.
Scott’s introduction to the broadcasting way of life was given to him by Lowell Highschool in Michigan. Al Eckman, Station Manager for the school’s radio station, coincidently was in need of a basketball commentator. Scott accepted the post. Nervous, anxious, and everything in between, he hoped he hadn’t made an enormous mistake. Reflecting on his debut while laughing, Scott said, “I don’t get nervous anymore…but back then, definitely! I was very nervous… the first men’s game I ever did, a kid by the name of Matt Beachler broke the school record with 44 points in a game, and I had no idea,” he said. “It was kind of an ominous start to my career as a broadcaster…but you live and learn.”
Becoming the Voice
Until being indoctrinated by a passionate Detroit Red Wings and close friend, Conner Hammersmith, Scott was none the wiser to the game. Rooming with Hammersmith exposed Scott to the gritty life of a die-hard fan and sport and ultimately turned him into one of the faithful fans.
Scott’s modest and seemingly sudden beginnings in the broadcasting world led him to the Muskegon Lumberjacks. He got an interview with John Vanbiesbrouck, the General Manager of the Lumberjacks at the time. “I had to Google him,” Scott said laughing, “(I) didn’t know who he was… it kind of helped me in a way. I didn’t think I had a chance at getting the job.” Getting the interview because a friend who worked in the organization at the time, Scott decided it’d be a valuable experience to pursue.
Scott’s experience in hockey was limited to beer league and having commentated three previous hockey games. “I didn’t grow up playing it (and) didn’t grow up even being a fan!” For Scott, the interview with VanBiesbrouk, a former NHL goalie, was more of a formality; he wasn’t holding his breath. To his surprise, Vanbiesbrouck offered Scott the job about a week later, “I miss Bieser (Vanbiesbrouck). Even though he was hard on me, I think he taught me a lot too.”
Taking Things a Little More Seriously
Learning from his past mistakes, like not knowing when records were broken, he entered the USHL with renewed knowledge and structure, “When I took this job as a fulltime job, more than two years ago, I took it very very seriously,” he said, “This was a career that I wanted to pursue.”
Professional pursuit doesn’t adequately define Scott’s dedication to his trade or the Lumberjacks. Beyond the usual stats, Scott makes a point to spend the time to actually know the player. “I try to learn something new. I try to involve myself around these players as much as I can,” he told Access Hockey MI. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I know these guys inside and out…’ (but) I try to do a little bit more. That’s why I try to get a long interview with a player before every game…it gives me a little bit of insight about what they’re all about, what they like to do.”
Scott’s investment into the team goes beyond just showing up to work. He cares for each player and their future, which can plainly be seen off the ice and heard on air.
Creating Radio’s Brain
Like most other professionals in any industry, Scott spends countless hours preparing. Sitting next to him for a full season, now in my second season, I find myself laughing at some of the things he knows. More often than not, I’m asking others in the box how he knows so much! The response is typically a laugh followed by, “I have no clue.”
The memorization and prep isn’t something that happens just before a game for Scott. It’s a week-long process. On top of working two other jobs, Radio finds time to prepare for each home match-up meticulously. He likes the stories and fun facts, “…it takes about 10-15hrs of preparation. It takes several hours to put together a stat sheet of all just the raw numbers on guys,” Scott told Access Hockey MI. “You have to put together a few tidbits… anything notable.”
Anything notable, funny, completely random – you name it. On top of somehow knowing these stats like the back of his hand come game day, Scott can repeat them at a moment’s notice – rarely referencing his sheets. For him, it’s about helping them understand who their team and their opponent is, “Trying to teach the audience something new about them is of value to me,” he said. “…why they’re important, and why this league matters, why the game that they’re playing matters…” With a brain like a computer, that’s exactly what he does. Any listener can tune in and get more from Scott than any amount of Google searching would render.
With a Little Help From His Friends
Life in the media realm is far from easy. Ask any blogger, contributor or broadcaster and they’ll tell you its cut-throat and saturated. Social media has taken the place of most reputable news outlets. Most writers and broadcasters work for free for “exposure” and have to be wary of the others around them. Scott’s experience is a bit of an exception.
Along the way in his now four-year journey through broadcasting, he found that to his surprise, there were a lot of people willing to help him with no strings attached. “I’ve gotten a lot of help from a lot of people,” Bradford stated, “Scott Moore, he’s the play-by-play announcer at Michigan State, he helped me with the stat book that he put together and passed on to me, which he didn’t have to do. I have to give him a lot of credit.” Ignoring what Bradford deemed a “natural instinct to not help” in the media world, Moore along with several others, came alongside him and gave him the tools he needed to succeed.
Sitting in the press box above the LC Walker Arena ice, dark, emptied out from a game moments before, Scott reflected, “It seems backward that I’ve met so many people along the way that have been very willing to help me. That’s remarkable to me that they were willing to help me in my quest to become a better broadcaster.” Finding experienced people within the industry is tough. Finding experienced ones willing to share is even tougher. Scott was one of the fortunate ones. To this day, the stat book given to him by Moore still sits directly in front of him throughout every game.
Part-Time and Looking Ahead
As a result of the growing reach of internet radio, standard radio broadcasts are becoming a thing of the past. At least for smaller leagues like the USHL. Formerly having a radio deal with a local station, the Lumberjacks front office decide has made some changes. Dropping the radio deal and moving to HockeyTV.com, Scott found his hours dramatically cut. The season prior, Bradford traveled with the team for away broadcasts on top of home broadcasts. “My position has kind of gone away,” Scott said, “I was full time with the team for two seasons and this year, just on as the (home) broadcaster. I’m not traveling with the team anymore and I’m not doing social media anymore.”
Though bummed about the decision, Scott understood the need for a team in a smaller league, like the Lumberjacks to cut costs, “It’s not uncommon to see that. We lost our radio deal. More and more teams are going to strictly online – it saves a lot of money and in the USHL where you probably have more teams in the red than in the black, every dollar counts.” Though disappointed, Scott hasn’t given himself time to wallow.
He’s a go-getter and a dreamer. In the off-season, he worked hard to find a full-time position doing what he loves, “This off-season, I probably applied for about twelve different jobs in hockey and I interviewed with none of them.” The competition is fierce in broadcasting, and though Scott has an immense amount of talent and promise, he didn’t receive callbacks. He’s in no hurry to leave Muskegon however. As long as they are willing to have him, “I’m not in any rush to get out of Muskegon. I like it here – I’ve been treated really well here and I would stay as long as they’ll have me,” Scott said.
The Future of the Voice
Scott’s future has yet to be determined. As for now, he will remain in Muskegon. Always looking ahead to the next step, however, Scott is anticipating the next big leap, “My biggest aspiration growing up as a golfer would be calling the Masters. That’s been an unrealistic dream of mine since day one. A more realistic dream would be Grand Rapids,” Scott told Access Hockey MI. “I was born and raised there. I still live there. I’ve grown up rooting for the Griffins and going to the Van Andel Arena and experiencing those games first hand. Either the Grand Rapids Griffins or Michigan State Spartans, where I graduated from.” Much like the young men he commentates about now, he is trying to move up in his career. Having expanded his network in the broadcasting field, it’s unlikely that he’ll remain in juniors for much longer.
Scott has talent and moxy. He threw himself in the midst of a field that will either make you or break you. For him, it was just a matter of jumping in and trying it out, “You don’t learn unless you do it,” he said. He’s dealt with the monotony of being stuck in an unfulfilling career. He knows how it feels to relate to Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day a little more than anyone should – every day starts to be the same. At the same time, he has taken the steps and risks to get to where he is.
In many ways, Scott is a member of the team and a part of these players’ stories. He values what he does and who he represents. Understanding the plight of a journalist and media person has given Scott the “pay it forward” mentality that is seemingly lacking these days. Having been blessed with a host of helpers himself, Scott is empathetic to those pursuing the field. He is the one who gave Access Hockey MI a chance.
Until Further Notice
Scott is continually pursuing his dream – whether it leads him to the masters or Grand Rapids, is yet to be seen.
For now, you’ll find him in the LC Walker Arena press box, likely singing along to the music or trying to good-naturedly shuffle the scratched players out of his workspace – sometimes both at the same time. His spot in Muskegon will remain the hub for miscellaneous knowledge and fun facts. When he moves on, he will always be a part of the team and each of our stories. Ours included.