4 Lessons From Vin Scully
Vin Scully's career saw a 1950s move across coasts to an uncertain market, fast advancements in technology, and rapid changes in how fans consumed the sport. He remained the best through it all.
The man and his wife were roping cattle when a giant rattlesnake appeared out of nowhere.
So the husband quickly grabbed a nearby axe and began swinging, ultimately hacking it to shreds.
But inside the dead snake were a pair of baby jackrabbits, and his wife knew she had to immediately extract them if they had any chance at survival.
A short time later, one rabbit was dead, but the other had moved slightly. And over the next few days, they kept it warm, bottle nursed him and eventually let him back into the wild.
This anecdote was shared not on Animal Planet or CBS Sunday Morning but during the middle of a baseball broadcast by legendary announcer Vin Scully, who didn’t miss a single pitch as he relayed the account involving a player on the field.
“I guess really the moral to the whole story about the rabbit and the snake: You’ve got to somehow survive. You’ve got to somehow battle back.”
Scully, perhaps the greatest storyteller sports broadcasting has ever seen, died Tuesday night. He was 94.
His career had some similarities to that rabbit. He survived a move across coasts to an uncertain market in the 1950s, fast advancements in technology, and rapid changes in how fans consumed the sport — and his longevity has some key lessons for us:
1. Speak to your audience, not at them
When Scully described what was happening in front of him, he almost always spoke softly with only mild changes in voice inflection. He used simple phrases such as “You and I” and frequently called his viewers “friends.” These aren’t earth-shattering tactics, but combined, they established a trust and rapport with his audience.
We may not have 1/100 of Scully’s oratorical gifts, but by empathizing with what our team is experiencing and speaking gently regardless of the circumstances, we’re far more likely to ingratiate ourselves to our audience and earn trust.
2. Dress the part
If you do a Google image search of Scully, you'd be hard-pressed to find one where he isn't wearing a button-down shirt and tie. No matter his accomplishments, he exhibited respect for his profession and the viewer, thus receiving it in return.
We may be tempted to dress casually for the game or for work on a Friday, but Scully knew he was always auditioning for someone new — and made sure to never take the gift of an audience for granted.
3. Find different ways to the same thing
To Scully, good was “very pleasant,” through it all was “the good times and the bad,” lucky was “privileged.” If we want to avoid getting tuned out by our team members, we need to find unique ways to say the same thing. Scully broadcast over 10,000 games in his career, but he always avoided the cliches and banal phrases that otherwise dominate his industry.
4. Preparation is everything
Scully was well into his sixth decade as Los Angeles Dodgers announcer when he shared the rabbit anecdote, but he never took preparation for granted. Being transcendent will always require relentless behind-the-scenes effort, genuine curiosity and boundless enthusiasm. Few are truly capable of sustaining it.
Scully was largely remembered as a broadcasting icon as tributes poured in on Wednesday. But beyond his home run calls and intimate knowledge of his sport were key lessons in communication, preparation, audience persuasion and genuine humility.
And they’re as relevant to our own locker room or boardroom as they are to any broadcast booth.