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Sports Corner

Besting the boys

Radio/TV broadcaster and sportscaster Kate Scott. photo: san jose earthquakes

Kate scott rolls out of her Panhandle-area apartment at 3 a.m., commutes through the Broadway Tunnel, and at a studio near the Embarcadero joins KNBR hosts Brian Murphy, Paul McCaffrey, and fellow reporter Patrick Connor to begin the day’s sports talk on KNBR-AM (680) radio’s Murph & Mac show, the highest-rated morning show among men in the Bay Area.

At 9 a.m. each weekday, Murph, Mac, and Connor depart into the fresh air, but Scott remains in the studio for the day’s second show, delivering tidbits of news and the traffic, and continuing the repartee with Gary Radnich and Larry Krueger. For Scott, that’s 35 hours of live, unscripted, bantering, razor’s-edge radio every week. Then there are the weekends, when Scott appears before the camera for NBC Bay Area News as the sports anchor. Added to that, she’s the sideline reporter for the San Jose Earthquakes.

I caught up with Scott recently to discuss what it’s like working with the big boys of Bay Area sports radio.

You’re surrounded by men from 5 a.m. to noon? How do you feel about mixing it up with Murph, Mac, Patrick, Gary, and Larry?

This may sound odd, but working with and mixing it up with men feels very normal to me and it always has. Ever since I was a little girl playing baseball and basketball with the boys in the street down in Clovis, to wanting to be a Mic Man instead of a member of the dance team at Cal, to working at KNBR today, I’ve always gravitated to spaces that others tend to see as dominated by men and I’ve simply seen as places where I want to be.

Gary got into a Category 5 maelstrom last year about his comments that it was a bad idea for the San Antonio Spurs to hire Becky Hammon, a female assistant coach, that she wouldn’t mesh with a team of male, pro basketball players. How did you feel about that, and about working with Gary in general?

To be completely honest with you, we disagree so often that I don’t recall it being anything other than a typical day of work for me, and I think that’s a big reason the show is so successful. We respect the h— out of each other, but we’re incredibly different people. He’s a 50-plus-year-old straight male with a family, a Bentley, and 30-plus years in the industry, versus a 31-year-old gay woman with no kids, 10 years into her career, driving a 10-year-old Prius with a broken tail light. Because of our differences, we come at every topic from vastly different perspectives. We’re not trying to create conflict for the radio, we simply can’t understand how the other can actually believe what they’re saying and that honesty — in my opinion — is why it works. Because while I may think Gary’s insane for voicing a certain opinion, I also know there’s a good chunk of our audience nodding at their radios in agreement. On the flip side, I know there’s another good chunk yelling back at their radios saying, “Kate! Please tell Gary he’s full of crap!” Which harkens back to my earlier answer about the age difference. Because Gary encourages the conflict, I think our differences are a spectacular advantage. The more voices we can represent, the more people we’ll have sticking around to listen.

The sound of your voice, your timing, and rejoinders are consistently outstanding. How much of that is natural talent, and how did you work on those skills?

I’m humbled you’ve even asked. Thank you so much for the compliment! I never expect folks outside of the industry to give any of those “inside radio” things a passing thought. Well, as Gary would say, I’ve been “blessed” with this voice, though I have tweaked it a few times over the years to get it where it is today. The first tweak came after a high school boyfriend mentioned that I’d been sounding really “nasally” while reading the morning announcements over the school P.A. system. I wanted to punch him in the face. Heck, I’m pissed off all over again just thinking about it now, ha! There was no punch, but I did start listening to myself more closely and — annoyingly — he was right, so I worked to get rid of that.

Then a few years ago a friend recommended I get into voiceover, so I took some classes at Voice One and ended up learning a ton of stuff that I now utilize in my radio work. Little things, like how a slight change in pace or tone can convey a completely different meaning, how to emphasize a word or phrase without changing the volume of your voice. Voice over and voice acting truly are arts. Those classes were an unexpected kick in the pants.

As for timing, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m a perfectionist and in radio, a second of dead air can feel like a lifetime. I absolutely despise it! So when I started at KNBR, I paid really close attention to how and when the guys I work with tended to breathe or break off a thought, so that I was able to jump in the moment they were done.

So I suppose the answer to your question is it’s a bit of both.

Do you have any sports broadcasting idols?

Linda Cohn of ESPN’s Sports Center. She’s fantastic. She talks sports like one of the guys.

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Steve Hermanos is the author of Orange Waves of Giants! The 2012 Championship Season. E-mail:steve@marinatimes.com