Ian Eagle has been the man in the play-by-play world since he got his college diploma…no, really. Literally the second he got off stage, Eagle would begin ton dominate the broadcast world.
In 1992, at 23 years old, Eagle began hosting a show on WFAN in New York called “Bagels and Baseball” with former MLB great Tommy John. In 1993, at 24, he became the Jets radio pre and post game host. 25 comes and he’s the New Jersey Nets radio play-by-play announcer.
Seems like there’s a trend here. At 25, Eagle was a NBA broadcaster in a major market for the nation’s biggest and best sports radio network, WFAN. You would think he would settle there for a bit but the progression just kept going. A year later, Eagle went from the Nets radio to TV play-by-play man for Fox Sports Net New York (SportsChannel at the time, and now MSG Plus). Two years later, Eagle would also become the Jets radio announcer.
The rest is history…you can google him to see the rest. He’s currently the NFL on CBS play-by-play man, Westwood One, YES Network Nets guy, amongst the other outlets. The progression in his career at such a rapid pace was and still is very rare. The question is how the heck did he do it?
Well, Eagle joined me on The Jake Brown Show on CBS Radio’s Play.it and explained the crazy story of how he got the Nets job, and…well, I’ll let Ian tell it.
“That was a pretty random story and that I saw a Phil Mushnick column in the New York Post. Just a regular little note in his column that he is known to do and it said that Howard David the long time voice of the Nets was not going to be coming back to do radio the following year and I had a dream, this is gonna sound freaky, but I had a dream two weeks earlier that I was at the broadcast table in the Meadowlands. I had covered some Nets games as a stringer for WFAN, so I had been to the Meadowlands for both the Nets and the Devils I would do that sometimes at nights or on weekends and I had this weird dream that I was calling a Nets game and my father was at the arena and it was very odd I remember waking up from it and telling my wife about it and it was two weeks before I saw that little note in Phil Mushnick’s column. So, I called the Nets and I got the director of broadcasting on the phone at the time Amy Scheer, I explained who I was she said ‘yeah yeah I heard you on FAN’ I explained that I was interested in the job she told me that there was very little time left, she told me that they had actually started the search a month earlier and it was just going public that Howard wasn’t going to be back.
“She said look, I don’t think it’s going to help, but if you want you can come drop off a tape at our offices and I promise to you I will have my boss listen to it. So, that’s what I did, I jumped to my car, I had a tape from college, from Syracuse, of a Syracuse Seton Hall game at the Meadowlands so I thought maybe something was in the stars there. That was the best play-by-play stretch that I felt I had on tape, I drove it over to the Nets office in East Rutherford. I knew nothing about the state of New Jersey I was from Queens, from Forest Hills and I didn’t understand the jug handle I had no understanding of the traffic rules in New Jersey and I drove it right to the office, Amy was nice enough to meet me in the lobby, I handed her the tape and that was it. I walked out of there, she called me the next day and she said ‘hey, I played it for my boss and we liked it.’ She said ‘here’s the thing, we wanna hear something a little more recent, this is from four years ago.’ She said ‘Do you have anything more recent?’ I said yeah, absolutely.
“I didn’t, I had nothing else that was all I had. She said ‘alright can you get it to me?’ I said I may need a day on that one and she said ‘okay I can give you a day.’ So I called a buddy of mine that worked at NBA entertainment and I asked him hey if I come into your studios could you set me up in front of your TV calling a game and have somebody put ambient noise, some crowd noise behind it. He said yeah I think we can do that. If he says no, it’s over, it ends right there, but because he said yes, I got in my car, drove back to Jersey again knowing very little about the state, this time I went to Secaucus and I called a Net Knick playoff game from 1994 by myself in a little mini studio/cubicle and they put some crowd noise to it, I drove it back over to the Nets, they listened to the tape, they brought me in for an interview, I met with the president of the team Jon Spoelstra the father of Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra and the one thing that I would say separated me and it was a bold move, it was borderline cocky, but I could feel that we were hitting it off in the interview. And I said to him, Mr. Spoelstra I said look I don’t know which direction this is gonna go in with your decision, but I know this.
“I know I’m going to be successful in this business, I know I’m going to do well at play-by-play, if you give me this job, if you give me this opportunity, for the rest of my career, you’ll be the one that gave me my break doing play-by-play. You’ll be the one that recognized that and he looked at me with a quizzical look and then he smiled and I remember walking out of the interview and calling my wife and she said ‘what do you think?’ I said I think I got this job, I really do, I believe that I got this job, it all happened within about nine days from the moment I saw the Phil Mushnick note, to the moment that I got the job. It was about a nine-day period it was obviously a game changer for me, it changed my whole career and it set me on a completely different path.”
Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. You can catch him on The Jake Brown Show on CBS Radio’s Play.it, iTunes, and Spotify. It’s a weekly sports show mixed in with a bit of entertainment and interviews as well every week. He occasionally hosts SportsTalk1240 on WGBB in Long Island, and formerly hosted Brown and Scoop, Brown and Troupe, and on ESPN Radio NH. Jake lives in Queens and being a Mets fan is finally paying off.