VARIETY KEY TO LIFE ON THE RADIO

PETE DOUGHERTY STAFF WRITER
Section: Sports,  Page: B1

Date: Friday, October 2, 2009

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Virtually without fail, when Marc Kestecher is in my presence, I remind him about the four-overtime game in Yakima, Wash.


The year was 1992, and Kestecher, play-by-play voice for the Albany Patroons, was calling the game for WCDA 96.7 FM (now WPTR). It was past 1:30 a.m. in the East when he told listeners that a Yakima player was "pissed off." Then, realizing his gaffe, Kestecher said, "Can I say that?"


The Times Union sports media columnist, the same one who holds the job now, happened to be listening. Kestecher must have thought I listened to every minute of every game.


"You were the only one listening, by the way," Kestecher said when reminded of the broadcast recently. "The addendum to that story, which I've never told anybody, is I had to go to the bathroom at halftime. I figured it's only another half to go, so that's fine.


"We hit the end of regulation, and I'm thinking I really should have gone at halftime. In Yakima, the bathroom is right at the baseline of the court, so everybody uses it -- fans and media alike. By the end of the first overtime, now it's psychological. I really have to go. It goes on and on. Four overtimes. It might have been the shortest postgame show in the history of Albany Patroons radio. I thought my bladder might explode."


Kestecher, 41, has come a long way since his days of broadcasting the Patroons. He is now in his 11th year at ESPN Radio, working as an update anchor and sprinkling in occasional hosting and play-by-play duties.


"After having been in Albany for six years working and then 2 1/2 in Cleveland, I guess I should have thought that it would be a landing spot," Kestecher said, "but when you're in that moment and you're now at the pinnacle of sports broadcasting, you're never sure if you're going to last.


"You never take for granted that this is going to be the spot you're going to stay, but enough people have liked what I've done. They've given me more responsibility. I work under contracts, so every time I get a new contract, I feel that much more validated. Then when you see what they've built here and all the platforms of ESPN and just how stable it is, especially on radio, you feel fortunate that you're here."


That seems to be the belief of his network bosses.


"Kestie has a presence," said Pete Ciccone, ESPN's program director of news content, "and he makes a very difficult job seem effortless, which it isn't. He prepares as hard as any anchor on the staff.


He understands what the audience is expecting of him in whatever role he is serving, whether it's on updates or anchoring a studio program in or around a remote event."


A 1986 graduate of Guilderland, Kestecher was an intern working for the Albany-Colonie Yankees when the Patroons opportunity arose, so, at 21, he dropped out of Syracuse University.


In his Albany tenure he called games for the Albany Firebirds (Arena), Empire State Stallions (USBL), and St. Rose and UAlbany basketball.


He did a three-hour talk show (for free) at WCDA before landing a job at WPTR 1540 AM doing morning and afternoon sports updates.


Kestecher was strong on play-by-play and compiled a lot of experience at a young age, but he seems to have found his niche at ESPN.


"I've come to the realization after all these years, and it's been 20 years since that first Patroons game, you never get it out of your blood," he said of play-by-play.


"It's what you really want to do, but there's almost that choice you have to make. If you're going to be a play-by-play guy, you're going where teams can make decisions on you after one contract or two contracts. They want to go with someone else, the cheaper alternative.


"When you're here at ESPN, you realize the greatness of talent on play-by-play is so high, you can't expect that they're just going to come to you. I've learned to put myself in a position of versatility where if they need me in a pinch, I'm available. Sure, I'd like to do it more often. I think I'd be better at it if I did it on a more regular basis, but I know what the reality is."


Kestecher has gotten a dose of play-by-play assignments, including some TV (NCAA women's basketball tournament games, in particular), but he is heard most often giving updates Wednesday through Friday nights and serving as host to major-league baseball and college football studio shows.


"My sense is he enjoys the play-by-play but knows he really fills the role of anchor here well," Ciccone said. "He knows how valuable he is to us in that role, and that's why he's really forging ahead with this."


"I still don't feel completely comfortable doing TV, but it's fun," Kestecher said.


"It's a challenge, and that's what makes my job great. I don't think I could do 18 updates a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year without doing the other stuff. It kind of keeps me sane, gives me challenges, then you realize what you're doing on the update side, it keeps it regular, and it doesn't ever get old."


Pete Dougherty is the Times Union's sports TV/radio column. He can be reached at 454-5416 or by e-mail at pdougherty@timesunion.com. Visit his blog at http://blogs.timesunion.com/sportsmedia.


BOX:


Sound bytes


1Welcome to the media, Rich Gannon. The Raiders tried to order their last good quarterback banned from last Sunday's Kansas City-Oakland game because of criticism he has levied at his former team, then tried to get him barred from the production meeting. CBS and the NFL held firm, and let's hope Gannon does the same. You can't let the bullies change how you do your job.


2In case you forgot, TBS carries every game of baseball's Division Series next week. While the network has honed a couple of decent analysts (Ron Darling, Cal Ripken), the prospect of Chip Caray calling a big game and Craig Sager dressing like a clown gives my postseason viewing indigestion.


3Will Brown's revenge? The University at Albany extended invitations to area media to participate in a "simulated basketball practice" Oct. 15. Several TV types already have signed up, which makes you wonder if coach Brown will have them running suicides. They will have to sign injury waivers, but they still have the right to criticize the coach at the first sign of a long losing streak. We think.Weekend's best


Today, 7 p.m.: Major league baseball, Chicago White Sox at Detroit (ESPN). The pennant races seem a little dull this year, but the Tigers are clawing for a chance to meet the Yankees.


Saturday, 4 p.m.: Pro golf, Turning Stone Championship (Golf Channel). It's only the third round, but college football lacks zip this week, and it's as close as the PGA Tour gets to here.


Saturday, 10 p.m.: Major league baseball, Colorado at L.A. Dodgers (MLB Network). The Rockies have clinched a playoff spot, but Vin Scully likely will be calling the game.


Sunday, 4 p.m.: Pro football, N.Y. Jets at New Orleans. One of these teams will be 4-0 after the game -- and don't be surprised if it's the Jets.


Sunday, 8:30 p.m.: Pro football, Green Bay at Minnesota (ESPN). Just in case you haven't seen the hype machine on ESPN, Brett Favre is playing against his former team.


BOX:


"college gameday"


When: Noon-7p.m.


TV: ESPN Radio





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