Milwaukee — It was the first day of school for Lisa Byinton, who was learning around the Fiesab Forum where Bucks played home games. Byington faced a dilemma, although several television trucks were placed in a corridor not far from the court. Which was owned by the team’s broadcast partner, Bally Sports Wisconsin?
She seized the opportunity, plunged her head into one of them, and was thrilled to meet some familiar people, including Bucks broadcaster John Walsh. Walsh welcomed her by pointing at the cookie box. “I still have it!” He said. Byington arrived early Sunday for her first home game as the team’s new live voice.
“Everyone made me feel like a family,” Byington later said. “It was a very easy situation to get into a situation that shouldn’t be easy.”
Jim Paschke has provided the Bucks soundtrack as a play-by-play voice for 35 years and has been a favorite as a La-Z-Boy reclining chair. When he retired last season in the wake of the team’s first championship since 1971, he made history as the first female full-time live broadcaster of a major male professional sports team, 45-year-old Byinton. Was replaced by. About a week later, Kate Scott was hired to do a live commentary on the Philadelphia 76ers.
Recruitment of both women this season is primarily a sign of gradual progress in the men’s industry, but Byington everyone hears women broadcast a soaring Giannis Antetokounmpo play in search of a dunk. I know well that I’m not used to it.
“You learn how to handle it and how to laugh about it,” she said. “And if you have a fan who is worried and doesn’t fully understand it, I can hear it, but after all, I don’t think of myself as a female broadcaster. I think of myself as a broadcaster. The goal is to do enough work for people to start thinking that way. “
Growing up outside Kalamazoo, Michigan, Byington has big dreams from her parents Linda and Bob (both educators), ambitious at school and good at sports, and gender makes her. I learned not to interfere. “They made me feel like I could do anything in the world,” she said.
At Portage Northern High School, she helped lead the women’s basketball team in a run to the state’s semifinals. Her father was a coach and they shared a tearful hug when she left the court following the team’s end-of-season defeat. The moment was filmed by Kalamazoo’s CBS affiliate WWMT for a story about their father-daughter connection.
“It was great to see, and it was the first time I noticed the impact of the broadcast,” Byington said. “I always go back to it, because it’s really the first moment I started thinking.’Oh, it affected me, and someday I’ll affect others as well. You may be able to. ”
At Northwestern University, I majored in journalism while playing basketball and soccer for the national team. (“I’m fine whenever I’m busy,” she said.) With a master’s degree in broadcast journalism, she entered the business as a sports anchor and reporter for a moderately sized television station in Michigan.
She was doing her second job on local television when she heard a conversation on Sports Talk Radio about how Pamward was set to become the first woman to become ESPN’s college football game commentator. I did. Byington was in the process of covering a high school football game at the time.
“I remember it was very important,” she said of Ward’s pioneering mission.
A few years later, Byington was in the moonlight as a deputy reporter for the Big Ten Network when one of her bosses called with an unusual request. The network needed someone to play live for a women’s basketball game. It was unusual because Byington had never done a live commentary. She wasn’t upset: how different is it from fixing a sports cast? After all, a lot.
“It was terrible, but I must have failed enough because they kept asking me to play a lot of different sports,” she said.
Byington continued to play softball, field hockey and football. She played men’s and women’s soccer. And gymnastics. And volleyball. Earlier this year, she was the first woman to play live at the Men’s College Basketball Tournament on CBS and Turner Sports, and her call to Florida for the upset of Oral Roberts’ second round attracted media praise.
And when Bucks began evaluating candidates to replace Pashke a few weeks after Bucks won the championship last season, team president Peter Fagin said about three hours that Byinton offered in the Big Three League playoffs. I was particularly impressed with the continuous coverage. Byington used the Big 3 for the first time, but had a live one-hour pre-game show from the Bahamas before proceeding to both semi-finals.
“If you can do that, you can do anything,” Fagin said.
Byington was broadcasting a college football game on September 4, when agent Gideon Cohen tried to call her. When Byington chose not to pick up, Cohen relied on sending a text message featuring Antetokounmpo’s GIF. She landed on Bucks’ work.
“After that, everything became ambiguous,” she said.
According to Byington, women have been broadcasting men’s sports for years, but not all games are broadcast on one team and one fan base.
“That’s a big difference and it’s going to be a big change,” she said. “Because fans can handle voices coming in and out of the national network, but now you are community-based, attending events, attending events, highlights and your voice on social media. All of this. “
And while Byington isn’t naive to the importance of her gender, she wants the storyline to have a short shelf life.
“It’s part of the process,” she said. “But if you’re asking the same question 10 years later, or next month, there’s a problem.”
On Sunday, Bucks was in Milwaukee for his first preseason game at home. And when Byinton walked towards the court about an hour before the tip, she took out her cell phone to capture the moment. The stand was still empty and some ushers double-taken: was she a new announcer?
After chatting with Bucks’ sideline reporter Zora Stephenson, Byington greeted Beth Mowins across the court, preparing for a live broadcast on ESPN. In both cases, the moment was not lost. Two women called the same game to different networks.
“It’s probably a bigger deal than people understand,” Byington said.
Eventually, Byington, along with her broadcast partner Marques Johnson, sat near the scorer’s table when the show went live.
“I’m very happy that you can join us,” she said.