You guys may know Mike Trudell. He has been on Lakers.com for the last few years and was the sideline reporter of Laker road games for local L.A.’s K-CAL (Channel 9) last year. You probably also know him as @LakersReporter on Twitter. This year, he has signed up to be the sideline reporter for the Laker games at Time Warner Cable. We caught up with him yesterday and touched on a variety of topics.
This is Part 1 of our interview with Mr. Trudell. We talk about his current gigs and what goes on behind the scenes of his job. Enjoy!
FORUM BLUE & GOLD: First off, congrats on the new deal with Time Warner Sports. How long have you been working for the Lakers?
MIKE TRUDELL: This will be my fifth season. I was “traded” (ED’s note: Acquired his rights.) from the Timberwolves to the Lakers prior to the 2008-09 season. Little-known fact: the Timberwolves have yet to beat the Lakers since I came over here. I think it may have a little bit more to do with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol than me. I wanna say it’s 19 consecutive games.
FB&G: Were you a Lakers fan growing up? Or were you a Timberwolves fan growing up?
MT: I was born in 1981 and the Timberwolves were not in existence for like ten years. So I actually grew up as a Bulls fan. The Bulls were on WGN, at a time which came in on basic TV and no cable. I got hooked on Jordan at a very early age. I didn’t have the pleasure of watching much Showtime other than when they played the Bulls. There weren’t really as many national games; NBC had ’em for a time and I would watch the Finals. So I grew up as a Bulls fan then I converted over to the Timberwolves once they started. Kevin McHale did color and Kevin Harlan did play-by-play; that was kinda the first time I really got into broadcasting. I was not a Lakers fan.
Right now, since I’ve been covering the league professionally, I don’t really consider myself a fan as much as any team but, certainly, my life is a lot better when the Lakers win. Just easier to cover, more people are happy, and everything is better with winning.
I wouldn’t consider myself a fan; I try to observe the fans, though. That’s really where I keep my role. You’re always gonna have teams that you root for. But you just try to keep it out of your coverage. I do like it when the Lakers do well; I just try not to root for them so much as cover them.
FB&G: Some people think that sideline reporting is easy. I don’t think it is at all. So what goes into your preparation for this job?
MT: It’s certainly not easy. It’s kind of a specific skill. And the way that I approach it is to be overprepared with information because, during the course of the game, you never know what might happen and what you’re gonna be called upon to do. The day before the game, I’ll send a lengthy E-Mail to the producer of the broadcast that highlights anywhere from 10 to 20 stories that I might be able to touch on if they come up.
Let’s say Kobe is about to score his 30,000th point, then I’ll have a good paragraph of stuff… about what the significance is, etc. Let’s say I spoke to Pau Gasol in the locker room the day before and got information on where he wanted to receive the ball that he wasn’t the previous couple of games… that would be a storyline. And so on and so forth. Or I’ll talk to one of the players about what music they were listening to and try to work that into the broadcast during a dull spot of the game if the Lakers are up or down 20. I’ll have a whole list of stuff that I can go to that the producer’s at least aware of so once the game starts happening, I can tap into my mic and say, “Hey, Mark. Kobe’s on the free throw line. I have a story on this.” It really happens that quickly. That’s one way to describe it. But you also have to be completely prepared. Like if somebody gets hurt, you have to be able to go over and know enough information in advance to relay it on the spot. It’s kinda like preparing for a test. You have all the information that you feel like you’re ready to get out to but you also have to know the stuff just well enough to be able to freelance on what ever might come up.
FB&G: It sounds like a very exhausting job. Has something gone wrong yet on your sideline reporting? I’ve watched nearly every Laker game and I haven’t seen anything gone wrong but is there something that I missed that has gone wrong in your reporting?
MT: I was very fortunate not to have any super obvious on-air screw-ups (where I said something wrong). But there are tons of moments you don’t see as a viewer of stuff going wrong. Most often for me was on the technical side. At one point where they tried to go down to me at Detroit, but my mic didn’t go on. So that’ll happen at times. I have an earpiece that has a direct channel to Billy Mac (Bill MacDonald) and Stu (Lantz)… and the broadcast is coming in my ear. At the same time, the producer has an “INTERRUPT” button so if he wants to talk to me, he can press that button and his voice will come over the broadcast. So I’ll be watching and listening and the producer will say, “Trudell, do you have something on this?” I’ll have to keep it in line with what’s going on at the game and, also, throw something back to the producer. Then they want me to go on in 10 seconds. Generally speaking, every single NBA arena has a team that they hire; they have two guys specifically working on audio. There’s the camera guy so there’s all these crazy moving parts and you sorta have to keep track of, in addition to knowing what’s going on in the court and the broadcast. You can’t ignore what Kobe did in his previous possession. It’s challenging but it’s fun. It’s just like a whole other game.
FB&G: So, at least, that brings to light on how difficult your job really is.
MT: It could be difficult, I suppose. But, sometimes, the challenges (also involve) doing the Lakers.com job and the tweeting. I’ll tweet something but then I have to be sure I’m not forgetting about the fact that I could be on air any moment. I know that (one hit, for example) will be right before the second half starts so I have something prepared for that. But I might be waiting there for the commercial to end and I could be tweeting something from my phone and writing up the diary. I enjoy (the whole process), though. I’m very, very fortunate to have the chance to do it.
We’ll run Part 2 of the interview tomorrow. In that part, we talked about the Lakers (of course!). Thanks for reading!
(I was on here as R.R. Magellan, the guy that usually does the goofy game recaps on here. But from now on, I will go by my real name as Rey Moralde. So please note the change. Thanks.)
This is great!
I worked at a news channel for a while and subbed in as an anchor occasionally. Things would get wild if there were technical difficulties and sometimes breaking stories just shake you but you have to keep focus and remember your preparations, especially when the producer starts yelling in your ear. Trudell diplomatically left that part out:) After that experience, I gained a tremendous amount of respect for reporters and media production teams. It’s really such a dynamic performance environment where even the slightest mistakes are magnified by the spotlight. Really excellent story, Rey. Love this inside look into Lakers reporting, especially Trudell who does a wonderful job.
Rey Moralde says
Thanks, you guys. Yeah, Trudell is wonderful. You really have to be sharp and alert to do sideline reporting. I had to ask him about it because I’ve heard plenty of people say they could EASILY do sideline reporting.
Reporting is the kind of stuff where people notice screwups but never notice it when you pull things off the right way. It’s like a no-win situation, except to those people in the know and to those who were actually there and saw how you managed to smooth over a potential screw up.
Exciting stuff, but really taxing if you don’t have the right personality and mindset for that kinda stuff.