BUSINESS

The Game Changer: Chicago Bulls sports announcer speaks at Meek School

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Chicago Bulls sports announcer Chuck Swirsky.

Justin Butts
Oxford Stories
jbutts@go.olemiss.edu

If you have ever been told you cannot play a sport because you are not big enough, or you would not be good at somethinglet Chuck Swirsky be your motivation. 

Swirsky, the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bulls, has faced many challenges to achieve his dream career. But with help and support from others, hard work, dedication and goals, Swirsky remains energetic, focused, disciplined, and passionate about life.   

I was a horrible athlete,” Swirsky said recently as a guest speaker at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “I got cut from every game.”

But he still wanted to be a part of sports. “In a make-believe world, I’d love to be an NBA player,” Swirsky said, “but when you’re vertically challenged like me and a poor athlete, a sports announcer is the next big thing.” 

The four people who influenced Chuck’s sports announcing career are Vince Bagli, Ernie Harwell, Joe Tait, and Pete Gross. Swirsky spent many summers with Bagli, a sports announcer, and his family job shadowing him from age 12 to 21. 

Pete Gross, a former broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks, was also a mentor. Swirsky loved Pete’s work ethic.   

The video is a highlight of Swirsky’s first NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks. 

Swirsky said negativity from others can sometimes drive a person to accomplish great things. “The news director at NBC Radio told me that he did not like my voice, and that I will never make it,” he said.

This negative comment gave Swirsky the motivation needed to become a professional sports announcer. And during his junior year at Ohio University, he received an internship with NBC Radio in Cleveland, Ohio.

He recalled another moment when someone told him he would not be a successful sports announcer. He said he cried to his grandmother, who said, “You need to get these negative thoughts out of your system, and tomorrow you are going to prove to everyone and to yourself that you are worthy of this career.”

Swirsky said his grandmother’s speech has been the driving force in his life and every decision he has made. He said the people he surrounded himself with are the reason he has the skills and qualities necessary to succeed in this career field.

“You must be passionate, have a great attitude, and be enthusiastic,” he said. “With these three traits, you can accomplish anything.”  

Swirsky said you must be prepared, have a good work ethic and stay focused. With any job or career, you will have celebrations and challenges, he said.  

He said being a sports broadcaster is a tough and competitive industry. One must never give up, bring it when the time comes, and always be on time for everything.

“You never go into sports broadcasting or anything for the dollars and cents,” he said. “Because you are going to start at the bottom, and I mean the bottom. You are going to have to work your way up.”

In his first job in the sports broadcasting industry, he said he saved money by eating McDonald’s, pizza, and Chinese food. 

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Chicago Bulls sports announcer Chuck Swirsky.

Swirsky said he practiced being a successful sports announcer. “I would go into my room with a little tape recorder,” he said. “I would rewrite the newspaper (The Seattle times), and I would do the sportscast into my microphone, and I would listen, listen, and listen again.” 

When he was at Ohio University, he said the school had a 11:15 a.m. sportscast during the weekend. No one else wanted the job because of the time slot. Swirsky volunteered.

Swirsky has accomplished much as a sports announcer. He did not give up on his goals and dreams. When he feels like he has done all he can, he said tries to do more or better. 

“Those insecurities in my DNA drive me everyday to be better,” he said, “but the question I have is: How bad do you really want it, to be a sportscaster? Are you willing to pay the price?”

Swirsky has influenced, mentored, and motivated many journalists. “At this point in my career, I have probably done everything that I had hoped to do. However, there is still a window of opportunity, because I never shut the door on opportunities.” 

Swirsky said his career choice was a major goal in his life, and he thanks God for the opportunity.  

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