Police vehicle accidents and the impact such crashes have had on communities across New York State are the focus of a new data journalism project involving Newhouse School students working in partnership with reporters from the USA Today Network and Central Current….
Sports Broadcaster Anish Shroff ’04 Hopes to Inspire Future Generations of South Asian Sportscasters
Anish Shroff ’04 happens to be the only minority radio play-by-play voice of a National Football League (NFL) team. It’s not something the veteran sportscaster embraces, but it’s a trend that seems to be shifting.
Eternally proud of his South Asian heritage, Shroff readily admits a sense of pride when he looks around the sportscasting landscape and sees a plethora of talented South Asian broadcasters working for ESPN, MLB Network, Fox Sports, TNT and other national media outlets.
It’s a change that has been a long time coming. Growing up, Shroff remembers watching his beloved New York Yankees and other professional sports games on television … and not seeing anyone who looked like him calling the games. That’s because the industry was dominated by white men.
Shroff’s parents immigrated to the United States from India as first-generation Americans. His parents—Hitesh and Nikita—arrived in New York City in 1972, at the time George Steinbrenner’s Yankees were embarking on a great run of success in the 1970s.
Hitesh came to America to earn a college degree in accounting, but he never worked a day in his life as an accountant. Rather, his passion was photography, and he carved out a 40-year career as a successful photographer before retiring.
Pursuing passions was something Nikita and Hitesh emphasized to their baseball-crazy son. By the time Anish was in the fifth grade he was an avid baseball player, a rabid collector of sports trading cards and read the Newark Star-Ledger sports section cover-to-cover.
When it came time to decide on a career, Anish opted to study broadcast journalism in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. A talented student broadcaster for WAER-FM, Shroff found himself calling Orange games on one of the country’s most prestigious radio stations.
The hard work and dedication Shroff put into his craft paid off, as today, he is entering his second season calling Carolina Panthers games on the team’s network of radio stations. Shroff has also handled play-by-play duties for ESPN’s coverage of college football, college basketball, men’s lacrosse and baseball.
For all his success, Shroff credits his parents for encouraging him to go after his dreams. But before more South Asians can follow his path, Shroff says a change is needed in how that community views the industry and aspiring sportscasters who want to make a living as a broadcaster.
“The one part of this story of which we need to take ownership is that sportscasting is not a profession that is looked upon favorably in the South Asian community. You’re not going to be a doctor? You’re not going to be an engineer? You’re not getting your master’s degree in business administration? You don’t want to go to graduate school? What are you doing? He wants to go and do what, communications? That’s just not what we do,” Shroff says of how the South Asian community has traditionally viewed the fields of sportscasting and broadcast journalism.
“A lot of South Asians who may have wanted to pursue this path don’t get the one thing that they need—encouragement. I never felt the pressure that I had to go be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer or go get an MBA or do one of those things that are traditionally associated with the South Asian subculture. From that standpoint, we’ve got to take ownership and encourage our kids to do what they want. I was lucky,” says Shroff.
01There are only 32 people who can call themselves the radio voice of an NFL team. Do you ever pinch yourself thinking you’re part of this select fraternity of broadcasters who call NFL games on a weekly basis?
All the time. Even today, a few hours before this interview. I was at the stadium doing some work and left to get a quick bite to eat and a coffee. I’m walking back and you look up and see the Panthers’ stadium and I’m thinking, “this is where I work.” It feels surreal. It’s an NFL team. The NFL is the biggest sports brand there is in America, and to have one of those 32 jobs, that’s special. I have a lot of gratitude toward the Panthers organization for not just hiring me, but the way they’ve treated me and the way they’ve made me feel welcome and appreciated. That’s not lost on me.
The one thing I don’t think we do enough in this business is reflect. You’re so driven by what’s next: the next assignment, the next goal and where you want to get to. You very rarely get a chance to look back and say, “wow, it’s been a journey, and it’s been a journey with ups and downs, rollercoaster moments and tipping-point moments.” When I think about where I was coming out of college, you start to think of who that person was, trying to find their voice, trying to figure out how they were going to make it in this business. When you have those few moments where you can reflect, it is special and it is rewarding to see where things started and where they’ve ended up.
02What role do sports play in serving as an escape from the complexities of day-to-day life?
Sports needs to be an escape. For a lot of people, it’s the two or three hours a day where you can get lost in someone else’s trials and tribulations, and I think we need that. We had a stretch where it seemed the real world really bled into the sports world. I think that’s why people became so angry is that it took away that escape route. The one place that you had to go to get away from it all doesn’t exist anymore.
When I’m calling a game, you’ve got people from all ends of the political spectrum, from every race, religion and ethnicity, and yet they unite under a common banner. They unite as fans of the Carolina Panthers. We look for disqualifiers now in society. If you’re on social media, people see benign stuff and have this very harsh reaction to it. We’re looking for things to divide us and polarize us, and media’s figured out that that stuff sells. Politicians have figured out that that stuff gets them on TV and it works.
From where I stand in the sports arena, why can’t we do the opposite? Why do we constantly have to drive discord and push disagreement? Why can’t we find a way to unite? I think when you’re the voice of a team and you do it on a local level, to me that’s part of the responsibility. Can you be somebody that brings your community together, whether it’s on air or through your dealings in the community? I do take that to heart.
03How did you discover your unique voice and broadcasting style, and what advice do you have for student broadcasters?
Experimentation. Using history, literature, pop culture and cultural literacy in general. So much of this job is trial and error. You throw paint at the wall and then you go and you don’t tear it down, but you try it again. When you get something and you nail it, that’s an arrow that you have in your quiver forever and you can go to it when you need it.
I remember my first few jobs there was a lot of experimentation with storytelling. Having done television at a local level, having anchored and hosted at ESPN, having done play-by-play on radio and television and having done talk radio, you draw on all the different parts of the industry, these different mediums, and you pick different things that translate to what you want to do. Over time you concoct your own style.
The other thing is I read a lot, and that would be my advice to any young broadcaster: Read a lot. Even if you want to do sports, read, and not just about sports. You get so many great ideas from reading. All of what we do is based in language. Language is our currency. Language is becoming something that’s not valued as much as it used to be. Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I still see some value in how you say it and what you say.
Note: This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.