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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Major League Voice

Kenny Albert, who grew up in Sands Point, began his 19th season last weekend as an announcer for Fox Sports’ National Football League (NFL) broadcasts. Calling football games, however, wasn’t part of his game plan after graduating from New York University (NYU) in 1990.

“My goal was to get a job doing hockey play-by-play on the radio. That’s what I always wanted to do,” Albert said, during a recent interview.

Armed with demo tapes from his days at NYU’s radio station, an on-air hockey job materialized soon thereafter when the Baltimore Skipjacks, a Washington Capitals minor league team, hired him as the Skipjacks’ radio voice. Albert said he traveled with the squad and, given the Skipjacks limited finances, even roomed with the team’s assistant coach. But that Skipjacks coach was destined for bigger and better things, too. Barry Trotz has, since 1997, been the head coach of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Nashville Predators. Albert and Trotz remain friends to this day.

Albert’s chance to reach the highest level in his profession came when Fox Sports won from CBS in 1994 the national broadcast rights to the National Football Conference’s (NFC) games.

“By virtue of Fox getting into the sports business, and wanting to hire young people, a lot of us were given a great opportunity,” Albert stated. Fox conducted auditions which led them to hire a new generation of voices, a group which included Albert, Joe Buck, and Thom Brennaman.

The New York Rangers came calling around that same time, and Albert became the Rangers’ play-by-play radio announcer in 1995. It is a job Albert continues to hold along with his Fox Sports position. Given his affinity and talent for calling hockey games, NBC hired Albert to broadcast the men’s and women’s ice hockey competitions at the last three Winter Olympics: 2002 in Salt Lake City; 2006 in Turin, Italy; and 2010 in Vancouver.

“Football requires by far the most hours of preparation,” Albert explained, as our conversation returned to the Sunday, Sept. 9 game he called in New Orleans, where the Saints opened their season against the Washington Redskins. This is the sixth season Albert, who handles the play-by-play duties, is working with color commentator Daryl Johnston, a former Dallas Cowboys fullback. The Albert/Johnston on-air team also includes sideline reporter Tony Siragusa, a one-time Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman.

Albert, who lives in Closter, New Jersey, with his wife, Barbara, and their two daughters, 12-year-old Amanda and 9-year-old Sydney, works primarily from home on weekdays during the NFL season, watching videos of the previous games involving the two teams he’ll be seeing that weekend and reviewing the press clips from each team’s hometown papers. On Friday, Albert and his Fox colleagues travel to the hometown squad’s city and watch their practice session, interviewing players and coaches afterward. A similar ritual involving the visiting team takes place on Saturday. His family, he said, has become accustomed to the grind of a national sports broadcaster’s schedule.

“There are 52 weekends in a year, and I was working on all but five of them last year,” Albert said. “When I’m around on either a Saturday or a Sunday, they don’t know what to do with me.”

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net