by Cecil Harris
As an Adelphi University student, Al Trautwig ’78 majored in business but had a fanatical interest in sports. He had been a stick boy for hockey’s New York Islanders and a ball boy for basketball’s New York Nets when both teams played at Nassau Coliseum, not far from his Long Island home. During those games, he often pretended to do play-by-play commentary from the bench.
Today, Mr. Trautwig is one of sports television’s busiest and most respected announcers—a fixture on NBC’s Olympics coverage and on New York Knicks and Rangers telecasts on Madison Square Garden Network—because of the advice he followed as an Adelphi student, and the advice he rejected.
From legendary sportscaster Jim McKay, who visited the Garden City campus in the 1970s, Mr. Trautwig learned the importance of writing well and always being curious. “If you can somehow find a way to pick the words to make your thing a little bit better, you’ll stand out,” Mr. Trautwig said.
From an Adelphi professor whose name he cannot recall, Mr. Trautwig got this advice: “Leave New York and get on-air experience at a small station, in a place like Des Moines.”
“There is absolutely no reason to leave New York,” said Mr. Trautwig who, after broadcasting games on WBAU, Adelphi’s campus radio station, graduated to announcing professional and college sports on bigger New York radio stations as well as ESPN and USA Network. “I got hired by ESPN with an audiotape from a game I did on WBAU. You think that could have happened if I had gone to Des Moines?”
A master storyteller with a distinct, resonant voice, Mr. Trautwig uses his craft to make viewers care about the athletes they’re watching—whether in obscure sports like fencing, handball and the Ironman Triathlon or marquee sports like baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and tennis. Among his honors are two national Emmy awards, three New York Emmys and a New York State Sportscaster of the Year award.
From February 6–February 23, Mr. Trautwig will report on cross-country skiing and Nordic combined skiing as part of NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In 2012, he spoke to 35 million viewers a night as he covered gymnastics on NBC’s Summer Olympics telecasts from London. Since 1984 Mr. Trautwig has announced 15 Olympic Games for NBC, ABC and CBS.
“If you’re not preparing for that dream job, you’ll get beaten out by someone who is. If you’re not studying for the test that you want to get an A on, not good. If you’re not learning to write or communicate, not good. That’s the most important thing you can do at Adelphi. Learn to communicate. Learn to write. You’ll be a better person. And when you go for that big interview that will hopefully come, you’ll have a much better chance.”